It was a summer evening of 2012; Red Lake Rosie's Rescue got a call late in the evening. Red Lake is a Native American reservation and there was talk in one of the villages about a starving dog, a collie. Some people wanted to go and shoot the dog, put him out of his misery, but one woman thought differently and brought him to Red Lake Rosie's Rescue.
The dog was truly in sad shape. He had an infected abcess the size of a softball that needed to be drained. An eye was infected. An ear was mangled. His fur hadn't been brushed for a long, long time and had mats. He also had ticks on his neck and back. Named Milan, he wasn't the first collie that Red Lake Rosie's Rescue had saved, they have saved five in all (Dakota, Kai in 2011, Corkie in 2008 and Carlton Fritz also in 2008), but Milan was the worst case.
RLRR has a good working relationship with Minnesota-Wisconsin Collie Rescue and two night later, he was turned over to MWCR. From there Milan became Milo and while he had been a lonely dog near death on 3 June 2012, by 15 June 2012, he had become the star of his own blog.
As Andi Wulff, his current foster mom, explains it, she had just come in to take her cats for a regular medical exam, but her vet, Ryan Speltz, knew she loved collies. Wulff had nudged him into becoming the board vet for MWCR and Wulff had become less involved until that fateful day (7 June 2012), when a little collie was being boarded at her vet. Wulff met a naked collie with only a bit of fluff on his heads and furry boots. Milan knew a collie lover instantly and ran up to Wulff and put his head in her lap.
Wulff wasn't any ordinary collie lover. In our email correspondence she explained, "I grew up with a collie mix and in 1999 rescued my first collie out of a shelter. She had been terribly abused and starved." Wulff was also one of the original members of MWCR. She served on the Board of Directors and designed the original logo. She had adopted Persy, a dog whose jaw had been shot and healed askew. Wulff is a collie lover extraordinaire.
Milan had liver damage and anemia due to ticks, but the vet expected Milan to recover. By 11 June 2012, Milan officially became Milo and was on his way to a foster home with cats, dogs and ducks. There were more signs of synchronicity--Milo had been dropped off by Wulff's co-worker, a volunteer for RLRR. The Twin Cities is about 300 miles away from Red Lake.
Since then Wulff explained that "Milo's story is not terrifically unique from that area. The Red Lake Indian Reservation - if you look at their blog - sees far too many animals from horrific situations. Also the fact that Milo's age is fairly unusual as most strays from that area are very young - mostly because the winter is so bitter there that they typically can't make it through more than one winter. So sad."
Wulff has fostered a number of collies, "but never one who was as ill as Milo." She continued, "I had no idea he would require such long term care. He is an easy guy to have around, but never once considered he would be with me for so long. " In many ways, Milo reminds him of Persy, short for Perseverance.
Wulff's vet didn't always have the answers, she recalled. He wasn't sure why Milo's blood work wasn't normal. Wulff says, "I'm very thankful he was honest with me. I'm sure he doesn't often have to say that. I was so happy to have the option of seeing Dr. Choi at University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine. The custom blends of herbs she has prescribed for him has really made the difference with Milo's blood levels."
Dr. Ryan Speltz commented via email "This is very interesting case for it was neglect that was the cause (a lot more then most collies the are neglected). Milo presented with multiple issues: tick infestation, monocytosis, hookworms, strongyloides worms, neck mass/trauma, coughing via neck masses and lung infection, severe dental periodontal disease, and in need of behavior socialization help."
Milo had some bad manners resulting from his days starving. He was a snatcher, gulper and grabber. Yet in six days, he developed manners. Despite his days of near starvation, Milo was always ready to soak up attention from people.
Wulff's other dogs, Leo and Sabrina had to adjust to this new dog and his peculiarities. Leo and Sabrina sensed some problems before Wulff. Milo has come a long way since then. You can read about it on his blog. Recently, Milo's been having some lower back and hip problems.
Speltz is happy with Milo's overall progress, commenting, "He has healed up on all areas and the herbals are helping with the monocytosis, the fact that he has found a good home where he can herd and develop back into a normal collie is wonderful and compliment to Andi Wulff."
He also has no problem trying herbal medicine, writing, "I do not personally 100% understand full holistic medication but I do use them and under guidance love them especially when used with modern medicine. I truly wish modern and holistic medicine could find better common ground to work together."
Some of Speltz's open-minded approach might have to do with the local university. As Speltz explained, "I use the holistic help of Dr Choi at the U of M and knowledge I have gained via the working with other holistic doctors in our area. The science I am lacking on specifics sorry but those other doctors can explain it better."
The herbal doctor in question is Dr. Keum Hwa Choi. Choi has found acceptance at the university and with veterinarians like Speltz, but related via email, "Herbal treatment in veterinary community is still far behind compare to the human use.
However, the prescription of over the counter herbs have been gradually increased. The prescription of custom herb formulas are very rare for the veterinary community yet."
As you might imagine, Choi related that acceptance of herbal medicine and acupuncture is greater in Asian countries and here is isn't easy to find veterinarians who will work with traditional Asian medicine practitioners. Choi wrote, "It is not easy but it is all depends on the regions. There are many veterinary acupuncturists, but very few veterinary oriental medical doctors."
Currently, Milo is having treatment for weakness in his hips, perhaps a legacy of his near starvation. Each time Milo receives acupuncture the cost is $200 for a visit with Dr. Choi (without acupuncture the cost is $100). In June, Milo will have survived two years beyond that week when he was slated for a mercy killing.
There were several things that surprised Wulff about Milo. She explained, "It took so long for him to start showing his true personality. In retrospect, he was so very sick and immune compromised it was like he was in a daze or a fog and mechanically going through the motions of daily life from June through October. Then it was like he suddenly woke from a bad dream and we had to start with training and helping him recall that he could manage the stairs and coming in through doorways/garage into the house was not a scary thing. We have worked for many months on his comfort level with doorways. And periodically he loses confidence with managing the stairs - even though we are in the basement at least twice a day for dog meals."
Discussing Milo's blog , Andi Wulff commented, "Personally, I've found that going back into the blog is an emotional journey for me. Sometimes when you see something every day it is hard to notice the change and growth. Looking back makes me reflect on how far he has come and how very sick he was."
Wulff wasn't a regular blogger before Milo. She wrote, "Milo's blog was a first for me, but I knew that the RLRR folks as well as the MWCR people and veterinary caregivers would be interested in his progress. It was a good way to communicate with everyone so they didn't feel left out. Then, as MWCR reached an initial fundraising goal - I believe they raised $2000 in a couple of days - it was a great way for his donors to feel connected to his immediate situation. I tried to at least provide photos when I didn't have a lot to report. "
Milo has fans as far away as Sweden. You can learn more about Milo and his journey by visiting his blog. You might become a fan of Milo as well.