Penny, the adorable 3 year old dog that we rescued recently from a life of terrible cruelty and neglect, continues her battle to recover and is being cared for personally by the Heigl Foundation's Executive Director Jennifer Brent. Jennifer has put pen to paper to document both Penny's progress and her struggles over the past week.
During the many occasions that I have fostered dogs, I always hope that I'll get that miraculous 48 hour recovery, where the animal goes from near death to bouncy baby behavior. Again, I had that hope with Penny, since her demeanor is so sweet and puppy-like.
Unfortunately this was not to be the case and I think that Penny's recovery will be slow indeed. For every step forward, we take a little step back.
She is now on a variety of medications: two types of antibiotics to fight the infection that is ravaging her body, anti fungal medication to fight a skin disease, daily medicated baths where she shivers wet and cold as the drugs work through her skin, and metronidazole flagyl to curb her diarrhea. She also takes a vitamin supplement to help nourish her tiny body. All of these medicines have curbed her appetite and each meal is a variety of selections - such as scrambled eggs, whole milk yogurt, two kinds of puppy food, baby food and Nutri-cal.
As Penny struggles desperately to chew due to the decreased muscular strength in her jaw, everything must be small, so that it can be easily swallowed. We struggle to find things she will eat that are nutritionally rich for her, yet will not upset her stomach. Each meal involves me spoon-feeding her, alternating between her selections in the hope of finding that magic item she will eat at that moment.
Penny came to us absolutely covered in lesions and sores - bleeding and full of pus, that literally covered every bit of her body including the space between her toes. Slowly, with the baths and time, they are crusting up and falling off, revealing healthy pink skin. Unfortunately, with each scab comes a lot of fur, so Penny has large swathes of bald skin that will hopefully bring fur as she recovers. Her remaining coat is coarse and a reflection of poor nutrition, so we are looking forward to seeing the quality of hair as it grows in.
She is working on her walking and has even done one or two stairs - huge progress. There was such extreme atrophy that it was questionable if she would regain the use of her hind legs. At the beginning she would just walk on her front paws, like a handstand. Now she is able to put some weight on her hind legs and even walk 10 to 15 feet. Penny tires very easily but loves nothing more than sitting in the sun and closing her eyes, who knows if she was even allowed to see the sky at her former owners?
My other dogs were initially so curious about her - what was this creature that mommy is feeding baby food and carrying around in a bed all day long? When she was lying down, they treated her as another piece of furniture but when she would stand, they would suddenly realize that the gaunt figure was actually a dog (sort of) like them.
At her vet appointment last Friday, Penny had gained just one ounce, a huge disappointment. They were set to give her an injection and noticed a lump on her back. It was a large, hard hump between her shoulder blades. It appears that when the shelter injected her microchip, they did not properly clean the area and with the needle and pushed the infection under her skin, causing an abscess. She had to undergo surgery and have drains inserted to relieve the pressure. As long as they were anesthetizing her, they also stitched together the two holes on either side of her muzzle. I had been cleaning it daily and there was pink healthy tissue, leading our vet to believe that it would be able to heal eventually, perhaps even without a skin graft.
Penny continues to improve, albeit slowly. She is completely housebroken, so will get out of her bed when she needs to potty. It's partly, I suspect, because she loves her bed so much. Penny can hardly believe that she has the luck to have a whole soft bed all to her own. It is probably the first time she has had such a luxury.
In the meantime, the County of Los Angeles continues its investigation into the owners and are pursuing animal cruelty charges against the couple who brought her into the shelter in her sorry condition. They expect to conclude their findings in the next few weeks and as we learn more, we will share with you what we can about their charges and the outcome. We have also contacted the LA District Attorney who handles animal cruelty cases who will help once the investigation is concluded.
Rest assured that we will do everything within our power to ensure that they will never have the opportunity to do this to another animal.
The amazing part about Penny is the fact that she is so sweet and calm. She has not made a single peep at my house (one single whimper when her abscess was aspirated at the vet has been the only noise I've ever heard from her), even when I've been cleaning her wounds or picking off her dried scabs. She just sits patiently while I poke and prod, sticking medication into her mouth and dabbing at open cuts. She closes her eyes and leans in when I scratch her neck where some of the scabs are the worst. Imagine being covered with lesions and scabs that you don't have the mobility to scratch!
But the best part is when she wags her tail when I say her name. Because Penny has faith, courage and strength, she will come out of this and have the opportunity to live a full life.
Anyone wishing to support Penny's recovery and contribute to the cost of her medical care can do so via our donation page. Thank you for your support.