Precious the Dog and a Scooter's Pals Volunteer
Scene 1: With a resounding crash, the doors to the operating room fly open. The surgical team bursts into the glare of the lights, pushing before them what's left of the patient, a woman in her sixties so slashed and cut up that she's barely alive. The surgeon's voice rises above the din, "Okay, gang, let's see what we've got."
Scene 2: Two women stand quietly side by side, looking down at the animal in the crate before them. Barely able to stand, shaking from the effort, the tan and white dog makes no sound at all. Her head and tail droop, her coat is dull and lifeless. Ribs and spine and hip bones protrude so dramatically that they are reminded of photos of Auschwitz. One of the women lets out a slow sigh. "Why didn't they put this one down?" she wonders. "She'll never make it!"
Scenes from one of TV's medical thrillers? The dramatic start of a documentary by Michael Moore? Nope, neither one.
The first scenario actually happened five years ago to Susan Wallace of Nevada City, California. She had been rushed by helicopter to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento after a meth-crazed intruder broke into her home, attacked and almost killed her, and set fire to her house. But Susan's doctors and nurses fought valiantly to piece her back together, to replace the huge amount of blood she'd lost, and to give her back her life.
Our second scenario also really happened, just a few months ago. It is, in fact, what this article is about - the inspiring recovery of a diabetic dog named Precious who almost died. Today, thanks to the tenacity of her rescuers and Susan Wallace, Precious is happy and healthy and waiting to be adopted in a special forever home.
How did Susan and Precious happen to cross paths? In 2002, Susan retired from her career as an attorney with the California Justice Department, moved to the picturesque Sierra Nevada foothills, and shifted the focus of her life to working with animals and giving back to her community. A dog lover since childhood, she shared her home with four beloved dogs she had rescued.
The fire set by the intruder in 2005 destroyed her home and killed two of her dogs, Scooter and Molly. The loss, especially that of the little Shih Tzu named Scooter, was a turning point in Susan's life. During her long painful recovery from the attack, Susan found herself searching for a way to turn her grief and loss into a positive and healing force. Eventually she realized that giving another chance at life to dogs that would otherwise die would give her own life new meaning and focus.
In 2007, Susan decided that she could best honor Scooter's memory by establishing a nonprofit organization to rescue dogs that were abandoned, abused, neglected, and homeless, and "Scooter's Pals" was born.
Fast forward to June 2009, when the emaciated tan and white pit bull terrier was rescued from a shelter in Stockton, California. She had been abused by her former owner and had been languishing at the shelter, where she was considered "unadoptable." No one thought she could survive. The shelter needed the space, so she was scheduled to be euthanized.
That is when Fate stepped in. A dedicated animal advocate saw this dog in the shelter, got to know the animal, and realized she was a marvelous dog, loving and extraordinarily good-natured in spite of her condition. When the dog was scheduled to be killed, the animal advocate implored Susan Wallace to help save the dog's life. For Susan, the memory of how the medical team refused to let her die - and her gratitude for getting a second chance at her own life - translated into the same type of commitment to save this poor dog.
Saving "Precious" (as she'd been dubbed because of her gentle disposition) from the shelter was only the beginning. Restoring her health turned into a long, uphill battle, reminiscent of Susan's own. Immediately after her rescue, Precious got bloat (a dangerous swelling and contortion of the stomach and intestines). A well-meaning volunteer, shocked at the dog's emaciation, had overfed and almost killed her. After emergency surgery that saved her life, it became clear that the dog's basic condition was too precarious to release her. She lived at the vet's for months. She was diagnosed with diabetes, put on a restricted diet, and started on insulin, while she continued to stay at the vet's.
By the end of August, Precious showed signs of depression. Susan Wallace, who'd been monitoring the dog's progress and paying the vet bills, set to work to find a foster home where Precious could lead a more normal life. Several attempts to place her were not successful. Finally in September, a Scooter's Pals supporter suggested contacting Patty Letawsky, an experienced dog rescuer who had fostered homeless dogs for years. Patty met Precious, saw her condition, and, understanding the level of care that would be required, took Precious into her home.
In October, Precious encountered one more major hurdle. The vet confirmed that Precious had become almost blind due to cataracts as a result of her diabetes. Susan appealed to the Scooter's Pals network of supporters and, thanks to two generous benefactors, Precious was able to have the miraculous operation that restored her eyesight.
Today, at approximately five years old, Precious is a stable, healthy (although still diabetic) dog. She is spayed, vaccinated, micro-chipped, and on heartworm prevention. She has a strong spirit and loving personality. Patty says, "Her nickname is "Precious-Snortis" because she snorts a lot," and describes her as "a love-bug of a dog that adores people, loves car rides and just hanging out. She's housebroken, gets along well with all the other foster dogs [at Patty's house], and does well with new dogs with a slow introduction (but not cats)."
Patty also reports that measuring Precious' glucose levels and giving her insulin along with her morning and evening meals is "a piece of cake." In fact, it's one of Precious' favorite times each day. As soon as Patty begins preparing her meal, Precious scampers around the house, dives into her crate, and pokes her head out to wait for her food, tail wagging a mile a minute. Patty says, "She doesn't even notice that you're giving her a shot while she's eating!"
Looking back over the past year, Susan says it was an honor to help this dog in Scooter's name, but that the real credit belongs to Patty. Without Patty's skill in nursing sick dogs back to health, without her persistence in figuring out how to balance the dog's insulin and, ultimately, without her understanding of what a wonderful dog this funny-looking canine was, Precious would not have survived. She certainly would never have regained the healthy condition that now allows her to become a normal dog member of a dog-loving family.
"This is the next step," explains Susan, "finding a home for Precious with someone who is not put off by the insulin shots she needs every day. Precious is ready for the forever home she's been wanting all along. Scooter's Pals will provide the insulin and whatever medical care she needs for the rest of her life. All we need now is to find the right home."
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