PETA parked in Rose’s space …

Animals need angels this holiday season

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Buddies: Lilac and Cece. Lilac was dumped by her previous owners – chained to a fence outside an animal shelter – but now she’s got the life in her forever home with Rose! pic: R.T.

It was two days before Christmas. While families gathered inside cozy homes, one tiny dog shivered outside at the end of a heavy chain, surrounded by puddles the size of small ponds. His only shelter – if it could even be called that — was a decrepit doghouse whose sagging roof and crumbling walls offered no protection from the frigid winter rain. He was full of heartworms and so emaciated that nearly every bone in his small frame showed through his skin.

For neglected, forgotten animals like Gus (as this sweet dog was later named), the holidays are nothing to celebrate and the new year holds little hope — unless a caring person intervenes. Fortunately for Gus, that’s exactly what happened.

Two PETA volunteers were delivering doghouses and straw to help chained and penned dogs survive the winter when they spotted him. They asked his owner if he needed help, and the man explained that he couldn’t afford to feed Gus and was thinking about turning him loose in the woods. The volunteers offered to take the little dog in, and his owner readily agreed.

After a good meal and a warm bath, Gus spent his first Christmas indoors, with a comfy bed and plenty of love and attention from his foster caretaker. Eventually, he was adopted, and his adoring guardian reported that when she let him outside, he would jump up on chairs or other objects in the yard. She suspects that he did so because he’d had quite enough of sitting chained on the cold, hard ground in his previous life.

Despite his ordeal, Gus is friendly and wants to meet everyone. His favorite thing to do is snuggle under the covers.

Gus is one of the lucky ones — and so was Soupster. PETA got a frantic call one Christmas Eve from a family who wanted to surrender their dog immediately, before their new baby came home from the hospital. They’d already tried calling the shelter where they had adopted Soupster (who was then called Star) two years earlier, but there was no room at the inn: Its waiting list was weeks long.

Soupster’s owners wouldn’t wait that long, and as it turned out, neither could she. PETA welcomed her in and got her emergency veterinary care right away.

Her fur was so filthy and matted that it had to be completely shaved off, and she had so many fleas that she was anemic from blood loss. All but three of her teeth had to be pulled. An untreated infection had spread to her sinuses, leaving the roof of her mouth in need of stitches.

She had mammary tumors, an ear infection that left her deaf, and severe kidney and urinary tract infections. Her blood test revealed kidney failure. The veterinarian estimated that even with treatment, she had just three to six months to live.

But then a miracle happened: After weeks of intensive veterinary care in a foster home, Soupster’s health turned a corner. She regained her strength and her spirit, and a follow-up test revealed that her kidney function was nearly back to normal.

The PETA staffer who nursed her over the holidays adopted her — and for the last year and a half of her life, the little dog knew the comfort of a real home and the love of a family. The only sign of her ordeal was her little pink tongue that sometimes hung out because she had no teeth to hold it in. Eventually, because of the neglect that she had previously suffered, her kidney disease worsened, and her guardian made the difficult but compassionate decision to euthanize her.

PETA’s fieldworkers aren’t like Santa — they can’t make it to every house in the world. That’s why animals like Gus and Soupster need caring people in every community watching out for them — during the holidays and year round.

If there are chained or penned dogs in your neighborhood, ensure they have food, water and shelter. If they lack these or if the situation is life-threatening, notify authorities immediately. In non-emergency situations, encourage their owners to take them for walks (or offer to do so yourself), allow them indoors, and give them daily companionship and attention.

If you witness or suspect that animals are being abused or neglected, call the police immediately. And urge your local shelter to accept all animals in need.

You could be an animal’s angel this holiday season.