Roxie's Bad Breath

Right now I am not sure how to begin this post. I want to write a grand tribute to a dog who saved my husband but fear my words will not do her justice. At the same time, I want her life to be a beacon to others, a way to commemorate the way shelter animals touch our hearts and we have a responsibility to return that care and love otherwise the outcome could be undesirable.

This has ended up as a synopsis of our jump start into rescuing, and how a bit more advocacy could have changed the life of a very special dog. If you read nothing else, please jump to the bold section at the bottom...

In 2007, I was kinda thrown into rescuing. I never even ever heard of it before that time. Didn't even know there was a need. At that time, I was an unemployed recent graduate with nothing to do, who answered an ad to volunteer. I always liked animals, but never really worked with them before. The lady who was "rescuing" was completely disorganized and could offer no knowledge of care, or adoption policies etc...I wanted to help, so I made friends with the vet who taught me quite a bit. I tried to bring some organization to her rescue efforts but I quickly learned that her only effort was shifting lives around. Sure she bought them some time, but she never followed up on adoptions, she never disinfected the areas the dogs lived as they lived in an outside dirt area that cannot be sterilized, she wouldn't properly vet the animals, and would lie to adopters about the vetting the animals had received; she also never consider the psychological stress from so much shifting on an animal. Basically, she kept them from being euthanize one day just to send them back out into the world unprotected, suffer infections, or worse could end up in the wrong person’s hands. Sometime she would give them over to other pounds, to buy them ten days there, or she would send them to live with people that weren’t screened. Finally, after she had a nervous breakdown, I realized there was little I could do to help. If she couldn’t change her policies and be more honest with the lives in her care, then the best I could do was to help the lives I could in the most honest way possible without being affiliated with her.

Along with this attempt to learn from scratch, came a lot of hard lessons and hard knocks.

For a time, I still "worked" the local pounds, finding out who was there, fostering who I could, and advocating for the others with reputable rescue opts. In the Southern states, we have really crappy animal laws and welfare ideas, so we would rescue and the majority of dogs would go to screened homes in the North East. All facilitated between rescues that screened and kept up dates on all the animals. Adopters would actually pay $300+ for a stray and love the dog as their own child. I was amazed; people actually cared about strays and mixes!

During this brief time before coming to Korea, we found an 8-week old pit bull puppy-mix shivering amid her water-soak dog house in the middle of Feb at the pound. Her house had hay, but it was also standing in water. Her kennel was full of mud and she refused to sit down. She was the most beautifulest puppy we had ever seen. I should interject at this point; my husband only entertained my ideas of volunteering for animal rescuing. He didn't want any part of it but he would support me. I would bring home a dog and he would care for it at an arm's-length away...just feeding it or taking it outside but that was all, nothing more. He would get aggravated at the long hours, and the throw up/diarrhea that came with sick pups, or me crying over the death of a parvo puppy I worked so hard to save. He wouldn't express this but wives can spot aggravation a mile away ;) That was until Roxie came along.

He never liked going to the pound it was always muddy and wet. The dogs were hyper and would sling mud. But he went with me, you know in case I got in over my head ;) Then he saw Roxie. All 300lbs, 6'5” manly instincts kicked in, and all he wanted to do was to protect this lil girl. My husband hates getting his clothes dirty, but that day he picked up Roxie without a second thought. He said to me "the vet closes in 30 mins and they will be close tomorrow. I have to take her to the vet now for a parvo vaccine, see you at the house?" And he walked off with her wrapped in his shirt, cranked the jeep and turned the heat on full blast.

We found out this 8 week old pup was actually closer to 5-6 months old. Her body looked to be 8 weeks, but this was likely caused by undernourishment in her formative months; the effects of this left her undersize and underweight. She came home with us, and slept literally for two weeks straight on the couch. She wouldnt play with the other dogs, and she barely got down for food or bathroom breaks. After two weeks though she found her energy! She always had some trouble with her back legs, we are not sure why but we made accommodation for her like helping her up and down off the couch etc. She wasnt as fast as the other dogs, so she learned to lay in waiting. If they were chasing each other outside, she would crouch real low and wait for them to run pass then she would pounce on them! She was a smart dog that made the most out of life. She was always happy as long as she was with her people. She learned to take the drawbacks in life and make the most of them! A lesson we could all learn.~

We had lost our first adopted dog months before I started volunteering. Socrates was adopted from the local shelter, with little information and mislabeled as a Boston Terrier. He was our first dog as a married couple and we loved him dearly. He would go outside to hangout in the grassy courtyard of the apt complex we lived in; he and Corey would hit practice golf balls out there. Socrates would run after the balls, and then just stand near it, never taking his eye off of it until Corey came and picked it up. He had terrible separation anxiety that forced us to learn about kennel training….a hard lesson to learn once all of your dress shoes are tore up! In the mornings we would give him a treat to go in his kennel, and he wouldn’t eat that treat until we came home. He always wanted to sleep at the foot of our bed but I wouldn’t let him, because "you know dogs don’t belong on the bed." He died suddenly of kidney failure; there were no immediate signs that we recognized, at least any we knew to watch for. Nonetheless his death devastated us. I have regretted everyday since not letting him sleep at the foot of the bed. Now every foster dog we have as access to our bed. But because of this lost, I wasn’t ready to adopt just yet. And if we adopted I wanted the closest dog to Socrates as possible. Boy, was I naive or what?!

We went round and round about should we adopt Roxie or that time we didn’t even really know how to consider future forever commitments, we only looked to the here and now. There was no contract, no accountability to our decision. This experience, I think has helped us in advocating for adoptions today because if we had considered forever, I think things could have been different for Roxie Girl. Anyhow, I decided if she could be my husband's first rescue and could soften his grinchy heart then she deserved a place in our family. Still we were naive. See forever takes more than a desire, it takes tenacity.

Like I said, at that time we didn’t have anyone to help us think about the future and what forever really cost. We only thought about the here and now. After getting into debt because I still was unemployed, we made the decision to come to Korea. We didn’t know about the rabies documentation and the 30 days requirement...needless to say before we learned about it, it was too late. We decided that we would bring my cat, and pay for two weeks of quarantine in Korea and then send for Roxie after she finished all of her vaccines.

We came to Korea, got settled in, and battled the landlord over having my cat which taught me the importance of advocating for our animals. In the States, if the landlord changes his mind about having pets, I would probably have tried to find an alternative solution, probably a home with family until we could change apartments. But in Korea, we knew no one, and she wasn’t going out on the streets! Thankfully my firm stance paid off. This experience though taught me to advocate for my animals in the future. When we first came to Korea, we didn’t come across ARK for at least a year...I wish we had found it sooner....on our own we were trying to figure out the regulations, and coordinating a flight via cargo to Korea for Roxie. Every telephone call just added more confusion and fear. We had saved up the money but we couldn’t get direct answers about anything. Out of fear, as we didn’t want her to die of heat exhaustion by being misplaced during a transfer, we decided it was in her best interest to be adopted by a cousin whom we trusted at that time. They had a house of their own, a toddler boy who just loved Roxie when they visited, and they had the means to provide for her.

Roxie seemed to do well in their care. We got to visit Roxie 2 years ago on a trip home. Her teeth were really, really bad. I tried to persuade her parents to take her in for a check up because I knew that bed teeth can cause internal damage. I even asked them to only give her occasional healthy treats, not just random jerky or other mass produced treats. They never did get her check as far as I know as we lost contact after a family fight. Today I got word they euthanized Roxie.

They went in for a check up on her legs. The doctor said that she needed pain meds for her legs but her blood work showed something wrong with her liver. She wouldn’t be able to process the meds therefore the “humane” thing to do was to euthanize her. I am devastated. I don’t think they got a second opinion, I don’t know if they ever got her checked two years ago, I don’t know if they ever changed her treats to healthier ones, I don’t know if they provided good quality food especially because she lacked so much when her body was forming. I don’t know if there is anything they could have done for her liver. What I do know is they mentioned that a check up and blood work and euthanasia cost $300, so I fear they only looked at dollar signs and not at the quality of life Roxie deserved. Two years ago they even tried to rehome her. Strongly stating that Roxie belonged to them and they could do with her what they wanted, they didn't need our permission or blessing. Perhaps this was unavoidable, perhaps a teeth cleaning two years ago would have helped...I don't know, but I do know that you need to know about the importance of dental care so you can avoid this same heartache. Roxie didn't die at the age of 15, or 10 she died at 5 yrs old.

Roxie has taught me to thoroughly advocate for an animal. I should have known more about possible increased care for a dog that is malnourished as a puppy. I should have known about potential problems that could arise and I should have made sure they were willing to do everything possible for Roxie. I shouldn’t have trusted a simple, “yes we will always provide for her and love her.” I should have informed them about the cost of forever, the sacrifice forever takes. They often would vacation and leave Roxie home in a boarding kennel when they would go to the beach; Roxie loved the sand, but Roxie as far as I know never got to go... something that would have made her heart glad--sand and family. She deserved that happiness. Then when I got the phone call they wanted to give Roxie to someone they knew who had a farm, I knew that meant she would be come an outside dog, no longer a family dog. I was hurt, this dog who transformed a tough guy into a softy and has since continue to help dogs because of his encounter with Roxie, this dog who loved their toddler child and was so gentle with him, this dog who made lemonade out of lemons, this dog who never caused any problems and only loved her humans, was in threat of losing her home she loved…all because the wife wanted a small dog instead of a medium one. Thankfully they didn’t in the end but how could they even consider it? They even convinced themselves it was in Roxie’s best interest…not considering her breed alone thrives on family interaction not outside running.

I hope today Roxie will teach you that if your dog has bad breath, please get it checked out and care for ASAP. Like this article states

“As kidney and liver disease can lead to dental disease; dental disease can lead to disease of the kidney and liver.”

I am not sure if the liver disease came first, or her bad breath and bad teeth came first. At any rate, her teeth were a symptom that should have not been ignored. Google can exhaust a search on these topics.

Also check here for additional information on dental care:

Additionally, dogs that are malnourished in their formative weeks definitely need good nutrition and healthy treats for their entire lifetime. I know some treats add artificial coloring and flavorings to their products. One cat food we had to switch off of because our cat was staying sick on it. We later found out it is because of the coloring.

Here are a few pictures of Roxie when she was with us and a few years later. She was about 5 years old, when they euthanized her today. She may be gone from this earth, but the imprint she left on us, especially Corey will always remain. This imprint that drives us to help others like her, this imprint that formed my rescue email ^^ "adoptbullies," this imprint of the need for good quality vet care, this imprint of Roxie.

Tags: dental disease, liver disease, kidney disease, malnutrition, rescue, commitment


adoptbullies's picture

This was Mr Socrates, our first :)
The only thing he had in common with a Boston Terrier was the coloring!

In My husband's words, "possibly the greatest who ever lived."Always a serious expression, like a true socrates considering the world at large.
Karen's picture

What an angel face!

adoptbullies's picture

He was an angel.

I had to complete volunteer hours for my social work classes and I choose the local shelter. I wanted to adopt, but Corey was adamantly against it. He and I volunteered together to clean all the kennels that day. Of course I was looking at all the fun loving full of energy dogs...Corey said I was crazy as we couldn't have a dog so hyper and barky in an apartment. Socrates was the only dog in the whole shelter that was not barking or trying to get our attention. He just stood there staring at us. His eyes said "either take me, or keep on walking but dont just stand there." So Corey said lets give him a try. We took him out and we all went for a visit in the visitors room. What happen next still shocks us and tickles us pink!

This cool, calm, collective pup that didnt at the very least try to get our attention started running around the room with super sonic speed! Round and round he went, he was so happy to be out of his kennel and so happy to be away from the masses that he ran for a good 7 mins before we could even visit with him. Then to top it off, he pooped! So we were trapped in this small room, with a running dog that finishes his show with a smelly delight. *facepalm*

After that show, he was back to his cool, calm and collective self. We signed the papers, paid the fee and headed home. As we chatted over names, we looked in the back seat and he was just sitting there observing his world around him--he looked like a philosopher! Since Socrates is easier to say than Aristotle we decided on the first...he immediately took up to the name and thus began our journey.

adoptbullies's picture

I just realized the pictures I uploaded yesterday, only one shows. So here are the others of Roxie girl!

Roxie Girl!Always her favorite spot after the two week sleep-a-thon.Such the princess~She always loved being outside.
jejudogs's picture

What a beautiful girl, and what soulful eyes.

I am sad to hear her life was so tragically short, especially when it might have been preventable or at least caught earlier during a proper check-up. Dental care is very important for the body's health. Almost everything that keeps us alive enters the body through the mouth. I wish her caregivers had been more concerned with her and her wellbeing, and I am sorry that they let both you and her down so devastatingly. But I am glad she met you and Corey and left such an imprint in your lives.

Thank you for sharing your story and passing on the word on the importance of dental care. May we all learn from it.

Karen's picture

I'm so sorry to hear about Roxie, she looks like such a sweet girl. And I'm so sorry that you've had to suffer through being betrayed by people you trusted.

Probably all rescuers are plagued with "what if's" and "wish I would have...", I know I am. We all learn as we go along and sometimes it's so painful. Thank you so much for sharing your story and all that you've learned from what happened to Roxie. It's clear she was a wonderful and beautiful and amazing dog and she changed you and your husband deeply.

adoptbullies's picture

Thanks Karen, Roxie was a sweet girl. I wish for the life of me I got a video of her with sand, you can imagine how something so simple brought her such pleasure!

I know we all learn along the way, but sometimes you still wish you could prevent it. :/

clare_bell's picture

What a sad and touching story. I'm choking back the tears. You and Corey are amazing, and back then you weren't to have known! Just in the past few months of being involved in animal rescue I have learned SO much and have become far tougher than I was before in terms of saying "NO" to people who I feel don't fit the bill, and I know I still have loads to learn.

You simply cannot blame yourself - you trusted those people and you thought you were doing the best possible thing for Roxie at the time. You've since learned and, thanks to Roxie's sad lesson, you are two of the most wonderful animal advocates now. Thank goodness there are people like you :)

Big hug!!

adoptbullies's picture

Thank you Clare_bell. We are always still learning, I just hate that our learning curve effects living beings. :( Roxie will live on, she will continue to make the world a better place.

I should have mentioned her smile. Everyone always thought she was this vicious dog because literally when she was super happy she would smile with her teeth--like we do. the first couple of times she went to the vet or boarding kennel the staff was apprehensive to work with her because they thought she was baring her teeth to say "stay away" not "hey there nice to meet you." :D

I promise soon we hope to come your way with Mr Peanut, we still want to take him to your acupuncturist vet. ~

clare_bell's picture

She sounds like a precious little angel :) Smiley Roxie :)

If you do come through to Cheonan, definitely let me know and I'll meet you and help you find your way! Would be great to meet you and Peanut in person :)

adoptbullies's picture

Thanks Clare! Can you text me your number to 010-7671-5683.

eveliens's picture

Unfortunately, as rescuers we can only screen, trust and educate so much. I can emphasize, as I had a similar, yet opposite, situation where the dog needed to be euth. to end her suffering and the family members would not do it because of money. So they let her die "naturally" for a week with heart failure! I was so upset because I had told them I would pay for it and they had promised to take care of her properly.

But there is definitely a learning curve on screening, and sometimes unusual or unexpected situations come up. And other people are you not, so you cannot control them, no matter how much you would like to, and it is not your responsibility to either.

But this is why animals should be taken the vet if there's a suspected problem and for yearly/bi-yearly check-ups.

Sorry for the loss of Roxie; she was far too young. And I love "smiling" dogs!

adoptbullies's picture

Thanks ^^ I hate learning curves, why cant be born with everything we need to know?! I think I would have more peace if there was a second opinion, or if I knew they took her in two years ago.

So sorry about the lil one going thru heart failure, it sounds absolutely horrible! Poor baby.