The Journey of Phillip, the Forgotten, to Phillip, the Fabulous in 30 Days – Fourth in the Series
December 20, 2015
The Long and Winding Road
Once again, I overslept, and once again Paul was busy at the computer working out the details of Phillips arrival. While we were working an adoption event at Petco, Gail was reaching out to her network of animal lovers to get transportation for Phillip from West Helena to North West Arkansas. “Let’s get going,” Paul said. “I have everything packed, the animals fed, and times a wasting. We have a Christmas celebration with your mother in Russellville to attend.” I hastily dressed and hopped in the car for the adventures this day would bring.
With the highway ahead of us and 2 hours without interruption, the opportunity for conversation had finally arrived. “Is everything set for Phillip’s arrival tomorrow? Did you get things worked out with Gail?” I asked. “You cannot imagine the efforts that are being made for Phillip as we speak. A series of caring individuals have agreed to transport Phillip as far as Conway. Phillip will make the final leg of the journey with a compassionate woman named Karen who will take Phillip for a ‘sleep over’ at her place tonight in Bentonville. She will bring the dog to our house in the morning before going to work.” Images of a “Mission Impossible” episode with split second timing and multiple hand offs of the valuable information entered my mind, only this time it was a dog named Phillip that was considered so valuable.
“Remember what we learned when training our other dogs at “Every Dog Can!” obedience school? During the first 100 days of a dog’s life, they should have 100 new experiences. Since we will only have this dog for 30 days, let’s try to give him 3 or 4 new experiences daily,” I suggested. “Sounds good to me,” Paul answered.
“Paul what is Demodex mange? Is that the mange that our Jeff Smith had when he came to us, or did Jeff Smith have the other kind of mange?” I asked. “Jeff Smith had Sarcoptes mange,” he replied.
While both types are painful for the dog, Demodex is not contagious to other animals. We will not have to quarantine him from the other dogs like we did Jeff Smith.
I remembered the situation surrounding our Jeff Smith very well. The then nameless Jeff Smith was one of 18 dogs locked in an abandoned trailer house for 3 weeks. Only 5 of the dogs survived the ordeal. I remembered reading the story on the front page of the newspaper and thinking, “Here is someone with more problems than I have.” A photo of his naked pink face and mange ridden body peered out the barred window of the animal control officer’s vehicle. Those eyes seemed to be searching for us in the multitude of viewers. A call came later that day from a friend who said she had just found out that the front page dogs were in such bad shape they would be euthanized if fosters were not found today. “Could I help?” she wondered. “What could I do?” I thought as I listed my reasons to turn away. “We have 4 dogs that could catch the mange. I have a very sick husband and the treatments for the cancer are killing him!” But there was something about those eyes looking past the photo and into me that stopped me cold. “I’ll help! Give me the one in the worst shape. I’ll make it work, but only until he’s better. Then you, my friend, will have to find him a home.’’ This friend worked a miracle that day and found foster homes for all the 5 surviving dogs who went on to live wonderful lives. Meanwhile, a spare room was emptied of furniture. Tarps were placed on the carpet and a large crate was set up with washable blankets.
Jeff Smith saw me and a very weak husband enter the vet’s clinic to pick him up. The vet talked to Paul about the care the dog would need. I left the men alone and went to the kennel of a dog too weak to stand. The dog looked up at me as if he knew me. A voice that was not my own entered my head,” Where have you been?” the voice said, “I’ve been waiting for you! It’s all right. You’re here now! Let’s Go!” I immediately said “We are just here to foster until you are healthy. That’s all.” Paul and the vet stopped talking and looked in my direction as I was deep in conversation with…A DOG!
Amazingly, this dog that had never met us before knew instantly which truck was ours and ran toward it. Barely able to stand earlier, he was somehow able to muster the super hero strength to jump into the truck bed unassisted to settle into the secured crate.
He was in miserable shape, but then again, so was Paul. While Paul was dealing with his cancer, Jeff Smith was dealing with his own health issues. I remember watching both of their emaciated bodies giving support to the other. Many a night in his weakened condition, Paul slept near the diseased mangy dog on a mat giving comfort to a dog that was too miserable to sleep. As Jeff Smith recovered, he never left Paul’s side often laying his head on Paul’s chest to encourage his man to rest now as repaying the kindness that he had received. There was no way Jeff Smith was going anywhere else after that. Jeff Smith grew into a beautiful English Setter with tremendous compassion for all the foster animals that we have hosted often staying by their sides during the worst of days. Jeff Smith was one of our failed attempts to foster in the sense that we could not give him up. I think he knew all along his destiny was to find us.
“So, Phillip just has mange. Is that it? Demodex mange? I can do Demodex mange,” I told myself. “The challenge will be to get him well enough to have some hair growing in before our 30 days are up so that he can get adopted,” I told Paul. “No the challenge will be not to fall so far in love with him that we keep him,” Paul whispered. I nodded.