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Stray, starving dog rescued and needs a home

by Linda Hiller

And we say cats have nine lives. Here’s a dog who – at last count, – looks to have more than that, and she’s not even been alive for as many months.

“Hello, animal control? I’m calling from Tile Court at TRE and there’s a dog that’s not much more than a bag of bones sitting on my porch,” the caller said to Rhonda Fingar, Douglas County Animal Control supervisor last week. “Can you come get it?”

Routine call. Bag of bones, yeah right, we’ve seen that before -another stray that’s been on its own for long enough to lose a little weight. But this one turned out to be one for the record books – a dog so skinny that “bag of bones” might be a bit of an exaggeration on the flattering side.

“This is definitely one of the skinniest dogs we’ve ever seen,” said Fingar, who’s been with animal control for 14 years. “It was so incredibly skinny that none of us could believe it.”

But this was not an ordinary stray. The female “Heinz 57” lab mix with short reddish fur had an immediate effect on everyone who came in contact with her. Even with blood caked around her mouth, scars from who-knows- what on her muzzle, dirty fur and bones jutting out from every angle of her frame, she was a honey.

“Bag O’ Bones” had a disposition that was so friendly and endearing that Fingar and the other animal control officials faced the immediate dilemma of what to do with this nonetheless “pretty far gone” pup. It’s something these professional pet protectors deal with every day – sometimes it’s a cut-and-dried decision and sometimes it’s not.

It didn’t help that “Squirmy” wagged her tail so enthusiastically and so constantly that the bloody injury on the tip of her tail wouldn’t heal. Every time she saw people, she would gyrate so vigorously that her tail left blood streaks on everyone.

“She’s a sweet dog and wags her tail so much and so hard that she’s got what we call ‘kennel tail,’ where an injury to the tail never gets a chance to heal because it is constantly getting whacked against a cage or wall in their enclosure,” Fingar said.

While animal control works with all Carson Valley veterinarians on a rotating basis and each vet does their best to give animal control their best “shelter-only” prices, still a tail job was above and beyond.

This time it was Dr. Stephen MacCabe’s turn in the rotation. Owner of Job’s Peak Veterinary Hospital in Gardnerville, MacCabe did recommend amputation for the infected tail, which was injured to the point where it was actually dying tissue.

“There was no way the tail injury could heal because it was already dead tissue,” he said. “The distalin was necrotic, so we wanted to go back to healthy tissue, which would leave her about four inches of tail.”

Complicating the operation would be the fact that the pup’s near-starvation condition had weakened. She required replacement fluids and had diarrhea in response to ingesting food after such a long fast. She would also need to be wormed and spayed, and, now that you mention it, in spite of her boniness, she had a belly that hinted at pregnancy. What to do?

“When we took her to Dr. MacCabe and asked him what he thought we should do with her, at first he said we should probably put her to sleep,” Fingar said. “But then he said, ‘Rhonda, this is a sweet dog. Everybody here loves her.'”

Job’s Peak Veterinary Hospital receptionist Linda Galli agreed.

“Some dogs in her shape don’t want humans to touch them,” she said. “But ‘Bones,’ as we call her, was a sweetheart.”

In spite of a laundry list of temporary ills, MacCabe said the canine was basically sound.

“She has an excellent personality and will make a great backyard companion for someone,” MacCabe said. “She thinks you’re the greatest person in the world if you rub her ears.”

In the end, Fingar made the decision to gamble on “Lucky,” and gave the go-ahead to have her get the full treatment by MacCabe, which would amount to around $250.

“Clinically, Dr. MacCabe said there was nothing wrong with the dog and, really, she’s such a love,” Fingar said. “We can’t spend this much money on every dog, but she is so wonderful. We just know she’ll make a wonderful pet.”

“She is going to make somebody a great pet,” Galli said. “After her operation to remove the tail, you know she had to be hurting, but she was still so happy and loving. She’s remarkable.”

“Stubby” is now at the animal shelter off Pinenut Road south of Gardnerville. She is recovering well, according to one of her favorite humans, Val Nenzel, a 3-year employee of the shelter.

“She is one of the friendliest dogs I’ve seen here,” Nenzel said as her charge nuzzled her enthusiastically. “She’s great.”

If you are interested in adopting this pup, it will cost the standard $83 for a female dog, which covers shots, licensing and spaying. Any money toward her veterinary bill will be welcome, but not required, Fingar said.

Or, if you don’t need another pet but would like to help defray the costs of “Bones,” “Bag O’ Bones,” “Squirmy, “Lucky” and/or “Stubby’s” rescue so the next desperate stray can be saved, contact the animal shelter at 782-9061.

If you adopt her, you can give her a name of your own.