When Phoenix (formerly Lefty) was rescued from the Olympic Animal Sanctuary, in Forks, WA, he was a both a physical and psychological mess.
An 11-year-old Border Collie mix, Phoenix’s tail was torn off during a fight at the OAS. And according to volunteers, Steve Markwell never took Phoenix to a veterinarian despite the severity of his injury.
Danni Green, a professional dog rescuer who worked for Animal Rescue Corps and coordinated the work at the Guardians of Rescue site in Arizona, said she can’t believe Phoenix survived.
Below is a conglomeration of two reports by the rescues that took Phoenix.
While it documents several problems that other rescues reported about former Olympic Animal Sanctuary – emaciation, worn teeth, parasites, hookworms, vision problems and skeletal deformities – it goes into much more extensive detail than we have seen before.
Furthermore, it thoroughly explains the psychological damage that Phoenix suffered as well.
Here’s the report. I don’t have permission to say which rescue took Phoenix or where it is located, so I left that information out.
Phoenix’s Story – Extensive and Inhumane Confinement
Tonight I would like to share one of our rescue kid’s stories with you. It is not a short story. Many dogs and puppies come and go through our rescue doors. The large majority of them find wonderful, loving homes with good and kind people, and we celebrate those placements with the Happy Dance. Some of our rescue kids though, come with so much baggage from previous lives that it is likely they will always stay with us.
Phoenix is one of those kids.
Phoenix came into our rescue January 9, 2014. He is confirmed to be about eleven years old based on his initial vet assessment by our program vet. We know he had been at OAS since 2009, and as evidenced by his poor body condition, his confinement was extensive and inhumane.
Rescued from a freezing cold, dark, and old warehouse with no heat or cooling, Phoenix spent five years of his life confined to a plastic crate that was too small for him to stand up in. He lived in urine and feces soaked hay. Markwell rarely took him outside. He endured the coldest of cold, and the hottest of days. Phoenix also didn’t receive proper nourishment or access to clean water to drink. His living conditions were deplorable.
When he first arrived Phoenix (Lefty) was found to be in thin body condition with a poor hair coat and a stilted or guarded gait. He had generalized poor muscle tone, and exhibits splay toed conformation mostly evident in his front limbs. He displays arthritic changes to the joints of his hind limbs.
His oral exam revealed severely worn teeth with some eroded completely to the gum line, evidence of “cribbing” or continually gnawing on a hard surface for a very long and continuous period of time.
Among those physical body signs of abuse and neglect, crepitation, skin lesions from severe fur matting and limb deformities are just a few issues identified.
Phoenix also has a systolic heart murmur, was heavily infested with hookworms, and deemed to be severely neglected over a long period of time in order for him to accumulate these abnormalities according to his new veterinarian.
His hookworm infestation was significant. There is simply no way to know how long he suffered from his internal parasites, much less from extreme confinement. These atrocities against him are just a part of the picture.
5 Years “Stored on a Shelf”
Phoenix had little exposure to sun, exercise, proper nutrition, routine health care, human touch or love.
As a result, Phoenix suffered from atrophied muscles and malformed bones due to his confinement in a crate much too small for him. His vision is bad because he spent years in the dark.
He was basically just stored, on a shelf, in a box, in the dark, for five years of his life.
Phoenix could not stand up fully for weeks after his arrival to our facility and required patience, exercise, good nutrition and time for his body to relearn how to walk again, to run, to stretch out and hold his head up, and to relax and sleep in a comfortable bed.
Phoenix has all appropriate vaccinations and treatment for his parasite infestation, and his skin lesions are gone.
That was the easy part.
“Severe Abuse and Neglect”
Over the period of several weeks after Phoenix arrived at our facility, it has become more and more apparent that this boy has suffered from severe abuse and neglect beyond what has manifested in his physical body.
When he first arrived at the rescue he was very fearful, and for several days, would run to the back of his kennel when we went in to try to reassure him or feed him. He would duck down, and try to hide. Exposure was frightening for him.
Phoenix held his head down toward the ground almost continually for the first few weeks after his arrival to us and appeared to avoid eye contact. We are still not certain if that was submission, or a physical inability to raise his head higher than his shoulders due to confinement in a crate too small for him. Either way, with time, is it slowly resolving.
Phoenix is very sweet, and loves toys. He will play with you endlessly. He is still very hand shy and turns away when you reach to touch him, but he’s getting better about allowing your hands near his face but it is slow progress. His behaviors indicate someone physically punished or hit him.
Many times as he is napping, if you disturb him, he rushes to the far corner of his kennel and hides his face away from you. We believe his hearing isn’t good.
Note: We do not see these behaviors when he isn’t in his kennel.
Phoenix Loves the Outdoors
When we work with him out of his kennel, in our training office or dog yards, he is open, vibrant, and a different dog.
Phoenix loves to be outdoors and behaves very normally when outside. He waits very patiently for his turn to be outdoors at every rotation as all the dogs are coming and going. When he knows we are coming for him, he taps his front feet on the floor and drops his head and wags.
Once the door is open, he scuttles by as quickly as he can and rushes to get outdoors. He always heads straight for the water tub. Once he is outdoors, his head goes up and his gait quickens, and then, he runs. You can always see such joy in this.
I like to watch him every time he sprints out the door and crosses the yard toward the water tub. He loves to be free and to run, but he is still learning to run again. It is hard for him and perhaps painful, but he is getting better.
We have made sure that Phoenix has the option to eat twice daily and he gets treats throughout the day for everything he does, from going into his room, to sitting, to going outside, to being well mannered. We don’t want him to feel hunger again. He enjoys very much praise and “Good boy!” exclamations and does very well with treat training.
He has finally started lifting his head upwards when we speak to him, and we’ve seen some direct eye contact finally. He almost no longer flinches when you gently touch his hindquarter area. He has had some pretty significant guarding of his tail area. It is possible that he still has phantom pain where his tail used to be, but we simply don’t know at this time.
We have primarily concentrated on ensuring Phoenix feels safe and is comfortable, and to provide a consistent routine where he is well fed and provided clean, fresh water always and a clean space with activities.
We are focusing on an easy schedule with no huge expectations and lots of soft voice, music, play, and new things to enjoy that are non-threatening.We are not pushing him.
We have noticed some improvement in his uncomfortable gait, which is still evident, even to visitors who do not have the experience that we do with these things. It is one of the first things visitors ask when they see Phoenix chasing a ball. “Is there something wrong with his feet?
Based on his fearfulness, Phoenix will remain at our facility in a safe and non-threatening environment for an indefinite period of time. He will have his own space, and will work through his recovery on his own terms.
We spend two to four hours daily working with Phoenix on trust and just hanging out with him and doing basic training and exercises, and his response has been amazing. We are completely committed to his full recovery and hope for an eventual placement with exactly the right family or person, but if that doesn’t happen, Phoenix has a home here with us.
He May Not Be Adopted, But He Has a Home
While we have addressed all of Phoenix’s physical issues to the best of our ability and his body is now healthy, his mind still continues to struggle to overcome his abuse and neglect. He has come such a long way, and during the day his body and mind allows him to run and play, enjoy the world, and interact with great joy with people. He is such a sweet boy.
But during the evening and night, when the shadows change and the sun goes down, we believe his vision plays tricks on him and he becomes worried, and afraid.
We let Phoenix have his space during these times, and we never push him. We let him be when he shows us he is afraid. His fears still have not completely gone away and likely never will.
The reason I am telling his story is because people may believe that rescue organizations always find homes for all of their rescue kids. That is so far from the truth. Rescue organizations step forward for certain dogs because they have suffered trauma, neglect, abuse, and other atrocities against them that no living creature should ever have to endure.
The humans that commit these acts against these innocent animals should suffer at least in some way for what they have done to the weaker among us. But we have no control over that. We can only help the victims. We step forward BECAUSE of their great need, and despite of it.
Phoenix endured a level of neglect and disregard that will probably follow him all of his days. We knew this when we accepted him into our program. We knew he needed us, so we brought him here. In rescue, we never know if we will rehabilitate a dog, or if will stay with us the remainder of their lifetime. It doesn’t matter, because our commitment to them is the same.
While we do still hope for that perfect home for Phoenix, we are also realistic enough to understand that he is not a puppy, he’s not perfect, and he has suffered enough damage to his spirit that he may always harbor certain behaviors. That’s okay. It isn’t his fault.
Phoenix has a lot of catching up to do on life as his past mistreatment and confinement continue to haunt him. It is sad to see his fear, but one day at a time, he will rise again.”