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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meet the Sweets: Herkie the Hunk

A large dog was found running loose in Iowa Falls.  Rather than just turn away, a concerned person grabbed a rope, tied him to their deck, and brought him a dish of water to refresh him on a hot summer day.  The person then called for help.  The phone call went to Amy of HEART Rescue in Eldora, Iowa, and just as quickly, this email and photo arrived in my email box from Amy.  (Now do you see why I get a slight paranoia when I know Amy is trying to contact me?!)

"Okay..i need help again. Got a call about a stray, skinny, injured, male yellow lab. I have absolutely no place to put him... Can you help...please????"

I looked at this fuzzy, distant photo, and into this furball's eyes, and, as usual, I fall in love. 

I agreed to take him into our rescue, The South Hamilton Animal Alliance. When he was described as injured in the initial email, I was very concerned.  So this handsome boy was brought my way.
When he arrived, we estimated his age to be around 10 years.  He may be older.  He may be younger.  We do not know his true age since we know nothing of his background, but it is obvious that he is a senior boy.  His white face, and arthritic hind end gave that away.  The injury was little more than an odd gait due to old age and skeletal arthritis.  He was significantly underweight, and that would be an easy fix. 

We held him for 7 days, and I unfortunately left his "naming" to Miguel.  Miguel chose "Herkie" for his name, in honor of Herkie the Hawk, the mascot for the University of Iowa.  As an Iowa State University graduate, and staunch Cy the Cardinal fan, I pretended his full name was Hercules.  Why not name this handsome boy after a Greek Demigod.  Just look at those eyes!  They seem supernatural to me!

No one claimed this Demigod/Demidog during his hold time.  We vetted him, which included a neuter, microchip, heartworm test, and vaccines, flea control, and dewormer, and placed him for adoption.  Unfortunately, Herkie, as a senior dog, was not a good adoption candidate.  In most shelter situations, his geriatric conditions (age, bladder issue, and arthritis) would have placed him on the euthanasia list.  Fortunately for Herkie, I do not have the same adoption standards as many shelters.
It takes a special person to take in a senior dog who likely has limited time left to spend with a person or family.  No one knows how much time any animal will spend with us, but a senior dog will likely not give a family eight or more years of love.  We could only hope that someone would be happy with a few shared years with Herkie, that would still leave a lifetime of memories.

Herkie did relatively well living at the clinic awaiting a forever family to find him.  Due to his arthritis, we did not kennel him.  This arthritis gave him an odd stance, in which his ankles curved in.  I called it his ballerina stance.  We offered Herkie an exam room to sleep in at night, with a large comforter for a bed so he could stretch those old arthritic legs out at night.  During the day, he remained in the front office greeting people.  He did fine with my dogs, and the cats that had free roam in the clinic while awaiting their forever families.  His most significant problem, his bladder, was related to his age.  It is possible that this problem led to him becoming homeless.

While Herkie was fully housebroken, at his age, his bladder was weakened.  He was happy to share the news with you that he had to go potty during the day when we were with him.  We would head to the door to let him out.  Herkie would run to find a toy to bring to the potty with him, and the rest was fertilizer for the lawn.  But at night, he was unable to hold it.  We would often arrive the next morning to discover a wet mess in the room with him.  The clean up did not bother the staff I had employed at the time, but it came to a head one day when the room had the most repulsive of odors.  The floors seemed clean visibly and to the touch.  Where was this foul odor coming from?

Herkie's urine had found it's way past the barrier at the base of the cabinets, and was fermenting beneath the cabinets.  The odor became unbearable.  We had our contractor come in and pry the cabinets out from beneath the counter top so we could clean the floor beneath them.  Once the cabinets were pulled, the ammonia was so strong it was burning our eyes.  We could also now see that the wooden bases of all the cabinets had soaked up the moisture and were rotting.  The contractor took the cabinets, cut off the bases, and fabricated pedestal feet out of garage door railing.  $730 later, (we are still trying to pay this off if anyone would like to help) our room was almost like new, but we had realized that Herkie needed more than we were able to offer him.  He had spent months in a clinic setting.  He was loved, but he needed more.

We sent out emails, and posted on facebook that we were in dire need of a foster home for him.  We asked local rescues for help.  Herkie needed someone that would be there to hear Herkie's notice that he needed to go potty.  But no offers came in.

While at a training session for Disaster Animal Response, the instructor, who I knew from previous educational seminars, heard me discussing Herkie's story, and said, "Hold on."  She made a quick phone call to a friend of hers, then informed me that Herkie was immediately accepted into rescue.  It was as simple as that.

But it was not over yet.  I had to check out this rescue's credentials.  I had to make sure they were reputable and that my Herkie would be in good hands.  I had to make sure they knew this boy needed a foster home, not a kennel.  The group passed my inquisition with flying colors, but would the foster home be the right one for Herkie's needs?  I found out that Herkie's foster Mom would be the friend that my instructor had originally called.  The best news?  Herkie's foster Mom has a doggie door!  Herkie could go potty every ten minutes if he wanted to!  I could not have thought of a better place for Herkie. I went in the next day, and hugged Herkie with tears in my eyes.  I loved the old boy, but the decision for him to go had to be made. It was best for him.  It may not have been best for my contractor, but it was best for Herkie.

After a few weeks of arranging leapfrog transport, where volunteers each drive a rescued pet 50 miles or more to get them from point A to point B, Herkie was on his way from Iowa to AdoptALab Rescue, and a foster home in Indiana.

Herkie's foster mom, Dori, shared a photo montage of Herkie's initial investigation of his new foster home upon his arrival...
Goldilocks as told by Herkie:

This kennel is too small.

This kennel is too big!

This kennel is just right.

See Herkie check out his new toys at his new foster home.

See Herkie destroy toys.  This lead to Herkie's new name becoming Herkie Leavit.

See Herkie's new sister wonder what the heck happened to her toys.
"Mom, he killed my Wiggly Giggly!"

See Herkie's new sister forgive her Demigod Brother.

See Mom's solution to arthritic Herkie falling down the frozen steps after an ice storm.

See Herkie master the towel draped steps...sort of...

See Herkie ponder what he should do once outside.  Hmmmmmm...

See Herkie destroy the towel that draped the steps.

"I thought you said I would get a chocolate bunny for wearing this thing?!"

I recently received word that Herkie has a adopter!  A young retired widow, who had recently lost her 14 year old yellow lab, wanted a mellow dog.  The new dog would need to be gentle enough to share the house with her elderly mother.  I am not sure who was more excited, Herkie or me?

Apparently, it was Herkie!  He was ready to drive to his new home... in New Jersey.

Fortunately, his rescue group arranged for another leapfrog volunteer transport from Indiana to New Jersey.  The last leg of this transport, would be driven by Herkie's new mother, so Herkie did not need to drive himself.

Herkie meeting his new Mom at the end of the transport.

Herkie sending his foster Mom a big Raspberry.  I am certain it means, "Thank you"!

Herkie's first gift from his Forever Mom, a new collar and matching dog toy.

Herkie's new water bowl?

King Size!  The perfect bed for a Demigod!

Herkie, I don't know how many years you have left on this earth, but I pray that there are many healthful years in your future.  I am hopeful that this is your final move and that you and your new mom realize how special these next few years can be.  Best wishes, my friend.

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Joan Windschitl said...

Wonderful!!...I was feeling so sorry for poor Herkie..Glad he has all the comforts of home, a wonderful place to spend his senior years, a family to love him, and a "vet pal" in Jewell so full of love and compassion.

Anonymous said...

Dang it - you did it again. I'm bawling by the end of the blog! LOVE LOVE happy endings.

Bless you, Lisa. You are an angel disguised as a vet. <3


Amy Haas-Gray said...

What a sweet story and a sweet boy he is!!! Nice to know you cringe when i least it's always for a good cause!

Susan Turturice said...

Hey Lisa, I laughed, I cryed. What a wonderful story. I'm so honored to have been a part of getting him to Adopt A Lab and to Dori. Dori is such an awesome person and a wonderful foster mom to these furbabies. As Dori says, White Light and Dog Speed. Hugs,

Peggy Robey said...

What a wonderful story as well as a very happy ending for both Herkie and his new Mom ♥

Dori Griffith said...

White Light and Dog Speed indeed! It is said that "it takes a village to raise a child", but it sometimes takes an entire country of loving, dedicated people to save an animal. Herkie's story spanned several months, more distance, and eve...n more people to see him to his new family. Dog Bless and keep up the good work Amy, Lisa,Miguel, Diann, Patty, Lee, Wendy, Krystal, Susan, Carolyn, and I'm sure many others on Herkie's road home to his new Mom, Dad and Grandmother. You all ROCK!

Chantal Murrah Francis said...

This is the sweetest rescue story, thank you for sharing! :)

Dian Hardy said...

Love your writings! And Herk, definitely a demigod! Thank you!

Cindy Conlon said...

Thanks for sending this to me. My cousin was wondering where Herkie came from. He is even more special than we thought. He has a great home now. Pat is already trying to find out how to help him be more comfortable with his hips. You are indeed an angel !