Willow, a fawn color pit bull-type dog, was hours away from certain death, she was literally starving. “She was skin and bones and barely could muster the energy to stand up,” says Kira Robson, supervisor at Chicago Animal Care & Control. “You could count every rib and see her bones.” With no body fat to protect her she was freezing, as the temperature had dipped into the low 30's when she was discovered shivering in an alley by an animal control officer on November 3.
Millions of “uptown dogs” live the pampered life, sharing beds with their families. It’s hard to believe than in any big city in America, while a dog is being fitted for just the right size sweater to wear in the Christmas photo with Santa, there’s another pup only a mile or two away suffering from abuse of one kind or another.
The harsh reality is that big city shelter employees see animal victims almost every day. Municipal open intake shelters only have so much space. In most cities, including Chicago, the law mandates a holding period (where dogs can’t be euthanized or adopted) for several days with hope that the owner may show to claim the dog.
Some dogs arrive in such poor shape; immediate euthanization is the most humane and appropriate outcome.
“Willow was right there, honestly she could have been euthanized,” says Robson. She pauses and takes a deep breath, holding her emotions in check. “There was something, something about her. We had to give her a chance.”
Chance or not, Robson said that, at best, it was a 50/50 shot that Willow – even with medical care – would make it through the night.
She did survive – at least that first night.
Weighing around 22 lbs, it was about half of what she should be. Looking into her eyes, Robson says she saw and felt Willow’s soul.
Big city animal control facilities are frenetically busy and have limited resources, Robson says Willow’s only real shot for survival would be a rescue or shelter who would commit to saving her life. The first organization to express interest was Felines & Canines in Chicago.
The shelter has taken in other occasional neglected animals. Still Abby Smith, the shelter’s executive director vacillates between anger and sorrow as she talks. “Willow was different. When I looked at her I knew all she wanted, all she needed was to feel safe, and to be loved – and she has begun to love right back. At first she was afraid, and didn’t want to leave her crate, but now look at her.”
Willow walked into the room with a soft tail wag, eager to meet a stranger with a camera, pen and pad of paper, gently wagging her tail. “She’s moving in the right direction,” Smith says. “I don’t know how this happened to Willow. But it’s not only Willow – these dogs are everywhere – and we need to stop looking the other way when we seem. We’ve initiated the Willow Fund to help other dogs just like her who deserve a chance to live, to be loved and to love.”
Dr. Joanna Krol says Willow was anemic, wasn’t making her own red blood cells, and suspected she may require a transfusion. But her blood count began to move toward normal. “As a veterinarian, I am always shocked to see dogs in this condition,” she says. “The first week is the most crucial and Willow continues to improve, and gain weight (exceeding 27 lbs. at the time of publication) so I am pretty confident that Willow is going to recover, though it’s not going to occur overnight.”
Smith adds, “Whatever happened to Willow didn’t happen overnight. Someone must have seen this. Why didn’t anyone speak up, take her to a veterinarian, or call the police, or an animal shelter?” Our message is ‘say something,’ implores Smith. “Don’t allow this, don’t accept this – say something, do something.”
You can do something by giving to the Willow Fund, or contact a local shelter or rescue and contribute to, or create a similar fund. “We can make a difference – we need to,” Smith says.
Smith walks across to the other side of the room – and Willow follows, only inches from her, as if she’s attached by an invisible short leash. Smith sits on the floor and Willow moves into her lap and stares at her.
After only a few days at the veterinary clinic, Willow was just moved into a Foster home, where her recovery continues, as she romps with the other dogs who live there
“This dog did nothing wrong,” says Smith, now holding back tears. “She’s something, isn’t she?”
You can watch Willow's story HERE.
©Tribune Content Services, Steve Dale Pet World, LLC
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