By Diana Bocco
Judy Morgan, DVM, is no stranger to saving dogs. As a holistic veterinarian and an active participant in rescue organizations, including Lucky Star Cavalier Rescue and The Cavalier Brigade, Dr. Morgan knows quite well what goes into saving, fostering, and providing a safe haven for helpless dogs.
So when she saw a Facebook message last summer about two 14-year-old Spaniels urgently needing a home, she paid attention.
With one of the owners dead and the other fighting dementia, the care of the dogs had fallen on the couple's son.
“Unfortunately, he did not like the Spaniels and had no interest in caring for them,” Morgan said. “So he made a post on Facebook saying that the minute his mother died he would be loading up the two Spaniels and heading for the local animal shelter, which was a high kill shelter in rural Tennessee.”
Saving Scout and Freckles
Morgan already had seven dogs and, as she put it, certainly did not need two more. But she felt that she couldn't just walk away, and decided that it made sense to focus on saving the dogs first and finding them a home later.
“It was Friday evening and my friend Paula said she would pick up the dogs Saturday morning at the crack of dawn and drive them herself from Tennessee to New Jersey,” Morgan said. Fortunately, Paula arrived in the nick of time, as the dogs’ elderly owner died just a few hours after Paula picked them up.
Morgan wasn’t prepared for the shape the dogs, named Scout and Freckles, were in when they got to New Jersey. “They smelled horrible, were covered in fleas, with infected ears, skin, and eyes,” Morgan said. “The female had urinary incontinence and smelled of old urine.” They were also blind and deaf.
If that wasn’t enough, the plastic box containing stale dry dog food (that the son had given them for the trip) was filled with maggots. “The stench was horrific,” she said. “Fleas were everywhere and we [were] left wondering what we had gotten into.”
The Road to Recovery
The dogs had to be quarantined in the basement, away from Morgan’s other dogs, and were then offered a warm, home-cooked meal (the maggot-infested food was discarded). Though the dogs were sweet and appreciative of the care, it took over two weeks of medical care, including lab work, dental cleaning, and treatments for parasite, ear, urinary, and skin infections before the dogs started to act and look normal, Morgan said.
But while the recovery process was difficult, the change was remarkable. Scout regained his vision once his eye infections cleared and Freckles, the female, regained her hearing after her ears were treated.
“Scout is still pretty deaf and Freckles is blind, but that doesn’t slow them down,” Morgan said.
Sparking a Refuge for Senior Dogs
Throughout the process, Morgan had been in touch with a friend who was starting a senior dog hospice and sanctuary called Monkey’s House.
“Monkey was an old dog she had rescued that had touched her heart in a special way,” Morgan said. “She wanted to do something to honor Monkey, and the sanctuary was the best way she knew to help other senior dogs.”
But by the time Monkey’s House was ready to open its doors, months later, it was too late—Morgan was unable to part with either dog.
However, the rescue of the two elderly Spaniels sped up the opening of the senior-dog refuge, and Morgan’s decision to keep Scout and Freckles permanently left room for two more elderly dogs to find sanctuary at Monkey’s House (which they did within a few days).
Eight more dogs have found a home at Monkey’s House since then. “All have been senior dogs with no family to care for them; many plucked from local high kill shelters at the last moment before their slated demise,” Morgan said. “Others have been turned in after the death of their owners and all have had serious medical issues.”
Morgan firmly believes that Scout and Freckles had a lot to do with transforming Monkey’s House from a vision into a reality.
“Many more old dogs will get to enjoy a wonderful ending to their lives, filled with joy and love, even if only for a short time,” she says.
As for Scout and Freckles, Morgan later found out that Scout had been used as a therapy dog and was featured in the news for his help with displaced victims after Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s amazing that someone could care so little about dogs who have given so much, but it doesn’t matter what that man thought of them,” Morgan said. “They now know they are loved.”