Shelter almost forced to put down paralyzed puppy—but that’s when they see what they missed

January 11, 2018 3:31 pm Last Updated: January 11, 2018 3:31 pm

Working as a rescue volunteer is full of bittersweet moments. Helping save the lives of defenseless animals on a daily basis is rewarding, but it also means facing some grim situations.

The nature of the work puts volunteers in the thick of one heartbreaking scenario after another. The good people who commit their time to helping shelter animals have a soft spot for each furry friend they save.

In February of 2017, two Akita puppies named Zena and Zorro were surrendered to the Galway SPCA in Ireland. They were underweight, malnourished, and covered in fleas.

The rescue was accustomed to seeing these kinds of things and were confident they’d have the pair of pups healthy in no time. But in only 36 hours, the outlook changed drastically.

 Zena and Zorro, two underweight Akita pups that were covered in fleas, were given to the Galway SPCA in Ireland.

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Workers at the facility found the two pups in their kennels, unable to get off their bellies. They were both stricken with paralysis. They were rushed to the vet and began treatment immediately.

After a series of steroid injections, Zena started to walk again. She responded well and made a full recovery. Zorro, however, remained paralyzed. He was able to slide his body along the floor, but unable to stand.

In situations like these, shelters are typically forced to make a difficult decision. Funded mostly by donations from sponsors, financial resources are limited. Expensive treatment is normally out of the question.

But the shelter refused to put Zorro down, confident that he would recover with more effort and rehabilitation.

“You always doubt yourself. Many would have made the decision to put him down but that’s not what we do here,” Emma O’Brien of the GSPA told “We were not going to give up on him.”

36 hours after arriving at the facility, Zena and Zorro were stricken with paralysis. Zena responded to steroid treatments, while Zorro remained unable to stand.

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Workers at the Galway SPCA did what they could to make sure Zorro lived a normal life. They carted him around in a wheelbarrow so he could socialize with other pups, and in time, were able to coax him to his feet.

Progress was slow, and the helpers realized Zorro was going to need more assistance if he was ever going to walk normally.

They located a hydrotherapy center that would be able to aid Zorro. Hydrotherapy allows dogs to build the muscle in their legs in a weightless environment. There was only one problem: the center was over two hours away.

“Each trip would take at least five hours there and back,” O’Brien explained. “It’s easy to pity a dog like that but pity was not going to help him.”

Progress was slow, but after four months of hydrotherapy, Zorro was finally able to walk, run, and play with the other dogs.

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The center was thrilled that Zorro was on his feet and playing with the other dogs. But a rescue center is only a temporary home, he needed to be adopted to a forever home.

The GSPCA already has a strict re-homing process, but they were particularly strict when it came to Zorro’s adoption. After sharing his story online, they were flooded with adoption requests.

Those interested in adopting Zorro were asked to visit a minimum of three times per week over a six week period.

Everyone wanted to adopt Zorro when they heard his story. Once the GSPCA found a suitable home, the goodbye was bittersweet.

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After pouring countless hours of effort and compassion into Zorro, it was time to say goodbye. The shelter found a family they felt would love and appreciate Zorro and everything he’d been through.

After months of rehabilitation, he was on his feet, and ready to go home for good.

His owners sent a photo of Zorro, along with his new pup companions to the shelter. As much as it hurts to let a dog like Zorro go, the GSPCA is happy they were able to get him back on his feet and in a loving new family.