Copper, that's who!
I asked my vet how long it would take a dog to starve to death. Her best estimate, not knowing what I meant by “previous condition”, was about 2 to 3 months. “Previous condition” is the big unknown, meaning the dog might start out at a healthy weight, might start out as overweight, or…might start out already thin.
So what’s a hungry dog to do? Starve to death? Scavenge? Eat whatever it finds?
Winter came early in the fall of 2009, and by January 16, 2010, 25 inches of snow was already on the ground in Minneapolis. The overnight low was 16 degrees, which is quite balmy, for the coldest month of the year.
Jessica found Copper in a dumpster. How he got there is speculation, but it is possible the staff of the store where Jessica first saw Copper, had put him there. Copper had crawled into the store, likely seeking shelter, but more likely seeking food. It was closing time, late on a Saturday night, and the staff thought Copper was scaring the clientele. Jessica was not scared of Copper, she was scared FOR Copper. She went home to gather support and supplies to help him, and returned to search, finding him after an hour of looking.
It took convincing, as well as several Good Samaritan parties with yummy food, to get Copper safely out of the dumpster and into Jessica’s care. Jessica and her family took him in, keeping him safe while his injuries were assessed. There was the imprint of something long and broad on his back, like someone hit him with a board. Doused with pain medication, Jessica estimates it took Copper 15 minutes just to lie down in his abbreviated manner—Copper slept in her chair with his hind quarters elevated. Besides the injury to his back, surgery would answer why he needed his belly elevated in order to be comfortable.
Now, my fine readers, the next few graphs will call for strong stomachs and stiff spines. Copper’s first surgery amputated his tail. Cause unknown, but Copper’s tail had been split open in a straight line, almost down the center. Likely due to MN weather temperatures, not to mention filth, and no medical care, Copper’s tail was full of gangrene, well beyond repair. Second to his damaged tail, chemical burns on his genitals suggested deliberate placement, causing his skin to fall off—Copper was neutered.
Copper’s next surgery removed the bundle of non-digestible items from his intestinal tract. These items included bottle caps, plastic, a pencil sized solid metal pipe, and the top of a can with a serrated edge, as you and I would have from opening a can of tuna, or olives, or soup. Any one of these items could have blocked his intestines, and killed him. All of them combined, were causing his excruciating pain—by the time he arrived at the vet only morphine silenced his screams.
At rescue time, in mid-January, while Copper had all this medical help, his emaciation bears some discussion. Copper was near starvation when Jessica met him. It took some time for him to that point, when she saved him. By the vet’s estimation, it may have taken Copper 2 months to get to this level of deficiency. Rescued in January, it is possible Copper survived most of November and December, fending for himself. Can you imagine? In Minnesota?
Maybe he was locked in someone’s basement or garage, or some type of shelter, and not out in the elements. Wherever he was, Copper was deprived of the basic elements all of us need to survive, but he made it on his own.
Look at Copper today. He weighs 74lbs. He will be an incredible companion. He’s a comic with his toys, fetching and playing with you as long as possible. With some training, he could be a great agility competitor, or maybe disc, or possibly flyball. He has a very gentle demeanor, when he is not charging around the yard at top speed. The only remnants of his past are in the photos and memories of those who know him. Though he was shy of men while he regained his health, Copper is now a polite puddle of love to complete strangers. He’s a leaner, leaning into you to better feel human contact when you stop to pet him.
There are so many people to thank, who supported Copper in his fight for life. Several rescues as well as Good Samaritans donated time, money, medication, mileage, phone calls, and caring, to get Copper to his present state of good health. But at the top of that list is Jessica, who took the time late on a Saturday night to involve her friends and family to find Copper, and save his life.
Would you like to help Copper in his next chapter? Copper is available for adoption. His celebrity status as a classic example of how these wonderful dogs can be so forgiving will go with him to his forever home. Is there room in your heart for Copper?