Husky mix gets help just when he needed it the most

Hank the husky mix dog, standing outside with his mouth open smiling
Time was already running out for Hank when he arrived at the shelter, but the team that helped save his life was closer than anyone could have imagined.
By Nicole Hamilton

The day that Hank arrived at a Houston shelter marked the first day of his brand-new life, even though he was on borrowed time from the minute he arrived. Not only did the Husky mix have a broken leg that needed medical attention, but he also had heartworm.

Hank’s fragile health, coupled with the fact that the shelter was filled to capacity and already having a difficult time finding homes for older, big dogs like Hank, was enough to land him on the euthanasia list. But help was closer than anyone could have imagined. In fact, it was already on hand when Hank arrived.

Finding a place to save a life

With time not on Hank’s side, the shelter staff started looking for a local rescue organization that could pick him up that very day and provide him with care for his injured leg and heartworm disease.

Caregivers didn’t have to look far. That day, a team from Best Friends Animal Society was at the shelter for an event to connect volunteers with dogs needing foster homes. After they learned about Hank, they checked on him throughout the day, but when the foster rally started wrapping up, no one had yet stepped forward for Hank. So, the team began making arrangements for sending him to Best Friends.

[Nine things to know about heartworm disease]

First, they contacted Dr. Erin Katribe, Best Friends medical director and veterinarian, who in turn made plans to perform surgery on Hank’s broken leg and address his other medical issue the very next day. They also found a temporary foster home where Hank could go for a few nights while they lined up a long-term foster home where he could recover from surgery and be treated get heartworm treatment.

Dr. Erin’s examination the next morning revealed a number of issues: Hank’s leg was so badly broken and infected that it would have to be amputated. His case of heartworm disease was severe. And she also noted that his lip and his ears had been split but were healed.

Hank’s story indeed told a story. But despite a past that had likely been painful at times, he still managed to greet everyone (albeit tiredly) like they were his good friends.

Healing from heartworm in a foster home

Hank’s leg surgery was successful, and after remaining overnight in the care of the medical team, he went to stay with Wendy French, coordinator of shelter partnerships for Best Friends in Houston. In Wendy’s home, Hank could beat heartworm disease and learn how to go through life on three paws.

Wendy wouldn’t be doing it alone, though. She had the help of her dog, PJ, who she first fostered and eventually adopted after he, too, lost a leg. What better friend for Hank than another dog who also navigates life on three legs?

Once in his foster home, Hank had all the time and support he needed to recover from surgery and master walking again. The truth is, though, walking was the easy part. “He was already getting around on a broken leg that wasn’t capable of being used, so with it gone, it was almost like a relief,” says Wendy.

[6 unexpected benefits of fostering a dog during heartworm treatment]

The next step on Hank’s road to better health was heartworm treatment. “We honestly didn’t know how it was going to go,” says Wendy. “We could tell he was struggling and it seemed to be making him down and a little depressed.”

Hank’s treatment regimen included antibiotics, followed by two doses of a powerful medication injected by a veterinarian. During this time, he also needed to rest his heart, which meant plenty of time in his crate and limited visits to the backyard for potty breaks and to feel the Texas sun on his back. None of this thrilled Hank, but the mere presence of PJ and Wendy’s other dogs seemed to make him happy.

Once heartworm treatment was completed and he was able to roam the yard with the pack, Hank proved to be a formidable play partner, although he tended to stand back and observe the other dogs as they tussled, as if he was trying to keep things in check. Wendy chalks it up to Hank’s husky heritage. “He’s like the fun police,” she says.

Staying at Wendy’s house also increased Hank’s affection for her cats. Eventually, they could all lie on the bed together, and though it didn’t leave much room for Wendy, she didn’t mind.

Dog rediscovers snuggles, faith in people

Given Hank’s health challenges (combined with his age and size), Wendy thought it might take him a little longer to be adopted, but it would just take one family to come along and decide to give Hank a home.

That family turned out to be Rhoda and Brett Murray and their two kids. “We fell in love at first sight with Hank's beautiful blue eyes and husky dog handsome looks,” says Rhoda, who sees it this way: The fact that he has three legs, two split ears and a split lip just makes him more interesting with more stories to tell.

After meeting Hank and talking to Wendy, the Murrays decided to adopt him on the spot. And when they brought him home for the first time, he walked in the front door, spotted their senior Maine coon cat and greeted him with a big kiss.

[Senior dog with a heart of gold now has a new home]

A day in the life of Hank these days includes snuggles with the kids (Marleigh and Vann) and plenty of treats. He loves taking walks around the lakes, enjoys the dog park and loves a pup cup from Starbucks now and then. “He can actually run really fast, much faster than we would have ever imagined, and sets a good pace on walks,” says Rhoda.

Thinking about Hank’s current life and how it’s filled with walks around the lake and snuggles, Wendy can’t help to think of how far he’s come since the day she first welcomed him into her home.

“He spent a long time glued to my hip, always wanting to be with me as a sort of security blanket. He had to rediscover his faith in humans and really needed what emotional support we could provide,” says Wendy, who will never forget how quickly he took to Marleigh, rolling onto his back for belly rubs and planting himself right by her feet.

“He was finally ready to become someone’s best friend,” she says.

Ready to help a dog with heartworm?

Fostering a dog with heartworm isn’t scary. It’s not particularly difficult or time-consuming, and you don’t need a ton of fostering experience to do it. All you need is the desire to help save a life, and maybe a little extra space on the couch.

Foster a dog near you

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