Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romy's Story

The last weekend of September I got a call from CARF. "There's a dog at the dump," the woman said. "We've been feeding her for a while, and we think she's ready to be caught and brought to the vet. Can you foster her?"

Romy, at the dump where she was
Uh, yeah. But--at the dump? The garbage dump? Who throws away a dog like garbage?

"The rescuer will meet you at the vet's Monday morning."

The rescuer called me Sunday evening, a lovely Dutch woman, wife of a Marine officer, unfortunately only stationed here in Curaçao for a few more years. Why can't people like these stay around forever?

When I walked into the vet's waiting room, she was holding a reddish-yellow dog, smaller than I thought, on her lap. Huge eyes, all sweetness. Her legs were stiff from fear, but she let herself be moved over to my lap and we cuddled while we waited. She was so dirty--he-llo, a garbage dump--that I got a rash all over my arms and neck. Nothing that a good shower didn't cure, though.

Romy, her first full day with us,
boasting new collar and tag
"I named her Romy," the woman said. "But you can change it if you want to."

Romy sounded fine to me; maybe a little masculine--I was thinking it might be short for Romeo.

"No," the woman said, "it's for Romy Schneider."

Didn't mean anything to me. Romy it was, then.

Romy at home, with Sasha
II and (half of) Rusty in the
Romy behaved royally while the vet examined her, poked and prodded, took her temp, took some blood, checked glands and internal organs, listened to heart and lungs. I'm sure the vet would've liked to give us better news, but alas, the only good news was she's alive and she's young (therefore adaptable). Otherwise, she's got tick fever (ehrlichia), worms, anaemia, and--taah-daah--heartworm. All of which, aside from the fact that she's not healthy, also means she can't be spayed yet--and thus cannot be put up for adoption.

So here we go again. Got a full baggie of meds for good ole Romy and brought her home.

Romy and Rusty, playing

Now Romy is the diametrical opposite of Sasha II--she looooves to be touched, she can't get enough of it. She doesn't have one dominant molecule in her body, so her defense when faced with a pack of four dogs (ok, three dogs and a mop of white curls, i.e, Sasha) was to lie down and whine for mercy.

It worked. By the next day, Tuesday, she was as much part of the pack as if they'd all grown up together. She and Rusty, my Rottweiler-Labrador mix, played at gnawing each other all day long. Panchita, my Alpha, wasn't too excited about the newcomer, and neither was Winter, our bitchiest bitch, but they left Romy alone and she respected their space.

Except when it came to food.

Romy is a mild dog, shy and scared of her own shadow (I hate to think of what made her that way), but she's known hunger. She won't fight anyone for it--she simply doesn't have the strength or the physique--but she cannot stay away from it.

Maybe I should explain how doggie mealtimes work chez moi. We have three, right? Panchita, Rusty, and Winter. Acquired (from the street, all of them) in that order, and thus that's the order we follow for food. I bring out kibble (in the mornings) and canned dogfood (only in the evenings), and serve all their plates. Everyone sits in a circle around me until I'm done, and then I hand them their plates one by one: Panchita, Rusty, and Winter. They don't eat until their plate is on the floor in front of them, they don't even sniff in the direction of the others' plates. And they don't steal food from each other--though sometimes Winter cheats, but as soon as I catch her she slinks away with a very guilty look.

You can see how Romy's hunger trauma presented a problem.

The first evening was a nightmare of spilled food and panicked dogs. Now, I'm not cruel. I hate to be cruel, even when it's "necessary" (how can it ever be necessary?). So I fed Romy, by herself, earlier. I didn't want her to be famished and desperate by evening. But I did want her to participate in the mealtime ritual, because it's an important socialization moment. Sasha never had a problem waiting for her turn; all I had to do was put my hand closer and she'd back off. She's much too prim and proper--and small--to try to steal from any of the bigger dogs. But Romy had no such qualms, and my hand did nothing to deter her. She ate from every plate as soon as I turned my back, even while her own was still full. Panchita--who moves in highly cultured circles and abhors any breach in etiquette--backed away in horror and refused to eat at all.

But the next morning it went much better. Romy still tried to steal from other plates, but I'd gotten better at gauging when she'd make the lunge and stopped her. She ate much faster than the others, so I made sure her plate stayed full until she didn't want any more (Rusty can always be trusted to eat any leftovers). Three days later she was actually sitting and waiting for her food with the others, even at night, when the canned food always adds extra temptation.

This (very badly shot) video was taken on Monday morning, breakfast. Please forgive the unsteady hand--feeding five dogs and holding a cellphone camera isn't the best combination :) Bonus: you can hear me (in Spanish) begging Panchita to eat, and you can see how Romy learned not to steal the others' food.

Romy was with us for a week exactly, almost down to the hour. On Monday CARF had to shuffle around some dogs--someone fostering a mother and her puppies had their neighbors rat them out and the landlord was threatening to evict them (ah, for neighbors like these--may they rot in hell), so those had to be placed somewhere--not an easy job. Bottom line, I delivered Romy to another of CARF's angels and brought Nassau home. Remember Nassau? The older dog with a liver tumor from Sunday's post?

We're all missing Romy--her cute face, her tentative bark, her playful attitude, her softness of character and gesture. But she's in fantastic hands, and I get to see her still because I help out twice a week where she is. Next week she's got a date with the vet; we'll find out how she's doing. In the week she was with us, she lost the bony look, started looking more like a normal dog, if somewhat skinny still. But she's young, she's got the energy to fight, she'll recover.

And, being the absolute sweetheart she is, she'll find a wonderful home, too.


  1. Romy seems very sweet--lucky her to have landed with you! I'm so glad you'll still have contact. I think perhaps your heart is larger than average...

    1. Chantel, thank you so much :) So glad you stopped by!

  2. Oh I just love Sasha! And Romy is adorable - once she's all fixed (literally), she'll find a home right away! I've had 2 dumpster dogs from the VI--the most convenient way to discard unwanted dogs and cats for people to lazy and stupid to spay/neuter their pets! Thankfully, there are a lot of angels around that try to gather them up and find homes, or at least drop off food for those that are too skittish to come close.

    1. Isn't it terrifying, this dumping of animals? I just cannot imagine how rock-solid those hearts have to be in order to leave a helpless animal behind like that. But--yeah, it happens everywhere. I'm glad your area also has these awesome people that feed them and try to get them to trust again. Maybe we won't see an end to animal cruelty in our lifetimes, but I feel hopeful every time I hear of people like that. It can't all be bad and horrible if those people exist, right? :) Bless you for adopting those 2 dumpsterites :D

  3. Guilie, you're an angel. Let's hope the world produces more people like you and less like the ones who dump their pets.

    I needed a smile, and I got it today after your post.

  4. Guilie, you're an angel. Let's hope the world produces more people like you and less like the ones who dump their pets.

    I needed a smile, and I got it today after your post.

  5. Guilie you are such a sweet heart, and Romy is adorable. I hope she gets a really loving family. I just started blogging here as well, and am inviting you to join : Would love for you to come and visit me here.


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