Tuba City is full of strays, but apparently there is an area just a few miles from Dr. Holgate’s home and clinic, that is a dumping ground for abandoned animals. A friend of Dr. Holgate's husband had tried for several months to capture a stray female needing serious intervention with a professional’s attention. Every time he tried to approach this particular dog, she would dart away, returning later to the same area. Eventually she had a new litter of puppies, increasing the number of strays in this Navajo community by five.
Dr. Holgate and her husband, Elward, were notified about the litter and their abandoned mother last May. Both of them traveled down the road to bring the family of strays back to the clinic, but they were only able to locate the new pups the first day. The pups weren’t more than a day or two old, but the concerned couple rescued the babies knowing they would have to return for the mother at another time. Elward returned to the property that evening with Dr. Holgate’s niece. They were successful in locating the mother, but she did not go easily. Dr. Holgate had been mentoring her niece with animal care and she was quick. She captured the frightened dog and kept a good hold of her all the way back to the clinic, without injury to either of them.
The Holgates had to act swiftly to reunite the mom, later named Eevee, with her litter. They constructed a fully enclosed area outside so that Eevee could not escape. Strays are very resourceful and smart; they climb and dig their way out of situations they perceive as threatening. Eevee’s fully dilated eyes told the story; she was terrified. Since Eevee was so fearful of people, they had to be very careful to respect her space while getting her the help she and her puppies needed. Dogs in distress can sometimes “fear bite”, meaning they bite out of sheer panic and anxiety over a situation. This is different than the type of bites associated with a mean or fierce dog; it’s just a dog that is scared and feels this is the only way to communicate that they are terrified. Fortunately, there were no bites, but building trust with the pups' mom was a long road. An important element of any successful rehabilitation for abandoned animals is patience. Eevee did end up digging a hole, but it was more about creating a space of her own to get away and feel safe than it was about escaping her new refuge.
There were obstacles to this rescue beyond fear biting and bonding. One of the pups died the following day and it was apparent Eevee and the remaining four pups were infested with ticks. It took some time before they were able to do blood work on Eevee, but once these tests were completed, they confirmed she had Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease that can cause a variety of complications including lethargy, liver damage, anemia and death. Anaplasmosis is treatable through antibiotics, but the pups hadn’t been weaned yet and the medicine would have been harmful to them. The decision to treat or not to treat was a difficult one, but there was some literature confirming survival among dogs going without treatment. This was the only course of action to ensure the babies health would improve; it was a decision that proved to be the right one down the road. Eevee spontaneously recovered and all the pups proved negative as well.
After telling this story, Dr. Holgate lamented, “the strays challenge us; it’s never what you prepare for, especially with the pups”. Fortunately, this dedicated doctor continues to persevere.
Caring support from individuals like you make that a little easier.