Home at last

A “special needs” dog, Elmo suffers from neurological and congenital skin problems.With encouragement from his pawrent, April, the five-year-old pooch is slowly learning to love again.
By Cindy Yong
Published on Thursday, 08 March 2018

Five years ago, a grossly emaciated dog was discovered by a good Samaritan. The man wrote in to Hope Dog Rescue as he wanted to help, but wasn’t able to afford the pooch’s vet fees.

When Elmo came into the care of Hope Dog Rescue volunteers, he was so skinny that his ribs were jutting out of his sandpaper-like skin. The poor canine had not eaten for five days and was extremely weak and listless, and his waste contained traces of blood. “Elmo was one of the skinniest dogs we had ever come across. He seemed to be nearing death. A full-grown local dog usually weighs 15kg to 25kg, but Elmo weighed just 8kg,” shares Samantha Yap, a volunteer with Hope Dog Rescue.

The pooch was immediately rushed to a veterinary clinic. When the vet tried to run a series of blood tests on Elmo, the needle couldn’t pierce through the poor
pup’s stiffened skin, and as he was so dehydrated, she could barely squeeze an ounce of blood from him. To make matters worse, when the volunteers presented the starving canine with food and water, he refused to eat, even when they spoon-fed him. “Elmo didn’t know how to swallow the food. Perhaps he had gone without food for such a long time that he had forgotten how to eat?” shares Samantha.

The test results revealed that the sickly pup had an unusually high white blood cell count, indicative of an infection. His stool contained bacteria and his liver function test was abnormal. Elmo was put on drips, and heat pads were placed on his body to keep him warm. No one knew if he would survive the night, much less get adopted. However, the tough pup proved his mettle and a month later, he was well on the road to recovery. Even so, Elmo had multiple challenges ahead. Initially thought to be born blind, deaf and neurologically impaired, the vet subsequently ascertained that he still has 60 percent of his vision, and can hear selected sound.

The Christmas miracle
By 2015, things looked bleak. Elmo had been through three fosterers and had yet to find a fur-ever home. However, he met his guardian angel in October of the same year. “The moment we met, I decided that he was going to be my boy some day,” shares fiction writer April Vishnu Priya, 25, Elmo’s fosterer turned-paw-rent. It wasn’t love at first sight for Elmo though. When the duo met for the first time at Indus Road in a temporary boarding place, the pup was slightly apprehensive around his soon-to be paw-rent.

“The first time I petted his head wasn’t well-received—he snapped. I remember that little squeeze I felt in my chest, wondering what he must have gone through to be so fearful,” says April. Little did the both of them know that the meeting marked the beginning of a friendship like no other.

Two months prior to the adoption, April, who had four furkids then—two bunnies and two hamsters—felt that she had enough space for one more, and it had to be a dog. Captivated by Elmo’s story on Hope Dog Rescue’s blog, April was determined to give the five-year-old pup a new lease of life—one with joy, hope and love. In December 2015, April officially became Elmo’s paw-rent.

This is an excerpt from our Unbreakable Bonds column. To read more about April and Elmo's touching story, flip to pg 52 of our Feb/Mar 2018 issue!