It's difficult to imagine that a puppy was hiding behind the bald, ill, and starving dog that Stephanie Smith-Justus discovered on the Virginia street where she lives. But, she knew the instant she saw the puppy that he was dying and needed to be saved.
Rescuer Finds Dying Puppy On Her Street And Nurses Him Back To Health
Stephanie is the president of the Buchanan County Humane Society, as fate would have it. In a further stroke of luck, the vet she routinely works with lives on the same street. The dog's survival and rehabilitation have been nothing short of miraculous since Stephanie took him up in her arms.
Stephanie shared her narrative of Watkins' rescue on Facebook, and his story is moving: "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 spouse and I went in search of him. He was discovered on our neighborhood's street. He had been abandoned and neglected horribly. 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 anymore 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 infections in his eyes, his kidneys, and his ears, and a bacterial infection on his skin. The next few days saw him lose 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 if his bowels still worked so we prayed for poop. Three days later it came. Then he quit eating again."
Another surgery is to insert a feeding tube. He continued to lose weight and off to vat 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, 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 to 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 the 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' development is nothing short of astounding! Watkins' favorite toy is undoubtedly his red crabs, which no likely inspired this amusing Halloween outfit for him!
His weight is still quite excellent, and he has found the delights of outside play. He "took his lobster and is running through the yard with it in his mouth" after a recent vet visit.
Please tell your friends and family about Watkins' story!