The call came through just after Christmas – a grotty, starving and terrified little white dog had been spotted in the most unlikely of places.
Somehow, stray dog Pierre had ended up trapped in a dry and narrow creek bed beside the Pooraka Football Club, on Adelaide’s north side.
The Maltese-cross simply didn’t have the energy to scramble back up the steep and rocky creek banks to safety.
RSPCA rushes to rescue little Pierre
Who knows how long Pierre was stuck there before a passer-by walking their dog nearby heard his cries and called RSPCA South Australia’s 24-hour hotline on 1300 4 777 22.
Arriving at the scene, RSPCA Rescue Officer Jo first had to gain the terrified little dog’s confidence.
“I could see that his coat was really badly matted and he had lots of prickles stuck in the matting. But he was really timid and ran away whenever I approached,” Rescue Officer Jo recalls.
“Eventually, I got him cornered and then I just sat with him for a bit until he felt comfortable. I gave him some dog treats and, finally, I got close enough to grab him and carry him out of the creek.”
Close vet care to treat multiple health issues
Back at RSPCA’s Lonsdale shelter, veterinarians had to completely sedate the little dog – dubbed Pierre by his rescuers – in order to shave off his terribly matted coat.
Beneath the months of overgrown fur, they found multiple grass seeds embedded painfully in Pierre’s skin and paws, all of which were gently removed, one-by-one.
With no microchip, collar or any form of identification, it was impossible to know where Pierre had come from or what situation he might have escaped.
RSPCA veterinarians also closely checked Pierre’s oddly bowed front legs, determining that it was likely a congenital leg deformity. Pierre might experience arthritis later in life, they believed, but for now, he was coping just fine.
‘He was very thin and terrified, and had those deformed little front legs. He broke my heart.’
Pierre’s health was healing, but the little boy did experience anxiety and fear in the busy shelter environment.
A quieter home where he could gain his confidence was needed, RSPCA behaviourists decided. So kind-hearted help was called in.
That help came in the form of Lee-Ann Hunt, foster carer with Moving Paws Incorporated, a reputable South Australian animal rescue non-profit specialising in small dog rehabilitation, which often works with RSPCA on the most difficult cases.
“When I first collected Pierre from RSPCA’s shelter, he was absolutely petrified of everything and everyone. He was very thin and terrified, and had those deformed little front legs. He broke my heart,” Lee-Ann recalls.
On his first night at Lee-Ann’s house, Pierre was too frightened to even leave his bed to eat.
“He wouldn’t let me near him, so I placed his first meal out on the lawn by his blanket, but he was too scared to move and wouldn’t go to the bowl. So I put the bowl in the blanket, and threw a trail of food to lure him into his bed,” she says.
“Over the course of a couple of days, he slowly gained the courage to creep closer to the house, to take one step inside the back door, then two, until he eventually began eating inside.
“The day that he followed me to jump up on the couch for the first time, I cried happy tears.”
With lots of love and care, Pierre starts to feel comfortable in his new home
Pierre gradually made himself at home with Lee-Anne’s two adult children, two dogs, and the host of foster dogs that came through her doors. Pretty soon, it was obvious he was there to stay.
“I fell in love with Pierre instantly and was overjoyed when he was brave enough to love me back. I realised there was no way I could contemplate him leaving,” Lee-Anne confesses.
“I have tried hard to provide Pierre with a calm, loving and consistent environment to build his confidence and make him feel safe.
“When he knows I am having a coffee, or it’s dinner time, he will come over with his nose turned up and ‘his teefers out’, as we say, with that cute little Shih Tzu underbite that shows the bottom row of teeth.
“He also curls his body around your leg like a cat if you give him a back scratch just in front of his tail. He has beautiful eyes which look at me so trustingly. I couldn’t bear to think of him being anywhere else.”
Plenty of friends for little Pierre
Lee-Anne says it’s incredible how quickly Pierre bonded with her 8-year-old Maltese-cross Roxy – the two have become such firm friends that Lee-Ann now classes Roxy as Pierre’s therapy dog.
“She comes along to Pierre’s grooming and vet appointments as his confidence companion.
“He is terrified of being groomed, and hates his feet being touched, so the lovely groomer we use is gradually conditioning him with multiple appointments, doing a little at a time, to keep his stress minimal,” she says.
“Because he started out as such a sad, frightened little boy, seeing him play with Roxy is so heartwarming, and they are so funny to watch. It’s amazing how he gets around and jumps from couch to couch on those funny little legs.
“He is now at a healthy 7.3kg, a long way from that skinny, starved 4kg stray. He gets to sleep inside in his favourite bed in my room, he now loves to go in the car and enjoys his walks with Roxy by his side.”
‘Knowing that he is adored and safe and never has to be cold, hungry or alone again is the absolute best part.’
Lee-Ann admits Pierre is still a work-in-progress. He’s still tentative around her adult son – “I’m afraid something bad may have happened to him in the past,” she says – and requires ongoing medication and a strict diet regime for his leg deformity and arthritis.
But it’s worth it all to see how happy little Pierre is now, Lee-Ann says.
“Knowing that he is adored and safe and never has to be cold, hungry or alone again is the absolute best part. And I love that he loves me so much too,” she says.
“That I have helped another sad little homeless dog is also so very rewarding. I would help save them all if I could.
“I believe 100 per cent in the Adopt Don’t Shop campaign. It’s heartwarming to rescue and adopt an animal who may not have had the best start, or who needs help and re-homing through no fault of their own, and who absolutely deserves a happy ever after.
“The best reward is the unconditional love you receive in return.”
From the bottom of our hearts, we’re so grateful to all our supporters who made Pierre’s new life with Lee-Ann a reality. If you’d like to continue helping animals just like Pierre, head over here to donate.