Christmas came early this year, in the form of Marcus, arrived at Rainwood Kennels, Elkton MD all the way from Turkey, via a Virginia foster home. I have found that contacts seem to grow exponentially In the dog training business, and so it was that Marcus came to me: from a contact who knew a contact, who knew a contact. One link in the chain was Pat Miller, with whom I received my excellent foundation in dog training at her Peaceable Paws. Where to even begin: this adolescent dog of possible lab mix heritage is already tugging at my heart strings. His has been an improbable journey, one that is not yet finished. There is much work to be done, one painstaking step at a time. Much is good about Marcus: his quickness to learn, a dog who lives to play and one who can learn trust. Any dog from a background such as Marcus endured, inevitably carries wounds, now emotional in nature, that must heal. All involved fervently hope for the best, that the good in Marcus coupled with methodical and positive training, will outweigh his horrible beginnings. I imagine the training process may well be the subject of at least a few more blogs, and in the meantime, invite all to visit my Facebook page (see link on blog) to see pics and read ongoing training notes. Following is the firsthand account of a person instrumental in the rescue of Marcus from Turkey; all rescue workers deserve a special place in heaven. Keep in mind that down the road this special dog will be searching for a furever home. Pictures of Marcus show the amazing extent of the physical recovery. (he weighed 35 pounds when found and now weighs in at 67 pounds) I hope you will enjoy blogs to come, of a dog who has received another chance at life.
One more detour before getting to the rescue from Turkey! My friend and colleague Jeni Grant has written an OUTSTANDING BLOG on understanding the special needs of adopted shelter dogs. I would recommend anyone thinking about adoption or rescue to read this great information. Finally, the story, as told firsthand by a volunteer on the ground in Turkey.
Marcus was found in Turkey by an animal rescue group, “Let’s Adopt”, a now global online organization. Members of this group went several times a week to the forests outside Istanbul to feed dogs who had been dumped there by the municipal shelters. The shelters have a “no kill” policy in conformity with EU laws. However, the only aspect of animal care they made sure to enforce was spaying and neutering; the dogs picked up by the municipalities in response to citizen complaints were evidently fed sporadically at some shelters, and when their numbers grew, were dumped in the forest. Dependent on humans and their garbage for food sources, these animals are naturally unable to find adequate food in the forest. The group organized outings to feed the dogs several times a week.
In early May, I joined the Let’s Adopt folks for one of their feeding trips, involving vast quantities of bone-in raw chicken, kibble, and milk. Amid all the dogs who looked surprisingly and amazingly healthy, I saw Marcus, emaciated and isolated from the group. I asked the Let’s Adopt people about him and they told me he was new, evidently recently dumped. But he was clearly not used to being in a pack and, as we have subsequently learned, he finds other dogs threatening, for good reason – if food was given, he was clearly unable to compete to get enough of it.
I went over to give him chicken and he accepted it but as he looked up I saw that he appeared blind, with some kind of cataract film on both eyes. The group told me that they had a few dogs at the vet now – and limited resources -- but that as soon as space was available they would take him in. Needless to say, I had trouble sleeping that week, and by the end of the week I decided that I would sponsor him at the vet. We went the next Sunday and there he was, still looking pitifully thin and standing apart from the group. As we muzzled him and picked him up, he was terrified, but when I sat with him in the back seat he just leaned against me like he was very weary.
We managed to find a vet who dealt mainly with cats but had a garden in the back and a room where he could stay, and began the process of trying to heal him. They told me that he had kennel cough and was about a year and a half old; all that he really needed, they said, was love and food. It took him a while to recover and start putting on weight, and the vets had to change his antibiotic a few times. In any case, he did slowly improve with a steady diet of raw chicken, rice and eggs, and every day after school I’d walk across town to visit him. He moved very slowly and lay down often, quiet and very still. Outside, I would sit and try to encourage him to eat, but he’d try to take the leftovers and bury them for later.
After a few weeks we moved him to another vet, and his progress advanced dramatically. I had assumed he would need a cataract operation but his eyes fully cleared up; they had become cloudy only from malnutrition. By this point, recognizing that I could not keep the dog with all of our cats, but also seeing that this rescue group was overwhelmed, I concluded that I should just bring him to the US and try to find an owner here. My husband posted my photos of Marcus on a government website and within a few weeks a woman involved in animal rescue had talked her friend into taking Marcus from the airport and keeping him temporarily on her Virginia farm. Amazingly, it all worked – the Turkish rescue group brought him to the airport in his kennel on June 1st; I bought his cargo ticket; he got walked and fed during the Germany stopover; and by the end of a long and anxious day we zipped through customs and passed him on to his foster mom. He had two happy months of recuperating and then running around at the farm, where we found that he was initially not fully housebroken, but that he learned quickly, never climbed on furniture, and remained a quiet and very sweet fellow.
(Marcus enjoying a stuffed kong, his spacious indoor/outdoor run at Rainwood Kennels.)
Thanks for reading this story and for caring about rescued dogs. Now, I need to prepare for next week and the arrival of 4 MORE board/train dogs. And no, I am not ready for Christmas!
Until next time, Leslie and the labbies and a wonderful holiday season to all.
Leslie Fisher PMCT CPDT-KA CGC Evaluator