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Katrinia rescues: Shelter from the storm

In addition to starting her "Snowball Effect" campaign, Phyllis DeGioia has taken two foster dogs into her home. Here's her report on the first two days:


The staging area for the Katrina rescues was crazy. It was at someone’s house here in Madison, Wisc., and the front lawn and driveway were covered in crates, pens, stacks of dog food bags, and too many people. Most of those people, like me, were waiting on this Sunday night for their Katrina fosters. A local all-breed rescue group (called, of all things, Shelter from the Storm) took a caravan south and returned with 27 dogs and more than 30 cats. They’ll go down for a second trip next week.

All of the animals had been checked out by the veterinarian who went with the caravan. Several very tiny kittens needed fluids. Some of the dogs had bad skin conditions. There were so many puppies. One crate held two turtles. Someone had given each animal (if old enough and appropriate) a bath prior to going to the foster home.

Before they’d arrived, I’d agreed to take two small dogs. While waiting to find out more details, volunteer fosters had to make a firm commitment, spelled out in an e-mail:

“We have some new information for everyone. Things you need to know are we are taking animals that are looking for homes -- strays, surrenders or abandoned. We are taking the animals that are in most need of help. These animals are not going to survive otherwise, emotionally or physically. We are not intentionally trying to put any animals at risk but do suggest you have your animals up to date on vaccines. We will take every precaution. These animals will get exams and vaccinated. Some may have bits of kennel cough, mange or fleas. We will treat everything we suspect. We suggest if you get cats/kittens you do quarantine them. If you are to foster for us, you must make this commitment for 30 days at least. Some of these animals may have owners down south and need at least 30 days to make sure before adopting them out. What I need is for you to really want to help with these needy animals. If you don't think you are up to all of these if you could please e-mail me back and let me know.”

They asked everyone if they’d be willing to consider some special needs: “We have three mother dogs with seven to 10 puppies (1 to 2 weeks old) each that each need a house to be fostered in. We have one mother cat with seven kittens that are less than a week old that need a foster home. We have one geriatric dog that needs a comfortable home with a loving heart.”

Clint_the_poodleI adore geriatric dogs, so I offered to take that one as long as he wasn’t huge. I have always had small dogs. Turns out he’s a miniature poodle, so I was eager to have him. After I offered to take him, they asked how many dogs I could take; I said two small ones. They said the other one would be a Jack Russell  terrier whose three 10-week old puppies were going together someplace else. And that’s what I was nervously waiting to pick up — nervous because these two dogs don’t know each other, or my dogs, or my cat. That’s a lot of introductions in a short period of time. I’d hoped we could cat-test when we picked up the dogs, but it was too crazy. The number of puppies and very tiny kittens broke my heart.  My friend Anne Olson came with me to help introduce my dogs to the new ones, and to deliver several donated crates.

The geriatric poodle is blind, deaf and turns circles to the left. He has four teeth. The goal is not for him to be adopted; the goal is for him to spend his last days in a comfortable, loving home. They just couldn’t bear to leave him there. He can still manage to get around. He found the water bowl himself, and he discovered in a nanosecond that my dog Fred's snuggle bed is far better than the cheapie bed I bought for him this afternoon. The poodle isn’t coughing and doesn't seem to have a skin condition, or maybe he's just too senile to scratch. No discharges. He has an appointment with the rescue group’s veterinarian on Tuesday. I have not named him yet. He is not neutered, about 10 pounds, and has a very thin apricot coat. Ancient. Determined to explore when he's awake. Still on the move! They said, "he sleeps a lot,” which is what I believe is called an understatement. He needs to eat soft food. They gave me a bag full of little packets soft food that he can gum. One of the other dogs was nicknamed Rhino because she only two teeth – her two bottom canines.

BellaThe other dog may have some Jack Russell in her, but she is a far stretch from a purebred. You can see some corgi in her face, but who knows what else. She's about 15 to 18 pounds. She has a skin condition of some sort and sounds like she has kennel cough, or something respiratory. She is isolated in the guest bedroom, poor girl, and it's upsetting her even though she's so exhausted. I think she is in more need of a veterinarian the poodle is. She is a sweetheart and loves to kiss, flops over for belly rubs. She looks young, has good clean teeth (all of them, thankfully). I named her Bella because she has such a pretty face. She snuggles nicely. Someone had donated a bag of food, and I grabbed it for her.

When we got home, Anne stayed with them across the street at a neighbor’s while I got my guys. Bella reacted with great interest to a cat walking by, which did not make me happy, but the cat was moving. The dog introductions went well. Anne stayed with the poodle and Fred (my geriatric Bichon/Westie mix) while I walked the two concerns, Ginger (terrier mix) and Bella together. They did really well. I saw at the staging area that Bella could be a bit alpha (but not bad) so I'm going to have to keep an eye on them, but so far so good.

I will have to get my dogs in tomorrow for a Bordetella shot. My animals got flea-control medications in preparation.

Things will be different when Bella comes out of isolation (I felt I had to introduce them calmly before she came in the house). I don't want to leave the geriatric alone with her even though I think they'd be fine, but he has good skin and no cough so I am going to hope he's OK and keep him in the living room. Anne agreed, so let's hope we're right.

Bella will spend the night in the guest bedroom. The poodle will be in a crate in the living room. So far, so good.

The Morning After

Bella woke me up this morning at  4:30 a.m, crying and howling. It was her first night alone, the first night without her three puppies. I could hear her clearly from downstairs, though the closed bedroom door. I knew if I ran down and comforted her that she would end up with some behavioral issues; it almost killed me to listen to her cry off and on for three hours.

The poodle likes the pillow I put in his crate. I'm still working on a name that feels right for him. I’m thinking he was such a pistol in his youth --  you can see traces of it in the way he took over Fred's bed -- that he should probably have a manly man kind of name. I'm thinking about Clint, for Clint Eastwood, although a friend who saw his photo said Clint Eastwood would be upset if he knew a deaf and blind toothless poodle who turned circles was named after him (actually, she said I’d be toast if he found out). She said he looked more like Jack Benny, which he does. He just turns circles to the left for the most part. He could run a marathon and never leave the same patch of grass.

Bella was obviously a house dog, not loose on the street. She is not food-aggressive, she takes a little treat from my fingers gently. She sat while waiting for a treat. She gets into the car with no problem and is obviously used to it. It's possible she is one of those dogs whose people were unwillingly separated. If that's the case, I desperately hope they find her.

I went out to get artificial tears for Clint the poodle (and more caffeine for me), as Shelter from the Storm called to say they’d forgotten to give me his eye drops. He can't fight me on them because he can't see that I'm about to put drops in, and it was a piece of cake to drop him. He smells a bit and now the house smells, so I used a moist towelette on his belly and privates and sure enough it came up a bit dirty. He needs trim, but I will need help doing it. It's hard to do on a dog that won't lie on his side and won't stop circling to the left.

Took Fred and Ginger to the veterinarian where they each got a Bordetella vaccine, and Fred got a lepto vaccine (that’s the only one the veterinarian thought he might need). After his cancer treatment a year and a half ago I’d decided not to vaccinate him any more except for rabies, but the veterinarian and I agreed this was probably best as Fred has never reacted to vaccines. He said the Frontline I gave them will help prevent mange; it’s not as good at that as Revolution, but it’s helpful, and I’d already treated both of them on Saturday.

I wonder what will happen at the fosters’ veterinary appointment tomorrow. For Bella’s sake, I hope she doesn’t have to stay in isolation long. This is hard on her, and on me. -- Phyllis DeGioia, editor, VeterinaryPartner.com

September 19, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Little Bella and Clint are so lucky to have landed at your home. Their people would be so happy to know that they are being taken care of by such a caring person. Kisses to them both from a Canadian auntie!


Posted by: Mary | Sep 20, 2005 4:23:57 PM

Phyllis... I'm chuckling over your stories of Belle and Clint... You have quite a talent! I've put a link to your page on the Shelter From The Storm site, and hope you don't mind that I borrowed (stole) photos of your two Katrina pups!

Keep up the good work - writing and fostering!

Go to our main page and click on "Foster Stories" in the left column...

Posted by: Katie Hoeppner | Sep 20, 2005 1:54:37 PM

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