In February 2015, it was approximately 40 degrees below zero in Wisconsin when I got a call from a concerned man who had found a stray dog. He told me that she seemed disoriented, and he described the stray as “incredibly thin” and “acting strangely,” but what I saw when I arrived would forever change my life.

When I got there, the man had a beautiful red tick coonhound in his garage. She was emaciated, and her body was ice cold to the touch as she stood motionless, pressed up against a wall in the garage. She had become hypothermic, and her body and organs were beginning to shut down. I lifted the weak little lady into my truck, and I drove as fast as I could to the vet clinic. I thought for sure she would pass away before I got there.

When we arrived at the vet clinic, she was immediately placed on heated IVs, and the veterinarian said she had gone temporarily blind from starvation, dehydration and hypothermia.

Over the next few weeks, she remained under observation by the veterinary staff at the clinic. She started having seizures and had to be hand-fed. The vet called me to say they thought she might not improve and may need to be humanely euthanized, so I rushed over to say my goodbyes.

When I arrived, the dog, who I had named Angel, got up to greet me. She had not stood on her own in weeks, so we knew that this meant she was a survivor. We decided to give it all the effort we had, just as she had done.

After a total of about six months of rehab at the vet clinic, our animal shelter and then in a foster care facility, this hilarious coonhound began to blossom! She got her sight back, gained weight and was placed up for adoption. Our veterinarian said she might not ever have 100 percent vision, but that her recovery was nothing short of miraculous! To us, it was the perfect example of how a dog’s spirit can help accomplish things that we humans might never understand.

A family in Washington state had contacted us regarding another dog we had posted online. At the time, that dog was pending adoption with another family, but I took a chance and casually mentioned Angel. Her story captured their hearts, and they immediately agreed to give her a loving home. They bought her a plane ticket and flew her across the country to live out the rest of her life just as she should! Renamed Chaia, she’s now a happy, healthy girl, and she will forever hold her own spot in my heart. I’m incredibly lucky to have known a dog as tough and inspiring as her!

About the Author

Amber Dvorak is the shelter director and humane officer at Monroe County Animal Shelter in Sparta, Wisconsin


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University of Florida Shelter Medicine Program