The Dog That Almost Wasn’t by Sheena Staples

Friday December 13, 2013 was a cold, moist morning in Surrey, the temperature never topping 4C.  It was much too cold outside for a light jean jacket, but that’s all that was wrapped around the body of an emaciated female Doberman puppy when an unidentified person dropped her off at Allondale Animal Hospital and fled without leaving any other information.prudence8


The clinic staff initially thought that the puppy had already passed away – she was emaciated and more than 80% of her body was naked and swollen with the painful, bleeding lesions of mange.  She was motionless and unresponsive, too weak to even lift her head.  The clinic responded with emergency treatment, stabilising the weak dog until she could be moved to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre (SARC).


SARC is Surrey’s impound facility and the shelter cares for about 2,000 animals a year that find their way through the doors.  We unfortunately see the full spectrum of injury, abuse and neglect in the stray domestic dogs and cats impounded here, but little had prepared us for the skeletal Doberman puppy delivered into our care.  The veterinarian estimated her at about 7-8 months old, and at just 28 lb she was approximately half the weight a Doberman puppy her age should be.  Her eyes were sunken into her swollen face which was cracked and bleeding from the painful sores and lesions of Demodectic mange, a kind of mite that often takes advantage of immune-compromised animals.  Her body was nearly naked, allowing the eye to trace the contours of her malnourished frame.  Worse still, her ears were freshly – and poorly – cropped, sutures still lining the ragged edges.  It was clear that that all of this did not happen overnight; it took a long period of neglect for her to end up in this condition, which meant someone cared so little for this dog that they could not even be bothered to feed her properly, yet they still made the effort to have her ears cropped.


As the task of nursing the puppy back to health was in staff’s hands, so was the task of finding out who could have done this to such an innocent creature?  Who had left this puppy on the road to a slow, painful demise?  Sadly, we have never learned the answers to these questions – we don’t know where Prudence came from and we don’t know who was responsible for the trauma she suffered.  Equally as sad, in 2004 another female Doberman puppy in similar condition was abandoned at the Surrey shelter.  It’s heartbreaking to think that after so much time has passed, so little has changed.


But if her history was bleak, her future could only get better, so the staff at SARC gave the Doberman puppy a new identity; our Dear Prudence was cuddled, bathed, scrubbed, medicated, fed, carried outside to relieve herself when she was too weak to walk and gently supported along when she started to take tentative steps on her own.  Prudence accepted all of her treatment, therapy and attention with the grace that we came to know as her unshakeable faith in people.  Prudence was always willing to believe that we had her best interests at heart and she worked as hard as staff did to help her get better.


By the time Prudence’s swollen and cracked skin was well on its way to healing, and a soft, downy fuzz was starting to appear on her body, she had put on some much needed weight and started to have some real energy to burn – just like a normal puppy!  She started playing with staff and enjoying short visits outside to run around, snuggled inside a warm flannel jacket donated by a generous person who was moved by one of the many stories of Prudence in the news and on the internet.  We know that it was time to move Prudence out of the shelter and into a foster home for the remainder of her recovery so she could not only regain her health but also learn how to be a dog.



Just after Christmas, Prudence left the SARC facility for her new temporary home with Alex and her Doberman Slyde.  Together they shaped Prudence’s emotional well being, showing her the joys of living in a house and introducing her to other wonders of the world like car rides and dog parks and basic manners.  Prudence’s health and world view progressed at the same time – slowly over the next 12 weeks her hair coat and her confidence grew.  It was a long road to recovery, but it somehow felt like in no time at all Dear Prudence had, with the help of her many friends at home, at SARC and at the vet, blossomed into a real dog.  The capacity for dogs to forgive, and to forge forward, is something we humans should strive to emulate.


On March 31st 2014 Alex bid a reluctant good bye to Prudence and the team at SARC wished her well as she left on another adventure to her new, forever home.  We hope she has a full and vibrant lifetime of happiness – no dog has ever deserved it more.  At the same time, all dogs deserve at least as much.


The Surrey Animal Resource Centre was glad to be a part of Prudence’s recovery from near death, but is sad to think that there may be other puppies like Prudence out there that were not as lucky.  Of the approximately 1,000 dogs that come through the facility every year, most are lost dogs that strayed from home, and about 70% of those dogs are quickly reunited with their owners thanks to a City dog license or permanent identification like tattoos and microchips.  For the remainder, as with the many hundreds of cats, rabbits, small animals, birds and livestock that SARC takes in with no ID, or ID not up to date, no owners are ever found.  We would like to remind everyone of the importance of having current and permanent ID on your pets so that shelters like SARC can get them safely home again.