Sweet Pea

Blog author: 
Anne Zabolio

On June 14, 2005, Excellent Volunteer Annie Stuhr and I were cleaning the room at the end of the hall where the floor needed to be replaced. We had just begun this task which had been put off again and again in favor of more crucial items on the to-do list: trapping feral cats before they get pregnant; driving animals to and from veterinarians; buying cat litter; scooping litter boxes. A call came in from Annie's husband, Bill. A hysterical neighbor had come barreling down their driveway yelling that there was a hurt puppy a few streets over from their house. Annie and I snatched up tools we might need, a board in case of an injured spine, rope, cloth to staunch bleeding, a leash, heavy gloves, and dashed off in her pickup truck.

When we arrived at our destination, we found a small black pit bull mix sitting quietly under a realtor's sign, no bleeding, no dangling limb, no lolling tongue nor rolling eye. She looked petrified and we had enough sense not to approach her. Someone, probably the hysterical neighbor, had left a plastic container of for the dog and it appeared untouched, which led me to wonder if the dog could walk.

Sweet Pea

Being mostly a cat rescue person, I called dog rescue people on my cell phone and got pretty much the same advice from everyone: either call animal control, which would probably result in the dog's demise, or wait and see what develops. I found a tiny bit of shade and sat down to wait. Annie went to her house for a large kennel and some dog food.

By the time Annie returned, the dog and I had worked out at least one thing: I was to obey the suggestions of the people to whom I had spoken, and I would wait. It was hot. We waited. Annie had brought me water (but no restroom, alas) and we waited. We took down the kennel from the back of her truck and set it in the ditch. Each human movement was met with a wary look, if not an outright growl, from the dog. I speak fluent cat but only un poquito dog. My dogs don't expect fluency from me: they speak cat, English and my halting Spanish just fine. But I understand "growl." We waited.

When she had settled down from the kennel placing incident, I opened the door. She glowered. We waited. She grew bored and looked away. I tied a rope to the door. She grimaced. We waited. She looked off in the distance. I opened a can of Iams kitten food (it was all we could find) and put it in a dish in the kennel. Absolutely NO ONE likes Iams kitten food, not cats, not kittens, not dogs, probably not flies. We waited without much hope.

In the end, I don't think she wanted the Iams kitten food (no one does), but she understood "kennel." and she walked in and waited for me to close the door, which I did with the rope I had tied to it. She's a small dog, 35 pounds, and Annie and I easily lifted the kennel into her truck bed and secured it with bungee cords. The waiting was over. We drove the dog to Hyde Park Animal Clinic.

When we arrived, the dog growled at everyone and bit Anne Pierce, the vet tech. They had another emergency that morning and suggested we call Animal Trustees of Austin (ATA), who are used to handling, examining and anesthetizing problem animals. Dr. Amy at ATA placed a call to see if they could examine this dog the next day at the Spay/Neuter Clinic, and we took her to Thundering Paws.

Fortunately, it was Tuesday, when dog-person volunteer Sarah Wolf comes over. Sarah was the first new person at whom the dog, now named Sweet Pea, didn’t growl. Sarah offered to take her for a walk and I agreed. At this point, the plan was to take her to ATA the next day for anesthesia and examination to determine if she had any injuries.

By the time Sarah and Sweet Pea had returned, it was apparent that if Sweet Pea had ever been hurt, her injuries were extremely minor. She walked fine and seemed happy and spirited with Sarah. We caged her, fed and watered her, gave her a rug to sleep on and told her good night. I called ATA and left a message that we would wait. It seems the theme for this dog.

Calene Summers made us an appointment for Friday at Emancipet to get Sweet Pea spayed. I took her in and it was my first visit to their new facility off Airport and East Seventh Street. What a wonderful experience! The staff was helpful, kind and well educated about their work. The surgery was well done and Sweet Pea has recovered nicely. We were charged $101: $36 for a 35 lb. dog spay, $6 for a rabies shot, $20 for pre-anesthetic blood work, $15 for a heartworm test, $11 for a first DHLPP, $10 for a Bordatella shot, and $3 for dissolvable sutures. We had all this work done because we have a sponsor for Sweet Pea: it is Excellent Volunteer Annie Stuhr. We could have gotten out for $42 for the spay and the rabies vaccination.

Sadly, Sweet Pea was heartworm positive. She has been treated and has made a full recovery. She is lucky that she had a place with a large cage in air conditioning to go through her treatment, and people who love her to help her through.

I am often asked why we don't rescue more dogs. Sweet Pea is the embodiment of one of the reasons. She is a little too interested in the cats here. When we walk, I am careful to clear cats out of her route through of the house. We have kitties in large cages outside and I am fearful of the look in Sweet Pea's eye when she sees them. We have two outside cats, who just showed up (and are now speutered, but refuse to come inside), and Sweet Pea lunged at Gonzo a few times when we were walking. There are only two cats outside and free, but there are many free cats inside and I cannot trust Sweet Pea around them. My dog, Maggie (a 5 year old playful but sweet Corgi mix), loves her kitty friends and knows that every cat here is a member of her pack. If we rescued dogs, sooner or later we would get a cat killer. Only when we have a new facility and can separate the species can we begin to rescue more dogs.

While I could not leave Sweet Pea unspayed and perhaps hurt on the road, I am also looking for a foster person for her, someone without cats, to foster her until we find her a new home.

And, while we do the best we can with what we have here: a 2139 sq. ft. house plus a 700 sq. ft. "cat run" which is a screened porch, I am constantly on the lookout for new and bigger digs, and the money with which to purchase these digs.

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