KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP —
They thought he was dead.
The grey-muzzled dog didn’t move from his soft spot on the grass in a Kingsville backyard, even as people came and went, peeking at him from afar.
“We got a call about a dead dog in someone’s backyard,” Ashtabula County Animal Protective League animal advocate Tammy Dondorfer said. “When our worker went out to check on him, even she thought the dog was dead.”
But the elderly husky mix dog wasn’t dead. Emaciated, dehydrated and with matted clumps of hair and large bald spots on his body, Spirit could only lift his head toward the voices around him.
“We put our arms around him and he just collapsed,” Dondorfer said. “We weren’t sure he would make it. Spirit was given intravenous fluids immediately and rushed to a local veterinarian for care.”
But what was wrong with the extremely skinny old dog?
“Two veterinarians checked him out to rule out any medical conditions that would cause him to be this weak, this thin and this bald,” Dondorfer said. “The consensus is that there is nothing that caused this except for severe, long-term neglect. Plain and simple.”
Spirit, who is well over 10 years old and still weak from his ordeal, has been at the shelter for more than two weeks. In that time, Spirit has gained more than five pounds and eats every bite of his four meals each day.
“It is obvious that someone wasn’t feeding him,” Dondorfer said. “He gets four meals a day and he eats it all.”
Spirit’s former owners tried to claim him from the shelter 12 days after he was found in a stranger’s backyard.
“The former owner was denied the opportunity to adopt Spirit,” Dondorfer said. “They came in and said their dog had been missing for a few days and that he looks the way he does because he is old. We would not allow Spirit to go back to that environment.”
Ohio law states any dog brought to an animal shelter and not claimed within 72 hours is the property of the shelter.
Spirit’s journey is far from over, though. He has a tumor behind his ear that will be removed and biopsied. A yeast infection caused much of his hair to fall out, leaving him bald along his spine and down his sides. He is being treated for a double ear infection, Dondorfer said.
Shelter administrators are hoping someone comes forward to give Spirit a new, permanent home.
“Spirit is an incredibly sweet dog,” Dondorfer said. “He is good with other dogs and doesn’t mind cats. He has some medical issues, but we will remove and biopsy his tumor before he leaves the shelter.”
The shelter is no place for a dog like Spirit, she said.
“We are not a sanctuary,” Dondorfer said. “We care for more than a hundred dogs every single day and that means we simply can’t give Spirit the one-on-one care that he really needs.”
The shelter has a fund for special needs animals like Spirit who need specific — and often expensive — veterinary care.
Spirit’s veterinary bill alone will be several hundred dollars, Dondorfer said.
“In the last two weeks we have had a blind, emaciate beagle, an emaciated pit bull and 10 starved cocker spaniels come through these shelter doors,” she said. “They all needed veterinary care and that costs money.”
Donations to the special needs pet fund can be made at the shelter’s website acapl.org. The fund provides care for animals of severe abuse, neglect and injury.