Neglect. That is the first thought in my mind when I saw little Cecilia come into the clinic, wrapped in an old towel, trembling in fear. When I unveiled her tiny body, my heart hurt, stomach dropped, and hands grabbed before I could think. I held her in my arms in tears; her once thick, black fur now replaced with white skin showing through remnant patches. Her skin smelled of infection and was hot to the touch, her nails long and dirty.
I decided then and there I was taking her. She needed help, love, and someone to pay attention to her. To recognize the fact that if an animal is ripping out their fur and crawling in fleas, that there must be another step beyond bathing her over and over, drying out her skin.
My work wife saw this and her face grew angry. She is one who speaks her mind, but since the dog was my cousin’s dog, she held her tongue out of respect. She gave Cecilia a capstar, first thing. She checked her ears, her teeth, and her vitals. She was crawling in fleas. When you separated the small amount of fur left on her body, you saw a colony rush across her skin. My work wife gave her a medicated bath to soothe her itchy, inflamed skin and held her wrapped in a towel as Cecilia shivered from fear. When you looked into her eyes, you saw shame, sadness, and discomfort. I told her everything would be okay, that she was safe and loved, but who really knows if she understood at his point.
Cecilia came home with me that night. She had a serious skin infection and had to be on a strict, single source protein diet and 2 weeks of antibiotics. She received medicated baths weekly and slept in a cozy bed at night, and during the day received endless cuddles on the couch with her foster moms. We ended up calling her our “little monster” and “tiny-Tim.” I am not sure how these names came about, but she seemed to like her nicknames.
At her 2 week check up, the doctor found that her infection was improving, but she needed another regimen. Cecilia was on antibiotics for a skin infection for a month because her mother ignored her pink toes and missing patches of fur. I was livid and disappointed. How could you ignore your pet’s discomfort and pain for long enough for her to get into this condition?
By the end of Cecilia’s stay with us, her fur had grown back. All of it. Her skin was slick and shiny, and her spirits were up. She was running around and wanting to play again. We pondered and talked about keeping her, but my cousin was already buying her new things: collars and leashes, good food that she would need, and a brand new bed.
When we brought her back to her mom, she was thankful and excited. The joy in her little dog’s face and the smile when she was back was heartwarming and soul crushing. I was afraid. I was afraid that Cecilia would not make it if she got that bad again. That she would die of anemia or heartworms. That she would die of heartbreak from being neglected so long, or be a sad, lonely, depressed old dog. But I kept hoping things would be different this time.