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.
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.