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Hope's Story

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Merriam-Webster defines the word “hope” as: to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. Dictionary.com defines it as: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hope is a powerful thing, yet it can also be a fragile thing. On March 18, 2014, residents in Athens, Georgia, found out just how fragile hope can be.

It was a rainy, melancholy day when an Oconee County resident discovered a young black and white female Shih Tzu off of Whit Davis Road, near the woods. It was difficult to tell what the creature was, due to the severe matting covering its entire body. This Good Samaritan scooped up the sweet little mass of mats, and delivered her to Oconee County Animal Control.

At the shelter, the staff could see how incredibly gruesome the mats on this tiny dog were. Optimistic that she could be freed of the mess, they decided to call her Hope.

Hope was taken to the shelter’s groom sponsor, Bark Dog Spa & Boutique, where they tried valiantly to cut away Hope’s matted fur. But a startling and horrific discovery was made: The matting had caused Hope’s left rear leg to become detached just below the knee joint. It had healed itself somehow, but that wasn’t her only problem. Both of Hope’s front legs were necrotic, heavily infected, and causing her extreme pain. The groomer suggested that euthanizing Hope might be the kindest thing to do, so that her longtime suffering could end.

Oconee County Animal Shelter transported Hope to Dr. Angela Dodd of Hope Animal Medical Center, located in Athens, GA. Dr. Dodd had volunteered her help at no cost to the shelter. The notes she made are not for the faint of heart.

Where her leg had detached and healed, there remained dried pieces of her footpads and fragments of her tibia and fibula entangled in her matted fur. As more mats were cut away, more horror awaited. “Once the thick mat of fur was removed, the ice cold, swollen foot and left front leg were found to be completely without blood supply and in a severe state of infection and necrosis. The tissue on the toes sloughed off to reveal the bones underneath, and the skin and underlying muscle tissue further up the leg was discolored and falling apart due to necrosis as well. The leg could not be saved. I think she may have been able to walk on that leg only because of the thick, hard shell that had become like a cast, almost, made of matted fur, excrement, dirt, and exudate from the weeping wounds caused by the decomposing flesh underneath it,” Dr. Dodd explained in her veterinary report. She continued sadly, “Had this animal not previously lost her left rear limb to the same set of circumstances weeks, perhaps months before, we could have amputated the left front leg and possibly saved her life. After careful consideration, humane euthanasia was elected as our only option.”

Hope was a young, sweet dog. Apart from the matting and the damage it had done to her body, she was quite healthy. It was obvious to Dr. Dodd that Hope had been receiving food from somewhere, as she was not emaciated.

All involved are avidly searching for the owner of Hope, and encourage anyone who may have any information to report, anonymously, what they know. If Hope did have an owner, they will need to answer for what happened to her. If she did belong to someone, this would be a serious case of neglect and would be subject to criminal punishment.

This dog could have had the opportunity to be loved and cherished; she was an innocent creature who deserved a life of warmth and happiness. Instead, she endured horrendous suffering. Those who knew her for even a short duration greatly mourned her loss.

“I will never forget this patient for as long as I live. I would have given anything to save her, as she deserved so much better than the life she had,” Dr. Dodd wrote in conclusion for her report.

If you have any information about Hope and how she came to be in this condition, please contact Oconee County Animal Control, located at 1171 Branch Rd in Bishop, GA; they can also be phoned at (706) 769-3956.

Do not let Hope’s death be in vain. Please help by sharing her story, and always putting a stop to neglect and abuse when you see it.

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