Rowdy's story began routinely enough with a phone call. A small Humane Society recieved several complaints about an abandoned dog. Six feet of chain bound him to a tree outside an empty house. He was left without food or water during a record summer heat wave across the state of Texas.
The small shelter was experiencing record numbers of dogs needing their care. Fearful this might be an illegal wolf hybrid and not an Alaskan Malamute, they needed positive identification before starting any legal proceedings to remove him. As a wolf-dog, he would be turned over to the local authorities for euthanasia. But even as a Malamute, he faced a similar outcome in the crowded shelter due to his poor health condition. Meanwhile, shelter personnel voluntarily brought food and water to this long suffering dog. Rowdy's only chance at survival was to go directly into rescue.
A malamute savvy friend and a prior adopter, Suzanne quickly agreed to drive several hours and make the identification on Rowdy. What she found when she arrived was an extremely thin, but gentle and affectionate Alaskan Malamute. She also learned that neighborhood children had been seen petting this big friendly dog on several occasions. Rowdy was immediately released to rescue.
The Texas state rescue co-ordinator arranged Rowdy's pick up and then began the long drive home with him. Rowdy suffered a bout of severe diarrhea during the drive and, after a roadside cleanup, she found she could not convince Rowdy to return to the crate. After a final balking refusal and small growl, she allowed the otherwise easily managed Rowdy to ride up front with her. The remainder of the trip was spend with Rowdy curled in the front seat, his head laid gently in her lap. He was given the name Rowdy, after the original "Rowdy of Nome" and in contrast to his gentle disposition.
Rowdy went straight to the veterinary clinic for a checkup and he was too sick to go home yet. He was loaded with hookworms, fleas, ticks and was almost thirty pounds underweight! He was also heartworm positive and too weak to undergo treatment. He was given a bath, medications, and put on preventative to slow the heartworm's progression.
Unfortunately, Rowdy did not exactly endear himself to the veterinary staff during his first week. One morning they arrived to find Rowdy had escaped his kennel, released an old blind cat, and generally trashed all the loose paper he found lying about. Although the boarding blind cat and the resident clinic cat were not harmed, Rowdy was moved to a secure quarantine kennel.
The clinic began having problems with Rowdy after the move to this new kennel run. His first run was closest to the exercise yard and he came & went quite willingly. The quarantine run was the farthest from the door, requiring Rowdy to run a gauntlet of noisy dogs to reach outside. It became increasingly difficult to move Rowdy past the other kennels and dogs. He began fence fighting more aggressively every day and the clinic staff quickly became afraid to take him past the other dogs. When he was returned to his original run, the situation quickly quieted down. Rowdy was also groomed and thoroughly brushed out. He loved the attention he received and he was happy again.
The next week, bloody mucus was noticed in his run before a holiday weekend. The decision was made for Rowdy to go "home" to rescue so he could watched closely over the holiday. During the next week he gained more weight and his health improved daily. Then he suddenly fell over while exercising in the yard. He was quite still for several minutes and it took a few minutes more for him to recover. It was thought the collapse was caused either by the heartworms or a seizure of unknown origin. The veterinarian recommended crate rest and on-leash exercise only.
Rowdy did well in his crate at first. Then one day he shoved the crate door open as it was closing and tried to duck under the bed. Once retrieved, he snarled and bared his fangs as he went back into the crate. The crate situation worsened and it became increasingly difficult to crate Rowdy. He would turn quickly, snapping and snarling, trying to push open the crate door. It soon became impossible to remove his leash or even have a hand in the crate. Away from the crate he still remained a gentle and manageable dog. But the worst episode of Rowdy's behavior and the turning point in his rescue was yet to happen.
It began when Rowdy was leaving for his daily walk. Rowdy stopped and tried to mark a door frame. Believing Rowdy would follow the leash, Dan called to him and kept walking. The tightened leash angered Rowdy instantly and he growled a warning. Loose in the yard a few moments later, Rowdy suddenly charged Dan from behind. Lynne screamed a warning as Rowdy raced toward Dan with ruff and hackles stiffly raised. When Rowdy reached Dan he reared up, placed his paws on Dan's shoulders, and roared at the back of Dan's head. It was a tense few moments as Rowdy tested his own dominance. Then suddenly it was over just as quickly as it began.
With Rowdy's health and strength improving, his aggression was escalating. His behavior was now completely unpredictable. Rowdy was a beautiful and intelligent dog. He would be sweet, affectionate and playful. But he could snap instantly into an aggressive and dangerous animal. Rowdy was a time bomb with an indefinable hair trigger. After consulting with other rescue workers, the vet staff and with a dog behavior and aggression specialist, it was decided to euthanize Rowdy.
Rowdy was allowed to run free in the yard one last time. It wasn't long before he had crouched down, glaring and growling continuously at a small female in another exersize yard. Rowdy was difficult to recapture and had to be muzzled. He was then put into the van for his trip to the veterinary clinic.
Rowdy's death was not easy. Not for him, nor for the people with him at the end. He thrashed, roared, screamed, and fought so aggressively at least one staff member still feared him even though he was muzzled. In stark contrast, the deadly injection finally brought a gentle and silent end to his life.
No one ever knew the true cause of Rowdy's erratic behavior. Possible neurological damage from advanced heartworms? A disease he once survived, abuse, or was he simply "wired" that way from birth? Does it really matter now? Rowdy's true legacy resides in the dark side of rescue. Regardless how many are rescued, or how many are ultimately re-homed... there will be one you cannot help.
The true test of a rescue volunteer is not the "easy" rescue, it is the dog that leaves scars on the psyche and within your heart. The amazing strength of rescuers is their willingness to pick up the emotional pieces and continue to rescue dogs. But Rowdy and many other "lost" dogs are never, ever, truly forgotten.
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