An email request for help came from a Newton County Sheriff's Department deputy. He had seen a "very skinny dog and three puppies" on a rural county road. The owner was questioned and admitted he could not take care of them. When I spoke with him on the phone, he said they'd had the dog for five years but he was working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet. "Lillie" had six puppies (not three). The man told me the deputy was concerned about the scar on Lillie's back, but said that it was caused by getting sunburned when she was being looked after by a family member. Her chain had gotten tangled so she was out in the sun for several hours. He said she'd been given veterinary care and it was healed. I believed his story and made arrangements to meet his wife at the home the next morning to assess how we might help.
As I pulled into the drive, I saw a red boxer looking dog peek her head around the corner of some concrete blocks surrounded by a pile of debris at the far corner of the property. The owner's wife led me first to the opposite end of the property along a line of trees where six, young, small puppies were penned. As they all clamored and cried loudly at the gate, the woman admitted they hadn't been fed that day. Their little hip bones were protruding and their bellies swollen. As I squatted down to talk to them, I saw the biggest fleas I'd ever seen were visible running all over their little faces and bodies.
We then walked to the other end of the property where I was introduced to Lillie. I couldn't believe that the skeleton of a dog that was standing before me was still alive, let alone wagging her tail at me from the end of a three foot chain. I felt sick. The horrific, partially healed scar on her back accentuated every vertebrae of her entire spine. She had little muscle mass but still had the strength to put her paws around my waste. I carefully asked the woman a series of questions to see if her story matched her husband's. It didn't ... I took some pictures as I blinked back tears.
I hurried back to the office, sent out an SOS email with the photographs, booked a vet appointment and with the help of another volunteer returned to rescue Lily and her babies.
The staff gasped, almost in unison, as we walked into the animal hospital. Lillie's boxer mix frame weighed barely thirty pounds. My fingers disappeared in her rib bones. She was full of deadly parasites along with the same gigantic fleas that her puppies were wearing. The doctor said it was absolutely impossible that the partially healed scar on Lily's back could have been caused the way the former owner claimed. He surmised that something acidic had been poured on her. Lillie listened and watched us with those huge, beautiful eyes, her tail continuing to wag throughout her entire examination, enduring all the pulls and pokes, with complete submission.
Thankfully, all that her babies needed were worming, good nutrition, vaccinations and some tender, loving care. Lillie, on the other hand, will need months to recover from the abuse and neglect she has endured. We are deeply grateful to a very special couple who received our SOS email about Lillie, saw the shocking pictures and asked if they could foster her. Tonight as I write this, Lillie's boney little frame is sleeping on a soft pillow beside their bed, instead of in between some concrete blocks hooked to a chain. She has a tummy full of premium dog food, extra vitamins and healing meds. She has not had one accident in this couple's house, nor disturbed one thing, when left alone. She has displayed nothing but gentle kindness toward all other dogs and people. Her new foster mom and dad and their whole family adore her. The improvement she's shown in a few short days has been amazing, confirming the diagnosis of starvation and neglect.
How does a dog experience the indescribable pain and suffering that she has endured and yet respond to us with such loving kindness and even gratitude? This time charges were filed ... for Lillie's sake.