Helping Phoenix Rise

posted September 29th, 2014 by
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Phoenix

A Community Connecting To Save One Special Dog

by Nancy Gallimore

It started with a simple plea for help on Facebook.

KOTV-News On Six Reporter Tess Maune was on assignment to cover a story about firefighters checking smoke detectors in a lower income neighborhood where two people had recently perished in house fires. 

As Maune was talking with one of the firefighters, she noticed a dog wandering around the ruins of one of the burned homes. Assigned to cover one story, she instead found two.

According to the firefighter, the dog, in terrible condition with hair loss and sores on his face, legs, and paws, had belonged to an elderly man who had died days earlier when his home was engulfed in flames. The firefighters believed the dog had been burned by the fire and had been giving him food and water while deciding what could be done for him.

After her story was completed, Maune went back to find the sad dog. He was there, curled up inside an old dog house outside the ruins of his deceased owner’s home. An animal lover, Maune wasn’t sure what to do for the poor animal, but knew he needed immediate medical attention and to get out of the sub-zero temperatures Tulsa was experiencing.

Still on the job, however, she and her crew couldn’t take the dog with them.

“I called the Tulsa Humane Society, but they were already closed for the day,” Maune said. “So I did the only other thing I could think to do; I took  a picture of him and posted it to Facebook.”

That’s when an amazing chain reaction started as her posted photo got an immediate response. “I had no idea how many people that photo would reach,” Maune said. “Probably a hundred or more strangers wrote me wanting to know what they could do—many asking where he was so they could go pick him up.”

Rheanna Ali was one of the many people who offered to help the now homeless dog. Maune gave the location of the dog to Ali, and she immediately headed over to rescue the dog. Ali, a professional pet sitter with Sit & Stay Tulsa, said she saw the photo of the distressed dog and didn’t think twice.

“Because of my pet sitting business, I had everything in my car I needed to get the dog and transport him safely,” Ali said. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering outside alone in the cold.”

After securing the dog she immediately took him to the Animal Emergency Center to have his injuries evaluated. While the dog was with Ali receiving emergency care, another chapter in his rescue story was already beginning.

Maune’s initial outreach on Facebook had also reached the attention of Dr. Lauren Johnson of Hammond Animal Hospital. “My phone just suddenly went crazy with messages from friends forwarding me Tess’ photo of this poor dog and begging me to do something,” Johnson said. “I knew we had to help him.”

“Without skipping a beat,” Maune said, “Dr. Johnson replied to my post and said to bring the dog to her hospital, and she would take care of him. What an incredibly caring veterinarian!”

So after a night of care in Ali’s own home, the dog was transferred to Hammond Animal Hospital. There, the staff appropriately named him Phoenix after the mythical bird that rises from the ashes, renewed and reborn. And so Phoenix the dog started on his long path toward a new life.

Rather than burns, Phoenix was diagnosed with an advanced case of a skin condition called demodectic mange. According to Johnson, this type of mange, which is not contagious to people or other animals, is caused by a tiny mite—demodex canis— that nearly all dogs acquire from their mothers during the first few days of life.

These mites are considered normal when present in small numbers and are generally suppressed by a healthy dog’s immune system. Problems can arise, however, when dogs have immature or compromised immune systems that allow the mites to multiply unchecked.

Localized demodectic mange may only cause little spots of hair loss around the face or on the legs of a young dog and can often resolve in a month or two, either spontaneously or with simple treatment.

In some dogs, however, the disease becomes generalized, causing large patches of hair loss on the head, legs and  body.  Left untreated, the hair follicles become plugged with  mites causing thick, scaly skin and open sores that can lead to infection.

“Phoenix came in malnourished and with an extreme  case of demodectic mange,” Johnson said. “He’s itchy, uncomfortable and in pain, but all he wants to do is rub his face on you and be in your lap. He’s such a good boy.” 

There were no second thoughts. Phoenix would receive the extensive care he needed. While Phoenix started his treatments, Ali was determined to continue to help the dog. She quickly launched an online campaign to provide funds for Phoenix’s initial emergency care and subsequent medical needs.

Once again, people responded to the dog with the pleading light brown eyes and initial fund raising goals were met and exceeded.  Local rescue group Rescued ‘N Ready Animal Foundation joined the effort to save the dog by accepting Phoenix into their rescue program.

According to Amy Hoagland, president of the non-profit organization, once Phoenix’s skin condition is stabilized, the next step will be to find a foster home where the dog can recuperate while he waits for a permanent adoption.

“This dog is so gentle and good-natured. He deserves a second chance at a good life, and we’re going to make sure he gets it,” Hoagland said, who went on to repeatedly describe Phoenix as humble.

 I really wasn’t sure what she meant by humble in reference to a dog—until I went to spend some time with Phoenix myself. This dog, who was severely neglected for the first years of his life, loves everyone he meets. He is exceptionally quiet, gentle, well-mannered, and yes, I have to agree, humble.

 It’s almost as if he looks at you through his golden eyes and doesn’t quite believe his own good fortune. Now, with an entire team of rescuers behind him, Phoenix’s good fortune is guaranteed to continue to rise.

For the time being, as his skin begins to heal, and his soft blonde coat starts to grow in, Phoenix is very content to relax on his comfortable bed at Hammond, surrounded by toys he doesn’t yet know how to enjoy. A hospital favorite, his days are currently filled with treats, love and lots of back scratches.

 Phoenix has definitely risen, thanks to a wonderful chain reaction ignited by one simple online plea. Undoubtedly, someday soon, his coat will be full and shiny; he will be strong and healthy, and the past won’t even be a memory for the dog who stepped out of the ashes and straight into the hearts of so many.

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