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Vito’s Story

I’m going to warn you now, this is gonna be a MONSTER of a post!  You also might want to get some tissues.

So anyone who read my first post probably knows who Vito is, he’s the German Shepherd I rescued from the local shelter, and has been diagnosed with EPI. He’s Lizzie’s big/little brother.  Big because he’s almost twice her size, little because he’s about half her age.  I’m mostly writing this all out as a sort of record for him, I want to keep this story forever fresh in my heart and mind.


Let’s start with the beginning.  Back in November I was looking up ads on craigslist for dogs up for adoption, since Liz tends to be a drama queen on walks and flops down like she’s dying literally every 20 feet.  But I noticed if I brought a friend along of the canine persuasion she’d walk farther.  Plus I was working long hours and I wanted her to have company while I was gone.

I found an ad titled “Beautiful Dark German Shepherd Needs Reprieve!! (TLAC)”  with pictures of a handsome, very skinny shepherd standing there, just looking sad and in need of some serious love.    I replied to the ad, and found it was posted by a rescue who goes to the local shelter and takes pictures of all the animals on ‘death row’ and posts them on craigslist in hopes of getting them that one final chance.  Luckily this time it worked.  I called the shelter and had him put on hold so I could go see him the next day.

I went in, and the lady at the counter looked at my application then at me.  She raised a brow.  “You are aware he’s in pretty bad shape, right?”  She said.  I knew from the photo he was skinny, but obviously there wasn’t much detail.  I just nodded and said I wanted to see him anyway.  She handed me a leash and told me where to go.  I went out to his kennel, opened the door and he hauled himself to his feet to greet me.

The pictures did not do him justice.  And by that, I mean he looked even worse.  His hip bones were sharp enough to cut paper, and you could count every single rib from across the yard.  In the photo, his dark fur hid his shape effectively, but up close…it was heartbreaking.  I leashed him and walked him out to a small fenced yard where I could let him walk around and get to know him.  He moseyed along beside me, quiet and solemn.  He looked ancient.  I sat down in an old, rusted out metal folding chair and watched him.

At first he was pretty aloof, wandering around, not really paying any attention to me.  He had nasty diarrhea a couple times, which I attributed to his being so emaciated.  He came when I called him, let me pet him a couple times, and wandered off again.  I considered this a good sign, that he would be self sufficient and wouldn’t suffer separation anxiety when I went to work, but it also worried me since it didn’t feel like we were bonding well yet.  Then he found an old, filthy tennis ball and brought it over to me.

We played ball a little, he was so weak he could only trot half-heartedly after it, but I could tell he was really trying.  He wanted to play, he wanted to live.  It brings tears to my eyes just remembering it.  I remember looking into his eyes and seeing intelligence, but there wasn’t any hope.  He knew he was going to die, and he just wanted to play ball before that happened.  That clinched it, I couldn’t let him go.

I took him back to his kennel.  I wanted to just scoop him up and steal him home right there, but I had to fill out paperwork and go through the right channels.  He went along quietly, I’m pretty sure he thought I was never coming back.  I went back to the office and told the lady I wanted him.  They had to do a medical on him first, so the earliest I’d be able to get him was tomorrow, Sunday.  I finished up my paperwork, and left, practically vibrating with the need to go back there and hug him and tell him it would all be alright, but knowing I had to be a grown up and responsible and go to work.

Sunday they called and told me he had had his medical exam…which I found ridiculous considering he was obviously unhealthy and would need to see a vet the moment I got him home..but I digress.  The frightful thing was they wanted to fix him.  Remember how skinny he was?  He weighed 58lbs that day, fully 32lbs UNDER his optimal healthy weight.  And they wanted to try and put a dog that sick and skinny under and do a completely unecessary surgery on him?!  Several phone calls later I finally convinced them that I would pay for the surgery myself AFTER he was healthy, and they finally released him.  This took until Monday, and finally, FINALLY, I was able to go get him.

In my excitement I had already bought him a new collar and lead, and I took them with me when I went to the shelter, all but bouncing with each step.  I walked in, got permission to go get him, and went out to his kennel.  Vito was on his feet the moment he saw me.  He actually even managed a little bounce or two of joy.  I knelt down, opened the gate, and he rushed into my arms.  He was crying.  I started crying too.  I hugged him and held him and told him it was okay, he was safe now, and he just pressed as hard as he could into my arms and cried.  We walked back to the adoption center together, and I swear he had twice the energy he’d had when I first saw him.  More paperwork was done, fees were paid, and FINALLY, he was mine.

He peed on their sign on the way to the car.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 at11:41 PM Comments (12)

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12 Comments      Leave a comment.

  1. on August 18, 2011 at 12:17 AMfightingforsammy Said:

    Ok, you got me. Or Vito did, I am tearing up. Who is Vito? What is this Tlac? Please tell me he is okay. What happens to him 🙁

    Elizabeth and Sammy


    • on August 18, 2011 at 12:26 AMAlyssa Said:

      Vito is fine, he’s now 90lbs of bouncy happy pup, and I love him to pieces! His EPI is under control, he’s spoiled rotten, and he cuddles with me and Lizzie every night. TLAC is Town Lake Animal Center, which is Austin’s animal shelter.


      • on August 18, 2011 at 2:11 AMfightingforsammy Said:

        I am so glad he is fine 🙂 I meant to ask what is EPI?


        • on August 18, 2011 at 2:37 AMAlyssa Said:

          EPI is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. It basically means 90% or his pancreas is gone and he can’t digest anything without special replacement enzymes. That’s why he was so skinny, everything he ate just passed through without being digested at all. Now that he has his enzymes he’s doing much better! If you wanna look up the symptoms and how to treat it, you can check out, they pretty much saved Vito’s life by helping me figure out what was wrong with him. I’m on their forum all the time. 🙂


  2. on August 18, 2011 at 2:31 AMmaximutt Said:

    I love that story! Especially the peeing part!! But I love the part where Vito comes home to live with you even more!!!!!!!!!!!


    • on August 18, 2011 at 2:47 AMAlyssa Said:

      He is a joy, a big, gallumphing goofball of a joy. Sometimes a brat, sometimes a baby, but most of the time just a giant huggable lug. I love him so much, and Liz just ADORES him!


  3. on August 18, 2011 at 4:34 AMJackie Said:

    What a sweet story. Hooray for Vito!!!
    Jackie, Abby’s mom


  4. on August 19, 2011 at 7:45 AMchilidawg Said:

    Okay, you made me cry too. Yay Vito! I’m so glad that he is safe and happy now!


  5. on August 22, 2011 at 4:10 AMjerry Said:

    I’m crying, OH MY GOSH! I have such a soft spot for GSDs, and you are a total SAINT for taking this boy in and giving him a chance. WOW.

    Our GSD Wyatt could have ended up the same way (he was a rescue). AND, he was so skinny and messed up we thought he too had EPI but thank Dog he doesn’t.

    Really, truly, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for giving Vito a chance. You are PAWESOME!


    • on August 30, 2011 at 12:51 AMAlyssa Said:

      He is totally worth it! The EPI isn’t really all that hard to manage, or even all that expensive (and I’m broke, so I would know!) I like to tell people he’s cheaper than paying for cable, and far more entertaining!


  6. on August 22, 2011 at 4:13 AMwyattraydawg Said:

    Duuuuude! You’ve got one ruff story my friend. I’m hoppy you got to have another chance at the Good Life.

    When my pawrents and me come to Texas this winter can we get together? The stories we could share!


    • on August 30, 2011 at 12:49 AMAlyssa Said:

      Hehe, we could try! Vito can sometimes be grouchy with pups he doesn’t know, his EPI means sometimes his B12 level drops and that makes him get and growly with other furbabies. Liz loves the entire world and everyone in it though. =)


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