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Riley's Story

This is Riley's story, but it could be the story of any of the unwanted dogs born every year.

In September, 2002, there were numerous reports in an out-of-state location that a dog or coyote was running loose near the local train tracks. Animal Control was finally able to trap the dog around mid-September, and he was taken to the local Humane Society. He appeared to be about 10 months old.

On October 25, the Humane Society contacted Colorado Sheltie Rescue (CSR) regarding Riley. He was too shy and frightened to be adopted from the Humane Society, and they wanted to know if we could take him in. We were told that the dog had kennel cough but other than that he was doing fine. At the time, we already had 12 dogs in inventory and had no room for him. The Colorado Sheltie Rescue representative asked if Riley could be kept at the Humane Society shelter for two weeks. The Humane Society agreed to hold him until CSR was able to retrieve him, and a "Do Not PTS" (put to sleep) sign was put on his cage.

Two weeks later, on a Saturday, we made the two-hour drive to pick up Riley. When he was brought to the front desk, he was soaking wet and smelled like he had rolled in dog feces and urine. He was the most emaciated dog we had ever seen. He couldn't stand up or hold his head up. Their opinion was that he just needed to learn how to walk on a leash.

The drive back to Denver was one of the longest two hours we've ever spent—the odor in the car was overpowering. Poor Riley just lay there and didn't move at all. He never even stood up to check his surroundings.

When we got back to Denver, the first thing we did was try to clean him up. He had feces all over him, including the inside of his ears. He basically had to be shaved all over. He was bathed three times, and the odor, although less strong, was still there.

It was also quickly becoming apparent that Riley was not just frightened, he was very ill. He sneezed, and some horrible mucous came out of his nose and mouth. He appeared to have a difficult time breathing. Rather than wait until Monday when the CSR vet would be available, we decided to take him to an emergency service. This decision was not made lightly. CSR has dealt with numerous sick dogs, including ones with kennel cough, but this was something more serious. It would have been cruel to make Riley wait to get medical attention.

At the emergency service, x-rays showed that he had a terrible case of pneumonia—so bad that his heart was not even visible on the x-ray. The prognosis was guarded, but we wanted to give Riley a chance. The poor guy was only a puppy and had a terrible start to his life. He was put on IV fluids and also on oxygen, since his body was not able to get enough oxygen on its own. At least now he was in a place that was warm and dry, and maybe he would begin to feel better.

Sadly, it was just not meant to be. On Sunday, the emergency service called to say that he was quickly going downhill. Instead of just giving the authorization to euthanize him, we drove to the emergency clinic to at least hold Riley and give him what comfort we could during his last seconds—something that had been sadly lacking in his short little life.

How could this happen to such a young dog? How could anyone let him get so sick? CSR would like to apologize to Riley for all the mistreatment in his short life. We tried to help—we really did try to make up for all the bad things that had happened to you before we took you into our care. We apologize for your owner, who didn't try to find you when you got lost. We apologize that you did not receive medical attention at the Humane Society. We apologize for having to take you out in the cold to the car when you were sopping wet. Most of all we apologize that you were born into a society that, for the most part, did not place value on your life or the lives of so many others like you. We tried to make things good for you so that you really could live the "life of Riley." We are so sorry for everything, and we pray that you enjoy the Rainbow Bridge.

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