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As I continue the story, I am reminded that only a week prior to getting the notification from Home Again about Nitro, a coworker asked me if I thought micro-chipping was a good idea. I emphatically told her that I did and that we would always be certain that our dogs had “chips.” How ironic is that?
At the end of the last post, we had tried to get some sleep knowing that poor Nitro was in the Orange County Animal Shelter with only a week until euthanasia would be all but assured. I had gone to every Facebook page for rescues and German Shepherd Dogs that I was aware of. My plan for the morning was to check on-line for rescues in the Orange County area.
After a very fitful night, we were heading for work. My mind was consumed with trying to come up with a plan to rescue poor Nitro. I almost didn’t hear the message tone on my phone telling me that I had a private message on Facebook. When I opened the message I almost screamed.
I had a message from a young woman named Vinessa. She was asking if we wanted Nitro to come home to us or if we were just looking for a rescue. She said that she lives in Orange County, but would be coming to Michigan for Christmas!
My voice was cracking and tears were spurting out of my eyes as I read this to Jim. Could this be true? Could Nitro’s salvation have come – and so quickly? I wrote back asking if this were really true and possible. I hardly allowed myself to believe it could be. I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while due to the fact that there’s a 3-hour difference in time between Michigan and California. When I saw the message it wasn’t yet 6 am, eastern time.
I didn’t have to wait long. It was barely 8 a.m. when I heard back that, yes, she was entirely serious and would be willing to get Nitro from the shelter and bring him with her to Michigan. She had also been willing to rescue him and find him a home. Any wonder I call her Nitro’s “angel?” We moved the discussion to private messaging and I told her that I would contact the shelter to find out what was necessary to “spring” Nitro and allow for her to take possession.
It wasn’t all that easy. The shelter required proof of ownership to pick Nitro up. Of course, we are over a thousand miles away. I’m glad the shelter is thorough, though. It protects the true owners from someone who isn’t authorized walking away with their dog. The staff was very helpful. They told me that the email from Home Again would be considered part of the proof. What else could we provide? We hadn’t had Nitro in over 6 years! I immediately thought of our veterinarian. Would they still have records? I made the call.
Not only did our vets still have records with Nitro’s name on it, they actually could provide a copy of the receipt for when we had them micro-chip him. It had his name, our names, address and the micro-chip number. They could, if necessary, confirm the chip number against our records.
In the meantime, Vinessa was busy getting a temporary tag, collar, bed, bowl, etc. She also called her vet to make sure she could bring Nitro in to make sure he was healthy enough for the trip. After seeing the photo above, we all knew he wasn’t in the best of shape.
As she lived only about 15 minutes from the shelter, Vinessa was ready to go get Nitro once all the paperwork was faxed to them. We had moved our conversation directly to texting each other to make our communication quicker and more private. Although I could scarcely believe it, everything seemed to be in place. Her next text told me she was at the shelter and that they had accepted all the material we had sent and that they were releasing Nitro to her. SALVATION!
From this point, though, we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Nitro was so thin and weak that he couldn’t get into Vinessa’s vehicle by himself. Poor guy. He was in really sad shape.
He made the trip to Vinessa’s veterinarian. The vet was appalled. She had never seen such a bad case of malnourishment and he was severely emaciated. This is a boy who should weigh over 100 pounds and he only weighed 62. The photo shows how badly his bones were showing through. He had absolutely NO meat on his bones at all. Things were looking pretty grim. The vet said she would run a full blood work-up and let us know.
By this time, not only were we praying that Nitro would be able to make the journey, but so was Vinessa. She’d already fallen in love with the big boy and wanted nothing more than to help him come to his forever home. It was one of the longest waits I can remember, but by 5 p.m. our time, we got the amazing news that Nitro didn’t have any illnesses (or even fleas)! He was going to require tender care and lots of food to get him healthy, but he wasn’t fighting heartworms or any kind of parasite that would make it impossible for him to travel and, eventually, thrive.
Through all of this communication, I learned so much about Nitro’s angel. This young woman was actually leaving on Thursday to drive to Montana and then on to Michigan to visit with her family for the holidays. That was quite a feat in itself, and for her to be willing to bring along a “strange” dog who needed lots of care was remarkable. What made it miraculous was that she wasn’t driving alone. In the car with her would be her 10-month-old, female, German Shepherd puppy and her FOUR small children (the oldest is 6 and the youngest is 3-months). Who does this?
In less than 24-hours, Nitro had found salvation and was with an amazing human being who was ready to bathe and care for a thoroughly rough-looking dog. Nitro’s resolve helped us all. His nobility shone through – even in his terribly misused state. His first night with a good bath, decent food, and a soft place to sleep were probably the first he’d had in many, many years. The photos sent were both sad and triumphant.
Here’s a quick timeline of the amazing, “miraculous” things that had to fall into place to be able to save Nitro.
- Nitro was picked up as a stray and chip read on Monday, Nov. 12.
- Tuesday, Nov 13 (around 2:30 pm) – We received the email from Home Again saying Nitro had been found. As we never transferred the micro-chip to another person and never took our names off the records, we were still considered his owners. (If we had made either change, we never would have been notified that Nitro was in the Orange County Animal Shelter.)
- Tuesday, Nov. 13 (around 5 pm) – I got in touch with the Orange County Animal Shelter and they gave me Nitro’s ID number and crate number so that I could look at his photo on the web to reassure myself that the dog they had was, indeed, Nitro. After getting over the initial shock of seeing him in such poor shape, I realized it was Nitro. It was an older, sadder, and scared version of the dog we had played Frisbee with, but it was Nitro.
- Tuesday, Nov. 13 (starting around 6 pm) – I thought to post his photo and story to several groups and locations on Facebook.
- Tuesday, Nov. 13 (night-time in California) – Vinessa happened to go to one of those group pages. What makes this even more amazing is that this is a page she very rarely visits. She sends a message to us via the group asking if we want her help with Nitro’s rescue.
- Wednesday, Nov. 14 (5:50 a.m. in Michigan) – I get Vinessa’s message. I immediately respond and the wheels start in motion.
- Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Vinessa and I are able to get in touch and we agree that she will attempt to get Nitro out of the shelter.
- Wednesday, Nov. 14 – We are able to get all the information required for the shelter and fax it to them. They accept it and allow Vinessa to take Nitro with her.
- Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Vinessa is able to get Nitro in to see her vet who gives him the okay to travel.
- Thursday, Nov. 15 – Vinessa and crew leave for Montana.
When I consider how many things had to come together, it just completely amazes me. If Nitro had been picked up one day later… What if Vinessa didn’t live only 15 minutes from the shelter? What if she’d never looked at that particular Facebook page?
By the way, every dollar required (and there were MANY, MANY dollars) to pay for getting Nitro from the shelter, vetted, and all the tags, collar, food, bedding, etc. had been paid for by Vinessa. It’s amazing enough that she was willing to do all of this for complete strangers and a dog she’d never met. To be willing to cover all the costs? Again, who does that? Who is that trusting?
We have, since, been able to reimburse Vinessa for most of the costs. There will be more, but she’s more than happy to take care of them until we can pay her back. Pay her back? How will we EVER be able to pay her back for all she has done? It’s not just the money. This brave, unselfish, young woman has single-handedly become a glittering example of what is right and good in humans. My friends, family, and we are astounded! We didn’t know that there were still people out there like this. There is at least one. She is Nitro’s (and our) angel.
Up Next: Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 3: The Journey