Written by Alexandra Oliveira of Riba de Ave, Portugal
At the Parque da Terra Nova shelter for dogs at risk and with special needs in Northern Portugal, we receive pleas for help and rescue on almost a daily basis. We are constantly tormented by a sense of helplessness, because we can’t possibly respond to them all, as much as our hearts keep urging us to.
However on one very cold day, back in January, we just knew we could not fail to respond to a plea to rescue a small dog that had, apparently, just been run over on a busy freeway not too far from the shelter. We rushed to the site and caught first sight of the little dog, stretched out on the curb, amidst brambles, dirt and garbage. As we cautiously approached the little dog, we noticed that not only was he breathing, but actually stirring. He even struggled, for a bit, as if he were trying to escape, when we started to carefully assess his state. Our little friend, a male Shih tzu mix, was still alive but things didn’t look good at all. He had streaks of blood all over his body, mixed with dirt and caked on his long and tangled hair, his left front leg was dangling, and there was more blood on his head and coming out of one of his eyes.
We wrapped him in a blanket (we always carry spare blankets and towels in the car for such emergencies) and rushed him to the vet clinic immediately, with our hearts pounding. On the way, we noticed that he lacked several teeth and that, on the whole, he didn’t look like he was a young dog anymore. He was beginning to respond to Paula’s soothing voice and touch and gently licked her hand a few times.
When we arrived at the clinic, the first thing the vets did was clean him up as best as they could and clip his impossibly tangled hair, so they could examine him properly. After this, things looked better already – there were no wounds or cuts on his body, except for some light excoriations, and he didn’t cry out in pain as his ribcage was gently pressed or his limbs flexed, except for that limp front leg, which needed to be checked further. There was definitely something very wrong with his left eye though and it was still bleeding, and there were some strange looking, very small puncture wounds on his head.
After a full body and head scan, our indignation and horror grew, as we discovered eight lead pellets in his head, one having destroyed his eyeball, where it was lodged and the other seven deeply embedded in his skull!
Yes, our little friend had been shot repeatedly with a pellet gun, heaven knows for whose cruel amusement. The shots had not killed him, obviously, but we guessed that they must have caused such excruciating pain that the poor doggie must have stumbled blindly onto the freeway – where he must then have been hit by one of the many passing cars, mercifully without significant injuries, in spite of having been left there without any assistance
The vets estimated the little dog must be around 15 years old. In semi-rural areas, such as the one where we had rescued him, most people have pellet guns which even some kids are, unfortunately, allowed to use, so finding the perpetrator would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, we brought the little guy to Parque da Terra Nova and Paula named him Zariguim after a very popular and sweet cartoon character. And the name could not have fit him better, for Zariguim turned out to be the sweetest dog ever, and a very friendly one, too, who soon became very popular among all the other dogs, our “human pack” and our many visitors!
His destroyed eyeball had to be surgically removed and his eyelids stitched, in order to prevent infections, but the seven pellets on his skull are so deeply embedded in the bone that their removal will never be possible, for it would be too risky.
In spite of his old age and of everything he went through, Zariguim, the little dog that indeed dodged death, enjoys very good health and is a very happy permanent resident here, having recently found a very dedicated “Dogmother” (sponsor) who will help us continue to provide the special care he needs and deserves for the rest of his life!
Anyone feeling the twinkle to be a fairy “Dogmother” for others like Zariguim, can click here.