We had been asked to take on a mom and her pup, that we named Sophia and Outlaw, in February this year. They had been part of the hoarder incident in Gatesville TX, only 2 of the over 260 dogs taken from a desperate situation. We were happy to help in any way possible as always.
Sophia, at 10 yrs old had a son, a beautiful little guy that brought so much to my life in the short time he was here. She had been forced to defend her son in a pack of dogs that most likely would have killed him for no other reason but the scarceness of food. True to nature, this committed mom put aside her own hunger and cared for Outlaw, protected, defended and loved even in her weakened condition.
The day we picked her up we were expecting a neglect case, mainly because we have seen so many hoarding cases in the last 20 years; I was surprised, I was heartbroken and I was outraged. The back of the transporters truck opened up, and out popped a very thin, very nervous old girl barely able to stand, peeking out to assess the strangers in front of her. Cautiously she sniffed my hand and stiffened up- has she ever experienced any positive human interaction? This old girl so weak and frail still managed to stand over her only pup, ready to defend him if needed. It took a little time for her to approach me, but as she did I noticed Outlaw curled up on the floor board completely content. A tiny ball of fur, no bigger than his mama’s paw.
We changed vehicles and started our journey of rehabilitating this desperate family. Immediately I convinced myself I would not be keeping them, I already have a large pack and recently lost two of my very best dogs that happened to be Rottweilers; I knew I was not ready yet.
The drive lasted two hours, the entire time was spent comforting Outlaw and reassuring Sophia I was no threat to them. All the while, repeating to myself I did not need another male nor did I want to become attached to a breed that I had experienced such unexpected and untreatable diseases with over the last two years. No, they were not staying- I firmly argued with myself.
Fast forward to March, exactly four weeks later, I have completely fallen in love with Outlaw and fought with myself that I can manage training this baby and making him my next “go-to boy” for my business. I mean I was already teaching him things other dogs learn at an older age, and he was smart- a little sponge. Completely eager to learn anything I threw his way- a real baby genius. I started making future plans, thinking about going back to competition and titling him as I did my very first Rottie. This boy could go even further; after all it would be so easy for me now. I already have 20 years experience; I have already had the chance to learn from my past mistakes and I have the patience at my age to take things slow; teach him perfection. He had the same drive as my last Rottie, and I never had a male Rottie before! Yes, we would be a great team; showcasing the breed, how loyal and gentle they can be.
It was not long before we received an urgent email regarding a litter of pups from the same case in need of bottle feeding. Three baby girls, three weeks old that had been taken off nursing their mom due to her sickness. We of course, said we would take them in temporarily until they found fosters.
We now had a ten year old mom, her ten week old son- which I decided to adopt, and three bottle fed babies. Lack of sleep and formula was our life for three weeks. That may not seem like a long time, but at our age and with our schedule, a couple of hours of sleep a night for three weeks means zombie time. We faithfully set the alarms for two to three hour feedings, and still managed to run our business normally. It is amazing, looking back now, that we stayed sane.
The puppies, our “angels” as we called them, found a foster to go to and even though we were tired, it was sad to see them leave. We had named them after “Charlie’s Angels”, Alex, Nat, and Dillon. Perfect names for three strong little female fighters; they did survive a terrible beginning to life and they certainly brought smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts.
I began focusing all my time on getting Outlaw prepared for a life of endless possibilities, when I received an email from the rescue again. This time they were not looking for help, no one needed us to “rescue” them- no this time, we would need help.
The new fosters had taken in the “Angels” and started to see them get weak. They were moved to solid food and they couldn’t eat without choking. The veterinarian tested them and we received the bad news, they had Distemper. We were shocked, upset and in denial. Surely I had nothing to worry about; I had stuck to my entire technician training and kept them completely separated. Isolated from Outalw and Sophia; completely. The vet explained that this strain was rare and it normally is seen when pups eat solid food- relief I thought, Outlaw has been eating solid food for weeks! To be safe we made an appointment and had him and Sophia checked out. Yes! They were in good health- no need to test! I went back to training Outlaw in every area a pup could retain!
One week later, Outlaw started coughing. Still in denial I convinced myself it had been from the trachea tube they used during the neuter. I kept him completely isolated from everyone in my pack- tending to him all day and comforting him with all the motherly love I had. I refused to believe it was possible, this would not happen. Our vet tested him with a wide range test to pin point his illness- it came back as the rare strain of distemper. I was devastated but I still refused to allow my new boy to be taken away from me. I contacted my best friend in hopes that her “voodoo” magic would help him- acupressure, massage, herbal meds- I didn’t care what it took.
Then he started showing neurologic ticks in his face. My heart felt like someone reached in my chest and physically grabbed hold to stop it. I watched this beautiful and amazingly genius pup twitch uncontrollably having difficulty even walking in just three short days. A glimmer of hope- we put him on Valium to subside the tremors. It was short lived. Even on Valium, his tremors began to take over his entire body. As hard as it was, I made the decision to let him have peace.
I held him in his last minutes, trying to stop his tiny body from shaking- the entire time whispering to him that he was the best pup I ever had. Assuring him he would never feel pain again, and thanking him for the few wonderful weeks he gave me. A few minutes passed and I knew he would never suffer again. He would be cared for by my past Rotties now, loved and protected by them as they did for me.
We arrived home and I got down on the floor to hold Sophia, in my own way, apologizing to her for not being able to protect him as she did. I sat there for what seemed like forever, comforting her and promising her I would never give up on her. The call was made that evening to the rescue that Sophia will be living her life out here with us. I did not have the heart to see her leave, the sole survivor of our efforts to help, the mother to the one pup that made me feel young and inspired again. No, I need her as much as she needs us.
We love you Outlaw.
Love Mama Sophia and Mama T