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Abandoned dog adopted into loving home

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Gregory
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
It’s a familiar, yet sad story. A family is getting ready for a permanent change of station but can’t take their pet with them. But instead of trying to find a new home for this pet, they choose to abandon it and leave the animal to fend for itself.

In Italy, about 150,000 dogs and 200,000 cats are abandoned each year, said Kerry Woody, Aviano Veterinary Clinic business manager.

“Abandoned pets are exposed to starvation, injury and disease and are stripped of any affection,” she said.

Although one such pet was abandoned, she had a happy ending to a potentially tragic story. Her name is Athena, a boxer found abandoned in the Aviano area.

“When she was brought in, the clinic was faced with a tough decision,” Mrs. Woody said. “She was emaciated and had pressure sores along her joints and pelvis from where the bones were rubbing through the skin.”

The vet clinic decided to give the boxer another chance and took emergency action to re-hydrate and restore her nutritional balance.

However, shortly after bringing her back from the brink, Athena suffered a stroke and developed neurological problems such as ataxia, which is the loss of the ability to coordinate muscular movement. The condition caused difficulty walking for Athena, who also appeared to suffer from dementia.

On top of all this, Athena was diagnosed with a heart murmur and a malignant form of breast cancer, which had spread to four of her eight mammary glands. The veterinary treatment facility was only able to remove part of the cancer.

Mrs. Woody said many of Athena’s problems were probably due to starvation. But despite her medical problems, Athena began to recover.

“Her personality became apparent and she showed herself to be a friendly, and amazingly, happy creature,” said Mrs. Woody.

However, even though Athena was recovering, the clinic thought it likely that Athena would live only a few more months. They began the difficult task of trying to find Athena a comfortable home to spend her remaining days.

“It seemed like a fruitless task; who would to want to house a dog with so many problems and with only a short while left to live?” said Mrs. Woody.

Luckily for Athena, someone did.

“My husband Eric and I felt we could provide some dignity and love for Athena during her final months here,” said Cindy Wellman. “We felt that because we had the ability, a large yard and extra time to care for another animal, there wasn’t any reason not to take her.”

Taking Athena wasn’t the Wellman’s first encounter adopting a pet.

“Our other dog, Xena, is a 4-year-old Rottweiler we got from another military family who was moving,” said Mrs. Wellman.

Although they accepted Athena into their home and hearts, the Wellman family advises people to think carefully before becoming a pet owner.

“Too many sad stories like Athena’s happen due to pet owners taking on responsibilities that aren’t fully realized,” Mrs. Wellman said. “Money for food, time to play with and exercise your animal, and the cost of vet bills adds up. People may think they can afford an animal financially, but there is also the responsibility of caring for your pet’s emotional needs as well.”

Other factors to keep in mind are lifestyle, allergies and compatibility.

“Make sure that you have a good match with your family,” Mrs. Wellman said. “Realize that pets may have long lives and will be with you from base to base. Pets are not disposable.”

Today, Athena has adjusted to life in the Wellman’s home and has Samantha, Xena and three cats as her playmates.

“In all honesty, we really can’t believe how much Athena’s presence has added to our home. She is such a happy dog and you would never know how sick she truly is if you weren’t told,” said Mrs. Wellman. “She provides much love and companionship and we feel blessed to know she will always be with us. We only hope we have given her half the joy she has given us.”