Onset Water Department employees save abandoned dogAnimal Control urges desperate pet owners to ask for help
Onset Water Superintendent Paul Bokoski was outside the department's East Wareham building early last week, when he heard an unusual sound coming from the snow.
It was 6:30 a.m., and something was whining, in obvious distress.
Bokoski had trouble spotting the 10-pound poodle on the snowy hill adjacent to the building, but when he did, he scooped her up and brought her into the office.
It was one of the coldest days this winter. The pup had nearly frozen to death.
She was covered in fleas, blinded by cataracts, and nearly deaf from an infection that started in her mouth and packed her ears. Her nails were so long that they curled under the pads of her feet, preventing her from walking.
The employees were in shock.
Melissa Goodell, who has two dogs of her own, wrapped the dog in her sweater.
Everyone anxiously waited for 9 a.m., when Animal House, a nearby veterinary clinic on Redbrook Road, opened.
Goodell brought the pup to the vet, and the Water Department employees helped foot the bill.
"They were incredible, wonderful," Goodell said of the Animal House staff. "They were amazing with her. ... The two techs never left her side."
The pup got a warm IV -- her body temperature was four degrees below normal -- and antibiotics for the infection. Her nails were clipped, and she got a flea treatment.
And that was the first of what will likely be many hurdles for the dog, which vets estimate is between 10 and 14 years old.
The Water Department employees called Onset Firefighter Rachel Rawlings, a dog-lover who is involved with animal rescue efforts across the country.
Rawlings took the pup home to foster her, and her daughters named her after 6'9" Bruins hockey player Zdeno Chára.
While the canine Chara is no where near that stature, her spirit certainly is.
She is rebounding quickly from the ordeal. She is regaining her hearing, and trots around, curiously sniffing all she comes in contact with.
"They said everything looks good. Her heart looks good, her blood work was great," said Rawlings, who has been providing Chara with veterinary care.
On Monday, Chara was especially happy to reunite with her rescuers at the Water Department, and kept returning to the room where she sat wrapped in Goodell's sweater after Bokoski got her out of the snow.
"She's lucky," Goodell said of Chara. "She was found."
Not all animals are so lucky.
Wareham Animal Control Officers Cheryl Gorveatt Dill and Joe Singleton say the downed economy has especially taken a toll on pets, and owners often act in desperation when they can no longer take care of their animals.
"If they're struggling to put food on the table for their family, a pet is a luxury, a pet is expensive," Dill said. "I have received numerous amounts of calls from people that are basically, 'Can you help me? I can't afford my animal anymore.'"
Dill and Singleton say they've seen many instances of animals going without proper food, water, and shelter.
"A lot of it is, people just fall on hard times, and they don't understand what's cruelty, what's not cruelty," Singleton explained.
If owners aren't properly caring for their pets, Animal Control can charge them as such under Mass. General Law. Animal cruelty is a felony.
Despite whatever caused Chara's owners to leave her outside, Singleton explained: "That's willful abandonment. If that person gets caught, they will be charged."
Dill deals with a lot of stray cats, many of which end up on the streets because owners simply cannot take care of them, she said.
She operates the "Friends of Wareham Animals" page on Facebook, where she places photos of pets who need homes.
The bottom line is, Animal Control wants to help, and can connect pet owners with much-needed resources such as help with veterinary bills or getting pet food.
"I'd rather somebody call me and surrender [an animal] if they can't take care of it than to just leave it be," Singleton said. "We're here to help."
Wareham Animal Control can be reached at 508-295-1473, ext. 2250.
Rawlings also offers her connections to pet owners in need of assistance. She can be reached at Rawlings06102012@gmail.com.
Want to help with Chara's vet care? Contact the Animal Health Clinic in Bourne at 508-759-5810 and tell them you'd like to donate to Chara's account.