Saving Petunia: good samaritan, caring vet come to rescue of lost, very sick dog

[Article by Paige McCall]

Last Monday evening, June 11th, a little ways off of Millpond Road, Fall City native Shirlie Lee was driving to her grandparents’ house to celebrate her grandpa’s 90th birthday when she noticed what appeared to be a lost dog walking in the middle of the road.

Shirlie explained, “At first glance she just looked like an older dog that was wandering around, which isn’t all that uncommon for that area, but as I got a closer look I could tell she had been lost for quite a long time.”

The dog was missing a lot of hair on her back, and was so skinny that you could see her ribs and hip bones. Shirlie pulled over and tried calling for her, but she wasn’t sure if the dog’s hearing was that great. Finally it came over to her when she whistled— and of course, when she noticed Shirlie was holding a bag of treats.

The dog was put on a leash and given a few treats. Shirlie tried to get her to hop up into the car, but she ended up needing to pick her up, which was no easy task since Shirlie is 6 months pregnant!

With a few more treats, the dog immediately laid down for the ride to the Salish Veterinary Hospital in Snoqualmie. Upon arrival, this lost dog found a hardworking staff waiting to care for her, including Dr. Erin Bennett, who named her Petunia.

Dr. Bennett says that Petunia looked pretty sad when she arrived last Monday. She had overgrown nails, fleas, mites, and a skin infection. On top of that she was severely dehydrated and emaciated. She was cold, had an upset stomach, an ear infection, and a urinary tract infection.

Perhaps most worrisome, they discovered Petunia has as mammary tumor. They took chest radiographs to look for metastasis (spreading of tumors) and luckily didn’t find any. However, the x-ray did reveal that Petunia had a couple of BB’s lodged in her.

Petunia was immediately given a flea treatment and fluids. Dr. Bennett worked with a veterinarian from King County Animal Control to create a re-feeding program to make sure she didn’t get sick. She was also dewormed, started on antibiotics, and given skin medications to help reduce itching.

The veterinary staff estimatesd that Petunia is between 8 and 11 years old, but she could be older. She is mostly deaf, and has significant arthritis. There is no exact estimate how long she had been wandering before encountering Shirlie.

It was clear to everyone caring for Petunia that she would need a good home with attentive caretakers in order for her to heal and grow stronger. But the staff was surprised when Bennett immediately told them that Petunia would be coming home with her.

Dr. Bennett explained that she had adopted a lot of older dogs over the years, and recently had to say goodbye to her last adopted senior dog, Charles. On her decision to foster Petunia, Dr. Bennett said: “I knew I could give her the care she needed to heal and get strong enough to go to a forever home, whether that is with us or another family.”

While Petunia has luckily found a foster family with her veterinarian, that doesn’t reduce the extent of treatment that she needs. Luckily, people in the community, moved by Petunia’s story, have stepped up to help out. The Salish Veterinarian Hospital has already received around 30 donations for her care.

The next step for Petunia is a surgery to spay her and remove the mammary mass, but they have to wait a little while to ensure she is strong enough. In the meantime, she’ll be recovering that strength in the comfort of her foster home.

As of now, Dr. Bennett says that Petunia is getting better every day, which means she and her family get to see more of her true personality: “She loves walking around in the backyard, but is still scared of being outside alone. She LOVES being in bed and is still sleeping a lot. She feels most safe when she is in her kennel or by our side. She scares really easily so we have to be very careful about letting her know where we are at all times.”

The other morning, after making sure Dr. Bennett was close by, Petunia even ran around the backyard for the first time!

It would have been just as easy— in fact, much easier— for Shirlie Lee to drive past a dog wandering in the street, just as it would have probably been easier for Dr. Bennett to send that dog to a shelter in hopes of finding a foster home, rather than opening up her own home. But, thanks to the extraordinary kindness of these two women, this dog now has the medical care she needs, a loving home to recover in, and a beautiful name— Petunia.

If you want to keep up with Petunia’s recovery progress it donate, visit the Salish Veterinary Hospital Facebook page.


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