Dog found barely alive gets help and a home

Lars the dog with his new person, lying together on a couch
Lars almost died alone, starving, dehydrated, and full of porcupine quills, but vets at the Sanctuary saved his life, and now he has a new home.
By Sarah Thornton

Lars is a rock star — not just because of his striking profile or the luxurious fluff that would almost be perfect for a bit of headbanging. (He was named for Metallica’s drummer, after all.) He’s earned himself friends and fans with a personality that just won’t quit, no matter how tough things get.

For a ramblin’ dog wandering desert roads on his own, that never-gonna-give-up attitude was important. But even rock stars need help sometimes, and recently this pup needed a whole lot of it.

A dog on the brink

Lars was found lying in a ditch on the side of the road. He was skinny and barely moving, his fur was matted, and his head and body were covered in porcupine quills. He had no collar to point the way back to a family, and with the condition he was in, he needed medical attention fast. He got just that at Best Friends Animal Clinic.

“He came in and was pretty much flat,” says Dr. Colleen Guilfoyle, a Best Friends veterinarian. “There was a question of if he was even really alive because he had a really faint heartbeat.” It looked like he had been out by the side of that road for a while, unable to eat, drink, or move — even to go to the bathroom.

[Husky mix gets help just when he needed it the most]

But Lars wasn’t the only one in the building with a personality that never gives up, and without a second thought veterinary staff got to work. His dehydration was the most pressing issue, so they began resuscitating him with fluids. Soon, he was opening his eyes and coming back mentally. Although his body was still weak and he found himself in an unfamiliar situation surrounded by unknown faces, once his nose got a sniff of a snack he was ready for it.

“He was still really dull,” Colleen recalls, “and I said, ‘Try putting some food in front of his face.’ So one of our technicians tried that, and he came back to life.”

He’d been without food for long enough that it needed to be reintroduced slowly, but that first bite was just what he needed. And with that fluid-and-food jump-start, veterinary staff had the chance to assess the rest of his condition.

Helping Lars out of a spiky situation

The good news was that other than the multitude of porcupine quills, Lars did not seem injured. He had no broken bones or other wounds to indicate a run-in with a vehicle. So once he was stable, it was just a matter of removing quills and slowly building back up his strength.

The tricky part would be that it seemed he’d had not just one, but a few unfortunate meetings with porcupines. And with his long, shaggy fur, quills could be difficult to spot. There were newer quills that could be removed with relative ease alongside older ones that had started to grow brittle and cause abscesses. Some of the older quills had been there so long that they broke apart when veterinarians tried to remove them.

“We did one procedure, then had to wait some time so that we would be able to find where (the quills) were again,” Colleen says. “And then we’d go in for the next procedure and the next one. He was such a trouper for all of it.”

In all, Lars was at the clinic for two weeks and needed three quill-removal sessions. And in that time, during the breaks between appointments, he charmed everyone he met. At first, he couldn’t walk much, and he was very shy. But he was getting stronger and feeling better every day, and he quickly warmed up to his new friends. (Treats helped, of course — turns out he’s not just a rock star but also a big-time foodie.)

And finally, when all of the porcupine quills had been removed and it was time for Lars to have some quality R&R outside of the clinic, Colleen brought him home to foster.

A home stage

Home life was a whole new adjustment for Lars. He didn’t seem familiar with even the most common household sights, sounds, and smells. “I don’t think he’d ever been in a house before,” says Colleen. “But he was such a good dog.”

Her own dog and cat welcomed the newcomer with the grace of pets who were used to sharing their home with foster animals regularly, and Lars became fast friends with both of them. He was an easy-going houseguest, following their lead and learning the ropes.

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Sometimes, there were human visitors Lars would shy away from. But more often than not, when Colleen had friends over he’d go about his own business, coming and going from the hangouts as he pleased. And it wasn’t long before one of those friends fell in love with Lars’ calm charisma and decided to give the rock star dog a new stage: a home to call his own.

“Now he has a sister shepherd friend and is learning all sorts of house things,” Colleen says and then laughs. “I’ve seen him recently, and he’s almost chubby now.”

It’s a whole new life for Lars, very different from his desert-wandering days. But it seems like he was more than ready to retire, anyway — and all future tours will be supervised and have a strict “no porcupine” policy.

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