If you’ve seen the recent PetSmart commercial, the one where the unkempt dog is delivered to the store for a remarkable transformation, then you only have a smidgen of what is really possible when a homeless dog is taken care of by trained veterinarians. Case in point: the story of a severely matted dog who could barely walk. The breed was a poodle, and we all know how that curly fur can be a mess to untangle under normal circumstances. The dog’s name, Lionheart, had been brought in to the Richmond SPCA. According to reports, the dog was so matted it was almost impossible to tell the front from the back. That in itself was very bad, but when you add to the mess the facts of long, overgrown toenails, skin covered in sores, intestinal parasites, and an advanced case of periodontal disease, the challenges presented to the veterinarian were enormous.
Now if you’re wondering how Lionheart ended up in this condition, it wasn’t exactly a case of neglect by the owners. The dog had hidden himself under a bed for more than two years, and that included where he ate his meals (at least that is the available information). This explanation isn’t as far-fetched as you might think at first. Cats have been known to exhibit similar behavior – though not for such extended periods of time. A black cat had been known to bring home a baby bunny rabbit every night for two nights, apparently for its dinner. The third night he came back empty-mouthed and looked terrified. Apparently mama and/or papa rabbit caught him skulking around, and he hid in the basement for three days, not even coming up to eat.
It’s possible there are any number of reasons for Lionheart’s reclusiveness, but once he was properly taken care of and all his medical issues were resolved, a process that took months, he was happily adopted by a new owner and both are doing fine. Whatever fears or anxiety Lionheart had to deal with, they were in his past and can now move forward.
For those who continue to wonder about the neglect issue, there are definitely some questions that need to be addressed. For example, where and when did the dog go to the bathroom? Wouldn’t that have created a massive stink in the house that could hardly go unnoticed? Another possible question is, Lionheart made no noise whatsoever for two years? Not a whimper, a bark, a howl? Nothing? Dogs may be amazingly resilient creatures, but most suffering animals will make some type of verbal indication when they’re in pain.
This is the type of story that lends itself both to happiness and relief – and suspicion. There is no evidence that the owners of the dog faced any legal complications, and whether you approve of their handling of the situation or not, in the end you have to give them credit for doing the right thing by bringing the dog to the vet for treatment. We can be glad that not only was Lionheart restored to normal physiological health, but that a loving owner was found very quickly to get him on the road back to normal psychological health. Things worked out in the end.
A great looking dog or pet must also be sound physically and psychologically. The old adage of putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t change the fact that it is still a pig can be applied to this story. Credit the unnamed veterinarian for doing more than just a makeover to make the dog marketable. Another thing that was changed was the dog’s name – from Lionheart to Coda – by its new owners.
The focus of the article has been the remarkable transformation Lionheart had gone through, but there are other issues to consider. Perhaps the biggest one is how many pet owners, regardless of the type of pet, are currently neglecting them. There are endless advertisements about limiting the pet population and adopting a rescue animal, but few people want to turn into a pet neglect police force. On the other hand, what is the solution for owners who purposefully or out of ignorance (such as seems to be the case in this story) neglect the proper care of their pet? Consider this case when, if neighbors knew there was a dog next door, couldn’t identify any kind of problem because the dog was rarely seen. Obvious cases of neglect and/or abuse need to be immediately reported but situations such as this one have nothing for anyone to really go on.
South Korea uses microchips for the purposes of lost and found pets, but what about using the same technology to identify pets who have little or no movement for a prescribed period of time? Lionheart probably moved only a few feet for those two years, which would definitely set off a red flag on any monitoring system. It might also help identify pets abandoned by their owners and prevent further tragedies from occurring.
Cost is always an issue, but many states require pet owners to register their pets for health and public safety reasons, so adding a few dollars for a mandatory microchip addresses both issues for a one time fee. There certainly are alternative solutions, but it only makes sense that responsible people should be the only ones allowed to own a pet of any kind.
Criminalization of neglect to pets needs to be avoided, simply because many pet owners do not know how to properly take care of their pet. While ignorance of the law is not a defense for violating the law, the vast majority of pet owners want to have a healthy and happy pet. A root cause of the problem is they neither have the money or resources to achieve that goal. But they need the pet and the pet needs them. The end goal should be to work to bring together responsible people and rescued pets to create a new happy family.