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--Success Story--    


Oscar the treadmill

    by Cris Lewis

He is a six-inch-tall, 13-pound treadmill that can convince his new family to walk more frequently than they ever imagined. His name is Oscar, a seven-year-old, black and tan mini-smooth Dachshund, that went from nowhere to Main Street in just three short months.

Oscar first came to my attention while at work at the animal shelter on April 1st. He had been surrendered a couple of days earlier by owners who did not want to take care of his needs. It was reported that there was an aggressive Dachshund in the kennels, and that caught my interest.

Oscar had been pulled for euthanasia because his aggressive behavior did not allow any of the kennel care staff to get near him. When I laid eyes on him, I saw years of neglect: poor coat condition, hair on only half of his tail, toenails that were at least two inches long and curling under and crossing over each other, brittle ear leather with no hair, and a choke-chain collar that was too snug. But what really caught my attention was Oscar's movement --- his back was hunched, then as he moved in the kennel run he used a rabbit-hop type of movement and the tell-tale wobbly walk when he slowed down. Oscar sat very stiffly and would poke his nose at the top of his spine near his rear legs. My heart sank ... I had seen this behavior before in some of my own Dachshunds who have had IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) episodes. It was clear to me, that Oscar was in pain and was exhibiting the most basic of animal behaviors: flight or fight. He could not flee, so he was fighting for his life and dealing with a back injury.

Oscar was coaxed into a crate with food and carried into my office. He needed a foster home and someone who was familiar with the long rehabilitation needed to heal a spinal injury with conservative treatment . This little guy also needed to learn to trust people again, and he needed a lot of basic care. A little digging into his background revealed that Oscar had been dumped by his first family a couple of years prior to being surrendered at the shelter. And the story given at intake was that Oscar had possibly "fallen off the couch." I also learned that Oscar's birthday was April 1st. But what was happening to him was no April Fool's joke!

I sat in my office looking at Oscar in a wire crate, and thought: "now what?" As a Dachshund breeder, I have always been prepared to make room for any dog or puppy that I have bred and placed that may no longer be able to stay with its family --- that is my responsibility as an ethical breeder. Being a foster family to a dog and situation with which I was not familiar, ... that was a new concept. It is one thing to throw money at a problem --- make a donation and hope someone else takes care of the problem; it is another to dig in and take a hands-on approach to the solution. Support from my husband, employer (the shelter) and Dodgerslist moderators provided the quick decision to help Oscar with a medical need with which I had ex- perience and could access the necessary resources. I also quickly filled out the paperwork to become a volunteer foster family.

A veterinary consultation confirmed a back injury and luxating patellas, and pro- vided the information on medications and dosages needed to address the pain that Oscar was experiencing. The medications were obtained from the shelter's supply, and I set up Oscar's crate as a recovery suite for strict crate rest that would last eight weeks. I also cut off the too-snug, metal choke collar, and I was rewarded with light and grateful Dachshund kisses --- I knew this was not an aggressive dog. His bright eyes quietly expressed wisdom and gratitude, and a yearning to be loved.

The process to find a forever home for Oscar began. Networking amongst Dachshund groups, local kennel clubs, and Dodgerslist produced a family that wanted Oscar to be part of their lives and give him a chance at a new, happy life.

He had to learn how to trust again, and he had to be crate trained. He also had to overcome a spinal injury. When Oscar stepped out of his crate at week three and proceeded to roll over for a belly rub, I knew he was feeling better and was trusting us enough to let his guard down. More gentle kisses followed, and I knew he would make it --- recover from the injury and be a dog that could be loved and would love in return.

By week four, Oscar'
s ear leather and hair were returning, and his tail started to show promise. His toenails had slowly been worked back, and his crate training was successful. (YES --- you can teach an older dog a new behavior!). A fellow Dachshund breeder in our local area referred a friend to me that was looking for an adult Dachshund. I honestly explained Oscar's situation, and when I noticed that they had joined Dodgerslist online, I knew this might be a great match!
Oscar's new family is a husband and wife that own a shop on main street in Omro, Wisconsin. Their house is located four blocks from the shop, and their plan was to have Oscar go to work with them every day and they would all walk to work.

The shelter for which I was fostering Oscar gave me the responsibility of deciding on his placement. So, I treated Oscar like any other dog or puppy from my pack. Everything was checked out, and I took Oscar to meet his new family. It was a match from the beginning, as Oscar very gently took Cheerio treats from his new people.

Oscar's new people are giving him a chance at a happy and full life; but, they insist that he is saving their lives. It turns out that they need to walk more, per doctor's orders, for their own health. Oscar needs rehab walking on a daily basis to continue his recovery.

The little Dachshund, who was going nowhere on April 1st, is now loved dearly and spends his days greeting customers. Three months later, Oscar can be seen walking proudly with his people on Main Street --- they call him their little treadmill with a handsome smile and happy tail! Oscar's lifestyle has changed, he has a new family that just adores him, plenty of blankets and toys, and he is a survivor and inspiration on so many levels.