I will tell you right now that Tootsie’s is an all-time great Rescue Story. I’m not bragging for me, I’m bragging for her and soon you will see why.
Miss Tootsie came to us as a medical foster. Her owner died suddenly and Tootsie (whose full name was Tootsie Roll) and another doggie companion, now having no home, were picked up by Animal Control. When the owner’s next-of-kin showed up to deal with the matter they took the other pup home with them, leaving Tootsie. Fortunately, our area Animal Control has converted to a “no kill” policy. To make that work, local rescues go regularly to the Shelter and do rescue pulls. It was Tootsie good luck that she landed on the Humane Society “get out of prison” van. Because of her condition, they immediately sought to place her in foster care and that is when we showed up.
Here’s the deal. Tootsie was fat and not just by a little. Miss Toots is a Shiba Inu and the breed standard states a female would weigh about 25 pounds. Tootsie was not anywhere close to that. On her first day with us, Tootsie weighed in at a lip-smacking 61.50 pounds.
That is not a typo and here is the evidence.
When Tootsie Arrived
It was a hard thing to see. When Toots laid down, her hind legs splayed out beneath her. To get up, she had to heave her front end upright and slowly “walk” her weight back over her hind feet until they could give her the leverage to rise. She was too heavy to carry. Suddenly, the distance between the back door and the grassy yard seemed like a quarter mile. It took her FOREVER to walk there, with plenty of rest stops in between. We worried about her heart and her legs — how could they withstand such a prolonged burden?
The Burden of it
On top of that, Tootsie was blind. Tootsie’s right eye was atrophied and useless. Her left eye was intact but non-reactive. It appeared that her hearing was not so hot either.
Still, with all of that, Miss Tootsie was a sweet and willing soul. She accepted the wild proximity of the pack and seemed eager to explore her new environs. In pretty short order, we began to matter to her, too. We called out to her and clapped to let her know we were present. We got her a harness with a sturdy handle which we used to guide her through the house and outside. And we put her on a diet.
She Wishes She Could be on the Couch
Here was the advise our vet gave us: feed her according to the weight she should be and give it a year. Poor Miss Tootsie was placed on a regime of 1/4 cup of weight management dog food in the morning and at night. We used a food scale to be sure we weren’t cheating. For treats, she got carrots or frozen broccoli. There was a lot of mid day crying. A LOT. I’m sure she thought she was going to die; but we knew she was going to die if we didn’t do something.
I’d like to say that we figured out the rest of Tootsie’s needs in a blink, but that isn’t what happened. Early on, we took Toots to our vet who diagnosed raging double ear infections. It took multiple treatment approaches to finally cure those, the biggest barrier being Toots herself who would not allow her face or her ears to be handled. She went wild and shrieked like some unholy demon. I can get medication down the throat of a reluctant 1200 hundred pound horse, but I could not get ointment in Tootsie ear. The vet had to do it. Well, the vet and four vet techs with ear plugs in.
Slowly Losing Weight, but Still not Right
Life improved when Tootsie’s ears cleared and she could hear again. The weight was coming off at about half a pound a week and she had settled into the routine. Still, there were nagging signs that things were not right. We were still fostering Toots at this point. We had gone on our own in dealing with her hearing issues, but tried to work through the Rescue in looking at the possibility that her eyes were causing her trouble. It was just so difficult getting their attention in between the never-ending crises that continually fell into their care.
I mentioned in a social media post my concern that Tootsie’s eyes, though blind, were causing her pain and the BEST things happened. People responded and made connections for me with other people who took the time to educate me and spur me to action. The next day, I made an appointment with our vet and, though it was a mighty struggle, we managed to get an eye pressure read on Tootsie’s intact eye: It was 48. The vet said that was like having a migraine headache that never left you. It was also likely that Toots had lost her other eye to severe, unmanaged glaucoma. Pain had become a way of life for her and when she cried, her owner had given her food. 61.5 pounds of pain.
We started her on eye drops to manage the pressure and the pain, but the only true solution was to have the eyes removed. We did a Go Fund Me campaign to help the rescue pay for the surgery and when they were reluctant to consider it, we adopted Tootsie and determined to do it ourselves. She was still heavy then and the vet wanted 5 more pounds off her and even then, she required breathing support for the duration of the surgery.
Adjusting to the loss of her eyes took some time for us, but not for Tootsie. She was amazing! She learned to use the dog door and took independent forays into the backyard and eventually to the barn. She marched around the house, calling for us, when she got stuck, and finally, finally began sleeping peacefully through the night. She does bump into things, but truly, you would not say “oh, hey, bet that’s the blind dog” if you saw her, especially when she’s running with the pack.
All by Herself
First in Line
It has been one year since we brought Tootsie home. Today she weighed in at 32.5 which means she is nearly half of her former self.
Half her Former Self
We are so dang proud of her and so happy for her! When her weight dropped into the 30’s someone commented that being called Tootsie Roll didn’t suit her anymore and we agreed, so Tootsie, or Toots, she is. Miss Toots has taught us so much about resiliency and joy and I can’t believe that we were the lucky ones to go on this journey with her.
A special shout out to Suzanne Baker, Chris Ksoll and, oh my gosh — you, Mike Bass. You put us on the right track. Thank you for being there. Thank you for being you.
For anyone who has or ever will deal with a blind dog: know that it is possible for them to have a most amazing life. Just ask me.
Rescue. Please rescue. You will never regret it.