Thursday, August 9, 2012

On wandering dogs, grumpy rescuers, and the mighty microchip

Her special hello grin: 'Awful good to see ya, hon.'
Is it possible to resist a dog in need? For many people a messed-up dog in even the most wretched condition brings nary a second thought. But for some of us it’s pretty much religion to jump in. That’s how a beautiful collie mix and I ended up spending the past two days together here on a Greek island.

Her name, briefly, was “Dania” (Da-NEE-ah), Greek for Denmark. The reason for the choice is obvious, given the fact that my two previous rescued pooches this year, Kali and Mandi (formerly Diamandi), now live as princesses with their furever families in paradise on earth, which is how I think of that small but huge-hearted nation to our north.

Naming a dog after that land is the least I can do in homage to Danish group Graeske Hunde, who rescue, foster, and find homes for hundreds of Greek dogs every year.

But the collie mix’s real name, it turns out, is Trelitsa (Treh-LEET-sah), translating roughly to ‘Crazy Girl.’  This fact cracks me up, since my own nickname for her has been “Party Girl.”

Below you'll find Part One of how Dania went back to being Trelitsa.

(For the previous entry about her on The Dozen Dogs Diaries, please see:
The resentful rescuer: bad attitude, worse timing, but lots of really good dogs)

How to keep her cool?

What’s not to love about this dog?  One of the most charming and witty girls you’ll ever meet. 

You can just see her as a successful Division Chief of International Sales for, say, a tennis ball company, where she’d go to the marketing conventions and quickly have all the bigwig boys eating out of her pretty white-gloved paw with her good looks and corny but adorable jokes. 

“Which dogs are best for sending telegrams?” she’d ask, dead-pan.

“Which?” her rapt audience would egg her on.

You can just hear her sultry little chuckle at the punchline: “Wire-haired terriers!”

Then she’d fire off half a dozen more.

But it’s really rotten timing for a rescue around here. Already I’m way too behind on way too many projects. The flu and cough I’ve been battling wouldn’t help.

Also, how to keep a dog cool?  With repairs in progress on our house here in Greece (euphemism for brain-scattering chaos), many of the windows can’t be opened, so it’s a roast in here at above 92F every day around the clock. Dania, who wears a luxuriant minky coat, would be miserable indoors if not in outright danger.

Outside it’s about five degrees cooler, but it’s hard for me to leave a dog outdoors.  Not too different from leaving a basket of jewels in your backyard, if you ask me. Don’t you want to keep them inside where you can admire them? Where you can protect them?

(Caveat: Unless you’re doing so many rescues that you have no choice and have to kennel outside, in which case my hat’s off to you and all you do.)

The winter and spring rescues of Kali and Mandi/Diamandi hadn’t posed the heat problem. How, I kept wondering, was I going to pull this one off?

The clues

Meanwhile, Dania’s superb physical condition kept speaking to me. Clean, glossy coat, nails neatly trimmed, inner ears spotless, and not a trace of ticks or fleas. Plus she had the vibrant look of a spayed female. Not only are there no pendulous teats or other sagging lady parts, but she’s got the sort of spark as well as the contentment that you rarely see in girl pooches condemned to pump out litter after litter, year after year, in the backyards of bozos who can’t be bothered to spay them.

It all added up. This dog had recently come from someone’s home, I was willing to bet, and a home caring enough to do at least most of the right things.

Ergo, she must have a microchip.  Sure of it, I waited till evening when the pavement would be cool enough for a pooch’s paws. Then I laced on my walking shoes, which had sat idle for the week I’ve been sick, dropped a couple of cough lozenges into my pocket, leashed up the mystery girl, and set off for the trudge up the hill to the vet.

The blessed beep

“In the morning, as soon as they’re open, I’ll call the veterinary headquarters in Patras on the mainland,” said the vet. “They’ll be able to track this down.”

One of the sweetest sounds I’d ever heard had been the beep of the chip scanning wand a few minutes earlier. 

“With a little luck we’ll be able to find her family tomorrow.”

“Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” I gave Dania an ear rub. She gave me one of her beaming Julia Roberts smiles in reply. 

And the smile was even bigger now because we were both luxuriating in the vet’s air conditioning. 

“Just in case, though, I’ll get some shampoo for a bath tomorrow,” I said. “You’re pretty clean, but a fresh-up would be nice, huh, girlfriend?”

The vet brought me the bottle then waved me off.  “I’ll call you in the morning as soon as I hear.”

“Oh you don’t have to call,” I said.

“I don’t?”

“No. Because we’ll be here.”

The vet puzzled at me over her glasses.

“I’ll sleep on your exam table, and Dania will curl up on your desk. You have A/C.  We’re not leaving.”

Rough night

All night I worried about Dania. We did not, in the end, get to sleep in the vet’s office.

The veranda off the bedroom here is securely fenced and swept by night breezes, but what about mosquitoes?  The citronella oil I’d sprayed on her tends to wear off after a while.

Half a dozen times I got up to spy on her through the glass door. Were insects sucking her dry?  If they were, she never stirred.  Every time I peeked at her she was in exactly the same spot and in the same position, stretched out languorously on the cement floor, eschewing the little bed I’d set out.

After grabbing just a couple of hours sleep I woke up at nine to find Dania still in the same spot. Now I worried she’d fainted or something. But as soon as I appeared she wagged her fat, fluffy wand of a tail and shot me her special hello grin, where she squints her eyes and bows her head a little as if to say, “Awful good to see ya, hon.”

After escorting her into the yard for her morning duties, then giving her breakfast and a fresh bowl of chilled water, I hurried to the phone to call the vet.

“I tried ringing you,” she said, “several times.”

“I slept late. Does this mean there’s news?”

“We found her mother. She is sick with worry. She has been crying for two days.”

“Good grief.  Where is she?”

“She’s one of your neighbors. Hasn’t she called you?”

“She might have. I was out cold.  Well, not cold.  Not cold at all. Not even cool.  Not like your office, where— “

“She’s going to call you.”

“Can I call her?

“I’ll call her and tell her to call you.”

“Why can’t I call her?”

“Protocol.  Technically the owners’ numbers are private. She’ll call you.”

“Ooph! This is all so complicated,” I said. “But OK.  I’m waiting.”

“By the way,” the vet began, “you see now—this is why you should not pick up stray dogs.”


“They might belong to somebody. You wear yourself out for nothing.”

“Ha!  You’re one to talk!  You rescue all the time.”

“But the girl, the dog’s mom, has been anguished. So worried.  She was crying.”

“Did the dog escape from her house or something?”

“No. She lets her roam.”

"Great.”  My heart sank.  “Just great. And you think this a good idea?”

“Of course not, but— “

“Don’t tell me not to pick them up. First of all I didn’t pick this dog up.  She picked me up. She glommed onto me. She spotted me, glued herself, and literally followed me home. Did you want me to slam the gate in her face?  To leave her in the busy street, where could get mushed by a car or poisoned or shot like all the others, and on such a hot night with no water, not to mention no food?”

The vet sighed.  “I know, I know.”

“And another thing.  You of all people know much better than I what these animals face. You rescue as many as or more than anybody. You’re a superhero.  I’ve seen you in action. And I’ve seen how it wears you out.”

A second sigh.  “OK. Let me get off the phone. I’ll call her. Tell her everything you told me. Maybe it will get through.”

“And another thing— “

“No. No other things. I have patients waiting.”

I hung up with a gratified smile. When you do rescue, it’s a blessing to have a vet who’s made just as irritable by the whole mess as you are.

To be continued...

(For the previous entry about Dania/Trelitsa on The Dozen Dogs Diaries, please see:
The resentful rescuer: bad attitude, worse timing, but lots of really good dogs)

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