Monday, August 1, 2011

Fostering Vanna

It seems I frequently get the "train wrecks" to foster or perhaps when the train wrecks show up I am inclined to foster them myself rather than send them to someone else.  I know there are many other foster volunteers who, like me, specialize in rehabilitating the basenjis who require lots of TLC prior to moving to a forever home.  Vanna has been my most recent project.

She showed up on BRAT's radar on Good Friday, after spending a month in a small rural shelter here in Illinois.  She was picked up as a stray, still lactating, but there were no puppies with her.  Sadly, but not unexpected, no family came to claim her.  On Good Friday she was moved to a larger animal shelter in Decatur.  From there Kim, a local volunteer, picked her up and kept her for the weekend, bringing her to me on Monday.  Immediate vetting revealed whip worms, sarcoptic mange, and severe anemia.  Her physical appearance included a bowed back, poor muscle tone, wiry coat, and her skin looked more like alligator hide than that of a basenji.  Behavior included such fearfulness that she was difficult to catch even in the confines of our family room unless a leash was left on her.  She was initially very fearful of men, and is now much better but still requires a very calm approach.

Vanna required frequent trips to the vet, showing weight loss at each visit for the first few weeks even though I was feeding her twice the volume of premium food that my own basenjis receive.  I switched her to a high calorie food which enabled her to gain back to a much healthier 20 pounds from a low of 16 pounds.  When the sarcoptic mange was not resolving with the administration of Revolution twice each month, she began to receive injectable Ivomec which has worked like magic.  Her skin is now soft and supple and her fur has gone from wiry and sparse to a smooth basenji coat.  She has regrown hair on her sides which were previously bald from scratching and chewing.

The biggest improvement of all is Vanna finally began to play with our basenjis, romping and wrestling for an hour at a time in the early morning after breakfast.  She started going to the toy basket daily to drag out all the chew toys, intermittently gnawing or enticing Vegas or Blaze to pay tug with her.  She claimed her spot in the family room on the love seat and enjoyed being a couch potato same as our crew.

As her confidence improved she began to challenge Katy, our 10 year old female, for alpha status so I had to watch them carefully when they were together.  This necessitated a high degree of vigilance to prevent them from fighting however I felt the freedom to socialize was necessary to Vanna's development.

July 19 Vanna was finally healthy enough to be spayed.  She had three tumors removed which, thankfully, were all benign.  She also had a dental with two extractions.  A rough recovery made it necessary to return to the vet almost daily for several days.  Sunday, July 31, she moved to her chosen forever home where her adopters had been patiently waiting for her.  I am forever grateful that there are applicants who will accept a less than perfect basenji!

Fostering is indeed an adventure, even in the best of circumstances.  Fostering a basenji who has multiple problems presents extra challenges however they are balanced with the rewards of seeing a virtual train wreck turn into a walk in the park!  Vanna will always have a special place in my heart as do the many other special needs basenjis who came before her.

-Liz Newton


  1. Thanks for taking such good care of her. :D

  2. Good to hear about your great care of her and her slow improvement. Some of her issues (lactating, mange, wiry coat) sound like Audrey when she arrived three months ago but not quite as extreme a case as this girl.