KETI, the Dalmatian with a new lease on life
Karen Rae is a long-time animal rescuer and animal caretaker, who has lived in many countries and now resides in Nepal. Here is Karen's story about Keti, a Dalmatian, whose early life in Kathmandu was incredibly difficult, but Karen intervened and changed that.
There are more questions than answers about what happened to Keti (previously called Daisy) before she arrived at the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (KAT), Nepal in early 2018. When I saw her in her concrete cage, she was emaciated and had a horrendous raw scar along her back and hip where her previous owner had thrown acid on her (photo below). There were numerous smaller burns on her head and body.
KAT’s vet, Dr Bidur (shown in photo), was giving her morphine for the pain and treating the burn to prevent infection.
For some months, it was not clear whether Keti would survive as the risk of sepsis was so high. And, despite being fed regularly, she was not gaining weight. KAT Centre is pushed to the limits treating all the diseased and injured dogs that are brought in every day – Kathmandu’s street dog population is estimated at over 30,000. They simply did not have the resources to focus on Keti and her special needs.
Getting Keti to the US where specialized veterinary care would be available became my priority. I sent messages in all directions hoping I could find her not only a permanent loving home, but also someone who would take on the enormous cost financially and emotionally of caring for a dog with such extraordinary needs. In June, I got the email I had hoped for. An amazing individual wanting to adopt Keti materialized. Her name is Jessica and she lives in Salem, Massachusetts.
I went to the KAT Centre in August to collect Keti and bring her to my house for fostering. There didn’t seem to be anything that the staff at KAT was doing for her medically that I could not do. The open wound on her hip (photo below) needed cleaning twice daily and I hoped she could heal faster in my clean home environment rather than at the KAT Centre where she was constantly exposed to the germs of all the sick street dogs.
She did not extend her leg down to the ground, holding it folded like a wing next to her body. She was proficient at getting around on 3 legs and I assumed that would be the case for the rest of her life.
She did not appreciate getting the wound cleaned and often licked at it so much that it bled. I could not find a cone that was the correct size for her and after one week, the wound had become mildly infected and she started a course of antibiotics. Keti was underweight, as the photo shows, and her ribs were very prominent.
A good friend of mine who was a dietician gave me great nutritional advice, emphasizing the need for regular small meals to allow Keti’s digestive system to adapt to an increased quantity of food. A severe burn causes a prolonged hypermetabolic state, she explained, and the body needs a significant quantity of carbohydrates to provide energy for the healing process and protein for the rebuilding of damaged muscle and other tissue. On her homemade diet of eggs, chicken, brown rice and assorted vegetables, Keti did begin to gain weight slowly and her wound infection was under control. Every day she seemed more relaxed, she wagged her tail easily and often and loved to play with a tennis ball (photo below shows Karen with Keti at Karen's home).
Still, I knew in Nepal that I was limited in what I could do for Keti and she had a long-term home awaiting her in Massachusetts. While the stress of the interminable journey was not ideal for a dog in a weakened condition, Jessica and I made the decision to send Keti to the US. We spent an anxious weekend waiting to get news of her progress: it was a long trip confined to a pet carrier in the cargo compartment. Because her inbound flight arrived late into Istanbul, Keti missed the connection to her onward flight to Boston and her interminable trip became 24 hours longer.
Finally, on September 9, Jessica picked up Keti at Boston airport and took her home. She was timid at first being exposed to a whole new world and a new carer, but a treat of boiled chicken livers soon won her over! An important first step was to stop Keti from constantly licking her leg wound, and Jessica was able to source a proper sized cone immediately (photo below).
Her first visit to the vet revealed she was suffering from tick fever and so began a course of treatment for that. The tick fever was preventing Keti from eating properly and her painfully thin frame needed the food so badly.
Keti seemed to bond instantly with Jessica – she had a soft new bed to sleep in, fabulous meals, a kind and loving family home, and a wonderful distraction in the form of Phoenix, Jessica’s 23-year old female cockatoo.
After the tick fever was under control, she slowly began to gain weight. Jessica’s vet wanted to operate to release some of the atrophied muscle in the hip area believing this would enable Keti to extend the leg fully to the ground. As soon as she was healthy enough for the surgery, she underwent a lengthy procedure which was a huge success. Two months after arriving in Massachusetts, Keti uses all four legs perfectly, she has gained weight so she is now a very healthy 41-pound dog and she is living the good life. Jessica reports Keti is very content and has bonded wonderfully with her new family.
From acid throwing owner to a concrete cage in a shelter full of sick street dogs to a loving home in the US – food, toys, comfort, great medical care and a loving family. From emaciated dog with a horrendous gaping wound to a handsome hound with a clean tidy scar (photo above) and a healthy body. It’s the makeover of the century!