by Lee Juslin
Paula, of Great Lakes Westie Rescue (GLWR), received a call last April from a shelter that had a year-and-a-half old Westie. “He has awful skin issues,” the shelter told her. “Will you take him?” Skin issues with Westies are fairly common, so Paula was not put off and agreed to take the young dog.
Because it would take Paula a couple of days to organize transport, the shelter offered to meet her halfway since some of their people were setting out to attend a conference. When Paula agreed, the shelter told her “oh by the way he’s blind” and “oh by the way he bit one of our people.” Although rescues usually do not take biters, Paula stood by her agreement since she had already committed and knowing that if she didn’t he would be put down.
Hezekiah, ‘Kiah’ for short, was a very nervous dog, difficult to handle, blind, had very bad skin issues, and, as a bonus, spun round and round in his cage the entire trip to Paula’s home. “Frankly, with all his problems, I wasn’t sure we would be able to work with Kiah,” said Paula.
Once home, Paula lined up a veterinary neurologist and a veterinary dermatologist to evaluate Kiah. The neurologist determined that the spinning was emotional, not neurological and no doubt caused by the fact that he had been crated almost twenty-four hours a day with his original owner. The dermatologist prescribed medicated baths, Apoquel, and an antibiotic for a raging ear infection.
Kiah’s skin and ear problems improved, but his lack of trust and behavioral problems were a much bigger challenge. When Paula had to travel for a week, she left Kiah with her helper, Julie. Upon her return Paula and Julie saw a real break through when, with Paula holding Kiah, Julie walked by and Kiah reached out a paw for her. “I knew then he was worth all the effort and work it would take to rehabilitate him because he was telling us that’s what he wanted.”
The vet put Kiah on doggie Prozac and within a week, Paula and her team noticed a big improvement in Kiah’s attitude and behavior. Paula was able to train him to walk on a leash, and he grew to love their outings. He was also fitted with a halo to help him navigate, and after getting past his fear of the Velcro sound from the Halo’s strap, he learned to run around and even play with toys.
After many months of dedicated work from Paula, Julie, others in GLWR, and their vet, Kiah has become a sweet, lovable boy. Mr. Personality. He enjoys greeting people, being patted, and giving kisses. His only problem is grooming because he is terrified of the clippers. Paula’s vet gave him a very light sedation so that she could groom him, but Paula and her team continue to work with Kiah to get him past this fear.
Kiah has a heart murmur and will be evaluated soon by a veterinary cardiologist, but it is not expected the murmur will amount to much as he shows no symptoms of a heart problem.
If Kiah remains on Prozac for the rest of his life, the cost will be about $4-$8 per month as a generic is used and available through Walmart. In addition, he may need medication occasionally to combat skin problems.
Kiah is currently in a foster home where he continues to develop and make great strides. He will soon be ready to find his forever home.
Great Lakes Westie Rescue, like all reputable breed rescues, goes to great lengths when required, as in Kiah’s case, to save and rehabilitate dogs that would otherwise be lost. They operate with an all volunteer staff and depend on donations to continue their work. They deserve our support, and the holidays are a wonderful time to donate to your favorite rescue.
Check out more animal rescue & therapy animal stories in our Pets section.