Success stories

What Muttville Means To Me: The Story of Collette

What Muttville Means To Me: The Story of Collette

I truly miss the joy my fospice girl brought me everyday. In honor of Collette, I want to share my great experience of fostering and hospicing for Muttville. Even if it comes with sadness, what I’ve gained because of her is immeasurable.

I loved an old, weathered Border Collie. Her name was Collette.

January last year, she was delivered to my door, having traveled all night via transport from Los Angeles. After receiving heartfelt emails from shelter volunteers who gave her the name Collette and pleaded with Muttville to save her life, Sherri knew she belonged with us.

A scared and unhappy dog, Collette chose to keep to herself and curl up in a bed in a corner of my house for 7 days. Sherri nicknamed her “the saddest face in the world,” and we lovingly described her this way on her profile. Her eyes reflected a lost, displaced dog who could not make sense of why she was here or where she belonged. Collette did not do well at adoption events, always looking around like she was waiting to see someone or something familiar. I later learned that this was an inherent part of her personality.

Our first hike together at Land’s End I will never forget. She smiled for the first time, and she began to carry herself with purpose. We didn’t know each other well yet, but she stayed right next to me. If I fell behind, she would slow down and look back at me as if to say, “hey, i’m waiting for you!” In over 20 dogs that I fostered, this was the first time I felt a bond. We were yin and yang. And it seemed that she had decided I was her “someone.”

Her initial vet check included a biopsy of a large growth on her front paw. I knew it could be a tumor, but I certainly wasn’t prepared to hear our vet say she would only have 3-6 months to live. I was equally unprepared to hear Sherri say, “Let’s cut off her leg if it can save her life.” The day I brought her in for surgery I was a nervous wreck. The vet would not know how much of her leg he would remove until he was in surgery. Luckily, she ended up losing only one toe in her paw. But the bad news was the tumor appeared again just a few days later.

Having mass-cell cancer and possibly a short time to live, Collette joined Muttville’s hospice program. I committed to learn all I could about caring for a dog with cancer and researched holistic treatments. She started chemo and steroids as well. I shared her story with Pet Nutrisystems, and as a result a majority of her holistic cancer supplements were donated by customers who lost their pets to cancer. I was touched by the selflessness of pet owners who, amidst their grief, took the time to donate their unused treatments to help Collette and other dogs in Muttville’s hospice program.

Although the term “hospice care” means caring for someone facing an end of life situation, I decided that I would look at this as an opportunity to beat the odds, a challenge to see if I could give her more life. Her diagnosis motivated me to take her for special hikes every Saturday morning. It became our weekend ritual, and it also helped me to rest my “workaholic” self. When we were enjoying a beautiful view or peaceful spot together, I’d realize how much I needed it for my health as much as hers. I also knew that I wouldn’t be there if not for Collette.

Muttville volunteers re-named her “no longer the saddest face in the world”, and everyone knew Collette and I were meant to be together. At times we’d walk with other dogs and friends, and no matter what, Collette was always next to me. Even at home she stood up when I did and had to know what I was up to. She never acted like she was following me. She carried herself like she was just doing her job.

After a year, it felt inappropriate to call her my “hospice” dog. She was so healthy, her coat was shiny, and she had no signs of cancer. Muttville profiled Collette in its Winter 2010 newsletter, celebrating her extended life. I thought she would be with me for years to come, and it was easy to believe looking at her smiling face, excited for her weekend hike.

I wasn’t prepared for the sudden turn of events that happened last week. It wasn’t even cancer that took her in the end. During the unexpected final moments that Tuesday morning, she was cradled in my arms. I wasn’t ready for her to go, and I begged her to stay. I believed Collette would fight it all the way, if only her frail body was as strong as her desire to stay by my side. The night before, I slept beside her, holding her paw. She was looking at me steadily, eyes wide open. It was almost 3:00 am and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I fell asleep as she watched over me. Perhaps she already knew.

Our life together lasted a year and three months. Missing her is unbearable still, and it’s so hard to believe she is gone. I think about that January when she entered my world, how I thought I was going to give her more life. Words can not describe how much life she gave me.

Because of her, I’ve learned about cancer care for dogs, enabling me to help Muttville in a more special way. The best gift Collette gave me during our 15 months together was a lifetime of love, loyalty, and memories I will never forget.

When my time comes, Collette just might be at the end of my life’s road, looking back at me, as if to say, “hey, i’ve been waiting for you…”

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Butch and her partner, Judy, adopted Muttville’s Lady ( last summer. Lady was a 45-pound hound who had been starved to the bone. She was nearly deaf and her coat was dry and brittle—whether she had been abandoned and living on garbage found in the street or deliberately starved, we can never know.

Lady was originally diagnosed with liver cancer, and was given only a few months to live. The odds of adopting out a ravenous, terminally ill hound, tall enough to get up and gobble any food left out on the kitchen counter seemed small. But the folks at Muttville didn’t give up on her! After some phone calls and consultations, Butch and Judy agreed to take Lady on as a hospice case. A Muttville volunteer packed Lady up and drove her 200 miles south to Atascadero where Butch and Judy live with their four other dogs on five acres.

As it turns out, Lady’s liver is fine, although she does have Cushing’s disease. But with Butch and Judy’s down-home cooking and room to roam, Lady (now named “Zamboni”) has fattened up and flourished. She spends her days lounging around the house and sniffing out the yard. When her moms come home, she gets so happy she howls!

Thank you Butch and Judy, Muttville rescue moms, for taking on what seemed like a tragic case, giving Zamboni the care she needs, and for giving her a wonderful second life.

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A note about the ease of adopting a senior dog, from one of our fantastic adoptive parents, Jane. She and her husband Richard adopted Wyatt, now known as Charlie.

“We adopted Charlie the Pomeranian at the recommendation of our daughter, who is a Muttville volunteer and lives in San Francisco. Rick flew 2000 miles to visit Lake Tahoe and play golf, intending to bring Charlie home on the plane after a week-long visit.

Charlie is a 6 pound, bundle of energy – a senior dog who is full of life and a delight to be around. People frequently think he is a puppy but he is really a very seasoned dog who happens to be both well-trained and missing more than few teeth!

He was rescued by someone from the side of the highway, completely matted and covered in fleas, burrs and a big scab on his leg. After Muttville’s veterinary volunteers shaved him, gave him a bath & some medicine, he looked like his usual handsome self.

Charlie loves his walks and was already completely house-trained. He gets along well with other dogs of all sizes, cats, people and children. He even marched in “Pooches On Parade” on the Fourth of July in Half Moon Bay, California while wearing a patriotic, red bandana. Charlie enjoyed his week at Lake Tahoe and took lots of short hikes with our daughter’s two dogs.

On the plane, Charlie slept the whole way to Cleveland. The sedative the veterinarian prescribed conked him out until the end of the flight when Rick unzipped the Sherpa bag and Charlie popped his little head out of the bag and refused to put it back inside! Rick carefully zipped the bag around Charlie’s head and carried him off the plane. (Rick was afraid to push him back into the bag because Charlie is so small.)

Upon arrival at his new home, Charlie immediately inspected the fenced back yard and urinated on every bit of shrubbery. After a bit of aloof behavior, Charlie and the youngest cat are romping and playing together. They are approximately the same size and enjoy playing games.

Charlie sleeps on the foot of the bed and has an upholstered footstool to help him jump up and down off the bed. He plays fetch with a small, plush bumblebee toy with a squeaker inside.

Charlie is settling into his new life in the Midwest. He rides well in the car and goes almost everywhere with us. Recently, he was the only dog at a human birthday party near Lake Erie. Truly, this dog was born to be a Clevelander!”

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Big Boy and Andrzej

About 2 years ago, Andrzej was referred to Muttville from SF’s Trauma Recovery Center. He adopted Big Boy, a scruffy terrier mix that was a very sad and traumatized little guy.

It was a match made in heaven. Big Boy was so sad, his papa had died and he really needed one-on-one love. Andrzej also needed one-on-one love. They are inseparable today.

Big Boy is a large part of Andrzej’s therapy, but I am not sure who saved who.

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When Fritz first arrived at Muttville HQ he was so fearful that he hid in a corner for 2 weeks, trying to touch him was a challenge! I think he finally started to feel safe enough to join in the routine, the other dogs taught him that this was an OK place. We took him to the vet and found he has an untreatable spinal problem called spondylosis, his back hurt so we started him on some pain meds and a good diet with supplements to help his joints.

He stayed with us for 5 months, during that time I was sure he was to stay here forever because of his fear issues. Then the call came! A wonderful couple wanted to meet him and they were sure he would fit in with their pack. When I arrived at their home near Lake Berryessa I was greeted by 6 black and white dogs, all wagging their tails and waiting to meet Fritz! Wow. I wanted to live there. Trees, grass, a view! Fritz jumped out of the car and ran in and he never looked back, I cried out of pure joy for this little dog that had had such a rough life. After one day I got the first email from Fritz’s new mom. Here it is!

Dear Sherri,

Good News, Fritz is happy, happy, happy. He sat in his little bed in the kitchen and watched us cook and eat dinner. He was cute as Pie ! He loves the other dogs and they totally accept him. Later in the evening we went up stairs to watch TV. I put a pillow on the floor and laid down, he climbed onto the pillow and snuggled with me. At bed time Frank and I fluffed up about 4 sheets and put them on our bed. He climbed in and re-arranged all the sheets until he made a big fluffy hole, then climbed in and went to sleep all night. This morning Frank had a big dirt bike ride scheduled so we were up at 5am. I love mornings, everyone is warm and we always say “goodmorning” to everyone, lots of hugs. The dogs love it. Fritz joined in, he got out of bed and was thrilled to see all of his friends, and wagged his tail every time I said Goodmorning! Then we all went down the stairs into the back yard and Fritz was thrilled, he went potty and ran around and played in the grass and enjoyed all the trees. Then it was back into the kitchen. While I was packing for Frank’s trip, all of the dogs were with me and Fritz was right there, wagging his tail the whole time. He looks like he is at Summer Camp and having the time of his life ! He loved his dinner last night and his breakfast this morning and ate everything. Right now, there are 5 dogs in the computer room with he and Fritz is right here too! He is darling, I love him and he is truly happy here. When you first drove away, he went to the gate and barked at you like, “don’t leave me”. It broke my heart, I always feel so sorry for dogs because of the changes they have to go through. But as soon as you were out of sight, he was right back into the backyard and happy as could be. He follows us everywhere. We put his little bed by the glass doors in the kitchen, he loves that. He sits in there and watches all of the humming birds flying around the sugar water. I have been taking pictures of all of this, but this morning, right after Frank left I realized that he took my camera. When he gets home tonight, I will be sure to take some more pictures and send you lots. You will see how happy Fritz is. It’s a match made in heaven, I think Fritz is home. He will go to the vet sooner, rather than later. I am worried about the smell in his mouth, pretty sure he will need to be scheduled for some extractions. So we’ll probably plan a full anesthesia to clean and remove teeth, remove the bump between his eyes and the lump on his tummy. Then he will be good as new! and will probably feel lots better too!. He loves when I rub his chest and he lets me pick him up, no problem. Everything is good, this was the right decision for you and me and Fritz. Thank You again ! Lucie

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Frankie is Muttville's Latest Celebrity

Frankie is Muttville's Latest Celebrity

Little Frankie, rescued by Muttville 2 years ago and adopted a year ago by volunteer Patty Stanton, is a rising star these days! His first claim to fame was his role in Muttville’s signature video called “The Story of Muttville”. A year later, he was cast as a dog dancing student in the soon-to-be-released family movie, “Doggie Boogie”. This past April, he completed a photo shoot as one of five doggy models for Waghearted Lifestyle Company, a locally-based dog apparel company. And this month, he is featured in the June issue of Dog Fancy Magazine in an article called “Shelter to Star: Frankie on the Dance Floor”. And let’s also not forget that he is one of the lucky mutts photographed with our “Mutt Mom”, Sherri Franklin, in the May issue of Family Circle!

What’s next for our little star? I guess we’ll just have to ask his talent agent!

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