After more than 20 years in the veterinary profession, I've seen a lot of stray animals come and go. Each one provided a glimpse into reality, such as the fact that today's tough economic times are causing more and more animals to be abandoned. And they also gave my co-workers and me the chance to place wonderful pets into loving homes. Even though all these dogs and cats have been special, I've never seen a dog survive more unbelievable circumstances than Penny. Here's her story.
Like yesterday's garbage
On a bitter cold February morning in 2008, one of the veterinarians I work with was on her way to the clinic. While she was traveling along the rural, winding roads of southeastern Ohio, she noticed the truck ahead of her pull off onto the shoulder. She watched in horror as the people in the truck pushed a skinny, reddish dog out the passenger door. Then they threw a loaf of bread out the window and sped off. The veterinarian immediately hit her brakes to stop and check on the dog.
Stunned, she didn't think to write down the truck's license plate number. Instead, her most pressing thought was to save the little dog from the freezing temperatures. She grabbed the dog, packed her into her vehicle, and headed off to the clinic.
Before Penny the pit bull could be placed in a foster home, her tolerance for children had to be tested. "I was careful to introduce Penny to kids," says Jennifer Ortman. "But I believed in her so much that I trusted her with my own boys." Penny, pictured here with Zachary, 9, and Zane, 4, passed with flying colors. (Photos courtesy of Jennifer Ortman)
After the dog's initial evaluation, only one thing was certain: This pit bull was lucky to have been rescued by a veterinarian. The scaring on her face indicated that she'd probably been in quite a few fights. Many of her teeth were missing, and most of the ones she did still have were either broken or badly worn. But this only added character to her giant smile.
Diagnostics revealed that the dog suffered from many health problems. To start with, she was burdened with intestinal parasites, including whip and hook worms. She also tested positive for heartworms. To top it off, she was pregnant. Most troubling, however, was the large, ugly, oozing abscess on the left side of her massive jaws.
After all the tests were completed, we put the dog in one of our kennels. She stood at the gate, gold eyes peering out with a stunning warmth. Her wounded face frequently melted into a smile and her tail erupted into vigorous wags with every kind word or pat on the head she received. This pit bull that had just been tossed away quickly made friends with all of our team members, and everyone took part in her care. Her cage tag simply read rescue, but over the next few days, we officially named her Penny.
During the time that Penny stayed at our clinic, she enjoyed good nutrition, a warm bed, and almost constant attention. This, along with her amazing spirit, helped speed her recovery. Our medical team spayed her and terminated her pregnancy of twelve midterm puppies. Slowly, she began to regain her body condition, and she started to look like a healthy dog.