We received this grant report from Bellowood Rescue in Cedar Springs, MI, which received an operations grant last year from the Petfinder Foundation and the Pedigree Foundation. The story has a happy ending for mama dog Twister and her pups. As Bellowood president Kimberly Schreuder tells us, “With the wonderful lifesaving grant from the Petfinder Foundation, we were able to vet and take care of Twister and her entire family, including little Iris who had a broken leg. Thank you, Petfinder Foundation!! Glad to have you on our team!”
Saving Twister: Anatomy of a Rescue
By Laurel Barrick
“It was Aug. 1. The caller was clearly distraught as she described how the mother dog had sat trembling in the middle of a busy road, with cars driving around her. Her teats were swollen beyond belief, in stark contrast to her backbone and ribs showing through the skin stretched tightly over her skeleton. All the woman knew was that the dog was in Morley, near a shop where her husband had purchased some parts. She did not know the address or the cross street. She thought maybe the dog belonged to the man who owned the shop. Her husband was furious at her for calling, but she could not get the image of this mama dog shivering in the heat of day in the middle of a road out of her mind. And so she called Bellowood, the closest rescue she could find. Then, with her husband yelling at her to ‘mind your own business,’ she said she couldn’t tell me any more and she had to get off the phone.
“Aug. 2 was a frustrating day as myself and Rhonda Waldorf from Safe Haventried to find a clue to the dog’s whereabouts that we could follow. The caller said to try looking on Craig’s List for ‘lawnmower repair.’ Rhonda found a number that might be the shop and called but was told by a man that it was not his dog and he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“The next day, Aug. 3, did not start out much better. I had to call the woman back and beg her to please look up the phone number for the shop when her husband wasn’t around. We were not getting anywhere trying to locate the dog. Finally, armed with the correct phone number, Rhonda again called, and while the dog was not related to the shop at all, a man was able to tell her that he thought she might be his neighbor’s dog. He could not give a name or address, but was able to give her directions to the house where he thought the dog might be.
“Rhonda was not available to follow up, so Bellowood volunteers Tom and Elaine made the trip to Morley. Armed with the directions Rhonda had gotten, they were able to find the house. No one was home, but they confirmed that a mama dog in very bad shape and seven puppies were there. They left a note for the homeowner and a Bellowood card, asking them to please call us and letting them know that there was help available.
“Aug. 4 and still no call from the homeowner and presumed owner of this poor mother and seven pups. I got in the car and delivered two 50-lb. bags of dog food to the house. No one was home, but I saw mama tied up in the yard. There was some food, water and shelter and thus no grounds for doing anything like calling in authorities. But later that day, the homeowner called me herself. She was almost in tears. Mama dog, whom she was calling Twister, wasn’t her dog either. She believed that she’d been left behind when other neighbors up the road had moved out.
“She’d begun feeding mama, and then the pups that mama had decided to have under her trailer. ‘I don’t know anything about animals,’ she said. ‘I’m not home enough to even own a dog of my own and I don’t know what to do for her.” When I said that we would come back up and take them all into our rescue, she gratefully accepted the offer.
“Finally, on Aug. 5, we were able to pick up mama Twister and not seven but 10 puppies! Back at Bellowood, we noticed that one of the pups was limping. Nothing felt out of place in her leg, nor did she seem to be in pain, so we decided to just keep an eye on her for a while. But by Aug. 8, she was still not using the right rear leg much. We made an appointment for an exam and x-rays and, on Thursday, we learned that she had a fracture in the leg. Worse yet, it was in the growth plate. The first option, the vet explained, was to do nothing, which carries the risk of having the leg end up shorter than the other three. That can cause hip and back problems as the dog matures. Asked if amputation would be preferable, the vet suggested euthanasia.
“Neither of those sounded like good options. So on Aug. 11, we were off to an orthopedic specialist. We came out of that appointment with three options: One, do nothing and hope for the best. Most likely the leg would be shorter than the others, which would lead to the problems that attend a lifelong limp, with the hips and back being affected. Two, a $2,000 surgery to install pins and plates. Three, splint it.
“Little lris was soon sporting a lovely new splint. A bright white number with big blue polka dots. Bellowood had had a run on heartworm treatments and dogs with orthopedic issues that year, and a $2,000 surgery just wasn’t feasible. The spays and neuters on the 10 puppies and Twister herself, which would all be needed in a few short weeks, would run over a thousand dollars.
“Twister was quickly doing well, eating to make up for lost time and lost meals and being a good mama to her 10 babies. Thankfully she did not have mastitis, one of the things we feared after hearing about and finally seeing her engorged teats. She and the pups were all treated for the diarrhea they’d arrived with and the worms that were part of that problem.
“Twister was the sweetest girl in the world and just so grateful to everyone she met for any little kindness or attention. She got along wonderfully with my dogs and her babies were healthy and happy. She was just the consummate mother, and probably only a year or younger herself. Her teeth were pristine white, and probably not because she’d had an excellent diet or good dental care. She was a young dog. Quite likely she got pregnant on her first heat.
“Who knows what took her to the middle of that road that day? Was she sick and chilled and seeking the heat of the asphalt like the caller thought? Or was she searching for her humans who drove off one day and never came back for her, thinking perhaps that there had been a terrible mistake, thinking of how pleased they’d be to see the 10 fine puppies she had struggled to whelp and raise in their absence? Or was she just positioning herself where she knew there were a lot of people in hopes that someone might help her?
“I don’t know what was going through her mind. I think it must be as confusing to her as it is to me, to think that she was left behind like a bag of trash. How does a dog, a creature who would stay by your side through come what may, defend you to her dying breath, willingly share your poverty or your wealth, never caring which, even comprehend being tossed aside, left behind to die or live and birth and raise a litter, all on her own, with never a second thought? I can barely comprehend it myself, even after seeing it happen so many times.
“But, as it happens, neither Twister nor I could afford to dwell on what happened to those people — we had too much work to do. For her, 10 busy babies to raise who were just about to enter that age where mama had to teach them all kinds of puppy manners and doggie socialization skills.
“And for me, as harrowing as those first few days were, getting Twister out of the middle of that road in Morley wasn’t half as much work as getting her and her family on the real road to bright new futures, healthy lives and good homes.
“I’m happy to report that the entire family got adopted and into good homes!”