From Abandoned to Adored - Don Vito, The Brave

27 Jun 2015 | by | Posted in: Adoption


About a year back, on a particularly busy day at the Trauma Centre, someone dropped off a young Labrador with what looked like filthy skin. As we attended to more immediate cases, we let him settle in and get accustomed to his new surroundings. We realised soon enough that something was seriously wrong, because the dog could barely sit from weakness and pain. Deciding that he needed the help of a specialist, we rushed him to a larger facility. 

It took a ten-minute check up for the problem to become evident. The vet tried to take a skin scraping to test for infections, since there’s no way the dog’s skin could be so dirty from just the elements. That’s when his skin came right off. The “dirt” was burnt off bits of fur, skin and flesh. Someone had thought it appropriate to pour hot oil on his body. 

Earlier that day, we’d had a volunteer come in, one of the regulars who walks and bathes the dogs and loves them through the difficult days when love is hard to come by. I had seen her shed a silent tear when this Labrador was brought it. She later told me that she’d like to take care of his medical bills, if he needed external help. When we discovered that he was a burn victim, I called her immediately. This was not going to be simple; it was not going to be inexpensive. Was she still game to take on these expenses? 

In the way the people often do, she surprised me further. Not only were she and her husband willing to pay all his bills, they would take him home and take care of him themselves. They called him Vito and took him home that evening. This is him the day he went into foster care.

vito 1 
Vito’s road to recovery was not an easy one for him, his foster parents, or the other dogs in the house. For him to recover completely, all of his burnt skin would have to fall off. A new layer of skin would have to grow, and a lot of hard work would go into making sure he caught no infections during this time. Once he had new skin, it would be a few weeks or months before his coat grew back. The good news? He was with a great family. And he got by with a little help from his friends. Sirius the Labrador and Kencha the rescued Pomeranian kept him entertained and consoled through the difficult days. 

vito 2

Some weeks hence, when I called the foster family for an update on Vito’s recovery, my suspicions were confirmed. They were not going to put him up for adoption after all. They simply could not convince themselves that more horrors would not present themselves in Vito’s life, and there was only one way to ensure that they never did. One year since he was bruised, burnt, and broken, Vito continues to live with his canine siblings, affectionately destroys packets of food not meant for him, and glows in the love of his no-longer-foster family. His skin is healed and he now proudly wears the glossy fawn-coloured coat he was born with. More importantly, he has the spirit of a clown: a sure sign that his emotional healing is complete and he bears no scars from his past.

vito 3

If you’ve been thinking about fostering a dog, or if you have people in your life who mock your commitment to animal welfare, perhaps this story is the best one you need, to remind you of what it is you do, and how exactly you might be saving a life.

Photo credits: Sonya Balasubramaniam, foster and now permanent mother to Vito

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