The Heartwarming Tale of an Empathetic Individual Who Rescues an Ailing Pup and Restores Its Well-being

In May, Stephanie Smith-Justus was contacted by a worried neighbor who had spotted a distressed dog and felt helpless about what actions to take.

Smith-Justus, an individual employed at a city shelter while simultaneously managing the no-kill Buchanan County Humane society in Virginia, hurriedly sought the assistance of her husband and headed towards the end of their street. This endeavor was prompted by a neighbor who claimed to have spotted the dog in question. Initially, Smith-Justus’s hope diminished as they thoroughly searched the densely wooded area. However, her husband’s unexpected discovery of the dog lying among a cluster of weeds at the road’s terminus left them worried about its survival. Reflecting on this moment, Smith-Justus recounted to The Dodo, “‘Stephanie, I don’t believe he will make it.'”

“He looked like he had been scalded,” smith-Justus mentioned. The puppy, who was just 4 months old, had a severe case of demodectic mange, which was probably passed on to him by his mother. “It was really terrible,” she noted. “Imagine it as a burn similar to a second-degree one.”
Coincidentally, there was a veterinarian who had recently moved into a nearby house. In a hurry, smith-Justus and her husband picked up the tiny puppy and rushed over to the vet’s house. “We didn’t even bother knocking,” she explained. “I simply ran inside with him.”

Upon examining the canine found on a street named Watkins, the veterinarian immediately detected an unsettling issue. According to smith-Justus, the woman who discovered the dog expressed that he was in critical condition. They promptly brought him to the veterinary clinic, where it became evident that his diseased skin was just the tip of the iceberg. Shockingly, he had fallen victim to numerous pellet gun wounds, weighing a mere 34 pounds and enduring such severe malnutrition that his intestines had collapsed due to prolonged starvation.

Due to severe malnutrition, the puppy’s ankles did not develop properly, causing his tendons to lose their flexibility. It was disheartening to witness him struggling to even stand on his paw pads, as he would often fall down on his wrists while attempting to walk. The mange had also taken a toll on his frail body, pushing him to the brink of collapse. His skin was oozing with fluids, creating an 8-inch wet patch around him wherever he sat, making him appear swollen and puffy. In a bittersweet moment, a small and vulnerable puppy emitted a faint wag of her tail, silently hoping for acts of compassion in her fragile condition.

Smith-Justus felt a deep sense of sadness upon learning about Watkins’ predicament and had a strong desire to assist him. However, her primary concern was to ensure that she acted with utmost kindness towards him. Expressing her thoughts to the veterinarian, she mentioned, “I comprehend that if he is truly difficult to handle and euthanasia is necessary, but my intention is to prioritize his well-being.” She then firmly stated, “Let’s work together to provide him with the support he needs.”

It wasn’t an easy journey. Soon after being taken to the clinic, Watkins experienced severe discomfort in his digestive system and had to undergo emergency surgery. The doctor had little hope for his recovery.
“The doctor told me he wouldn’t survive and advised me to bid him farewell,” stated smith-Justus. “But to my surprise, he was still incredibly resilient the following morning.”
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the situation took a turn for the worse. Watkins lost his appetite, shedding 34 pounds in the process and requiring the placement of a feeding tube, which he managed to chew off later on. Smith-Justus humorously described his rehabilitation as a series of mishaps and blunders.

During his extensive 119-day stay at the veterinarian’s office, alongside a brief period in Virginia Tech’s intensive care unit, Watkins faced numerous hurdles to regain his health after a challenging beginning. Yet, an equally heartwarming occurrence unfolded throughout this time.

Smith-Justus started receiving messages of support from compassionate individuals worldwide who caught wind of Watkins’ tale and wished him a swift recovery. The outpouring of kindness expanded further as packages containing blankets and cozy dog beds arrived not only from various corners of the United States, but also from overseas. One family even embarked on a multistate journey solely to meet Watkins in person, showcasing the profound impact he had made on their lives.

With a strong following of over 12,000 people, a Facebook page was created to capture and share Watkins’ remarkable journey. It seems that his story and captivating photographs resonated not only with me but also with many others, as evident from the significant number of followers. Thanks to Watkins’ unwavering determination and the unwavering support he received from his loyal followers, he successfully reunited with smith-Justus on July 11, finally making his way back home.

He wasn’t entirely free from medical attention. He had a regular doctor’s appointment every Tuesday to treat his ongoing ear infection, and every Thursday he had to undergo “puppy chemo” to eliminate the demodectic mange.
However, his resilience never ceased to amaze everyone around him. Despite his ongoing leg problems, smith-Justus had scheduled an appointment to have them examined. But before she could take him, Watkins surprised everyone by taking a remarkable step forward – quite literally. “Suddenly, he stood up and started walking as he should,” smith-Justus shared. “I’m speechless.”
Over the next few months, Watkins gradually improved. Although he is still on the road to recovery, he is much closer to being a happy and healthy 10-month-old puppy than anyone could have expected.

And he consistently shows appreciation to Smith-Justus, her loved ones, and her friends for all the progress he has made. In the past, he used to be afraid of cars and yard tools, but now he finds joy in going on car rides. His confidence is gradually returning, and he has already become stronger as he runs around in the yard without crying, a skill he only acquired a few weeks ago.

“He is truly a joy to have around; such a well-behaved puppy,” she remarked. “Not only has he become physically stronger, but his skin and ears have also improved.”

Furthermore, Watkins has found a dear companion in his toy lobster. He keeps it in his water bowl throughout the day and retrieves it in the evening for cuddles and comfort.

In spite of his challenging upbringing, Watkins possesses an unexpectedly abundant capacity for love. To illustrate this, Watkins readily decided to provide a nurturing home for a group of kittens and their mother, who had been affected by a fire incident. With compassion in his heart, he gently washed the soot-covered felines while their apprehensive mother watched on.
The path ahead is still arduous for Watkins, as he continues to endure numerous medical procedures. In order to cope with the stress, he has started taking Prozac. Despite the hurdles, each new day reveals a glimpse of the resilient spirit hidden beneath Watkins’ childhood traumas.
According to the medical experts at Virginia Tech, it was unlikely that Watkins would survive, but against all odds, he proved to be a living miracle. His resilience and tenacity have amazed everyone involved in his care.

If you wish to support Watkins’ ongoing veterinary expenses, you have the option to make a contribution through this platform.
To prevent more dogs from facing the same fate as Watkins and being abandoned, consider providing a forever home for one. Visit Adopt-a-Pet.Com to discover dogs in your locality that are in desperate need of a loving family.

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