In early April of 2012, I was contacted by Pat Dixon about what would be our most challenging case to date. Pat had found Hazel, a three-year old female pit bull, a block from Moore Square, emaciated and digging through garbage. Her swollen, milk-filled nipples indicated that she had recently given birth to a litter of puppies. Not knowing what to do, Pat called Animal Control. Over the next 45 minutes, as she waited for them to arrive, she followed Hazel in hopes of finding her puppies. Her search was unsuccessful, as was a subsequent search by the Animal Control officer. Animal Control loaded her into their truck and Hazel was taken to the Wake County AnimalShelter.
Pat continued to visit Hazel periodically at the shelter. A former co-worker of mine, Brian Colter, who is now working at the shelter, saw Pat’s anguish and referred her to Pit Crew Pit Bull Rescue (PCPBR). She promptly emailed me, relating her story and offering financial assistance to our rescue if we could take the case. PCPBR always has a number of requests to assist dogs in need, so the decision of which case to take is always a difficult one to make. Pat’s commitment and involvement in Hazel’s case convinced me that this was the best use of our resources and time.
Chris Cottrell and I went to meet our latest rescue in the Wake County Shelter. I was shocked at her appearance. I had not expected her face and body to be covered in scars, which told a story of past abuse and probable use as a bait dog. She was missing patches of fur, and her nipples seemed to be the majority of her body weight. She was bone thin, but her tail was still wagging.
Our first step was to try to locate a foster home. I located her shelter listing on the Wake County Shelter’s website and used their information and picture to create a Craigslist post seeking a foster for her. After submitting proof of PCPBR’s 501(c)3 status, we became an approved rescue with the Wake County Shelter, enabling us to pull dogs at no cost from the shelter. I originally planned to pull her from the shelter when a foster was located, but foster home after foster home continued to fall through at the last second. About a week after she had been in the shelter, I was contacted by the shelter coordinator, Joanne Duda. She told me that Hazel had been placed on the “sick list,” and that if we did not come for her within the next 24 hours, Hazel would be euthanized. Panic set in. Hazel’s situation had just become urgent and we still had no foster home. If we were going to be able to help Hazel, all of PCPBR would have to pull together.
Despite Chris’s busy work schedule, he volunteered to house and care for Hazel. Now that we had a place to house Hazel, Cat and I drove to the shelter to pick Hazel up. Pat Dixon met us there to celebrate Hazel leaving the shelter. Pat Dixon generously contributed the financial backing to cover a visit to the veterinarian and her spay, which was scheduled to take place the following morning.
Upon taking Hazel to the vet, we learned that she had recently recovered from mange and had developed a staph infection of the skin. Hazel was given antibiotics to treat the staph infection, but her upper respiratory infection was not deemed severe enough to be treated.
That night, Hazel stayed at my house and I could hear her coughing throughout the night. The cough became so intense that I grew concerned. Despite my anxiety, in the morning I brought her to the Wake County Shelter for her spay. I was concerned they would not perform the surgery due to her severe cough, but the doctor assured me that the color of her gums was good and her temperature was normal and that the surgery could proceed.
That afternoon I picked a groggy and lethargic Hazel up from the shelter. The surgeon informed me that her condition had gotten worse and that I would need to pick her up at the back door so that she would not infect other dogs. Hazel was taken to Chris’s apartment, where he set her up with a crate and plenty of doggie comforts. Chris had long planned on trying out for Jeopardy, and by a stroke of bad luck, this was the weekend of the auditions in Washington, D.C., so I spent the weekend between my home and his apartment taking care of Hazel.
As the weekend progressed, Hazel’s condition continued to deteriorate. Her cough became more frequent and pronounced, and by Monday, it was clear she needed to see a veterinarian. Further complicating matters, this was the week of my GRE examination, but I managed to find time to take her to the vet.
Her visit brought bad news. Hazel’s upper respiratory infection had progressed and she was diagnosed with severe pneumonia. X-rays revealed that her left lung had collapsed. Hazel was given a 40% chance of survival and the doctor said it would not be wrong to euthanize her, but if we decided to proceed, it was recommended that she be hospitalized and placed in intensive care, the cost of which was estimated at $1,600.00 for three days. I knew instantly that we could not afford this, so I asked what would be involved if I were to provide the necessary care myself. The veterinarians warned me that this would be challenging and involve around-the-clock care, but with our limited resources, we had no other option. The doctor explained that her care would consist of delivering five medications multiple times a day, shower steam treatments, percussion therapy, and nebulizer treatments every four hours. Hazel was so contagious that she could not safely be around other animals. This eliminated the possibility that she could stay with me, and with my GRE exam looming, I knew trips back and forth to Chris’s apartment would be impossible.
With the possibility of Hazel staying in a home with other pets eliminated, I quickly realized that PCPBR could not provide housing for Hazel in her condition. I contacted Pat Dixon, who immediately left work to meet me at the veterinarian’s office. Pat suggested we house Hazel in her home that was empty and under contract at the time, and I graciously accepted her offer. Over the next few hours, I packed up my belongings and moved them into Pat’s empty house. Hazel now had a safe and spacious place to stay where we could provide her with the intensive care she required.
Over the next 48 hours, board member Elyse Kline and I cared for Hazel around the clock. Hazel, who showed little to no appetite, finally accepted diluted soup and canned chicken. As the hours passed, Hazel’s cough showed little improvement, but her energy level steadily increased. She showed little aversion to the frequent nebulizer treatments and did not resist as we took her temperature every twelve hours.
When Chris returned from his trip to Washington, D.C., Hazel was transported to his apartment and seemed to have pulled through the worst of her illness. Over the following six weeks, Chris continued to provide Hazel with the medications and treatments that kept her on the road to recovery. Each PCPBR member contributed to Hazel’s care, whether it be walking her when Chris was at work or babysitting her over a long weekend. Slowly, Hazel began to cough less frequently and her fever subsided.
After three weeks around-the-clock care, I took Hazel to the veterinarian to reassess her condition. After listening to her lungs, the doctor informed me that curiously, the right lung sounded much worse than the left lung, which had previously been reported as collapsed. The doctor determined the best course of action would be to refill Hazel’s antibiotic and bronchodilator. He discouraged taking follow-up x-rays at that time, recommending we wait two weeks to take the next series of films to allow the antibiotic to take full effect.
On Thursday, April 10, I took Hazel to the veterinarian for her final x-rays. The films showed Hazel’s lungs were almost entirely clear of fluid, and the doctor informed me that Hazel was on the verge of a full recovery and would be ready for adoption after a two-week observation period.
PCPBR is currently seeking a permanent adoptive home for Hazel. Hazel will make a wonderful addition to a family who is able to make her their only pet. Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (919) 457-3719 if you are interested in adopting Hazel, the miracle dog!