A plastic cone and a pink bandage might look a little embarrassing, but for a pup like Pearl, it’s a sign she’s getting a real chance at life. It started with a Facebook post and the community rallied around her, showing her the love she desperately deserved. Now, she’s getting a taste of the pampered life and loving it.
The morning of October 21, a Facebook post showed a Rottweiler dog laying in the road in Sharpsburg in pain. Animal lovers, led by Royal Animal Refuge, sprang into action. volunteer Jessica VanKirk set out to find her, and Terry Martin met her to help.
VanKirk drove up and down the road and couldn’t find the dog. She parked and continued the search on foot, calling out for a dog she’d never met.
“I saw a little flash of black just above the grass in a field by a pond,” she said. “I am positive when I found her she was laying down to die. She had nothing left.”
A huge protrusion on the dog’s hind quarters had made it hard for her to move, and she literally had to drag her leg behind her to find a place to curl up.
She might have only known a world of pain and neglect, but it hadn’t changed her heart. VanKirk approached a little scared and reached towards the dog with caution.
“She leaned back into my hand,” said VanKirk. “She just wanted to be touched.”
Jessica and Terry loaded her up and headed towards VCA Braelinn Animal Hospital. It was a devastating and emotional ride.
“She was in the worst shape I’ve ever seen in a rescue animal, and yet all she wanted me to do was touch her and love her,” said VanKirk. “She got the best of me knowing that she probably never had a chance.
“I pulled over twice because I was crying so hard.”
At the vet, the dog needed a name, and the timing was all too perfect. Earlier that same morning, Jessica got a memory notification on Facebook from the day when she took in her first rescue dog exactly five years prior. That first dog was named Pearl, so it was a morning to come full circle with a special case.
What started as a call to help put $1,000 down for an emergency visit ballooned as the extent of Pearl’s plight became clearer. Whoever owned her previously had repeatedly bred her to the point she had an ulcerated prolapsed uterus. The protrusion was covered in flies and maggots. She was severely anemic, in sepsis, and in shock.
The first instinct might have been to euthanize her, but there was something special about her. Donations came in quickly. People wanted to fight for Pearl.
“I told her there were 1,511 reasons for her to fight and push through this,” said VanKirk referencing the amount of money raised to that point.
In order to even be stable enough for surgery, she needed blood transfusions, which they did not have at that office. Pearl was rushed to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University.
“We had to give her a chance,” said Rebecca Tate, founder of Royal Animal Refuge. “If people are willing to help and we can make it happen, let’s make it happen.
“At the end of the day, we couldn’t have her euthanized without her knowing true love.”
At Auburn, it was hoped that spay surgery and the removal of the uterus and ovaries would help reduce the swelling, but it didn’t. Neither did oxygen treatments in a hyperbaric chamber. The ulcerated tissue started dying, and she desperately needed to have the necrotic tissue removed and the entire area reconstructed.
The bill swelled to $7,000 and the call went out for more help. “We feel like Pearl stands for everything we want to do for the animal community — that no animal is beyond saving, that every animal deserves to be loved, and that most of all, we fight for those who cannot fight for themselves” said the plea. The community quickly answered the call. Many donated each time a new call went out.
“We raised $4,000 in two hours essentially,” said Tate.
Everyone from the rescuers to the veterinary students felt the pull of Pearl. She’s tugged at the heartstrings of everyone she’s met. Erica Bickel, one of the students who worked with Pearl, sent a message to Tate explaining how much she meant to everyone at Auburn.
“It was such an amazing opportunity for learning. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved,” said Bickel. “I am so overwhelmed with happiness to see how hard you all worked to make sure she got the care she needed.”
Bickel definitely fell in love with Pearl.
“Whoever adopts this girl is going to be so lucky,” she said. “Her heart is so big and trusting of the people that have helped her. She is the perfect example of why I love this career.”
Coming out of recovery, Pearl never lost that Rottie smile. She left the clinic at Auburn in a cone and bandages with a shaved backside and a new lease on life. She’s still very swollen and needs a lot of TLC that she’s happy to receive. She’s back in the office at Royal Animal Refuge soaking up all the attention.
“She loves people,” said Tate. “She thinks that anyone that comes in here, they’re here for her.”
Tate concedes Pearl might be right.
“A lot of them are.”
As of late, Pearl has acquired a taste for something a little bit nicer than kibble.
“She’s a diva,” joked Tate. “I have to bring her rotisserie chicken every day to take her pills.”
She especially loves men and will at first ignore women in the room if there’s a guy around. She can’t wait to show off her belly or flop down in the grass outside.
Getting to know her personality quirks is a blessing. She’s getting to really be a dog for the first time.
“That makes it all worth it,” said VanKirk.
Workers and volunteers are thoroughly enjoying having Pearl as their office dog, but they would like to find the perfect foster family to help her as she continues her recovery. They are also accepting adoption applications for when she’s gotten her full clean bill of health.
The response of the community reaffirmed that what Royal Animal Refuge is doing is appreciated.
“Everywhere she went, she touched somebody in a different way,” said Tate. “For as much dog drama as we’ve had going on around here, it was nice to bring people together and remember there are still people that care.”
The speed of the response was breathtaking.
“It was almost instant. It was ‘Whatever you need, we’ve got you.’ It makes you feel like you can do the things you need to do because you’re not by yourself,” said Tate. “It tells you you’re in it for the right reasons.”
Likewise it reminded them that they are fighting alongside the right people. From seeing Pearl left to die in the middle of the road to seeing her loved by so many, it was a beautiful whirlwind of emotions.
“I can’t tell you how many times I cried in four days. We would get bad news and we would rewrite (the request). I thought there was no way we could ask the community for this amount of money. It touched me seeing how many other people she touched,” said VanKirk. “I lost my faith in humanity and got it back all in one weekend.
“So many people related to her, and so many people think it doesn’t matter what’s been done,” she added. “Every person, every animal deserves a fresh start.”
To find out how to get involved, visit www.royalanimalrefuge.com.