UN­BREAK­ABLE BONDS

Over the last five years, ded­i­cated paw-rent April Vishnu Priya has been slowly but surely earn­ing the trust of her neu­ro­log­i­cally im­paired pup Elmo.

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY CINDY YONG

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 fos­ter­erturned-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-tobe 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.

TAK­ING ON THE CHAL­LENGE

Due to his phys­i­cal im­pair­ments,

Elmo’s early days with April were no cake­walk. She used to worry when the pup de­vel­oped di­ar­rhoea or slept for too long—she was afraid he wouldn’t wake up.

As Elmo’s vi­sion is blurry, the pawrent and her fam­ily had to re­ar­range the fur­ni­ture to al­low him more space. “We had to keep the house clut­ter-free, or he’d keep bump­ing into things,” shares April.

Elmo and his new paw-rent spent the first few weeks and months get­ting ac­quainted with one another. “I was ini­tially afraid of Elmo, but dur­ing the two months of fos­ter­ing, I be­gan to un­der­stand his habits and trig­gers. The trust had to be mu­tual. Once we were com­fort­able in each another’s pres­ence, the bond be­gan to grow,” says April.

With un­wa­ver­ing love and care from his paw-rent, Elmo is now health­ier than

ever, and goes for thy­roid tests on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to main­tain his hor­monal bal­ance. He is now able to recog­nise his fam­ily mem­bers’ faces and voices. “Just tap his food bowl and he’ll come bounc­ing to­wards his meal!” shares April. Be­cause of his sus­pected abu­sive past, Elmo still bat­tles with food ag­gres­sion. As such, when it comes to chow time, April and her fam­ily choose to give him more breath­ing space.

To April, ev­ery day is an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about her “spe­cial” furkid. Unlike his other ca­nine friends, Elmo doesn’t know how to bark and is not as at­ten­tion-seek­ing. In fact, he com­mu­ni­cates with lit­tle sounds and grunts and is not big on hugs. “Elmo is not the cud­dly type as any­thing that in­ter­feres with his space makes him up­set. I picked up on this and gave him the space he needed. Over time, he grew com­fort­able and even let me cud­dle and carry him. It took awhile for us to get to where we are now,” she says.

De­spite be­ing a first-time dog owner, April never once en­ter­tained thoughts of giv­ing up on Elmo. “Peo­ple around me have trou­ble un­der­stand­ing why I pri­ori­tise my furkids so much, as I’m not wealthy and I work two jobs to pro­vide for my fur-mily, but my pri­or­i­ties al­ways out­shine the im­por­tance of money,” she shares.

“My furkids are what keep me go­ing. Elmo may be dif­fer­ent and he doesn’t do things the way I may want him to, but he’ll al­ways re­cip­ro­cate with 10 times the amount of love and in ways

I’d never ex­pect, like com­ing to me for cud­dles! Also, Elmo’s never-say-die at­ti­tude is pretty hard to come by.”

Elmo, look­ing health­ier than ever, with his paw-rent April, at the park.

Elmo when he was first dis­cov­ered by Hope Dog Res­cue.

The happy duo pos­ing for the cam­era at Elmo’s4th birth­day party.

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