On July 13th, TAF went and picked up a clump of pungent urine soaked matted fur from an open access shelter… we couldn’t even figure out if the dog was a male or female. When we first saw this dog in it’s cage, we didn’t know which end was front or back. We had to get a treat to see which end lifted up to sniff.

Flies and gnats swarmed around the pup and what appeared to be the dog’s back legs dragged on the floor and left a watery trail… just like a snail. As it turned out, the dog had two very petite legs hidden underneath all the knotted fur and the outer appendages were just matted fur and debris. (If you look at left side of one the original photos, the silhouette that appears to be the back left leg is actually part of the tail.) The fur on the front legs had already started to rip out by the root… it was just too heavy and knotted to hold on.

Kelli, a veteran groomer at Mutt Hutt, agreed to come into work very early this morning to see what she could do to help. Without Kelli’s generous offer, I am not sure what we would have done. The amount of grooming tools that she had to use to break through the hard shell of fur was unbelievable.

Within the first ten minutes we found out that our matted pup was a girl… we named her Ellen. For the next hour and a half, I held Ellen and Kelli quickly worked to shave the heavy casing of fur away from Ellen’s body. Even though we had to pull out fur that had grown 2 inches down Ellen’s ear canal and shave matted fur away from her irritated paper-thin skin, never once did Ellen growl or show her teeth. When it came time to shave the matted fur that had tightly wrapped its way around Ellen’s raw legs like a snug boot, Ellen actually looked up at me and started to give me kisses… I could have died. Even better, the first time that she could feel the touch of my hand on her newly shaven back… she looked me in the eyes and it was as if she was saying thank you… her past abuse was literally being shaved away. In fact, 2 POUNDS of fur was shaved away!

After this, Ellen was taken straight to our vet, Dr. Hartwig, at Heal Veterinary Clinic were she underwent numerous tests and was started on antibiotics and pain medication.

We also worked with Integrative Pet Care to best learn how to use therapeutic massage to help alleviate the pain that Ellen was experiencing in her lower extremities… the 2 pounds of matted fur caused an enormous amount of stress on her joints and muscles. Ellen was having a hard time figuring out how sit properly and even had discomfort when she tried to lean over and eat her food.

During this healing process, Ellen came back to my home where she was cared for by three of TAF’s rehabilitation dogs… Miller, Antler and Geiger. In the weeks to follow, Ellen learned how to play and socialize by spending time with her foster buddies and going to daycare at Unleashed Pups boarding and daycare. Unleashed’s staff would sit patiently on the floor and wait for Ellen to come up to them. Once she felt comfortable, Ellen’s trust quickly grew and she was thrilled to go there for visits and to play. This amount of love and attention catapulted Ellen’s recovery both mentally and physically. It was like the memories of her years of abuse had vanished… she finally knew that she was safe and boy did that make her happy.

After pouring over 200 applications, TAF’s rescue division, Project Rescue Chicago, narrowed it down to 3 possible families. In the end, it would be a little boy named Linus that would win Ellen over. When this pup walked through the front doors of Unleashed, Ellen’s eyes lit up and she ran right to him. It was love at first sight and she made it very apparent that this was the family that she wanted to call her own… it was then that our mighty girl picked her forever home.

It is hard to write up/wrap up Ellen’s final post. We will so miss seeing this resilient girl running around and jumping on the laps of those that aided in her recovery and fell in love with her. By far… saving Ellen is one of our proudest accomplishments.