Sunday, September 30, 2012

This time, my excuse is REALLY good

You've noticed I've been, uh, absent. You probably thought, "ah, life." Or "she's busy with the WIP." And you weren't wrong. But I've also been doing something different. I've been rescuing dogs.

Meet Sasha II (the story of Sasha I from last year is here). She lived under an abandoned truck in a vacant lot next to Goisco (the Curaçao version of Costco), and she was lucky that the business next to the lot (Rituals Coffee Shop) employs gold-hearted people that fed her and looked after her, as much as they could, for two months.

I say as much as they could, because she wouldn't let anyone touch her, she wouldn't come closer than a meter--even to these lovely people that gave her food every day. They noticed she didn't like kibble, so they tried different things: rice and meat (she ate the meat, spit out the rice), veggies, pasta, stuff with sauces, stuff without sauces. She grew skinny but not emaciated, and stayed relatively healthy thanks to them.

But she wouldn't let anyone close. The owner of Rituals and one of his shift managers both offered Sasha II a home--but how, if no one could touch her? Even if we managed to trap her somehow--seems easy, her being so tiny and defenseless, but she's fast--she'd only run away as soon as she got the opportunity, end up on the streets again. This is a dog that doesn't trust humans. The covenant of human-dog, for her, has been breached and declared null and void. It must be rebuilt, redrafted and agreed to all over again, at her own pace.

So we made a plan. Catch her, take her to the vet for a full work-up, place her in a foster home for socialization. Foster home being--where else?--mine.

I have three dogs of my own (Frida, you might remember, passed away earlier this year), and they're all very well trained, very accepting of other dogs--it won't be the first or the last time I bring one home--and are a great starting point for a dog like Sasha II to re-learn the relationship of trust between humans and dogs. I've done it before (Sasha I is a great example), and I'll probably do it again (and again and again).

But first we had to catch her.

At the vet's, about two hours after she ate
the tranquillizers
I tried my ever-trusty leverworst (liverwurst), which Sasha ate with gusto--always no less than a meter away. Keep your filthy hands off me, you horrible human. I tried for three days: I'd sit on the dirt by the truck, in the scorching sun, for half an hour, and throw her bits of leverworst, hoping she'd come closer. She did, eventually, as long as I stayed very still, but if I even blinked, she was off.

Then Siegmond, my partner in dog-rescue, built a pretty ingenious trap. We took it over to Sasha's lot very early one morning, set it up, baited it with chicken livers Siegmond cooked especially for her. The Rituals owner helped us, fed her bits of the livers and showed her where the mother lode was (inside the trap). We sat in the car, so as not to scare her with our scent, and waited.

Sasha II, after her bath, in total KO, on a
chaise longue in the sun to keep her warm.

She refused to set a single paw inside the trap. She'd stretch out her little body, trying to reach, reach, reach the pieces of liver inside, little back legs taut and almost horizontal, but she never ever stepped inside.

We tried for three days, freshened the bait every morning, asked the Rituals people to stop feeding her so she'd be forced to make a run for the chicken liver in the trap, sat in our cars for hours, in shifts, watching. Watching Sasha tiptoe around the trap, sniff the air, then go curl up under her truck. Her attitude was of "I'd rather starve than play to your childish manipulation schemes, humans."

No choice, then. We drugged her.

Tranquillizers in her food (more chicken liver), which she ate so fast it seemed she breathed it in--poor thing, she'd gone without serious food for three days or so--and knocked her out for something like 24 hours. Hard to calculate the dog's weight if said dog won't let you pick them up, unfortunately. We calculated for 8-10 kgs., but she's only 6.

The vet had good news and bad: she's free of heartworm, which is GREAT, and she's probably between one and two years old. But she does have tick fever (ehrlichia, a wide-spread problem in Curaçao), and she's anaemic--hardly surprising. I got a nice set of pills and medicine bottles for her, brought her home, gave her a bath (ever give an unconscious dog a bath? it is not a nice experience), and held her on my lap for, oh, the rest of the day. She roused herself to eat--she was still super hungry, and almost bit my fingers off with those tiny teeth of hers--and to drink water, but she basically slept until the next morning around 8 am.

She's been with us just over three weeks now, and although she still won't let us touch her, she integrated perfectly well with the pack at home and now hunts lizards all day, barks at the huge Rottweilers of the neighbor with gusto and zero fear (the tall fence might have something to do with that), and eats her kibble like a good dog. Slowly, slowly, she's getting better.

Problem is, I don't think we can wait forever. She needs to go to the vet this week for a check-up, and outside of drugging her again, I'm going to have to catch her forcibly, which will destroy whatever little trust she's built so far. At the vet she'll have to be muzzled and held down--won't help, either. But it's necessary: she needs to be spayed before we can even consider handing her off to a new home.


She's cute, too cute for her own good. Adorable, in fact. It's no sacrifice to have her here. I'd love to keep her. But here's the thing: there aren't enough foster homes available here. She's got two homes open for her, they'll love her and she'll be happy. And there's other dogs that need her spot here with us. I rescued two more dogs this week, out of the five that CARF picked up. One, Romy (her rescuer named her after Romy Schneider, who I had to look up on Google) I brought home immediately on Monday, thus bringing the total count to five--that's our limit. And on Thursday I picked up Nassau, a traumatized pitbull mix that bit me on Wednesday (more on that later), and who turns out to have a tumor on her liver. If it's malignant, she'll have zero chances of being adopted--except by me. She's had a rough life, probably dumped into the street when the owners found out about the tumors. As a pitbull, she's probably been tied up most of her time on Earth. It strikes me as the most horrible injustice that she should leave this world without having known a happy home, a happy life of freedom and love and trust. I can't do it.

So I need to get Sasha II to let me touch her, get her to accept this human / dog covenant again, get her spayed, get her home to her new owners. And then I can offer Nassau a home myself.


  1. So sweet that these dogs have so many loving people to care for them. Even as little as some of them trust you, you have to know that's ten times more than they trust anyone else.

    1. Thanks, Cindy! Hadn't thought about it that way--you made me smile :)

  2. You have a great and awesome heart, Guilie. My deepest respect, and much much luck with the dogs. They make our lives so much more meaningful. :)

    1. Thank you, Vero! Such kind words. I'm not really doing anything special--it's just that dogs (animals in general) are my soft spot, and I find it so cruel that we domesticated them, made them depend on us, and now we turn our backs and wash our hands of them. I can't understand that. So many puppies are born every day--how long before they end up on the street? If they're born *in* the street, their chances at a passably ok life are next to nothing. Argh--breaks my heart.

  3. I love the way she looks in the camera in those first two photos - like she wants to trust, and hopefully she will again thanks to you. It's a wonderful thing that you do. x

    1. Thanks, Ermie! You caught her feeling exactly: she wants to, and kind of dances closer and closer, but then backs away at the last moment. I'm sure eventually she'll come around :) Thanks for the good wishes!

  4. What a darling pooch. Thank you for the photos! It's a sad story, also the case in the US. We too have too many animals in need of homes. Our Sasha is a cat--! The top cat until we adopted 2 rescued kittens this summer. I will keep my fingers crossed for Sasha!

    1. Aw, you adopted homeless cats! I *knew* you were like that :) Good for you, Helen, and I hope your Sasha finds her way around the two newcomers. Thanks for the crossed fingers!

  5. a most beautiful excuse if there ever was one. - how sweet of you to care for her. I wish you, and the little sweetie, all the very best.

  6. She is beautiful, and you are a saint. I hope all goes well for you and for all the dogs.

    1. Haha, I'm far, far from sainthood :) Got lots of bad karma to get rid of, hehe. But if I can help to make a difference for one of these homeless innocents, I'll be a happy woman--even if I come back as a worm next time around :D Thanks for the visit, sweetie!


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