A Dog Story: Anemia in a tick-infested dog
They pointed me toward a cage out in the yard, completely isolated, to look at what was inside. What I saw was horrifying – I had never in life seen such a tick infestation. Her entire body was covered, but her head was the worst of all, it looked as if it had been tightly encrusted with jewels, only the jewels were brown, some about the size of a green pea, and jostling with each other for position, there were so many of them.
She was so weak she could hardly stand from loss of blood, the ticks had been sucking her life away and her owners didn’t want her any more. Her hair was lank and lifeless, and she was the picture of hopelessness. I looked into the saddest pair of eyes, that were trying to tell me so many things, reached in and stroked her head where I could find a tiny space not occupied by ticks, and promised her I would look after her.
The next day I couldn’t believe the transformation. She had been given a tick bath, and her fur had dried out, so she didn’t look so woebegone. As soon as she spotted me she struggled up, wobbled unsteadily to the front of the cage, and stretched out her two front paws to me, while her tail swished a greeting. There were dead ticks all over the newspapers lining her cage, and more were falling off her in droves, but she definitely wanted to come out, so I opened the door and out she tottered into the sunlight.
The first thing she did was come to me and lick my hand, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I did a bit of both. We had a very quiet walk that day, as it was obvious she was still quite weak, and by the time I led her back to her solitary cage she was grateful to curl up on the fresh bed of newspapers, and sink into sleep.
By the following day she had found her voice, and started yelling for me as soon as she was aware I was on the premises. This meant I had to look after her first, so as not to drive everyone else in the compound out of their minds with her barking. As before, first she licked my hand, then we walked, and this became our routine.
At the end we would sit on the stone bench and I would comb out her long, silky hair, which had amazingly quickly come back to healthy, luxurious life. The only thing was she had scabs all over her body from the bites of the now dead ticks, and so each day I would carefully comb a section of them out, and they came off her in waves, looking almost like a shower of dandruff.
Her forehead was the part that had endured the worst of the infestation, and instead of using the comb, I would draw my finger nails through the hair between her eyebrows and up around her ears, clearing them all off, and she would close her eyes, letting out little sighs of comfort and relief.
I was always intrigued by her forehead, because the rest of her fur was a dark charcoal grey with flecks of white, but she boasted two little tufts of orange hair just above the inside corners of her eyes, that looked as if they had been added as an afterthought – there wasn’t another trace of orange on the rest of her body.
Soon she was getting frisky and playful, and wanting to interact. She loved other dogs, and made a point every day of having a little meet-and-greet with Gamma, one of the yard dogs, who was equally glad to oblige. In the car-park whenever she saw an open door and a lady sitting in the driver’s seat, she would approach (I had to check first to be sure there wasn’t a Rottweiler in the passenger seat ready to spring out and devour her), and introduce herself by way of a gentle lick on the ankle.
Invariably the ladies were charmed and petted her, and wanted to know her history. But no one seemed interested in adopting her, and as the days passed and she was looking more and more beautiful and had less and less ‘dandruff’ I began to wonder what was going to happen.
Came the news that management decreed she had been there too long, and was due to be put down in two days’ time, and in desperation I rushed home and sent out floods of emails and photos. Fortunately, my contacts forwarded the SOS, and the word spread till it came to the attention of the right person. She came in, filled out the forms, paid the adoption fee, and Cassie was saved.
In her innocence, she had no idea how close she had come to being euthanized, but I knew and I rejoiced. I gave her a couple of dog biscuits that day, and discovered that she absolutely loved them, so from then on she got treats every day until she went home.
I just hope her new owner buys the same brand of dog biscuits.