I was aware of Hollie long before I met her as Sandra would regularly come home from SOS Pechina, the cat and dog animal shelter whose cats she regularly re-homed to Germany, and tell me about this lovely old dog that used to come running up to her as soon as she pulled up.
Tail wagging, desperate for a fuss it was obvious that Sandra was fond of her, and I think we both gave a sigh of relief when she was re-homed.
So it was a surprise in September 2017 when Sandra came back with the news that Hollie was back in Pechina, but had a damaged paw which they thought she had injured when she escaped from her new home ….
I think it is necessary to explain here that in Spain the majority of animal rescue and welfare is done on the front live with too many animals and not enough resources. If you want to picture it then think of Spain as being a permanent triage a la M*A*S*H, and the UK more along the lines of a well run NHS Hospital (still under resourced and struggling with demand for sure, but about 1000% better than the front line of a war zone).
My point? The fact that her wound wasn’t being treated and hadn’t been fully examined was just the way it is for so many rescue animals …. she was safe, being fed and so wasn’t a priority.
The reality? An older, non pedigree, under fed, damaged, cross bread of a dog was destined for a life in the rescue as she (like so many others) was just never going to catch the eye of a potential adopter.
Without doubt this was a shame as you can see from the photos below she really was a dog that loved attention:
Having adopted eight (8) cats and two (2) dogs of our own we were reluctant to add a third dog, not only because our pets were stable, and got on with each other, but also because the dogs being Galgos (Spanish Greyhounds basically) were very fast and needed long walks and plenty of runs ……. when they weren’t crashed on a sofa!!! and were therefore not likely to be compatible with an older injured dog. We thought Hollie needed a friend more like her.
We therefore decided that the best thing to do was to get her out of the rescue and into a foster home so we could get her foot treated, and then we could find her a home. We did this with the unspoken knowledge that if we failed to find her a home we would adopt her …..
At the time we were running six weekly pet transports between Spain and France, Germany, Holland, Belgium and the UK and my co-driver lived in Almerimar near to us, and had two friendly rescue dogs that we regularly walked our dogs with. More relevant …… he and his wife were prepared to foster Hollie, so on December 28th (hence her name) Sandra picked her up from the rescue and took her to their home.
Hollie’s first trip to ‘our’ vet, Animalfisio in Almeria, revealed the full extent of her injury, and it was not particularly good news. It looked like she had lost three ‘toes’ through a trauma, with a particular concern being the depth of the wound into her paw – think of splitting the webbing between your fingers, with the damage extending half way back into your hand.
The first task therefore was going to be getting new tissue to grow and fill this damaged area, before we could consider how to close the wound. Amputation was discussed but we wanted to try and save the paw to effectively save her leg, so a month of pretty intensive laser treatment, coupled with collagen dressings was undertaken. We had some success but it became evident that she was licking the wound too much, needed to be off the leg as much as possible, and was in for a long road to recovery with daily dressing changes and the ‘cone of shame’ required 24/7 apart from the times when we could sit with her to watch her closely. We therefore decided we needed to take over her care.
She moved in with us on the 18th February, and while we had some people in the UK that were interested in adopting her we decided pretty quickly that she would be our dog as it was obvious that it was going to be a long road to recovery, and very early on she showed that she was very much at home with our cats and dogs, and with us, Sandra in particular ….
It has to be said that she was a brilliant patient. Yes she wanted to lick her paw (and the reason why became apparent once we moved back to the UK), and it was hard for her having the cone on for so long, but 2018 was basically a series of regular trips to the vets, with a mixture of hope and frustration as we thought the various treatments were working. And in between Hollie enjoyed being part of a very loved family with good food, home comforts and some walks.
The wound in her paw healed really well, and within about 6 months, but getting the new skin to heal over the end of the paw was problematic to say the least. She had a couple of small operations to try and resolve this which involved filing down some bone that had started to grow through the end of her paw, and an attempt to create an overlap of skin to cover the damaged area.
This appeared to be working, and she was able to spend more time without the cone or dressing as we tried the reliable Spanish Sun and Salt Sea Water to aid recovery.
2019 saw us move back to the UK, and at this stage Laura entered Hollie’s life, and more importantly her recovery plan. Laura is Sandra’s niece, a vet, and manager of White Cross Vets in Wolstanton, and during a lunch at our house she looked at Hollie and suggested we got their orthopedic expert (Gareth) to take a look at her and some Xrays.
If you look at the above Xray you will see the cause of the problem, and why the would was never going to heal, as on the three damaged toes, below the ‘knuckles’ the bones had started to grow claws i.e. nails. Now apparently this softer tissue is more irritating than actual bone hence her periodical desire to lick the wound more (which may in turn have removed the new tissue) so the reality is that the wound would never heal over this and it explained why over the previous months we had never been able to identify the cause as a) the new tissue took time to grow and b) she probably removed it with her licking.
Solution? A pretty big operation to do something called disarticulation of the remaining bones (which had the new claw tissue) at the knuckle, and to then pull the remaining pad up a little and over the wound so that when she walked she only put pressure on the pad. Main risks with this were a) the bones being removed wouldn’t leave enough skin to close the wound and b) the would would break down as it took all her weight and pressure when she walked.
Three weeks of daily dressing changes, no walks and saw significant improvements and Hollie gradually needed her cone less as it became clear her paw was no longer causing her pain or discomfort. Hollie made such good progress that after this time, she was able to slowly start walks again without any dressing, and after a few more days she could begin life without her cone even at night.
It has taken a long time, and at times was more than a tad frustrating but watching Hollie run, walk, jump on and off the beds and sofas, play with the dogs and enjoy a fully integrated and normal life is more than worth it. It is what we always hoped for her.
She will always limp, and I suspect at times will always hold her paw up on gravel paths but daily she is getting better and better. She needs to develop her muscle strength all over, in particular her damaged leg, and she needs to develop her overall fitness as she has basically had eighteen months of inactivity, but throughout it all she has shown her loving nature, and I think her stoicism. I like to think she understood after all her tough times, that we were trying to help her.
We humans, especially in the UK, are prone to over humanise our pets, but so what! It is impossible not to look at Hollie as she comes up for a cuddle and not to think that every time she is saying thank you. She is very special, and is now integrating fully and playing with our 2 dogs, much better than we thought possible, and has accepted our cats, even cuddling and cleaning little Marti, who loves dogs.
As with any rescue animal you don’t just give them a life, you give them their world. For Hollie that involves people that love her (both our parents have grown extremely fond of her since she has been in the UK), two dogs and eight cats to call a family, a weekly run on the beach, daily walks on Cannock Chase, beds, sofas and a garden AND lovely food!
And of course she has her mum, Sands who ironically never adopted a rescue cat from Pechina but fell in love with Hollie and had the determination, patience, and love to get her fit and well again.
ALStrays Re-Homing to date has found homes 1725 Spanish rescue cats
ALStrays Pet Transport has driven over 750,000 miles delivering 0ver 7600 cats and dogs.
HUGE thank you to Mick and Micky for their initial help in fostering and starting her out on her new life, to Animalfisio for their ongoing friendship and support to both Hollie and ourselves and to Laura and her team at White Cross vets for finishing the job off thanks to the skills of Gareth.
UPDATE: we were a little premature in our celebration as after a couple of months her paw split open. It seems to me that as her paw hadn’t been used for several years once she started using it and it got stronger and bigger the skin just couldn’t cope. She ended up with a rather large gash between the pad and the top of her paw, which we decided wouldn’t be operable on so we have let time be the healer. So far it is going OK. She wants to lick it but we can’t face putting her in a come again for this so she is having it wrapped, cleaned and antiseptic cream every day. So far the split has grown new tissue inside and the new skin is starting to form. As ever she has been a excellent patient.