Cover Story: Sheila and the Naked Dog

Sheila and the Naked Dog

Story and photo by Carolyn Stark

For anyone involved with animal rescue the phrase,“ who rescued who” is a reality. This couldn’t be truer than for Sheila Beck and her West Highland white terrier, Maxx.

Sheila had recently lost both her husband and their beloved lab. Her life was lonely without them. She decided to look at the dogs at the Animal League of Green Valley. Knowing that puppies get adopted by families and that bigger dogs would be too active for a senior, she kept looking for that perfect dog.

There in a kennel towards the back, all by himself was the saddest dog she had ever seen. He was small and underweight, but he also had no fur. His skin was black and shiny, looking like he had been burned. This was caused by a skin disease called pyoderma. It is a skin infection under the first layer of skin that causes hair loss and itchiness. Sheila asked if she could see him. Once she went in his kennel she could see close up how bad off he was and how unsure and depressed was his attitude. Eventually she was able to pet his little body. She knew that he was the one she had been looking for. However, it would not be an easy path for either of them.

They went home with a bag full of special shampoo, conditioner, mousse, lotion, antibiotics and Benadryl. He also had a special diet that he had to follow. The first bath he got he did the normal doggie thing and shook all over the house. Sheila taught him to shake three times in the bathroom before he could leave. She taught him commands in Spanish, and he even knows what to do when she says “I’m going to church.” He goes to his special bed to wait. He is very smart, never has accidents in the house and has even figured how to use the two doggie doors to get outside. The only thing he does not like, and Sheila does not do, is go into a crate. Maxx has the run of the house.

Sheila had to follow a rigorous schedule of bathing, administering medication, massages, and walks to help Maxx. He also had appointments with his vet, his veterinary dermatologist and other specialists. Some were in Tucson and even helped her when she unexpectedly ran out of his medicine. They met her half way from Green Valley. Many people were willing to help Sheila and Maxx. She created a notebook so she could keep track of everything that was done each day: from medications and baths, massages and walks, even if he was scratching… when, where and how often. In this way she could see his progress and accurately report any problems to Maxx’s vets. It was in this way that she noticed a lump on his rear leg. Fearful of the results, Maxx went to the vet’s for a biopsy. Luckily he got a clean bill of health with the biopsy coming back as benign. Sheila has also added pictures of Maxx in her notebook. This enables everyone to see how he progressed in his healing with Sheila’s care. It even chronicles the exciting day he started to grow a little fur.

Often adopted animals become very attached to their rescuers and Maxx is no different. Sheila has Type 2 Diabetes. One night she woke to Maxx’s continual licking of her face. He had sensed that she was having trouble with her insulin levels. She called 911. Maxx had just saved her life! He has done this two more times since he has come to live with Sheila. Her doctor explained that Maxx was picking up on the chemical change in her body when her insulin was not at the correct level.

Just as Maxx looks after her, she still looks after him. He is taking his Benadryl and special food now. The groomers know to only use scissors on his fur and a grinder on his nails so his sensitive skin is not injured. Sheila and Max are grateful for the help of specialty veterinarians, their staff, and the Animal League of Green Valley who helps seniors adopt senior pets by giving financial assistance with medical expenses.

Sheila and Maxx have come far in their eighteen month journey. Maxx has a lovely white coat and has come far from that sick, naked and scared dog in the shelter. He is always by Sheila’s side. They spread their love by visiting a blind friend in a nursing home, and a 98-year-old in hospice. People everywhere know about Maxx, the amazing dog and his wonderful mom. Recently they even went on a family trip to the Grand Canyon for three days. Things are looking up for Sheila and Maxx. Who rescued who? Both!

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