Recently on a delightfully warm afternoon, the air was sweetened with the feeling of hope and a new beginning for not only nine-month-old Maltese poodle mix — Maggie — but also her former foster carer, and now adopter Kate.
Found straying by City of Yarra animal control officers, Maggie was brought to The Lost Dogs’ Home needing urgent care and attention. Weighed down by a heavily matted coat and suffering from an ear infection, it was immediately clear Maggie had never been groomed or bathed.
“Unfortunately, we see many cases of neglect like this,” said Sue Conroy the Home’s general manager of shelter operations.
“Too many people take on dogs like Maggie when they are cute fluffy puppies without fully comprehending the commitment they must make to regular grooming and how neglecting to care for the coats can cause their pet serious discomfort and pain.
“We gave Maggie a thorough groom and clip, freeing her of the overgrown and matted coat, and treated her for an ear infection too.”
Following the mandatory eight day wait period, Maggie was not claimed by her owner and underwent a second health examination at the Home’s hospital.
“The examination revealed she had weak joints, a condition she most likely suffered since birth,” said Ms Conroy. “It’s a delicate assessment our veterinarians have to make, whether to intervene or not, as doing either could potentially lead to early onset arthritis.
“Maggie was however, diagnosed with a grade three luxating patella meaning surgical intervention was in the end required to prevent arthritis, and preserve her health and comfort well into the future.”
A common surgery with smaller breeds like Maggie, Ms Conroy said patella surgeries are among the top three most frequent stray surgeries performed at the Home – with a double patella surgery costing the Home just under $1000 per patient.
“We invest a lot of money into these surgeries because they are simply life changing. Without them, many of our stray patients would not have the same quality of life they so deserve.”
Maggie was admitted to The Lost Dogs’ Home Frank Samways Veterinary Clinic for the surgery.
“She was a terrific sport and bounced back from surgery really well,” said Ms Conroy. “But being full of beans we needed to pair her up with a foster carer who had the experience of how to care for a dog recovering orthopedic surgery.
“We felt a ‘tree change’ with the Barker family would be the perfect post-surgery retreat for this city girl!”
From tragedy to hope
Deeply fond of all animals Kate, who formerly was an animal attendant, said it was a tough time for her whole family including her two sons who shared a special bond with them.
“They were such an integral part of our family,” she said. “We were so accustomed to seeing their beaming faces following us around the house and our property —the silence of their absence was really hard.
“I guess we realised how much our dogs were our therapy.”
Kate said she has many fond memories of both beloved dogs; her Jack Russell shadowing her around the house and outside when she went horse riding, and the life lessons her Chihuahua taught her two boys.
“The Chihuahua was given to us by an older lady who was moving to a nursing home,” she reflected. “So I would take her regularly with my boys to the nursing home to spend some time with her former owner.
“It was a great opportunity for my kids to see the incredible bond people share with animals and the sheer happiness they can bring to people’s lives.”
A new beginning
Keeping a close eye on Maggie, Kate said it was crucial she minimised her movement to assist with her post-operation recovery.
“We had to be very carefully when we first got her to make sure she didn’t jump up on us or onto furniture, which was a little bit of a challenge given her terrific energy, but we had a few special strategies recommended to us by the Home’s vets!
“My children were also quite involved during the foster care period — they had to toilet her on lead, which I guess helped them bond with her as well.”
As Maggie forged bonds with everyone, she brought to the family a great deal of happiness so Kate and her family decided after careful consideration, they would apply to adopt her.
“We were exhilarated when they said Maggie had made a wonderful recovery and that we could indeed adopt her!”
“She is the perfect fit for us, as we were ready to adopt and wanted a dog, but minus the hectic puppy stage as we lead busy lives.”
No stranger to the experience, Kate and her mother had previously adopted from the Home.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of the service,” she said. “Being able to adopt a dog that has received all the health checks, had all the necessary health and behavioural fine tuning done is a real bonus for us.”
“My mum has had many dogs from the Home and all of her dogs have been absolutely wonderful! She currently has an adopted dog Maggie has met and gets along with famously!”
“Every dog deserves to be loved and it’s such a nice opportunity to be able to completely turn around their lives for the better.”
Looking forward to taking Maggie home to her family, Kate said she especially could not wait to take a family portrait: “It sounds probably a little bit vain, but a lot of my friends know that I am an animal lover and how grief stricken we were when we lost our dogs,” she said.
“So I’m actually really looking forward announcing Maggie’s arrival on Facebook with a photo of Maggie and my sons!”