Dog Appears to Have Been Abused
It was a chilly November Saturday afternoon when a fisherman at Kaufman Lake in Champaign, Ill., noticed what turned out to be a puppy in a cage in the lake, yards from shore.
According to an account provided by the fisherman, Bryant Fritz, the puppy’s head was barely above water. He dropped everything, waded into the frigid water, and pulled the cage from the lake.
As quickly as he could, he brought the dog to the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, calling ahead to alert the emergency service. (On this particular day, the hospital’s ER saw an additional 28 cases, and they always appreciate a heads up to prepare.)
Because Fritz had previously brought his own pet to us for care, this was not the first trip he had made to the hospital. But it may have been the fastest. He later posted to the hospital’s Facebook page: “You took such good care of my [dog] Ozzie, till the end. Never thought twice about where to go well above the speed limit. Shhh!”
Affectionate from the Start
Speed was important. Once the pup was in our care, doctors immediately began to address the dog’s life-threatening hypothermia.
“We were unable to get a reading on the thermometer. That’s how low her body temperature had fallen,” says Dr. Jenica Haraschak, one of the boarded emergency and critical care specialists at the Small Animal Clinic.
Treatment included the use of warm intravenous fluids, a heating pad, the “Bair Hugger”—a system of blankets containing forced-air warming— and even hair driers to raise the dog’s temperature to a normal level, a process that took more than two hours. Gradually the dog, estimated to be around 8 months old, regained the ability to move and respond to her caregivers. And she was affectionate from the start.
Wound Treatment Required
The following day, after the hypothermia had been resolved, attention turned to the puppy’s poor condition. There were multiple wounds covering a large portion of her back and hind legs. Despite her time submerged in the lake, the dog had a strong odor of urine about her and her fur was stained yellow.
“We believe that she had received ill-treatment long before being dumped in the lake,” says Dr. Haraschak. “We gave her a therapeutic bath and removed the matted debris from her wounds in order to treat them.” That day we also got a glimpse of her sweet personality. All she wanted was to sit in your lap and give kisses. She was a perfect patient despite everything she had previously been through.
Meanwhile, outside the hospital, this puppy was making headlines. Tapping into a groundswell of interest on Facebook originating with posts by Fritz, local and national media picked up the pup’s story. News sites from California to Florida told her tale, including CNN, the Chicago Tribune, People magazine, and the Weather Channel, to name a few.
Outpouring of Interest
By Monday, the puppy no longer required hospitalization. Before the dog was transferred to Champaign County Animal Control, reporters and videographers from several area news outlets crowded into a treatment room at the hospital to hear from the dog’s caregivers about her medical progress.
Dr. Meghan Fick, another boarded criticalist on our faculty, and Karla Rivera, a clinical fourth-year veterinary student who had been a part of the care team since the dog first arrived, spoke to the media. The puppy stole the show, of course, by demonstrating that she was very much alive and well and acting just like the puppy she was.
The response to this puppy’s story on social media was overwhelming. More than half a million people saw the post about the puppy on the Facebook page for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Several people touched by the dog’s plight made a contribution to our Humane Connection fund, which was established to allow clinicians to help animals who have no owner or whose owners have financial hardship.
Hospital leaders have used this opportunity to raise awareness about the hospital’s role and policy when an unowned animal is discovered. One message is: stray pets that are healthy should be taken to the animal control office in the jurisdiction in which they were found. Another message is: Our hospital will provide initial care to ill or injured unowned animals. Thanks in part to generous donors, funds are set aside to triage and stabilize animals until an owner can be identified; the good Samaritans who bring injured strays to our hospital are not expected to pay for this care.
Forever Home Will Come
As of Monday, November 11, the police investigation into the abuse of the puppy was still ongoing. Animal Control, which has legal custody of the dog until the investigation is closed, has placed the puppy in a foster home where she can receive the continued care she needs.
Her finder, Bryant Fritz, is hoping to adopt the pup once she is available. He plans to name her Dory, after another famous character who was searching for her family in a big body of water.
Update: On November 13, Fritz and his partner were guests on the Ellen Show, where he announced (among other things) that he would be adopting the pup.