It’s hard to believe that there was a puppy hidden under the hairless, sick and s.ta.r.ving dog that Stephanie Smith-Justus found on the Virginia street where she lives. However, one thing was clear to her the moment she saw the puppy – he was dying.
As fate would have it, Stephanie is president of the Buchanan County Humane Society. In a further stroke of luck, the vet she regularly works with lives on the same street.
From the moment Stephanie picked Watkins up in her arms, the dog’s survival and recovery has been nothing short of miraculous.
Stephanie posted her account of Watkins’ rescue to Facebook, and his story pulls on the heart-strings:
“On May 7, 2015 Watkins was found. Before this date, we know nothing about him. He was found by my neighbor who alerted me to a “dog who was in terrible shape”.
My husband and I went to find him. He was found on the street where we live. He had been abandoned and severely neglected. My husband’s first words were. “He’s not going to make it.”
“We had looked for him for at least an hour when we finally located him He had crawled into a weedy ditch in an isolated area. We think he had found a cool place to lay down and die. We were determined to not let that happen. Thousands of people were also supporting him.
“Fortunately, Dr. Rasnake, our local vet, lives on the same street where we found him. We rushed him to her…without even knocking on her door…we carried him to her house. We immediately went to her clinic, Appalachian Animal Health Clinic.”
“She worked quickly to find an IV site. He was in terrible shape His skin was oozing from every pore. He winced in pain when we touched him He had cried so hard for so long that he didn’t have a voice left to cry any more He didn’t have the energy to bite. He was only 4 months old.”
“Dr. Rasnake diagnosed him with Demodex, a type of mange he had caught from his mother. He was severely malnourished and dehydrated. He had infection in his eyes, his kidneys, his ears, and a bacterial infection on his skin. The next few days saw him loose every hair on his body. He continued to lose fluids and weight. He was in the ICU for over 50 days.”
“After a while, he quit eating. We tried everything. X-rays showed he had a twisted bowel and emergency surgery was performed. We prayed all night for him to live. After his serious surgery, we needed to know his bowels still worked so we prayed for poop. Three days later it came. Then he quit eating again. Another surgery to insert a feeding tube. He continued to lose weight and off to Va Tech we went. He saw a specialist, a nutritionist and an orthopedic vet. They kept him 6 days and then sent him home for Dr. Rasnake to continue to treat him.”
“Gradually, he started to gain weight. He had weighed 32 lbs when we found him and he was down to 17. It was a scary time. He continued to be cared for in the ICU unit at Dr. Rasnake’s office. He fought hard to stay alive and thousands were praying for him. He finally started eating and he pulled his feeding tube out. This required yet another surgery to remove the “balloon” that remained in his stomach. His recovery was much easier than the previous ones and we were relieved. He ‘turned the corner” and finally started getting better.”
“We brought him home after 60+ days in ICU. He still requires weekly vet care. He has been house-trained and learned many new things. He’s learned to share, to play with others, and retreat to his crate when he needs to rest. He gets tired very easily and hates being hot. He has leveled out at 38 lbs and eats well. His skin is a constant battle but he responds well to the weekly (sometimes more often) treatments.”
“He loves to pile up blankets to be comfortable with his stuffed lobster and his dog siblings.”
“He gets excited when we tell him he’s going to the “doctor”. When we take him in the clinic, he is always happy to see the staff and Dr. Rasnake. He remembers where his kennel is in ICU and they have it waiting for him when he goes for treatments.”
“He’s a happy, inquisitive puppy who is smarter than the average bear.”
“He loves riding in the car, playing with foster puppies, and chewing on his many toys that were sent to him when he was so sick.”
“Watkins was named for the street where we found him that day. He still lives on that very street. It’s also where his vet lives as well. And the person who saw him first that day. It’s where his journey started and where he has finally found joy.”
Watkins progress is nothing short of remarkable! Watkins certainly has his favorite toy – he loves his red crustaceans – which no doubt inspired this fun Halloween costume for him!
His weight is still very good and he is discovered the joys of playing outside. After a recent trip to the vet, he “took his lobster and is running through the yard with it in his mouth.”
Please share Watkins story with your friends and family!