The moment Brownie the dog stole my heart

In her first blog, World Animal Protection's Veterinary Programmes Manager, Melania Gamboa, recalls her recent visit to an animal shelter, including bringing one of the dogs home with her.  

Recently, as part of a staff engagement activity, myself and colleagues visited the animal shelter where World Animal Protection first began in Costa Rica. It has continued as a shelter and is also where we opened our own office. We were washing and brushing dogs to make them look beautiful and more adoptable. The truth is that I fell in love with almost all the dogs that I saw, but none of them came close to Brownie. (That´s the name I gave him, later on that day).

Brownie was seized from a hoarder. He lived in his own poop and had no access to sunlight. He was absolutely terrified of people and if he couldn´t run away, would just become paralyzed with fear. That made it easy to wash him and brush him, and even shave some awful dreadlocks from his tail. His pupils were completely dilated, because he had never seen the light, so I´m certain that he couldn´t see well outside of his cage. As most shelters, it was very probable that if Brownie wasn´t adopted in three days, he would get put down.

I called my husband that same day and told him all about Brownie. There was some reluctance but he agreed to my plan to take him on as a foster pet.

The way home was gassy, considering the diet he had received and the lack of veterinary care, so the entire ride had to be with the windows down.  Once we got home he stayed inside the kennel, even after opening the cage. My two dogs: Chumeca (small mutt with fantastic spiky hair) and Chiqui, a chihuahua, greeted him. He wasn´t very fond of them and growled. 

Brownie's first weeks of training

Day 1: He got out of the cage, ate some food when no one was around and sought cover under the coffee table. He got frightened and ran into the window pane twice (damn transparent sliding doors!). He greeted the dogs later with some hesitation. He peed inside the house.

Day 2: He let us pet him (but only underneath the table), came out to eat and did a little exploring around the house. He got dewormed and got a new collar. He peed inside the house.

Day 3: He came into our bedroom, and got excited about eating. Sometimes he sat and lay outside of the coffee table. After work he greeted me at the door with the rest of the dogs and even did a little jump. He let himself get petted outside of the coffee table. He peed all over the house.

After the fourth day of living with us, he had become part of the pack. He was still skittish, but could lick our hands and liked belly rubs. The dilated pupils had gotten smaller because I could see a thin brown rim of iris around them. Or maybe I could just get closer looks.

On the second week I got him vaccinated, dewormed, and sterilized with some economic support from friends. I trained him to pee outside, which took three weeks. An ophthalmologist saw him: he´s going to go blind. No doubt about it. He has a progressive retinal degeneration unrelated to the lack of light in the hoarder´s home.

We were worried that because of his blindness he would not get adopted, but the truth is that he is an adorable dog, and I knew that there had to be a family out there perfect for him.

Brownie's now adopted

It´s hard not to get attached to a dog once you have him for a while, so giving him away to the adopting family was a bittersweet moment. However, Brownie has a fantastic home with a loving family and to me that confirms that I did the right thing.

Brownie´s new name is Lucas Carmelo. He got adopted on the fourth week by Ana, another World Animal Protection staff member! He is loved, and is a very happy dog. He has two dog sisters, a large backyard and is allowed on the couch for special occasions.

We are planning another visit to the shelter soon. I wonder…