Couple pitches in to save lonely pooch|[02/14/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

The yellow lab found on a roadside earlier this week — with a collar but no owner identification — pulled at the heart strings of a Vicksburg couple, steeped in memories of their dog, Chloe, who died last summer.

The couple has decided to pay for medical costs for the dog while she continues to receive care at a local vet’s office and hopes a new owner will be found.

“I told them to do whatever it takes to get her well,” said Anthony Farrell.

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He and his wife, Sarah Farrell, saw the photo and story about the dog in The Vicksburg Post on Tuesday and decided to make some calls. Without someone stepping forward, the local humane society was going to pay expenses, which would come out of its already meager budget.

“We had a yellow lab that got real sick, and she was like a daughter to us,” Farrell said. The injured dog “looked just like our dog. It broke our hearts.”

The female yellow lab, about 6 years old, was taken to Vicksburg Animal Hospital Monday by Georgia Lynn, president of the Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society, after a motorist reported what she originally thought was a dead dog at Mississippi 27 and Stenson Road. Once it was apparent the dog was alive, the caller phoned 911, which, in turn, notified the humane society.

Lynn has said the number of ailing dogs handed over to the humane society has grown to where she sees at least three a month. A problem, she said, is that many owners don’t put identifying information on collars and can’t be notified when a pet is lost or has been injured. Because the humane society doesn’t have a vet on staff, she has to take the animals to a vet’s office and incur costs of treatment, which she believes should be the responsibility of the owner.

The society has good support from area veterinarians, but there are limits to charity.

In this case, the Farrells will take financial responsibility instead.

“We love animals. And we want to make sure she’s OK,” Anthony Farrell said. “It’s a terrible story. We hope this dog can make it.”

The memories of Chloe’s death are still like fresh wounds. As a puppy, she was diagnosed with red mange and had to receive continuous treatment. A recurrence in the disease is what caused her death. She was 4 years old. Anthony Farrell had to have her euthanized, a memory he said will “never go away.”

“It still chokes me up.” Farrell said. “My wife was crying when she saw the paper.”

Finding out about a yellow lab in need came at an interesting time. This past weekend, the couple had found one of Chloe’s toys in their yard while they were cleaning. “That was about the same time that person found the (other) dog,” he said.

Although the Farrells are putting their hearts on the line for this dog, they are not the only pet lovers who responded to her story.

“We’ve had a lot of callers calling out of concern for the dog,” said veterinarian Dr. Dale Cordes. “We’ve had people offering to help pay for any kind of medical expenses.”

Even without the Farrells’ involvement, the dog would have been treated. Before Anthony Farrell went to the vet’s office to provide them with contact and payment information, doctors had already begun tests to determine what was ailing the dog, outwardly plagued by heavy breathing, a scratched nose and overall soreness. Those tests resulted in a diagnosis of heart worm disease, Cordes said. Even though he thought her heavy breathing could be the result of pulmonary edema, the doctor said X-rays didn’t support his suspicion.

They were “typical of a dog with heart worms. We pulled blood and that gave strong, positive signs of heart worms,” he said. “We’ve given her medication to pull the fluid out of her chest. And, we’re continuing the antibiotics and anti-inflammatory. She’s doing good and eating OK.”

While heart worm disease is treatable, Cordes indicated it would be a long road to recovery for the dog.

“She’s a dog that’s overall hurting,” he said.

Farrell plans to be there every step of the way and hopes that path leads to her recovery and finding a caring owner.

“I hope this dog can make it, but we really don’t want to be dog owners again. The loss is too hard,” he said. “I wish an owner can come forward. We’ll take care of it. We’ll treat the dog.

“Being pet owners — there’s a responsibility that goes with it. We simply want care for the dog. We’ll do whatever it takes.”