Well this is my first article, and as one may imagine trying to decide what to write about was decidedly frustrating. I work as a full-time volunteer for ARF Ontario and have some amazing and uplifting stories that I very much look forward to writing about. I also would love to share with the readers about the many projects that ARF is a part of that go well beyond basic rescue and adoption. So after a lot of mulling and no doubt a fair amount of procrastination, I settled on writing the story of one of my favourite rescues, as I think this particular story does a good job of exemplifying ARF’s core values and its incredibly devoted volunteers.
The notion that it “takes a village” to raise a child most certainly applies to animal rescue as well. In fact, I’d venture to say even more so. From intake volunteers to our vets to our foster homes to our trainers to our adoption coordinators and to finally the “forever home” of our rescued animals, all are critical components to the three R’s…Rescue, Rehab & Rehome.
I was just getting back inside after taking my own dogs out for a long hike on our farm property when the phone rang. One of our regular community contacts in a local First Nation’s Community was on the other end and sounded extremely distraught. His friend down the road had recently acquired a new puppy – from who and where nobody actually knows. Although this wee puppy was only about 6 weeks old, he was already separated from his mother and litter mates and was running around the front yard playing. Forgetting he was there, his new owner left to go to town and backed right up over him. Not wanting to waste any more time hearing any more details, I asked for the address and was out the front door in a flash. Preparing myself for the worst, I was downright elated when I arrived to find a very alert puppy who looked far better than what my own imagination had conjured. He was of course in severe pain – how could he not be – but by some miracle he was at least ALIVE. Rushing to ARF’s vet in Strathroy with the little puppy swaddled in a towel on the seat next to me, I hoped and hoped that he had “only” incurred broken bones and was OK internally. My prayers were answered. Due to the unseasonably warm weather and the absence of frozen ground, the little pup was able to sink into the ground a bit when the tire ran over him, resulting in a badly injured back right leg and hip, but nothing else. He would require major surgery, a femur-head removal osceotimy, but one that many ARF dogs before him have had. Mind, none of them were ever quite so young! After loading up on pain meds, the pup came home with me to gain some weight and grow a bit in order to increase the rate of the surgeries success. Due to his gait, I named him “Skipper,” and brought him home to meet my crew. Because of his injury, we had to limit how much Skipper moved around, so for our twice daily hikes Skipper rode in a little pouch that looked similar to a messenger bag. And because it was Winter and Skip couldn’t run to keep his little body warm we had to keep little sweaters and jackets on him when he spent any significant amount of time outside. And after having seen hundreds and hundreds of adorable puppies I have to say that I’m not sure there is anything cuter than a fluffy 6-week-old puppy in a sweater and riding in a pouch!
Once Skipper was big and healthy enough for his surgery, it was time to go back in to see the amazing Dr. John Stewart. Skipper got the thumbs up for his surgery and it went off without a hitch. But we soon realized that Skipper’s post-surgical pain was more intense and going on for longer than it should. So utilizing ARF’s resources, we decided to “co-foster” with another ARF foster home who lived in a more urban setting. Skipper would still be living with other dogs and get the exercise he needed, but wouldn’t have daily access to wide open spaces which were far too tempting for a young pup to play on and run about. Once Skip’s pain was under control, Dr. John noticed that Skip had a significant loss of muscle tone, so it was back to the farm to now encourage flat out running and lots of hills! Once Skipper was up on our website and ready for adoption there was a lot of interest…but few actual applications. We couldn’t believe how long Skipper stayed in foster care, but I have come to realize that when things like this happen it’s for a reason, and I was certain that his forever home would be well worth the wait…and it was. Skipper now lives in London with 2 wonderful parents, and 2 human boys who absolutely dote on him and who Skipper ADORES. We couldn’t have asked for a better home. Skipper’s story is a common one in ARF, and many of our rescues have overcome even more roadblocks than Skipper did during their journey in finding their forever home. But what makes Skipper’s story so great is that it really exemplifies what makes a volunteer animal rescue group so successful – taking any new rescues on as a team, ensuring that the focus is always on the best interests of the animals, and the patience in making sure that their final “R” – their rehoming into a forever home – is the best possible match. ARF does not limit veterinary expenses or how long a foster stays in our foster homes, which are the two primary reasons I decided to volunteer with ARF specifically. And thank dog I did, as it has been the best journey of my life.
There are so many things we love about skip that I could fill a couple of pages, so we’ll share some of our favourites such as, when he waits outside George’s bedroom for a play with the laser light before school and then chills on the sofa by the window for the someone to come home, then runs to the door ready with a big wet kiss. At the end of every day he continually runs away with our things until we join him in the living room to relax. Our most favourite of all is at the weekend, he seems to know that it’s the weekend because the alarm doesn’t go off and he climbs on the bed for a snuggle, he knows that it’s the day for the car ride to the trails where he can run freely play ball for a couple of hours.
We love ARF and all that it stands for, thank you ARF for our forever friend Skip.