On a cold January night, a man living in Earlton, New York, opened his front door and found an unexpected visitor. It was a skinny, hairless dog who was shivering in the freezing air — and the man had no idea where she’d come from.
“It appeared that she had been dumped by the roadside and abandoned,” a spokesperson for the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA wrote on Facebook. “It was a frigid night, and it was assumed she came to the door looking for food and warmth.”
The man brought the dog inside and called the police, who then took her to the shelter. When the staff set eyes on the dog, now named Penny, their hearts broke.
“She was in bad shape,” Ron Perez, president of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, told The Dodo. “She had some open lacerations on her face and neck, and was pretty much devoid of any hair. It was sad. It’s always sad to see them like this.”
It turned out that Penny had a severe skin condition called demodex mange, which is caused by mites burrowing into a dog’s skin.
If left untreated, demodex mange can be deadly, Chris Reeder, a board-certified vet at BluePearl Veterinary Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, told The Dodo. “Generally, it’s more debilitating than fatal, but in certain situations it can be,” he said.
While Penny had managed to stay alive, the mange had taken a heavy toll on her health — she’d lost most of her fur, leaving her with dry, flaky skin that had become infected and scabby.
“When she scratched it, she would scratch her flesh, which would get infected and create more bleeding,” Perez said.
But with medical treatment and lots of loving care, Penny got better — and more quickly than anyone expected. “Within one week, she looked like a different dog,” Perez said. “The vet was pretty impressed with her recovery.”
As more weeks ticked by, Penny recovered even more. Now her mange is completely gone, although her hair may never completely grow back, Perez explained.
“She’s a real fighter and very resilient,” Perez said “Her stress levels are clearly much lower now, because she’s interacting with people and she has proper food and is sleeping correctly.”
As Penny has been recovering, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA has been working with local police to find the person who’d abandoned Penny. Within 24 hours, Penny’s former owner was identified, and police arrested him on animal cruelty charges. If convicted, the former owner could face a $1,000 fine and jail time.
Everyone involved with Penny’s case is pleased that justice may be served — but they’re even happier about the couple who recently adopted Penny.
“We got a lot of applications to adopt her,” Perez said. “But these two individuals are fantastic pet owners. They took it slowly and came and visited with her a couple times a week. They brought their dogs in, and everyone got along fabulously. I’d like to think this will be the last home she’ll ever go to.”
Penny will leave on Saturday to start her new life, and the shelter staff couldn’t be more delighted.
“She’s just a sweet dog,” Perez said. “She really doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s an absolute doll, and she’s going to be a great pet.”