Early this month, while scrolling through Facebook, I was struck by a photo of a dog named Thumper who had wound up in a busy municipal shelter after being found as a stray. This dog, even just in photos, was visibly in pain. He was actively bleeding, skin raw, balancing on three legs because of his grotesquely swollen paws. It was terrifying and heartbreaking, but the striking part? The blur off a wagging tail in every photo.
Once Thumper's stray hold was up, we made the drive to the shelter to pick him up and take him to our vet. We were so excited to meet this brave little boy and welcome him into Project Precious Rescue! When the amazing animal control officer came walking out with him, I immediately burst into tears. Photos barely skimmed the surface, this guy was in terrible, terrible shape. He was dripping blood as he walked. When I picked him up, chunks of skin and hair and infection came off on my clothes and hands. I had to throw away my scarf after carrying him to the car and getting him comfy on a big, smooshy, soft pile of blankets.
When we walked into the animal hospital with Thumper, jaws dropped and people gasped. We sat with him in a side room with the door shut, and our hearts broke as we watched him try to find a position to lay comfortably. We talked amongst ourselves about what could possibly be going on. We knew he had mange, but to us it looked so violently painful we were certain something else had happened. We thought it could have been frostbite, or maybe he was dragged and had road rash. We needed to give him a stronger name, one of bravery and power and fight. Leo? Thor? Hercules. A name that inspires courage. Of course, as dog's names tend to, his has evolved to "Hurky Durky" and "Hurky Lurky Loo".
Our veterinarian determined that in addition to poor nutrition and demodex mange, Hercules had a very nasty skin infection. He was given antibiotic shots and injections of pain killers. He wagged his tail and gave kisses through his skin scraping and exam, looking at us with eyes full of love as if he understood that even though it hurt, we were there to help. My rescue partner, Kristy, and I spent about an hour bathing him and plucking off the chunks of dead skin, scab and tissue that were preventing healthy skin growth. Our Secretary, Sarah, made him a comfy bed in a kennel. Hercules leaned into the water, shutting his eyes and sighing, it must have been such a relief to get all of that nastiness off of him.
Leaving that dog was nearly impossible. We knew he needed rest and that we couldn't "hug him healthy", but MAN did we want to! We weren't sure what the morning would bring, and we were all restless through the night.
Day Two showed a different dog! His skin was already drying up, he was seeming less in pain, and he eagerly jumped into my lap when I crouched down to pet him. He tried to run and play, nose in the air, when we went outside, but was quickly stopped by his sore feet. His tail did not stop wagging, his cute little butt wiggling non-stop. His improvement continued steadily, and our doctor agreed that he was ready to move on to a foster-to-adopt home, and luckily a great one was waiting in the wings!
Hercules got to nap on a comfy chair, run in a fenced yard, and hang out in a HOME! We were certain this was the beginning of his next chapter as a spoiled rotten house dog. Unfortunately, nothing is certain in rescue, and Hercules shocked us all when he got into an altercation with one of the smaller resident dogs. His temporary family loves him dearly, but their senior pug was in danger and Hercules had to be returned.
Coming back to boarding was devastating for Hurk. He quickly started losing weight and his skin infection flared back up. He was depressed and wouldn't even lift his head when I walked into his run to hug him. It was heartbreaking, he was so so sad and feeling so so terrible. Thankfully he has now stabilized again, and we have made the decision with our vet to keep him in medical boarding until he is no longer in danger of declining.
Hercules is a truly special guy, and continues to inspire us every day. He is back to himself, demanding cookies and kisses and wagging happily when he sees us. His feet are still so swollen he won't walk further than his blanket, but his skin is drying out nicely and healing well. He is putting on the weight he lost and is very treat motivated.
In the next couple of weeks, Hercules will be ready to go to a foster or foster-to-adopt home. He will need to be placed with either no other pets or only one other dog who is close to his size. Hercules is only about 42 lbs and only about one year old, he's got so much love to give and so much life left! Please share his story in the hopes that somewhere out there is his perfect home. Hercules is one of those very special dogs who we've all been pulling for from the beginning, and he SO deserves it!
To follow Hurky Durk's story, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/projectpreciousrescue, where you can also see photos and videos of his progress from day one (some of which are quite graphic). If you are interested in adopting, please email ProjectPreciousRescue@gmail.com.