One Dog's Saga
by Carie Broecker
Arriving at the Oakland Animal Shelter as a stray, the German Shepherd was thin and weak. He was missing fifty percent of his fur, and his skin had been scratched raw and was infected. He was found alone in the city with no guardian in sight. He was estimated to be about 10 years old. Where had this dog been for the last 10 years? Why was he now in such horrible condition? These were questions that could not be answered. His past would remain a mystery. For all intents and purposes, his saga had just begun. He would be given a fresh start, a new identity, and a new name – Saga.
Saga stayed at the shelter for two weeks. Waiting for the someone who he had been devoted to, loyal to, and whom he loved. The someone that never came.
It was March 22, 2010 when JJ Jacobson from German Shepherd Rescue of Northern California (GSRNC) arrived at the shelter. Saga was depressed and uninterested in interacting with people. JJ was there to perform a temperament evaluation. Since German Shepherds are a strong, powerful breed, GSRNC thoroughly evaluates each Shepherd they rescue for signs of aggression toward people or other dogs. Although Saga was withdrawn, JJ noticed a little spring in his step when she took him into the play yard, but for the most part he was a quiet dog who showed few signs of happiness.
Saga's temperament evaluation was perfect.
Thanks to GSRNC, Saga’s fate would soon take a turn for the better but there were still some obstacles to overcome. Those first few days out of the shelter were touch and go. He was taken first to the vet and began treatment for his skin condition, then to a temporary foster home, staying for a few days with Deb Bergfeld. From the time he arrived, Deb could not get him to eat. The instructions on his medications required that the pills be taken with food. Force-feeding him did not work. He could not keep the pills down, and Deb became worried he was not going to pull though.
A second trip to the vet indicated that Saga had picked up another infection. Armed with new medications, Deb took him home, hoping he would regain his appetite. By the next morning the new pills had begun their work, and he was eating again. Now it was time for Saga to go to a more-permanent foster home with Navy Lieutenant Pat Skora.
On Sunday evening Deb drove Saga to a meeting point overlooking the Pacific Ocean and handed Saga's leash to his new foster dad. Pat was surprised by how bad Saga looked and worried that he may not live long. Deb assured him that as bad as he looked, he was doing much better and was on the road to recovery.
At Pat's house Saga began to gain weight. Even though his hind legs were weak, he loved going for walks. He started to act half his age! Saga turned into a social butterfly, happy to meet every person, child, and dog he saw. Pat wrote a compelling description of Saga with all his positive attributes for the GSRNC website. Pat included the fact that he was in the Navy and would be shipping out soon, and really wanted Saga to get adopted before he was deployed.
Christine Allen saw the write-up about Saga and it touched her heart. She and her husband, Rob, had recently lost their big male dog and had thought about adopting a senior. They knew that if any of their dogs ended up in a shelter due to some unthinkable tragedy, they would want someone to give them a second chance.
The Allens moved slowly with regards to adoption, wanting to be sure the dog they brought home would be a good match for their children and their other dogs. Sam, their son, was almost five years old, and Natalie, the baby, was just over a year. The safety of the children around a new dog was a priority, and they also had two senior female dogs to think of. The Allens had fostered several dogs for Bad Rap Pit Bull Rescue and were very experienced with integrating new dogs into their home. They were confident Isabelle, their ten-year-old Pit Bull, and Lucy, their seven-year-old Yellow Lab mix would enjoy a new pack member.
Christine kept an eye on the GSRNC website. Saga sounded like such an ideal dog---- well trained, great with kids, great with other dogs--- that she figured he would be adopted quickly, and she would give another family a chance to have such a great dog. Pat shipped out, and on April 24th Saga moved to a new home with foster mom, Stephanie James.
The months of May and June came and went. Saga and Stephanie attended adoption days but no one came to adopt such an old dog. On July 17th Christine finally went to an adoption event in Danville, and met Saga. Stephanie was surprised when Christine told her she had been interested in Saga since he first appeared on the website. That was Saga’s lucky day. He would become a member of the Allen family, and he would get a new name – Eddie.
Christine took Eddie to her vet. He was definitely healthier than he had been 119 days earlier when he first got to the Oakland Shelter, but his back end was still weak and the vet suspected degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord. Instead of rushing into a diagnosis, the vet suggested getting Eddie off the prednisone he had been taking, and continuing with exercise and nutrition to see if there was any improvement. Six weeks later there was no sign of degenerative myelopathy.
Eddie is a sensitive dog. It took him a couple of weeks to settle into his new home. Unsure of where he was, at first he paced and whined but with time he adjusted. He is now very bonded to Christine. In classic German Shepherd style, he makes everything his concern. He follows Christine around the house, keeping tabs on her every move.
Christine says that Eddie is a very polite dog. He does not seem to have had any formal training, but he always seems to try really hard to figure out what it is they want him to do. Once he figures it out, Christine only ever has to ask him to do something once, and he does it, never questioning her request.
These days Eddie runs three miles with Christine each day and hikes with the family on weekends. His skin is getting pinker, softer, and smoother all the time, and his fur is starting to grow back. He is now happy, and he is loved.
This dog’s saga has ended like a fairy tale. And he and his new family lived happily ever after.
German Shepherd Rescue of Northern California (GSRNC) rescues German Shepherd Dogs from life-threatening situations at animal shelters and elsewhere. GSRNC adopts dogs to residents of Northern California. For more information on donating, adopting, or volunteering, visit www.gsrnc.org or call 1-800-SAVE-GSD.