Calamity Jane came to the Humane Society of Missouri with over 150 other dogs rescued from a sub-standard commercial breeding facility. As a veterinary technician employed at the facility, I fell in love with her at first sight. CJ, as she came to be known, tugged at my heartstrings with her dead, sunken eyes and fearful nature. CJ appeared to be a Shetland Sheepdog that was at least 10-12 years old. After a thorough examination and recommendations from the veterinarian, CJ and the other animals were treated for various health problems. However, no matter how hard we tried, we could not break through her fearful, silent wall. In September after weeks of treatment, all of the dogs were healthy enough and ready for adoption. A preview was held and the public was invited to look at all of the animals and put in an application to adopt them. When the evening ended, there were several that no one was interested in. CJ was one of those.
After talking it over with my husband, we decided to foster her for a few weeks and try to socialize her. Within 24 hours I learned something that had eluded us the entire three months she was in the shelter – CJ was deaf! That explained so much of her behavior. Using my background as a veterinary technician, I now had a better idea of how to work with her. After three weeks, we felt that CJ was making such great progress at our home that it would not be fair to uproot her to another home. She was ours!
Eight months after being brought in to the shelter, CJ was a changed dog. Although shewas still a little shy if someone moved toward her abruptly, she would walk through my office investigating my co-workers with her long Sheltie nose. CJ had arthritis in her back end and could not walk up stairs, but she learned how to walk down them on her own. With early onset cataracts, her vision was equivalent of looking out of a dirty window, but her nose servedher well and she became an expert at begging food from my husband. CJ had blossomed from a poor bedraggled creature to a beautiful happy dog.
It had taken work from all my family members to get CJ to trust people and the process was a long one. It was often a case of two steps forward one step back. I put my education as a veterinary technician to work and learned how to do massage to help her relax. She eventually would lean up against me begging for me not to stop. My husband felt that CJ had earned the right to enjoy her retirement and his favorite thing to do was let CJ taste anything we ate.
It was really quite amusing to watch the two of them interact. She was still slightly fearful, but would stand and beg with those sad sheltie eyes, and he would tell her “I bet you’ve never tasted this or that…” and hand her a piece of whatever was in his hand.
CJ’s plight demonstrates the life for animals living in sub-standard commercial breedingfacilities. Her story was used to illustrate problems with the USDA inspection process, her pictures were used to help pass the Puppy Protection Act, and she attended several functions where money was raised for the shelter to expand our abilities to help other animals still in dire situations. She was turning into a regular social butterfly.
We lost CJ about 1 1/2 years after she came to the shelter and into our home, but she inspired me and all of the people she met along the way. I miss her terribly, but I also feel goodabout the quality of life she had for her last years. I am also a better veterinary technician and a better dog owner because of her.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, NAVTA, was organized to represent and promote the profession of veterinary technology. Founded in 1981, the association provides direction, education, support and coordination for its members and works with other allied professional organizations for the competent care and humane treatment of animals. The association is headquartered in Battle Ground, Ind.