When NAAC co-founder Danyon Youngs received a call about a stray dog found by a passerby on the Old Rome State Road earlier this month, she wasn't prepared for what she found.
The small animal huddled inside a blanket resembled a dog but a filthy coat of snowy ice-filled mats made identification questionable at first. But when the advocate looked closer she spied a face beneath the wet tangled hair, miserable with cold suffering, yet sweet-mannered. The person who called her for help said the dog ran eagerly into the proffered blanket as if knowing he had been rescued at last.
The animal was taken to another co-founder's home, bathed gently and examined for injuries. Attempts to cut away the thick matts proved highly challenging: the dog's feet and ears were so encased in the grimy balls of hair they appeared to be missing. One advocate described the appearance of the paws as that of "boots" comprised of caked hair and feces on the dog's feet, possibly from standing in his own filth and another possible indicator of excessive crate time.
Nicknamed "Roman," (because he was found roaming on Rome State Road) the dog may be a terrier mix. Taken to a local vet the next day he was found to have fragile, infected skin caused by the mats that covered most of his body. He had lost an eye at some point, has deformed teeth and a lip injury, thought to have been caused by excessive gnawing as if to free himself, and bowed front legs common to prolonged crating. It is unknown how long he was on his own, but due to the lack of extreme emaciation he may have been fed occasionally as he wandered.
There is some question whether a woman searching for a lost dog on the same road last spring was looking for Roman, but investigation has thus far turned up no other clues. Calls were made to local veterinary clinics, Jefferson County Dog Control and Jefferson County SPCA, but no dogs had recently been reported missing.
The "Ninjas Against Animal Cruelty of Jefferson County" is a grass roots advocacy group started by three Watertown women earlier this year. Since then their reputation has grown throughout Jefferson County and beyond. The group was founded on the premise they will help animals to the best of their ability, turning away none. The ladies have opened their homes and hearts in their passion to help homeless and abused animals and the group depends on fundraisers and assistance from the community. Each animal taken in is vetted, spayed or neutered and receives food and shelter, but most importantly, love and compassion.
The group is seeking a foster home for Roman and when he is medically cleared he will be offered for adoption. Roman continues on the path to recovery and is a gentle, well-mannered little guy. Meanwhile the question remains: was Roman a mill puppy or a dog who lived his life in a crate for other reasons? Ninjas Against Animal Cruelty continues to reach out to the community seeking answers.
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