Rescue Watchdogs(TM)People and Rescues working together for the betterment of Rescue
June 27, 2007
Almost a year after losing our previous dog to cancer, we decided to head up to Gentle Giants Rescue (GGR) in search of a new dog for our family. We knew we wanted a Mastiff, most likely a Bullmastiff, and GGR seemed like the perfect place to go. I talked to Burt on the phone before we made the two-hour trip to the rescue, and he assured me that they had plenty of Bullmastiffs to choose from. Because we have a 10-month-old baby and 4-year-old son, I was especially interested in the “training” and “socialization” they claim to provide to each of their dogs. Burt assured me that every dog goes through a rigorous training program that includes socialization with both kids and other animals. We were so excited!
We went up to GGR that very day after talking to Burt on the phone. When we got there the place was a bit odd, not as green and clean as it looked on the website. The whole place was really weird. We waited in our car as instructed, in the heat, for someone to come over and greet us. Tracy was helping another adoptee and didn’t seem to even notice we were there. There was one other couple there to adopt besides our family and after about 20 minutes Burt directed us where to park and then led us into the area where they bring the dogs out. They started bringing out dogs one at a time. Tracy kept bringing out English Mastiffs and although I love the English Mastiff, I had to tell Burt we were primarily interested in the Bullmastiffs & French Mastiffs. We were then informed that they didn’t have any Bullmastiff that they could adopt out yet – but he said they plenty of them on the phone. They brought dog after dog out, most of which looked dirty and underweight, some even had visible medical problems. Then Burt & Tracy disappeared and us the other couple just sat there wondering what the hell was going on. We sat there for at least 15-20 minutes before anyone came back out. In that time we were discussing with the other couple how weird the place was and how dirty and smelly it seemed to be. Both my husband and I, and the other couple there to adopt felt that the whole place was just really strange. We could see big food troughs by the front door and food all over the floor. There was a little caged in area right next to where we were sitting that contained 2 puppies, I can’t remember what kind they were but there was poop, mushy and extremely stinky all over the encaged area and food all over the ground. It was filthy and smelly.
Two of the dogs they showed us that day were Great Danes siblings (the other adopting couple came for a Great Dane). When the potential adoptee went to pet one of them it growled and showed teeth. Tracy promptly told us the dog was playing and that she was harmless. It scared the hell out of all us!
We finally saw a dog we liked after about 4 hours of being there. We were told she was a Neapolitan Mastiff. She was filthy and covered in mud but I saw her potential. She was very docile and very affectionate. We were told her owner left her at a school. We filled out all the paperwork and were then told we would not be able to pick her up till the next day because she needed a final vet check. I was irritated because we were under the impression that we could take her that night. I asked if it was necessary to bring the kids since we had all already met the dog and because it was a total pain in the ass to bring an infant up there to sit for hours on end, but Tracy said we all had to be there. TO make things worse, the next day was a holiday and when we asked if their vet would be open they assured us the vet was open. Tracy told me to call her first thing the next morning to find out when we could pick our dog up. The next morning around 8am I called and left a voicemail and then sent an email. Finally at 10am, I called back again and Tracy said she was trying to get an appt and that she would call me right back. 4.5 hours later, after calling and leaving several more messages, Burt called to tell me the vet was not open and we’d have to come up the next day. Well my husband had to work and my son had school so that was going to be a problem. I was again told to call back in the morning to see when we could come to pick up our dog. I called and left a couple messages throughout the day, as well as a somewhat straight forward email voicing my concern about the lack of communication as to when I would be able to pick up our new dog. Finally around 3:30pm I got a phone call that I could come up anytime after 4 to pick our dog up.
We picked her up on a Tuesday and by that Sunday we were in the Vet ER. She had horrible diarrhea the whole time she was with us and by that Sunday the diarrhea also had blood in it. Every time I called Tracy voicing my concern she told me it was normal. I’m by no means a vet, but when you have a dog peeing out of it’s butt with blood in it (sorry to be so graphic here, but it’s the reality of the situation)10 times a day and waking up several times at night as well…it’s not normal. When we took her into the ER, they said she was completely malnourished and about 20lbs underweight. She was also extremely dehydrated and needed to be given fluids intravenously. She was also diagnosed with gastroenteritis.
I had called and emailed Tracy that morning to tell her we were taking our girl in, but of course no one answered my call or email. Finally Tracy called me back later that afternoon and when I told her all of this she acted like it was my fault and asked if I was giving her water. Of course she had water! Then Tracy told me that our new girl left healthy so she didn’t know what could’ve gotten her this sick. She said the diarrhea was really common for the first week or two and that some of the dogs don’t have solid stools for up to a month because of the “stress” of coming to a new home. Yeah right! I have plenty of friends who have adopted dogs from rescues and no one had experienced this awful diarrhea before.
I happened to have the phone number of the couple who was at GGR adopting with us and gave them a call to see if they were having any medical conditions with their dogs – they adopted 2; one was a Rotweiler and the other an English mastiff. Both dogs came to GGR together and Tracy really didn’t want to separate them, so the other couple decided to take both. They told us that both dogs had bad gas & diarrhea and that they actually had to take the English Mastiff back to GGR a day after getting it home because it was viciously attacking the Rotweiler. They also informed me of the Gentle Giants News website and told me to check it out immediately. Once I looked at it I got a pit in my stomach. All the stories were exactly what we had experienced; only I felt extremely lucky that my girl wasn’t as bad off as some of the others. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I felt stupid for not finding the website before we went up to GGR.
The day after our ER trip, I took our girl into our regular vet for a follow up and had them run a ton of tests. Luckily all her blood work came back normal but she had a ton of parasites in her intestines which were causing the diarrhea. They were amazed that her supposed “vet check” from GGR’s vet came back clean considering the amount of parasites she had in her tummy. We then found out later that our dog was most likely not a Neapolitan Mastiff, but a Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) who was extremely malnourished.
Five weeks have gone by and our girl’s been on meds since the first week we got her. We are currently on meds for a vaginal infection and parasites (Coccidia and whipworm). Our vet asked if she came from a puppy mill because whipworm is pretty uncommon where we live and puppy mills are where whipworm is prominent. She’s been on a diet of ground turkey and rice for most of the 5 weeks we have had her. When I tried to incorporate the GGR food back into her diet, the diarrhea came back despite the anti-diarrhea meds! She is now being weaned onto a healthy, organic food that has the ingredients listed on the package (something the GGR food failed to list on the package).
As for the “supposed” training….we’ve had to hire a trainer to come to the house to help us with obedience and puppy training. Luckily our new girl is great with the kids & other animals and has shown no signs of aggression with anyone. She is very loving and very gentle, which is a blessing considering some of the horror stories we have read. The only real problems we’ve had are medical and have entailed medical expenses we were not counting on; especially since we were assured she was healthy when we adopted her. I think once we get her healthy and get some basic obedience training done, she’ll be a wonderful dog. I have cut all ties with GGR ...
Anyway, that’s our story. I love my new girl and despite her health problems, I feel like I rescued her from a parasite infested mad house of animals. -- Name withheld at the request of the author