Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Patches — Alone and Unwanted but Saved by Love (A long and continuing story)...


This is the ongoing saga of Patches, a feral, unwanted stray in the Rio Grande Valley (along the Mexican border) in Texas.

This is a departure from our traveling blog series.  While at home, Roger and I volunteer at a local no-kill shelter, Cinderella Pet Rescue.

Several months ago, another volunteer, Sharon, noticed a skinny, bedraggled small dog hanging out beside the busy road where we drive to and from the pet rescue.

 Sharon stopped and gave the dog some food and called her “Patches” because, at the time, the dog’s ears were bald and bloody and she was missing patches of fur.  She was limping and a real sad sack of a dog.  

Sharon was unable to get close enough to capture Patches, so she periodically stopped to give her food.  Patches began to wait by the road for Sharon’s car.  She seemed to know what time Sharon would be coming by.  During one feeding, Sharon slipped a Bravecto into the food.  By the time these photos were taken, Patches’ ears had begun to heal and she had put on weight.  These roadside feedings went on for a few months. 

 The local cats also took note and a battle began to let Patches eat without the cats getting it all (Patches was afraid of everything, especially those cats!). One particular yellow tomcat even jumped into the car to try to get the food before Sharon even had time to get out.  

Early in March, Sharon left for a 2-week vacation in Cabo.  She asked if I would periodically take food to Patches.  Thus began my involvement.  Patches learned to know my car and was always waiting at the designated time of day for me to stop and feed her.   I had no better luck catching her than Sharon did.  By this time, we both noticed that Patches was pregnant.  I tried everything I could think of to capture her, but she was street smart and would have nothing of it.

Then one day she wasn't there.   Or the next day.   Or the next day.  I laid awake all night worrying about her.   Did she die in childbirth?  Is she laying somewhere injured?  I felt a pang of pain every time I drove by "her" corner and she wasn't there.  

Then came a phone call from Sharon.   She had been called about a dog who had just had puppies and was hanging out in a yard near "Patches' Corner."   A search posse of Sharon, me, and the women who had called it in met Saturday morning, March 26, at the yard where the dog had been seen.  The yard was overgrown with tall grass, two abandoned pickup trucks, a tractor, and a bush hog parked on the property.   The homeowner closed their fence gate and we found and blocked the access hole Patches had been using with a dog crate.   Sure enough, there was Patches, alive and well.  We searched and searched for the puppies, but they could not be found.  The four of us  were not able to capture Patches until she crawled under the bush hog (lawn mower tractor attachment).   We propped one side of the mower up on a cinder block and I crawled marine-style underneath where Patches was holed up, plastered against the far side.   I did not notice until too late that Patches had lost her bowel control out of fear in front of the mower, RIGHT where I belly-crawled underneath.   

She was so scared that she shut down and froze.   I was finally able to maneuver enough to get a slip lead over her head.  I handed it to Sharon and then I pulled Patches under her front legs from beneath the bush hog.  We quickly shoved her into the awaiting dog crate we had moved next to the bush hog.   I do wish we had photos or film (but not Smell-o-vision) of the actual capture - it was quite a show!

We looked under the pickup trucks and could see where she had flattened the grass and probably given birth.  There was no sign of the puppies.  A neighbor stated he had seen a large black snake come from under the pickup trucks, so that may have been what happened to the puppies.  We'll never know.   

Thus began Patches' new life at Cinderella Pet Rescue.

She was given her admitting shots and placed into a horse stall in the barn in isolation.  As you can see from the photos, she shut down and would not make eye contact with us, even though we had been feeding her beside the road for months.

I began going to visit her and sat in a beach chair, low to the ground.  She still wouldn't look directly at me.  She would not take a treat from me.  She wanted nothing to do with me.  She had lived a solitary, sad life to this point, finding food and water wherever she could and hiding from predators.  I didn't give up.   I just kept visiting her, talking to her, (in her mind harassing her), and moved my chair ever closer until I could finally touch her.  She didn't like it, but I did it anyway.

She was dirty and grungy and badly in need of a bath.   It was way too soon for that -- she was already terrified of her new surroundings.  She was also a flight risk -- and we knew if she got away from us, we'd never,  ever catch her again without the fenced yard she happened to have her puppies in.  I tried waterless shampoo with a microfiber cloth (which turned dark brown with every stroke), but the cloth freaked her out.   A few days later I tried using a brush and lo and behold, she actually seemed to calm down and enjoy it!  Since she couldn't have a bath yet, it was the best we could do.

She also became calm enough in my presence to take a nap.  Here she is in her Igloo doghouse in the horse stall on probably the first soft blanket she'd ever known:

The second day that she was at Cinderella, we noticed she had not peed or pooped.   Suzanne, the director of the shelter, suggested putting a pee pad into the stall to see if the different texture might get her to go.  Sure enough, the next few days she did her business on the pee pads and we switched them out.  She is a fastidious little girl!  

One day I tried putting a slip lead on her to see how she would react to a leash.  Predictably, she did not like it.  It was still too risky to try to take her outside.  

 She still would not take a dog treat from me.   That made it difficult to bond with her.  I looked on line and saw a suggestion to use cut up hot dogs.  I had some (Kosher even!) at home, so I cut one up and took it with me on my next visit.  She would not take it from me, but sniffed it and drooled, so I knew she wanted it.  I laid it down and she ate it.  After a few times, I left it in my hand, laid on the floor, and put my hand down where the hot dogs had been.  She ate it!  I repeated this several times and each time she would eat from my hand.  I was SO excited!  

She was starting to get accustomed to her surroundings.  That let her personality start to break through.  Initially that meant her frustration in being confined!   She did not bark (I still have never heard her bark).  But this is what she had done to her pee pad overnight, and also a Ziplock bag that held her harness:

I decided since she was so frustrated being shut inside, it was time to try to take her outdoors.   I put a harness and a slip lead on her, and took her into an enclosed arena just in case she were to get loose.  She pulled me over to a ramp and hid underneath.  

I thought that day had gone well, but the next day when I went to visit, she would not even look at me.  Would not take a hot dog from me.  Wanted nothing to do with me!   I went home dejected.  

The next day I tried again, with Sharon's help.  She found a harness that fit better and we carried her back into the arena (she would not walk.)  Sharon took some photos of that day.   I tried to crop myself out of the shots because we'd already walked the other shelter dogs all morning and I was a hot mess.

Patches liked being outdoors but was wary and constantly looking for danger. 

She would not walk on a leash.  We had to carry her to and from the arena.  I decided to try this every day for a while and see if she would get used to being on a leash and being outside.  I decided to drop the leashes and let her wander on her own.  Predictably, she sought shelter under the ramp.  

This was a very hot day, and I left her there and moved my beach chair into the shade.  She peeked out to see where I was...

Then - OMG - she walked over and laid down near me!

She still wouldn't walk on a leash.  Each time I'd pick up the leashes she would freeze.

But we kept it up every day.  I noticed she was starting to be excited to see me and wanted to go out. She even wagged her crooked little tail!  She would hold still and lift her legs for the harness because she associated it with going outside.  When I'd open the gate to her stall, she now would walk out and even walk over into the arena.  At this point she will walk on a leash and isn't terrified and trying to hide.  She's come a long way!

Sharon and I decided she was finally ready for a bath.   This was the day we'd waited for!   She simply had to get clean enough to go to the spay/neuter clinic when her turn came.  I carried Patches to the bathing tub.   

She knew something was up!

We put a choke chain collar on and left the harness on.  We secured the choke chain to the bathing tub chains.  I held on for dear life and between Sharon and I, we managed to get her wet.  (She tried very hard to escape).  

 We had to go to plan B because Patches was terrified of the water nozzle.  So we filled a bucket and Sharon poured the water over her.  She calmed down when Sharon sudsed her up -- she seemed to enjoy the massage.  (Note:  those are my wrinkly old hands in the photo, not Sharon's, and the scratches on my arms are from other dogs, not Patches.)

Look at that dirty water!

After rinsing her, we carried her into the sun and dried her with towels.

Here she is squeaky clean:  These are the photos you'll see on the Cinderella Pet Rescue website on the dogs-available-for-adoption page:  

Adopt me!

Thanks for reading Part One of Patches' journey.  There are more exciting things to come.   We just got word that she will finally be spayed on May 3.   That is the next step in her journey to be adopted into a forever home.  To view Patches and the other dogs available now for adoption, or to make a much-needed donation, please visit Cinderella Pet Rescue and click on the "dogs" link or the "donate" link.

UPDATE:   We have adopted Patches ourselves.  Will update the blog soon.  Patches is currently traveling with us and enjoying new sight and smells.  She’s finally living the life she deserves!

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