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Ria’s Great Escape

I went to the US for 2.5 weeks in mid October, which required a lot of planning for my pets. Boarding and a petsitter for my own dogs and cats, walk-in foster dog adopted, a trial adoption for Duncan the foster puppy, and that left Ria.

Since Ria had only had one vaccination, she couldn’t go to the home for disabled dogs yet, so she went to a friend’s house along with two of my foster cats. My friend is elderly and has so many rescue pets, I should have realized it might be too much for her to handle, but since Ria is usually pretty quiet and well-behaved and was going to be indoors with the cats, I thought it would be okay.

Ria was happy enough when I was there with her, and I hoped she’d settle in well. My friend told me she was fine when I first asked about her. Then I was in rural Tennessee with no access to electricity and terrible reception when my friend called. I didn’t answer. Then she texted me that it’s urgent, about Ria. My heart sank. She said Ria was missing and asked if I could do a recording of my voice for 1-2 minutes that they could play to help find her. I tried, walking around behind the tents, shouting into my phone, “Ria, Ria, Ria! Come here, puppy! Come here!” for as long as I could, hoping the reception wouldn’t go out.

It went through! At least it was something they could use, but I couldn’t get any more updates for two days as my battery was rapidly dying. Once I was back in civilization again, there was no good news. Search parties were going out every day and Ria had been seen, but no one could catch her. They were shocked at how fast a three-legged dog could run!

As I was travelling around, didn’t have roaming, and there was a time difference of 12 hours from Malaysia, it was hard to keep up with what was going on. I got different stories from different rescuers and it seemed like chaos. The only good news was that Ria was staying in mostly the same place, the grounds of a school.

Finally, after she had been missing for more than 10 days, she was caught in a humane trap and brought to a vet. She was uninjured but according to one person, “angry.” I can understand why she would be!

She stayed at the vet for five days until I came back. Apparently she barked at everyone who came near her. She was in a cage, looking completely miserable. The she saw me and her eyes lit up and her tail started wagging. She knew she was going home.

I got her second vaccination that day, but I was in no hurry to send her to the home for disabled dogs. I knew I had to keep her with me where she feels safe until I can find her a real home. She still has a place there if she really needs it, but as long as I don’t have any neighbors complaining about her, I’ll keep her till she finds the right family who will love her and spoil her like she should be.

Ria’s First Adoption Drive

I sometimes volunteer with MDDB (Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better), helping out at adoption drives, and one of my own dogs, Penny, is a foster fail from them. After hearing Ria’s story, they offered her a place in their home for disabled dogs, which was a huge relief since at least I’d know she’d have a safe place to go if I couldn’t keep caring for her or get her adopted. I got her her first vaccination, and my friend suggested I bring her to MDDB’s adoption drive, not officially up for adoption yet, but just to get out and get accustomed to people.

Ria had a new friend, a short-term foster puppy Duncan, who got along well with all the dogs. Poor Duncan had a traumatic story too, the only survivor after his siblings were beaten to death at a construction site, but he never lost his happy smile. He was excited to go to the drive. Ria was not so excited at first.

Once at the mall, however, Ria started to relax, especially after she was given her own place in a comfy wagon! She spent the whole day there, either sitting up and smiling or napping. Not many people came near her as they were more interested in the smaller puppies in the playpens. But there was one lady who spent some time with her whose name was coincidentally also Ria (Rhea?)! Too bad she lived in a place that didn’t allow dogs.

Overall, it was a good experience for Ria. Even though she wasn’t completely comfortable with strangers, she seemed to enjoy herself. She was worn out when she got home that night.

Ria’s Road to Recovery

With proper pain medication and the tick fever treatment, Ria’s personality began to shine. She wagged her tail enthusiastically whenever she saw me, and she was happy for Patches, my cat who passionately loves all dogs, to playfully bat at her and cuddle up next to the playpen.

I still kept her in the playpen most of the time because while my dogs are very friendly, they can be a bit over-enthusiastic. She was active even the playpen, and about a week post-surgery, I noticed she was developing a bulge near her incision. Thanks to Tripawds again, I recognized it was probably a seroma. I contacted my vet and sent them photos, and they said it did look like a seroma, and to just monitor it and put hot compresses on it 2-3 times a day. Within a week, it had gotten back to normal.

After two weeks, she managed to climb out of the playpen herself, so I decided it was fine for her to be out and only go in for feedings and to sleep at night. My dogs got along well with her and were gentle for the most part.

Around this time, I had another surprise guest, a dog who looked like a pet followed me home from a run, went right into the house and made herself at home (turn out to be abandoned and has since been adopted)! I was worried about Ria since this dog was not so friendly with my dogs, but Ria and the walk-in were okay.

At three weeks post-surgery, Ria had another blood test which was normal, and she had her stitches removed! Of course, I’d said I would only foster her for 2-3 weeks, but her rescuers didn’t seem to be too interested in her, and I wanted to be sure she was safe. Keeping her permanently isn’t an option, but at least I wanted her to have her best chance at a good life.

Happy dog in a cone

Ria’s Surgery and Recovery

The rescuers took Ria to the vet and found that her paw was too badly injured to save. Initially, the vet was only going to amputate the front part of the paw, but the bone had become infected, so they had to take the whole front legs. The rescuers raised funds on social media and managed to get enough to cover the surgery. Then they asked if I’d be willing to foster Ria while she recovered.

I was reluctant because 1. my house was already pretty full with my own pets and a few foster pets and 2. I was going on a 2.5-week trip to the US in October. If I didn’t, they were going to send her to a shelter, which of course isn’t a good place for a puppy recovering from a major operation! So I said I could take her in for two or three weeks.

They wanted to bring her to me the very next day after her surgery! Fortunately, the vet recommended waiting one more day, but she was still in bad shape. She looked so depressed, even worse than the night she’d spent here. She didn’t want to move, didn’t want to eat. And then she started crying through the night.

sad dog in a cone

I didn’t have any instructions on what to do or what to expect. She was given two baggies of meds, rather unhelpfully labeled “painkiller” and “antibiotic” to be taken only once a day. It didn’t seem like enough.

So I did some research and found the Tripawds forum, which has been so helpful! After reading some pain management articles, I was even more convinced Ria hadn’t gotten the treatment she needed. I contacted the vet the rescuers had sent her to and asked specifically what the “painkiller” was and also if she’d been given any blood tests before surgery and whether it was safe for me to put flea treatment on her (I’d found a flea and had also learned that another dog recently rescued from the same area by a different rescuer had tick fever).

The vet replied that the “painkiller” was a simple anti-inflammatory! That’s like a doctor saying, “Just had your leg amputated? Take an ibuprofen once a day and you’ll be fine!”

They had removed many ticks from her and put on Advantage, so the flea I found must just not have died yet. However, they had not done any blood tests before surgery because of the rescuers’ “limited budget.”

I got Ria to my own vet as soon as possible and they prescribed her gabapentin and did a full blood test. Sure enough, she tested positive for tick fever, which causes anemia and lethargy. It requires a course of doxycycline for about a month, but symptoms start to resolve quickly.

My vet also advised me about changing and removing the bandage and wound cleaning. The rescuers and their vet didn’t seem to know anything about that either.

That night, Ria didn’t cry since she was on the medication. She started to perk up, get excited about food and hop around a little in her playpen.

Ria’s Story

Her Background and How She Came to Me

In early September 2023, I got a call late at night asking if I could foster an emergency rescue case just overnight until the rescuers could take the dog to the vet the next day. I didn’t know those people well, but taking in emergency midnight guests had started to become a common thing for me in the past couple of months. Knowing it would be difficult to find anyone else awake and willing to help, I agreed.

They brought the dog to me around 1am and briefly told me her story. They’d seen a Facebook post about a badly injured stray puppy at an apartment complex called Casa Ria. The resident who posted told them the puppy had been beaten with an iron rod by another resident. Apparently, she was the only witness and refused to make a police report or post these details publicly for fear of repercussions. The puppy had been wandering around with the injury for some time, but as the resident was elderly, she couldn’t catch her herself and didn’t know what to do.

The rescuers called the puppy Ria, after Casa Ria (maybe not the best name for her considering what happened to her there). Understandably, she looked miserable and terrified.

I put her on the porch in a playpen with a blanket in it for the night and carefully kept my own excitedly barking dogs in the house so they wouldn’t run out and scare her more. David, my outdoor foster dog, got a bit nosy when I gave Ria some food, but at least he gave her some space. The poor girl had no interest in eating.

All I could do before the rescuers came the next day was make sure she had water and was as comfortable as possible, which wasn’t much.

Little Ria the Survivor is brought to you by Tripawds.