How an abandoned pit bull went from desertion and starvation to a forever home
By Dr. Marty Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Last August, my wife, Teresa, and I were in Louisiana, volunteering at a shelter animal clinic. Before heading there, Teresa and I agreed not to adopt any pets that day. We even shook on it.
You probably know where this is going.
Along with a team of veterinarians and veterinary nurses and a scrum of veterinary and pre-vet students, we methodically but tenderly examined 300 dogs, drawing blood for heartworm checks, giving dewormer for internal parasites and products for external parasites, and implanting microchips. Throughout, we focused on each dog’s physical and emotional well-being, guided by our Fear Free philosophy.
Then Relic staggered in. The adult male pit bull was the thinnest dog I’ve ever seen in 39 years of practice. He was covered in fleas, ticks and lice, and inhabited internally by roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and heartworms.
Then he did something special. I had drawn a smiley face with aerosol cheese on the palm of my left hand. Relic walked over slowly and started licking it out of my hand. His tail wagged so hard, it made him unstable. I’d never seen a dog fall over from being happy.
I looked down at Relic and up at Teresa. In unison, we said, “We’ll adopt him.”
Relic had been abandoned in a decrepit house. When the landlord found him, he thought the fly-covered unresponsive dog was dead and called animal control to come get the body. When they discovered Relic was still alive, they rushed him to Bellevue Veterinary Clinic in Opelousas, Louisiana. The dog weighed only 19 pounds and was near death, but Dr. Kevin Fuselier gave him a chance, and he slowly began to recover.
When we spoke with him, Dr. Fuselier said Relic (now called Lazaruff for his rise from the dead) had only a 33% chance of survival.
Lazaruff made it. But we weren’t able to adopt him. The veterinary behaviorists who evaluated him recommended that he go to a home where he would be the only dog and where someone would be home with him most of the time. Lazaruff had separation anxiety, and he was happiest lying next to somebody with his big “meat head” on their lap.
The right home hadn’t come along, so last month, when Teresa and I were in New Orleans for Animal Care Expo, we decided to drive him back home with us to see if the right family was in northern Idaho, where we live.
During that weeklong road trip, his light shone bright. He never got carsick, never barked, never soiled his crate. He went from having to be lifted into his crate to jumping into it in the back of the SUV. We made “pit stops” at shelters along the way, spreading our message of emotional well-being and enrichment.
Then the miracle happened: Our friends at Panhandle Animal Shelter in Sandpoint, Idaho, connected us with Breanna Franck and her husband, Terry, who owned their own home, had no other pets, worked opposite schedules so somebody would be home most of the time and, most important, loved dogs.
Lazaruff walked over to Breanna, she knelt down and he washed her face with one lick of his dishrag-size tongue. He went into their arms, into their vehicle and into their hearts.
Teresa and I have stayed in close contact with them, and Lazaruff continues to fall over from being happy. But now it’s not because he’s too weak to stand. It’s because he’s waiting to get his belly rubbed.
PHOTO CAPTION: Lazaruff adapted quickly to hotel living on the road to his new life.