When dogs arrive at a rescue shelter, they are often in a terrible state. Neglect, abuse, or abandonment can lead to a dog not being cared for properly, which includes feeding and grooming. Returning the dog back to health and making sure it is cared for properly then becomes the job of those working at the rescue center who give the dogs everything they need until a foster family or a forever home is found. One dog that was in a terrible state when she was found by rescuers was 11-year-old Shih Tzu called Ellie Mae. I Heart Dogs explains that Ellie Mae was found shortly after her owner had passed away. When a house clearance team arrived at her owner’s property, they were surprised to find Ellie Mae as they had been unaware that the deceased woman had owned a dog.
It looked like the poor dog had not been cared for properly for some time as her hair was all matted. As she couldn’t access food or water on her own, it was unlikely that the dog could have fended for herself for much longer. After being rescued from her home, Ellie Mae was taken to the Nebraska Humane Society. The staff at the shelter were shocked by her condition and said it was the worst case of matting they had ever seen. They described her as looking like a dirty mop and said it was difficult to identify her breed and to guess what she looked like because the matting was so severe.
The dog was in such a serious state that she was unable to walk, so she was carried to the shelter in a bag. In many cases, the matting is treated by washing and conditioning a dog’s coat repeatedly and then gently combing out sections of matting between each wash. This situation was so bad that Ellie Mae was taken straight into surgery at the shelter. The team needed to put Ellie Mae under anesthesia while they cleaned her up. This meant she had to be sedated and a breathing tube was inserted. The amount of hair that was removed from the dog was a shocking sight. In total, the Nebraska Humane Society team removed nine pounds of matted fur from the poor dog.
Ellie Mae’s matted hair was far more serious than a case of a dog simply looking a little ungroomed, so the surgery wasn’t performed just to make her look better. According to The Dodo, it can lead to bacterial infections growing on the skin and this can sometimes become so serious that a dog needs surgery. Another issue is that matted hair can trap feces and cause fecal impaction. A member of staff from the Nebraska Humane Society also explained that matted hair is often very painful for dogs. She described the experience as being like having a blood pressure cuff permanently inflated around your body. Sadly, matting is something that the staff sees regularly, and they treat dogs that arrive at their shelter with this problem at least once a week.
There was even a concern at one point that they may need to amputate one of Ellie Mae’s legs. In the past, the staff at the shelter had seen a dog that had such severe matting that they had suffered decreased blood flow to their leg. This had caused such severe damage that there had been no option but to amputate the limb. Fortunately, Ellie Mae didn’t face the same fate. After the matting was removed from her legs, they realized that there was no need to remove her leg. In addition to the matting, the Shih Tzu’s nails were also in a bad state. They had become so overgrown that she was unable to walk. Her nails were approximately seven inches long, so she was in desperate need of a trim to enable her to walk again.
Although the staff found Ellie Mae’s case heartbreaking, it was essential that they didn’t let their emotions get in the way of them doing their job. Speed was of the essence as it was important that they didn’t have the dog under sedation for too long. Prolonged periods under anesthesia is potentially very dangerous for dogs. Even after the matting was removed and she had her nails trimmed, Ellie Mae’s ordeal was far from over. She still needed medical attention to get her back to health. This included antibiotics to treat an infection, dental work on her teeth, and surgery to repair a hernia. Despite all these problems, the dog was in better shape than the staff had expected.
Eventually, Ellie Mae was ready for the staff to take her out for a walk. At first, she struggled to walk and it was apparent to the staff that it had been some time since poor Ellie Mae had been able to even stand. Fortunately, she relearned to walk very quickly, and this helped her to build her strength. Since arriving at the Nebraska Humane Society, Ellie Mae has undergone a complete transformation in terms of her appearance. She has also made huge progress with her physical recovery following her traumatic appearance. Seeing her now is like seeing a completely different dog to the one that first arrived at the shelter. The next stage in her journey is to wait for an adoptive family to come forward and offer her a forever home. The staff is hopeful that they will find her a new family as she has such a pleasant nature. Of course, as an older dog, it will take a special family to offer her the loving home she needs. Ellie Mae needs to find a family who will continue to give her the care she deserves. She also needs to feel loved, wanted, and part of the family.