No one knew where Toby came from, or how he ended up alone in the woods.
But when hikers found the mixed breed puppy near the Florida/Georgia border in mid-January, he was in very bad shape.
Malnourished and dehydrated, his femur was cracked and his hip dislocated. His skin was so infected that it was covered with scabs. Cold, and in tremendous pain, “he wouldn’t even look at people and had no interest in his surroundings,” says Coulter Kirkpatrick, volunteer coordinator at First Coast No More Homeless Pets, a non-profit animal welfare organization where Toby was taken.
Thanks to the No More Homeless Pets’ Angel Fund, Toby was nursed back to health with expert veterinary care. Within weeks, his skin was healing, his fur was growing back, he had gained weight and energy – and he was even playing with toys. He had been adopted, by a Jacksonville physician, who fell in love with him after seeing his photo on Facebook. He still needed surgery on his hip, which would be done after his skin completely healed, but he was no longer suffering or homeless.
Estimated to be about 7 months old, “He trusts people now, and is starting to act like a puppy should,” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s been remarkable.”
No More Homeless Pets was founded in 2002 to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters in Jacksonville, which at that time had one of the worst kill rates in the nation. By providing discounted or free spay/neuter surgeries, it was so successful that the area is now considered a no kill city, with very few animals being euthanized. The organization’s seven-day a week veterinary clinic also provides high-quality, low-cost care for all pet owners, regardless of income. Its Angel Fund, supported entirely by donations, provides care to pets whose families do not have the ability to pay, and to animals with no owners, like Toby. The Angel Fund mission: No animal should suffer for financial reasons.
Located in the Joseph A. Strasser Animal Health & Welfare Building, the spacious clinic has seven veterinarians on staff, who treat 80 to 100 clients a day. Staff also pick up feral cats from around the First Coast and bring them to the clinic to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated before being released back to their original location.
Toby was one of the worse cases the clinic had seen in a long time, but he represents the many Angel Fund cases No More Homeless Pets gets every week, says Development Director Nicole Brose.
He was so embraced and loved by the staff that while he was recovering, Brose and Kirkpatrick kept him in their offices during the day and a veterinary technician took him home on nights and weekends. “We believe that every animal deserves a chance at life,” says Brose, who misses him, but knows he has a wonderful home.
“In six months,” after he’s completely healed, “Toby will be a normal, happy dog,” she says.
“And hopefully,” Kirkpatrick says, “he’ll live a long and happy life.”
For more information about First Coast No More Homeless Pets, visit fcnmhp.org