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Dave Olson, Published January 10 2013

Pugs' plight underscores hardships local animal rescues face

FARGO – Mohawk, a 4-month-old pug, shivered in the arms of his foster mom, Brittny Thompson.

The puppy, Thompson’s 31st foster dog in three years, was in bad shape.

“I’ve never seen a case so sad,” Thompson said, referring to the mange that was ravaging the tiny dog.

Mohawk’s fur was patchy and his fevered skin a raw pink.

The mange was caused by a compromised immune system that permitted the Demodex mite, a mite that is commonly found on and usually co-exists peacefully with most dogs, to run amok.

And Mohawk wasn’t alone.

His litter mates Gizmo and Gladys and their father, Spike, all were dealing with similar problems.

They are being cared for by foster parents through 4 Luv of Dog Rescue, a Fargo-based animal rescue organization that relies on volunteers and donated dollars to survive.

The pugs came from a local dealer who found the multiple cases of mange too overwhelming to deal with.

Similar hardship cases come to the rescue organization on a regular basis, said Jill Nona, a volunteer and core member of the group.

“Every week it’s something coming through the door,” Nona said.

Recent cases include a shepherd mix that needed an eye removed and a black Lab puppy that was treated with a blood transfusion after ingesting rat poison.

Both dogs are doing well, volunteers say.

In the case of the pugs, treatment may take up to eight months for some, said Natalie Helm, a volunteer who is also a veterinary technician.

“These guys are all on an oral antibiotic (for the mange),” Helm said. “They also have an additional overgrowth of bacteria which is causing an infection on their skin, so they are on a secondary antibiotic for that.”

The dogs are also given a medicated bath every other day, she said, and two of the dogs are being treated with antibiotic eye drops for ulcers on their eyes caused by scratching.

The cost of treating rescued dogs can add up fast and 4 Luv of Dog’s medical bills can top $100,000 annually, Nona said. Money comes from donations and grants.

When volunteers are presented with animals that are sick but otherwise adoptable, they find it hard to turn them away, knowing euthanasia will most likely be their fate.

“If it was managing a business, you wouldn’t do that, you’d think about where the money is going to come from first,” Nona said.

“But it’s not a business. You take it (the animal) in, go with your gut and hope you get some income to help,” she said.

The organization provides information about its animals on a Facebook page, as well as on its website, where gifts can be made online.

While the group receives some funding from its annual silent auction, many donations are made online through PayPal, said Stacie Folmer, a volunteer who manages 4 Luv of Dog’s online presence.

At any given time, the organization may have 50 to 70 animals staying with foster families.

It also rents space in a building in Moorhead that is used as a kennel and as an area where events can be held.

For more information or to donate, visit the group’s website at www.4luvofdog.org, or call (701) 205-0190.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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