Imagine being so hungry you can barely move. Weak, miserable and aching with every movement, pleading to those around you for help.
This was Charlie’s existence.
Sadly, the majority of Charlie’s life was a struggle. A sweet Staffordshire dog whose eyes said it all. Suffering, suffering and more suffering.
My name is Cheryl Doudle and I have been an inspector at RSPCA South Australia for seven years. Animal cruelty cases are never easy, but some tend to stay with you more than others. Charlie is one of those cases for me.
A call to our cruelty report hotline sparks awful discovery
The first time RSPCA South Australia received a call about Charlie from a concerned member of the public, we arrived at the Sefton Park home to discover two slightly underweight, but reasonably healthy dogs.
We were relieved that it wasn’t one of ‘those’ cases. The cases that sometimes take days to erase the replays from your mind.
A week later, we received a follow up call about the same property. This time the person on the line described another dog, who the caller described as literally skin and bone. If this dog was at the property, he must have been hidden during our first visit.
This time, I decided to arrive unannounced to the home, suspicious but not yet sure of the horror that was inside. Two teenagers inside the property refused to let me in, claiming they didn’t have keys and that they themselves were locked in the house.
I threatened police involvement and, just 10 minutes later, the owner walked up the driveway. Inside the house was Charlie.
‘The most shocking case of emaciation I’ve ever seen’
At first glance, I thought Charlie was a whippet based on how thin he was. His spine and pelvis protruded through a thin layer of skin.
He somehow managed to hobble over to me, frail and fighting to keep his head up. I was shocked to see a dog in this state still alive.
In my seven years on the job, to this day, Charlie is still the most shocking case of emaciation I have ever seen. Not only was there nothing left of him, but his fur had fallen out, suggesting long-term chronic neglect. My heart broke.
The verbally abusive owner refused to surrender Charlie, so I immediately seized him and took him to the emergency vet for what truly was an emergency situation.
Veterinarians couldn’t believe skeletal Charlie was still alive
I had never seen such visible shock on the face of a vet or vet nurse. Ever. The blood seemed to disappear from their faces, eyes wide, barely blinking.
No one could believe that Charlie was still alive.
Upon closer inspection, we discovered Charlie’s nails had grown so long, that four were embedded up to 1cm in his soft nail beds, making it agonising to walk. Poor Charlie’s nail beds oozed with old, unhealed infection.
This suggested that he almost never went outside, nor had exercise, as his nails didn’t have the normal wear you would expect from a dog with a well-balanced life. Clearly, Charlie had led a far from happy life.
Charlie quietly let us cut his nails, lacking the energy to make so much as a whimper.
As you can imagine, this malnourished and neglected dog also had fleas, severe dental disease, and a very slow heartbeat. Poor Charlie didn’t have anything going for him … except his fighting spirit, and us.
Round-the-clock care as Charlie grows stronger
It’s impossible to tell just how much longer Charlie would have lasted in this state, but it’s safe to say that his days were numbered.
Without our intervention, his body would have started to shut down, one organ at a time. It would have been an agonising death for poor Charlie.
Immediately, we started the healing process required to give him a chance of happiness in his twilight years. Despite weighing only 6.7 kilos when we first seized him from his neglectful owner, within one week he had gained a whopping 2.1 kilos!
Charlie’s ability to gain weight told us that there was no underlying health condition prohibiting weight gain … just significant starvation. Simple and sadistic.
With around-the-clock care from RSPCA South Australia’s veterinary team, we slowly started seeing improvements in Charlie.
Soon enough, much to my delight, it became hard to even recognise him! Charlie, who was once a frail and struggling dog, was now strong and bright-eyed.
What happened next?
What happened to Charlie next will absolutely warm your heart … and, of course, we weren’t going to let his former owners off without facing court. Tune in to part two of Charlie’s story to find out.
Remember, it’s only thanks to community donations that we can save animals like Charlie from the brink of death, and give them the medical attention they need. Please donate today to help us help them.