If you “like” Bully Project and/or That Touch of Pit on Facebook, you may already be familiar with the story of Noelle, our Christmas Day 2012 rescue. Noelle is the epitome of the rags to riches story, and we’re so happy she’s touched our lives for even a short while.
On Christmas Day, I came home from lunch with a friend to find one of my neighbors sitting on my front stoop with a dog. I went to go inside my apartment building, not wanting to disturb anyone, when she stopped me: “Do you know the guy who rescues dogs?”
I stopped. I turned. “That’s me.”
She then told me her story. She passed a man on the street over two hours earlier, and he was holding a dog on a leash. She smiled happily at the dog, and before she knew it, the man was handing her his leash. He threw his adoption papers in her face and ran off, leaving my neighbor stranded, with a dog she didn’t know, with very limited knowledge on the proper course of action.
“All I could think of was to come find you. I knocked on your door, I think I upset your dogs,” she said. “Can you help me? She’s very sweet.” And she was. Noelle, despite her seemingly poor health and upheaval, was very wiggly and social. I couldn’t turn my back on them, so I told her to follow me to the emergency vet. There was clearly something wrong with the dog that needed to be checked out, and maybe the vet would agree to board her for the night while I figured out what we could do.
When we got to the animal hospital, and settled into an exam room, I asked to see the adoption papers that were thrown at her. Noelle had been adopted not even two weeks prior from the public shelter. The adoption agreement had the adopter’s contact information on him. When I Googled his address, I discovered the building he lives in is government-subsidized housing (where they, not surprisingly, do not allow pets). I wanted more information, so I called the adopter. When I asked him why he had gotten rid of his dog, he said it was because she was “chewing shit up.” When I told him that his adoption agreement required him to return the dog to the shelter if he couldn’t provide it with the care it needed, he proceeded to tell me that he didn’t have feet and therefore couldn’t bring her to the shelter. So instead, he gave her to a guy he knew. That guy then gave her to my neighbor.
Within less than a month, Noelle had been abandoned three times. Who knows how many more times before that. So instead of speculating about what she’d gone through, I decided to focus on getting her through her present and into a better future. My neighbor reported that she had black stool, a sign of blood in the digestive tract. She was also bleeding from her nose, and coughing and hacking up a storm. It was obvious she had some sort of upper respiratory infection, but the rest I couldn’t figure out on my own.
When the doctor came in, she explained that because of the bleeding from two different areas, she was concerned that Noelle had consumed rodenticide, and wanted to test her blood clotting times. Well, that’s about when I nearly lost it. A sweet, friendly, young dog who’d gone through so much, and she was just going to die anyway. I felt angry and defeated. Frustrated with the people who couldn’t put in the time, energy and effort to give her the care she needed, I began to shut down. It was Christmas Day, my neighbor was not celebrating with her family, I was not relaxing at home with my own dog enjoying a movie and Chinese food and out somewhere enjoying their holidays were people who could have cared less about ruining other people’s holidays.
Thankfully, the doctor came back with good news. Her blood clotting times were totally normal, and she definitely had not gotten into rodenticide. But she was definitely sick and needed help. She was anemic, and seemingly had a high load of intestinal parasites causing upper GI bleeding. They also expected that she had kennel cough, or possibly that it had escalated to pneumonia or canine influenza. The vet agreed to board her for one night to buy us some time.
Simultaneously, we made to pleas to the Deja Foundation and the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals. Neither I nor Bully Project could not afford this medical care, particularly because we still had outstanding bills to pay for Baci’s cherry eye procedure and recovery. Both organizations graciously agreed to help cover Noelle’s care with one stipulation: Bully Project took responsibility for Noelle and found her a foster home, and eventually a forever home.
Noelle’s second day at the vet garnered even more information about her condition. We authorized the vet to conduct chest x-rays, and the confirmed that she did indeed have pneumonia, and a portion of one of her lungs had collapsed as a result. They could find out what bacteria was causing the pneumonia, but would have to do a somewhat risky procedure called a tracheal wash. If we didn’t want to go ahead with that, they would begin treating her with broad spectrum antibiotics and hope for the best. Well, I wanted her to get better, so we authorized the tracheal wash and kept her in the vet’s ICU for a few more days to monitor her.
And out of seemingly nowhere, Noelle’s luck took a turn. She started to show signs of improvement. Her energy level had returned, she was eating and drinking normally. There were no more signs of intestinal bleeding whatsoever. And better yet, a good friend of mine, Kevin, sent me the following message on Facebook: “I’m interested in adopting? Fostering? Etc…any advice? Meet for coffee sometime?” Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes.
I brought him to meet Noelle at the vet the very next day, and it was love at first sight, as they say. Kevin offered to begin fostering her that night. I explained all the rules: no exercise, only short on-leash walks, no dog/dog interactions to prevent spread of potentially infectious disease, crate training, house breaking, the whole nine. Being a professional dog walker, Kevin knew the ropes and agreed to it all. He was ready. So was Noelle.
I was so happy to just get Noelle into a home, and out of the vet, that I never even considered this could be a perfect match. We still had lots to learn about Noelle that I was certain this was just going to be a small stepping stone on what was sure to be a long journey for her. Kevin was great about being in touch with me. He gave me updates about her behavior and tendencies. I got at least three pictures everyday. And to my great surprise, and pleasure, I got a text message from Kevin four days later:
“What do I have to do to officially adopt Noelle? I love her and she’s home.”
That day was the happiest day I have had in my nearly two years being involved in animal welfare. I felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment in helping Noelle get from where she was to where she is now. And knowing that there was a huge crowd of people surrounding me and helping me through: my colleagues Jennifer and Tanya, Deja Foundation, the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, the doctors and staff at BluePearl Veterinary Specialists of Manhattan, my neighbor, Bully Project’s donors and supporters, my incredible friends from the blogging community who offered whatever assistance they could from wherever they happened to be. And most importantly, Kevin.
This is why we all do what we do. To have an impact on the lives of these dogs, and on the lives of the people around them. But also to have an impact on the way society thinks about shelter/rescue dogs and on how people treat animals, and other people, in general. We really are all in this together, and together, we can make quite a difference in so many lives.
PS – Noelle’s new name is Pearl. Kevin describes her as, “Pearlfect.”