On January 2, 2014, we arrived at the Effingham County Animal Shelter right as they opened. As we walked from the parking lot to the front door, we looked over and saw a dirty, matted dog lying on the cement in one of the outside runs. It was a cold, drizzly morning and this old guy broke our hearts. When shelter staff confirmed that this was the dog we were there to meet, we said, “We’ll take him.”
The dog – now named “Gus” – was unable to stand or walk on his own, so shelter staff helped us roll him onto a blanket and carry him to our car. He had been picked up as a stray, but in the shape he was in he obviously hadn’t gotten far on his own. We can only guess that he was dumped by someone who no longer wanted him.
We called our usual animal clinic but they were already dealing with a few emergencies that day and were concerned about being able to help Gus quickly enough, so they suggested we try the Animal Hospital at Rice Hope. We had never been there, but it was on our way home and the receptionist told us to bring him right in. Ten minutes later we pulled into their parking lot and two of the veterinary technicians helped us carry Gus in on a stretcher.
Dr. Brandy Bragg and her staff were incredible (especially Jessica). With Gus in their care, we immediately felt at ease. Bloodwork and an initial exam didn’t reveal anything life-threatening, but his skin was badly burned from having lain in his own urine for an extended period of time. In addition to the issue of not being able to stand up, Gus also has a bit of a “leaky faucet” that just never turns off, a combination that left him with painful skin covering most of his body. We left him with Dr. Bragg and her staff so they could shave him, start antibiotics, give him a medicated bath and observe him overnight. We took him home the next day.
For the first few weeks, Gus looked like a plucked chicken with a very cute puppy face and had to wear a jacket on cold days. With a lot of love and good nutrition he got stronger and was able to get up and around on his own. We tried a few different medications to control his leaky urine, but nothing seemed to work. It looked like Gus would need to wear diapers (which really just made him even cuter). He didn’t seem to mind the diapers so it became a non-issue for us, but we thought an old diaper-wearing dog was unlikely to be adopted. It turns out we were wrong.
On February 14, 2014, Gus was the featured pet on WJCL’s Fur-i-day segment. A few times during the interview, we said “it will take a very special family” to adopt this dog. The newscaster said the same. Even though we said it, we weren’t sure that very special family actually existed. Less than 24 hours after the clip aired, however, we met them.
Angie and Matt Trull reached out to us after their daughter saw Gus on Facebook and shared his story with them. We’re pretty sure our initial conversation went something like this:
“You know he wears diapers, right?”
“You know he is really old, right?”
“You know he is unsteady on his feet, right?”
And to everything we said, they said, “Yes, we know, we’re very interested!”
When we walked into the Trull’s home for the first time, we could immediately feel the love. They have several other rescue dogs and everyone welcomed Gus with open arms (and paws). We knew right away that it would be a perfect place for an old dog to spend his retirement years.
The Trull family adopted Gus on February 15, 2014, a day we will never forget. We cried all the way home – partly because we were going to miss him so much, partly because we were so happy for him, and partly because of the kindness and compassion of this beautiful family.
We visit Gus and his family from time to time and, whenever see him surrounded by all of that love, we can’t help but get teary-eyed when we think about the condition he was in when we first met him. The Trull family has truly made 2014 the best year of Gus’ life and we are thankful for them and their big hearts.
UPDATE: Gus crossed the Rainbow Bridge in March 2015 but lives on in our hearts.
Old dogs are adoptable. Even the ones who wear diapers.
Click here to watch Gus on WJCL.
Click here to watch Gus playing with his girlfriend Izzy, who keeps him young at heart.
Click here to watch our short movie trailer about Saving Gus.