When PETA staffers brought Itchy to live with Greg and me on August 16, 2013, a vet had given him just 6-12 months to live. And yet, this week, Itchy is celebrating his third “adoptaversary”.
PETA’s Community Animal Project has to date been one of two primary recipients of grants from the Greg Fund. This is the team that began watching over Itchy in 2007, in Suffolk, Virginia, where his owners kept him in a garbage-strewn outdoor pen. Finally in June 2013, one PETA fieldworker noticed that Itchy’s persistent cough—the result of an advanced, untreated case of heartworm disease—had gotten markedly worse. After she informed Itchy’s owners how serious this condition was, the owners finally agreed to relinquish Itchy to PETA.
Our PETA contacts then emailed Greg and me to ask if we would be willing to add Itchy to our family, which then consisted of two other dogs Fox and Marina, and five cats. “Itchy does not have much time left in this world,” they wrote. “He is an elderly gentleman. He has heartworm disease, he is emaciated, his eyes are cloudy, his incisors are all gone from chewing on who knows what, and he is being treated for parasites. But he has mucho pep in his step, and loves, loves, loves going for walks, sniffing, marking, eating, and being told that he is a dashing, handsome boy. We would very much like to find Itchy a home where he could be afforded the opportunity he has never had, to simply be a dog, and to enjoy being one!”
Greg and I talked it over, and decided to drive down to PETA’s Norfolk office, with Fox and Marina, to meet Itchy in person. We deemed the meeting a success – Itchy pretty much ignored Fox and Marina, and vice versa! And with that, we made the commitment to give Itchy a home – our home.
Despite his years of isolation, Itchy quickly demonstrated an innate ability to get along with other animals – with Fox and Marina, and even more with our cats!
Here is the blog story that PETA posted about Itchy shortly after he came to us. I still have an email that Greg sent me after seeing this post: “This is great except for the picture of me kissing Itchy on the lips – ha!”
Most fortuitously, just weeks before Itchy came to Greg and me, an outstanding small animal vet had re-opened the Middleburg Animal Hospital practice less than one mile from our house. Dr. Hanh Chau had experience with the American Heartworm Society treatment protocol, and began Itchy’s treatment one week after he came to us. By Christmas 2013, Itchy tested negative for microfilaria (“baby heartworms”) – and by spring 2014, he tested negative for antigens (adult worms).
Meanwhile, Greg and I had been transitioning our dogs to a vegan diet after going vegan ourselves. Though many do not know this, it is accepted by mainstream vets that a balanced vegan diet is perfectly appropriate for dogs. And so Itchy was a vegan dog from his first day with us – eating Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula and PetGuard Vegan Formula – along with assorted fresh foods, particularly his favorite apples from a tree in our back yard.
And of course, despite the odds, it turned out that Itchy outlived Greg – joining Marina and over 100 human guests at a ceremony celebrating Greg’s life at our nearby Salamander Resort in December 2015.
Itchy is showing more signs of his age these days – but as his sitter Colleen Flanagan and groomer Liz Washington know well, he continues to be a feisty old guy with a bark anyone would swear must come from a dog twice his size and half his age!