(shelter photos by Lina Forslund Löfgren)
Just occasionally - amidst all the difficulties, the dumpings of unwanted animals, the deaths of puppies too young to be away from their mothers, the cruelty and neglect that PAWS volunteers have to deal with - something wonderful happens at the Shelter which really makes it all worthwhile. Earlier this month, Tessie found the perfect home and the perfect owner, and left PAWS' care for good.
Tessie's story has been very widely told, in the press, on radio, on PAWS Facebook page and here on the website (see below). Riddled with shotgun pellets, run over and abandoned with horrific injuries, when she was first examined in detail there seemed little prospect of saving her. But Tessie wouldn't give up - so PAWS didn't either.
And now she is settled into the perfect home, where her special and permanent needs can be skillfully and lovingly cared for. She has a new companion in Gus, and the opportunity to enjoy the remainder of the life she so richly deserves. Here is her full story:
Little Tessie looks a normal, healthy cheerful dog. But behind that exterior lies a remarkable story of gritty survival. She was found abandoned in a cardboard box and brought into the shelter at the beginning of April. It was a particularly dire week with three separate lots of 'dog dumpings' on consecutive days, of which Tessie was the last. (you can read the story here)
At first, Tessie was very reluctant to leave the box in which she had been dumped. A closer inspection revealed some kind of hip injury. She was estimated to be about a year old. But it wasn't until she had been X-rayed and given a full, detailed examination by PAWS vet Ellen Sobry that the grisly truth was revealed - she had multiple pelvic fractures, almost certainly caused by being run over, and she was riddled throughout with shotgun pellets. In the anguished words of Joint Shelter Manager Didi Arias: “Not only did someone use her for target practice, but she’s also been treated as nothing more than road-kill.”
It was estimated that the extensive surgery to correct all the injuries would cost in the region of €5.000 - money PAWS simply didn't have. But Ellen had some hope that if she was kept properly immobilised for a month, there was a chance that the fractures would heal sufficiently for Tessie to have at least limited mobility in reasonable comfort. The extraordinary thing about her was that she remained friendly and approachable by anyone who treated her gently. She seemed to accept her new surroundings (they must have been an improvement in what she had previously known) and made herself at home, particularly enjoying taking a nap in the wooden dog house just outside the shelter office.
Tessie when she first arrived ...
... and photographed recently at the shelter
Didi Arias took Tessie into the specialist foster care she needed, although she admitted at the time that it was an act of faith: "Maybe we are fighting a losing battle, but we try when we can and where there is a possibility of light at the end of the tunnel. I may be in for a huge emotional wallop at the end of the care, but anything is worth trying when she's not in any immediate suffering and I think there may be hope."
Didi's fears, while realistic, proved unfounded. Tessie responded wonderfully well to the oldest remedy in the book - a little old-fashioned TLC. She got on well with the other dogs at the house, particularly a Toy Chihuahua called Laptop. To keep her immobile she lived in a small crate which she couldn't climb out of. An Intelligent as well as affectionate little girl, she quickly learned to signal her toilet needs by barking - and sometimes just when she wanted a change of scene! - but quietened down immediately on being told to stop. As her recovery progressed she began to take her boredom out by chewing the bedding, but this was quickly solved by giving her chews and interactive toys to play with.
After six weeks Ellen pronounced Tessie fit enough to move to the next stage - the gradual strengthening of the wasted muscles by a programme of carefully-controlled exercise. She cannot walk far, and cannot step over ledges or go up and down stairs. but she has begun regular walking in a harness to give her full support rather than a collar lead. PAWS had done everything in its power to help Tessie, so she was cleared for a closely-monitored 'special needs' adoption. All that was needed now was the right owner and the right home.
Enter Bonita Peatson who lives in Alicante. Bonita saw Tessie's story on the PAWS website and thought that she was up to the task of owning a special needs dog. So she immediately contacted PAWS and drove all the way down to meet the adoption councillors and Tessie herself.
After a thorough and fruitful discussion Bonita was considered the perfect candidate to adopt this special dog. The paperwork was completed, and Tessie left the shelter for the final time. She not only went to a new home - she arrived with a new name ... Pixie. She also gained a new companion in Gus - although Gus didn't seem too thrilled at first. He had previously been Bonita's only dog, and didn't fancy no longer being the sole centre of attention!
As Tessie she had charmed the socks of everyone at PAWS with her unruffled and amiable nature. It was no different with her Pixie hat on. She clearly thought Gus was wonderful so she set to work weaving her special magic over him, and in no time at all Gus decided she might not be so bad after all!
Gus (left) and Tessie/Pixie, now the best of friends.
"I can´t imagine life without her now," says Bonita. "She has settled in really well. Pixie loves her walks and gets very excited when the lead comes out. She enjoys going to the horse rescue sanctuary where I volunteer and where she gets to meet many new friends, both of the human and four-legged variety."
Tessie's remarkable recovery has not been achieved by expensive treatment in a medical facility - it has been through skilled care and unlimited kindness, and by Tessie's own amiable nature and a real determination to repond.The same is true of so many of the dogs PAWS deals with. As Lonneke, one of our volunteers visiting from abroad remarked: "It is almost unbelievable that animals so damaged by cruelty, neglect and abandonment can still be so confident, and give so much love back when you care for them."