KENAI -- Rhi Wallace of Kasilof, Alaska is no stranger to her veterinarian's emergency room, but usually it's her own dog she's there with -- not someone else's pet, found prickle-faced after a run-in with a porcupine.
Last week Wallace saw a Facebook post about an injured black Labrador mix found in front of a church in Kasilof. Its face and mouth were full of porcupine quills. It seemed to be suffering and the dog's owner was unknown. She asked around but no one knew the dog.
"LuLu -- or Lizzie, as we had been calling her since before we knew her name -- was actually pretty easy to catch. She had been hanging around the church for a while, and she was really friendly, so it was just a matter of getting her into the truck with all the quills in her. I couldn't pick her up without hurting her, and I couldn't really lure her in with treats because her tongue was full of quills, but eventually she just hopped on in," Wallace said.
Wallace drove the dog to Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic, willing to foot the bill to help the creature out. The veterinarians at the clinic also decided to use some of the Angel Fund -- an emergency fund made up from donations -- to assist Wallace with the bill.
As Wallace continued to try and track down the owner via social media, word of her story grew and other pet owners began donating to the Angel Fund after learning about it and how it is used. Wallace also found the dog's original owners. They relinquished ownership to her, and the dog has since joined her own pack at home.
"Since she's been here, she's spent most of her time playing with our Lab, BoBo, or lying outside. She's quiet -- at least much more so than our other dogs -- and loves to have her head scratched. Our boys absolutely love her. She's very sweet and playful, but timid at the same time, at least with us. She doesn't start trouble, but also doesn't waste an opportunity to wrestle with BoBo. They like running crazy laps around the house, over furniture, and sliding as far as they can on the floors," she said.
Wallace said that she didn't think what she did was anything more than most pet lovers would do for an injured animal, but she does hope that word of her story will inspire others to donate to the emergency fund at the clinic.
"I really don't feel like I did anything amazing by taking her in to the vet and then home," she said. "I feel like I just did what she needed. I love sharing her story, especially if it encourages even one person to donate to the Angel Fund, for other animals that are seriously sick or injured, but still fighting and wanting to make it."
Wallace knows from her own experience the lengths a pet lover will go to care for an animal.
Wallace's dog, a Jack Russell terrier named Noah, first became acquainted with the emergency call veterinarians in May, when he was attacked by a neighbor's Rottweiler.
"Noah thinks he's bigger than a moose and barks relentlessly if he sees a 'threat,' even if that threat is across the street. Two Christmases ago the dog ripped a hole in Noah's ear, and last summer he had two puncture wounds on his shoulder, but Noah is known for being tough and adds to his battle wounds on a semi-regular basis. This time, though, he came up to the front porch bleeding profusely from his sides," she said.
Noah's ribs were broken, his lung punctured and much of his skin torn off. It was touch and go for a while, Wallace said. He ultimately had to be brought to canine surgical specialists in Anchorage to mend his severe wounds.
"People all over were following his story, and (the veterinarians) even Facebooked pictures throughout his surgery. It was incredible," she said. "We can't thank them enough for everything they did for Noah, so the best we can do is take care of another animal that's having a tough time and needs the extra love.
"Vet bills can get expensive, fast, despite their best efforts to keep them reasonable, and it breaks my heart to think someone might be in a situation like we were with Noah, knowing their pet will die without attention, but unable to afford the potential bills. Dogs are family to so many people here."
Joseph Robertia writes for The Redoubt Reporter, which covers news of the Kenai Peninsula. Reprinted with permission.