One Life To Live

Just a few days back, I had mentioned to my team of dedicated volunteers that we are owing an extremely scary amount in vet bills. There is no choice but for us to slow down in our rescue work and we will not able to rescue anymore dogs for the next couple of months.

I have often been told that we live a hand to mouth existence, but how else do we live when people constantly call us for help? Not wanting to bite off more than we can chew, we often ask them to try saving the dog on their own. We advise them to raise funds to pay vet bills, find the dog boarding and then rehome the dog in their own capacity. Sometimes they heed our advice but other times, the injuries are so horrific that only a seasoned rescuer would dare to touch or catch the injured dog. 

On the verge of bankruptcy and having just declared to slow down our work, a lady called to ask for help with a badly injured dog. 

“His head is tilted to one side, blood is dripping and maggots are dropping out from his ears!” 

What's left of Scotty's ear after maggots feasted on it

Would you say “sorry we can’t help him because we owe too much in vet bills?” I always believe things happen for a reason and if this injured dog appeared in front of her, he must be appealing to her for help. So I threw caution to the wind and told her to take the dog to the vet. 

When I saw him, my heart broke and tears welled in my eyes. No matter how many times I have seen injured dogs . . . . it never gets any easier or less painful. No matter how much cruelty I witness, I’ll never understand how human beings can be so damn cruel. How can a person bear to see an animal suffer! This injury was just one of the dog's many sufferings in his 10 years of living. I thank God that this would be the last time he suffers. 

His ear was puffy but I was in for a shock when they flipped his ear open

A horrific sight

I can’t even explain in words how painful and horrifying his wound was. He was old, at least 10. He was bleeding; in pain; weak; emaciated; and maggots were falling off his ears and body as he struggled to walk. His frail body had to undertake and fight all that was happening to him. As I tried to imagine the cruelty he’s known, it was just too much to bear. No normal human would subject a living creature to this kind of abuse, cruelty and torture but yet feel he had not done nothing wrong. 

The moment the dog arrived at the clinic, he collapsed onto the floor and was then immediately sedated to have his wounds treated. He was a sweet old spotted dog. Despite having been abused for 10 years of his life, he was still trusting and good natured. I named him Scotty. (Phoebe’s story below would elaborate more on his abuse for the past 10 years.) 

Too weak to stand
The photographs don’t do him justice, neither does my story. I can't express his pain and suffering, nor how he had tolerated the abuse for 10 years and then bearing with this painful injury for at least 3 weeks. There are also no words to describe his immeasurable strength and willpower to survive, to hope and find better days . . . . . had it been me, I would have caved in. I know I often say I have never seen such bad injuries but it just seems to get worse with every rescue. Scotty’s ear was almost torn off. It could possibly have been a dog bite on his left ear and left untreated, it became maggot infested. The maggots had eaten most of his ear, burrowed into half of his head, ate through his flesh and came out at his shoulders. He also had a deep hole on his back, filled with maggots too. Needless to say, he had lost his hearing in his left ear. 

Maggot holes - they had burrowed deep into his flesh
Deep maggot wound on his back

Wound on his back - not sure what had caused it

Some of the maggots from Scotty
Scotty lay exhausted on the floor as the vet technicians plucked the fat maggots from the deep holes on his body. Then I saw this yellow piece of thing in his ear and asked what that was. When the vet told me it was his ear cartilage, I almost blacked out. Imagine how much of his ear that the maggots had eaten, for his ear cartilage to be revealed! 

Never ever seen anything as terrible as this

My first thought was to put him down and free him from his suffering . . . . but that was just a fleeting thought. The fact that he had suffered all his life and now finally found help and freedom, how could I deny him of that one chance to find the love and happiness that he never ever experienced? I asked Dr Teo to then do a blood test before I made a decision. Apart from severe malnutrition, test results showed he was anemic from severe blood loss, his kidneys were not functioning well and he had heartworm. Dr Teo did say his life was at risk because of the severity of his injury, his heartworm and the fact that he was old and weak. He might not pull through the next few days but I decided that even if he didn’t pull through, at least he didn’t die alone. And more importantly, he didn’t die in that horrible place that he came from. 

Fighting hard for his life
I told Dr Teo that we would give Scotty till Sunday before we made any further decisions but deep down in my heart, I know he is like Matthieu, Benjamin, Fudge, Jaspar, and Molly. They are street dogs that only know one word – survival. And when Scotty finally pulls through and survives, we will start mending his broken heart.
Below is Phoebe’s story on how she met Scotty and I thank her for saving his life.

Story and photos by: Fiona Foo

On a fateful evening during my routine visit to a boarding kennel, I chanced upon a frail and skinny looking dog roaming aimlessly with his head awkwardly tilted to the left, looking distressed and lost, as if looking for something. I did not go near as I wasn’t sure of his temperament. He just kept on walking, dragging himself with every step. Every move and position just seemed to cause him a lot of pain and agony.

On a closer look, I recognized him - he belongs to the nearby fish farm. I found out they only let it out for a walk since most of the time he is caged up. And that was the first time, after more than 4 years (!) that I see the dog out of its compound. Over the night, I couldn’t sleep just thinking about the dog. Suspecting that something was amiss, the next evening I went down again. It was the same scene, the dog was again wandering aimlessly, but this time he slowly walked up to me with an agonizing look in his eyes…. perhaps deep down in his heart, he was hoping I could help him. Even though all these time, the humans around him did not treat him right but when we met, he must have felt a ray of hope and I could just feel it crying out to me, “please help me”…

His home for 10 years

I was appalled at what I saw next. His left ear was all puffed up, swollen and oozing blood, nothing I’ve seen before, and drops of blood was dripping from the ear with every step he took. My heart sank. He smelt repulsive and there was a stench. I suspected maggots but wasn’t sure. I was desperate. I needed to act fast before he moved away. Right at that moment the worker from the fish farm came over with a leash and wanted to bring him back. I seized the opportunity and immediately took over from him without thinking of the consequences. I walked the dog over to the kennel which is nearby and asked the owner for help. We put on the muzzle in case he snapped at us.

None of us could provide the proper treatment so we tried flushing the wound with solution to ease his discomfort. The maggots just started falling out one after another and blood trickled down his face. Most of its ear had been eaten away and we saw the raw and rotten flesh. It was simply too disturbing to see.

A body riddled with maggot wounds and wrecked with sufferings
The dog was very tough and did not put up a struggle throughout the whole process, as I believe it knew we were trying to help him. Running through my mind was how did a dog with an owner and a shelter over its head end up this way? It is such an obvious wound and the owner can just feign ignorance? What had it done to deserve this? Sadly, after treating him, off he goes, back to the rusty, cramp and filthy cage at the fish farm and constantly being swarmed by countless mosquitoes flying around attacking him every single day. It’s a horrendous living condition for a dog, and to think that he has been kept there for 10 years. I can’t imagine the kind of suffering he went through. It is so so very heart-breaking.

As I left the place, my heart felt really heavy. The dog did not deserve to be in this state. If he has been holding on for so long it only means he has the will to live. I know I had to do something. Hope Dog Rescue came to my mind and that same night I quickly sat down and wrote them an email requesting for help. Thankfully they contacted me the next evening as I was on my way to visit the dog again. I told myself I had to check on its condition and make sure it gets sent to the vet to be treated. Since he came to me to save it, it’s inhuman if I just left it as it is. Without delay, I approached the fish farm owner explaining that it is critical for the dog to receive treatment or else it will die from the wound and maggots infestation. He still did not realize the severity of it. After much convincing, he finally relented and allowed me to arrange for a visit to the vet the next day.

Before going to the vet

As the dog did not have a name, we named him Scotty. Just imagine, nameless for 10 years! The dog obviously means nothing to the owner. It was just a guard dog to him. A life that is worth nothing to him.

It was only at the vet that we realized how badly wounded he was and full of ticks as well. A very very sorry state, all thanks to the owner’s negligence. And I was told the dog never had a bath before, only sprayed with water to rinse occasionally.

Owner dragging a very weak Scotty to the vet after much persuasion from us
The vet’s report stated severe heartworm condition. At this age there is a slim chance that he will make it through the heartworm treatment. But it’s a gamble that we want to take. He has suffered and wasted 10 years of his life, he does not have another 10 years. Let Scotty feel the true love and warmth if he does get to live on for a few more weeks, or hopefully years, if he does pull through the treatment. A dog’s life is just as precious as any other living creature on earth.

Scotty is now warded at the vet. His fate is unknown. Once again, we need kind souls who will step out to help another of our canine friend with the medical costs. Scotty has suffered many years of mistreatment. But now, he has a glimmer of hope of being treated right… and loved. That is the life that he deserves.

A whole lifetime of suffering showing on his world-weary face
 Note: The case has been reported to SPCA and they were very prompt and efficient in collecting the evidence to carry out the necessary investigations.

Story by: Phoebe Lim