By Angelique Barbara
It’s difficult to forget the day that Tabitha Rose was introduced into our lives. The six-year-old, brindle female was surrendered to the French Bulldog Rescue Network (FBRN) by her owner who was unable to care for her. She was our first foster dog with FBRN and we were equally excited and nervous when we saw the car pull up in front of our house at 7 am on May 30th, 2013. At the time we were completely unaware of the journey this dog would take us on.
The car door opened revealing the smallest Frenchie I have ever seen. She was standing in a small, black crate with a plastic tray on the floor. Her surrendering owner lifted the crate out of the passenger seat of the car and placed her down on our walkway. Our Frenchie, Tallulah, anxiously ran to the crate, sniffing and checking out her new housemate. The tiny, black, brindled Frenchie instantaneously turned into an unrecognizable monster. She was growling and hissing (making noises I have never heard come out of a dog) and clawing at the side of the crate with her two-inch, overgrown toenails. She resembled something similar to a gremlin, rather than anything from the canine species. The little Frenchie was so underweight that every bone on her body was prominent and her eyes were bulging out of her head in fear. As her old owner and old life drove away, I removed her from the crate to examine her. The poor little thing, along with her emaciation, had skin allergies, ear infections, a yeast infection in her tail and swollen pads on her feet. We were told that she was never used for breeding, but her stretched out teats told another story. This tiny Frenchie had obviously had multiple litters. Since the owner had never taken her to a veterinarian, we immediately loaded her into the car and drove her into the vet’s office for further examination.
At the vet’s office, it was discovered that Tabitha Rose weighed in at only 13 pounds and was suffering from intestinal parasites and heartworms. Our hearts fell when we heard the vet say the word heartworms. We had never owned or fostered a heartworm positive dog before, so we did not know what it would entail. The vet explained the treatment process to us and we quickly realized that what we thought would be an easy foster dog, had turned into a long-term commitment. It was a commitment that we were not sure we wanted to commit to, but as we looked into the eyes of this scared and neglected dog, we decided that we had to help her through the entire process, however long that may be.
When we brought Tabitha home from the vet, we began to realize just how sick she was. She was lacking an appetite and she barely had the strength to stand and walk. She would often fall over and we wondered if she was having a seizure. When she was in the house, she would stare off into the distance, unresponsive to stimuli. We brought her back to the vet the next day and they decided to hospitalize her and get some fluids in her. We were worried that she would not live long enough to receive her Welcome Waggin that the rescue was sending. Since she was surrendered with nothing (not even a collar), the rescue had put together a package for her including a collar, harness, bowls, toys and a bed. I did not know if Tabitha ever had any of these items to call her own, and I hoped that she would be able to experience laying in a warm, soft bed and having toys of her own.
When Tabitha came home from the vet hospital, my partner, Tracie, started cooking for her. Tracie’s food was the only thing Tabitha would eat and she gradually became stronger and healthier. The first few weeks we had Tabitha were a blur. We were both exhausted from getting up 4-5 times in the night to bring her out to go to the bathroom (she was unable to hold her urine for more than a couple hours) and from spending the days cooking for her, hand feeding her and administering her numerous medications and supplements. Our hard work paid off though and as the months went by, Tabitha became healthier and her loving personality began to emerge.
Within a few months, Tabitha had gained weight and was a healthy 18 pounds. The vet decided it was time to start her heartworm treatments. She was to receive an injection, wait a month and receive another one. They then wanted us to wait 6 months and bring her back in for 2 injections, back to back. They decided to take this approach since her breathing was very labored due to the heartworm burden. The first injection was scary. Tabitha had a lot of trouble breathing when we brought her home. She was restless and paced around the house panting. We were worried that she may need to go back to the vet for oxygen, but she finally relaxed and fell asleep. The second injection was a lot easier on her. She had a little difficulty breathing, but nothing like the first administration.
While waiting the following six months for the rest of her treatments, we completely fell in love with this dog. Her breathing was better, so she could finally go on small walks. When we took her for longer walks, we pushed her in a doggie stroller. Every place we went, Tabitha’s eyes would look around in wonder. She was finally experiencing life and loving every moment of it! When we would come home, she was the first dog to come running to greet us. She would jump in our laps and welcome us with a kiss and hug. She’s learned a few simple tricks (sit, stay, stand and lift paw). She performs her tricks with pride and lifts her paw up high.
After the 6 months had gone by, we returned to the vet for her final two injections. Before administering them, the vet decided to run another heartworm test. To our surprise, the test came back negative! The first two injections had successfully rid her of the infection! However, the news was bitter sweet. We were so happy that Tabitha was over this debilitating disease, but we were also sad that she would now be eligible for adoption and would be leaving us. Then something miraculous happened; FBRN contacted me and asked if we would like to adopt Tabitha as a special needs dog. Our home would be her “furever” home!
As a relatively new member of FBRN, I cannot say enough positive things about this group. They truly go above and beyond when it comes to providing everything from medical treatments to toys and accessories for their rescue dogs. Tabitha would not be the happy, healthy dog she is today without this network and there are countless other Frenchies nationwide who have benefited from their generosity as well. I am proud to be a member of the French bulldog Rescue Network and I encourage others who are passionate about the breed to consider donating to this cause, whether it be monetary or through volunteer services. I hope that Tabitha’s story can be an inspiration to other rescue volunteers to never give up and realize that we can have a huge impact on abandoned and neglected dogs by helping him one dog at a time.
Angelique Barbara, MS, DC