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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chesty's story

On that December day I first saw him, he was a smallish brown shadow scuttling through the snowy apple trees at the end of the neighbor's orchard.  A wary dog.  Probably another stray that someone had dumped.  I was on cross-country skis and he was clearly trying to evade me, so I put him out of my mind.  We didn't need a stray dog bringing some disease home to our own pampered canines.

The next time I saw him, he was locked in our backyard dog pen.  He was a dirty pit pull, so skinny that every rib was visible through the brindle skin.  His sides and neck were covered with scabbed-over wounds and scrapes.  His head was huge and his eyes were sunken.  He reminded me of a National Geographic photo of a malnourished Biafran child.

My husband had put him in the pen.  He and our friend Bob had been out working in the driveway that afternoon while I was in town.  The skinny pit bull had wandered in and taken shelter under the open tailgate of Bob's pickup. Both men were aghast when they saw the dog's condition.  My husband got him a bowlful of food and, after some coaxing, the dog crept over to it and started chowing down.

"He was in such bad shape, we both contemplated whether we should just put him out of his misery then and there," Don recalls.  But the dog didn't give them the opportunity.  After licking the bowl clean, he slowly but purposefully retreated back down toward the end of the driveway.  He stopped to look over his shoulder at them once.  "It was as if he was saying, 'Thanks, guys, I really appreciate you giving me my last I have to be going.'"

For a short moment the two men looked at each other, and then back at the pathetic dog that probably wouldn't survive the next cold night out there in the orchard.  They agreed he deserved one more chance, so Bob went after him and coaxed him back up the driveway, into the back yard, and into the dog pen where he gave him a second bowlful of food.  The dog scarfed it down with great appreciation.

When I got home and saw him, I had mixed emotions.  He was filthy, injured, ugly as sin, and he was a pit bull.  I knew they were inherently wonderful dogs, but I didn't know this one....and he sure looked like he came from the wrong side of the tracks.

But someone had cared enough about him to have him neutered, and he wasn't more than two years old.  He seemed to adore people and other dogs.  He was friendly and humble, and very submissive even when we introduced him to our Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs.  So now what would we do with him?  Options were limited.  We could nurse him back to good health and then try to re-home him somewhere outside Yakima, which had stupidly banned pit bulls within its city limits.  How did he get in this fix in the first place?  It was my guess that he'd been someone's pet, stolen from a backyard and sold into the world of dog fighting as a "bait" dog.  He didn't have a mean bone in his body, so he eventually got discarded in the country and left to fend for himself.

For the next several days, I poured the food into him.  He was so malnourished that he couldn't get too much...and the faster, the better.  I gave him five times as much Flint River Ranch as our own huge dogs were getting.  His system reacted with pancake-batter diarrhea for the first two days.  On the third day he passed formed stool, and I knew he was over the hump.  His energy came back.  His eyes sparkled with good humor.  Within the next week, scabs started falling off, revealing healthy pink flesh.  His coat began to glisten and his ribs disappeared under a light cushion of healthy fat.  In less than week, thanks to superbly high-caliber nutrition, he was a different dog.

We moved him into the house.  I named him "Chesty Puller," after a famous Marine Corps marksman.  I ordered him an ID tag and took him to the vet for shots.

We would have kept him in a heartbeat, but we already had an aging Rottie (Teddy) and four Swissies who demanded and deserved our attention.  After some careful searching, we located a really nice ranch home for him in the Horse Heavens, with owners who loved pits for all the right reasons and wanted Chesty as a house dog.

Chesty sealed the deal for me, though, convincing me that I really did want a pit bull of my own some day.  Four years later, when the time was perfect, one dropped out of the sky and into our laps, and she's one of the most delightful dogs I've ever owned.  From now on, I will always have a pit bull in my life and my heart.

There are thousands of dogs out there who, like Chesty, are rescued in starvation mode.  They don't need bargain-brand dry kibble that comes in 50-pound bags for $15.  They need serious nutrition, quickly and immediately, if they are to recover and flourish.  This Christmas, instead of buying the cheapest dog food you can find to donate to the shelters, invest in the best you can find. Consider it truly "first aid."  If you want, I can send Flint River Ranch directly to the shelter of your choice.*  Even a 10-pound bag may start a dog back toward optimum health.

*To order Flint River Ranch shipped to the shelter of your choice, just order here and fill in the name and shipping address of the shelter in the "Ship to" section of your checkout page.  And thank you!

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