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The Face of Parvo

"Ring-Ding" survived a life-threatening virus and is available from Adopt-A-Dog in Greenwich.


Meet Ring-Ding, an adoptable puppy rescued from the south by Adopt-A-Dog of Greenwich.

A few weeks ago, kennel manager, Kristin Alouisa, and events coordinator, Brian Gordiski, made a 30-hour round-trip to South Carolina. Their purpose was to pull a mother and her litter of six puppies from an overrun, mom-and-pop type shelter in a remote location. During the ride home the Adopt-A-Dog team gave Ring-Ding his name. They also named his mother Hostess and the other five pups Twinkie, Yodel, Snowball, Cupcake and Suzie Q.

While Adopt-a-Dog operates as a sanctuary where dogs live out their days contentedly if they don't find a forever home, the "puppy house" fills and empties quickly.

And although Adopt-a-Dog's director Allyson Halm laments that not a single dog found a home at this fall's "Puttin' On The Dog" event, the inevitable phone calls from families seeking Christmas puppies are not much consolation.

Still, as awareness increases that pet stores source from puppy mills, and as rescuing grows in popularity, the solution would seem obvious: Match the supply of unwanted southern puppies with northern demand.

And, with black labs so popular in New England, but euthanized at high rates in the south, the solution sounds like a no-brainer.

If only it were that simple.

Canine Parvo Virus
The highly-contagious, often lethal virus known as Parvo, to which puppies are most vulnerable, is common in the south. According Dr. Putter of Greenwich Animal Hospital, a handful of factors converge to create the deadly situation.

"The environment is warmer and more hospitable to the virus. There's also a reluctance to spay and neuter, more roaming, and more unvaccinated pets in the south," explained Putter. "There are overall more animals who can get it."

Putter explained that Parvo is fecal-oral. "An infected dog sheds the virus in its feces and it is transferred through a mucus membrane – eyes, nose, or mouth. Parvo  can remain in the environment for days or even weeks. A dog might step in it, sniff it, or lick his paws, lick your shoes. It just takes a trace a mount. And it's more virulent than it used to be."

Parvo: Puppies crash fast, essentially dying of dehydration
Hostess is healthy, though she carries the Parvo virus. This is because an adult dog's antibodies are sufficient to ward it off. And while Hostess was nursing her six puppies, she passed along her antibodies in her milk.

Once the puppies were weaned at around 6-8 weeks they became vulnerable and remained susceptible until two weeks after their first Distemper-Parainfluenza-Parvovirus vaccine.

All six pups spent at least two days at Greenwich Animal Hospital. Yodel and Cupcake were released, but went back after relapsing. Yodel was adopted directly form the hospital by Dr. Putter's brother Eric. After a struggle, Ring-Ding recovered and left the hospital on Friday, Dec. 14. 

"The bill is $6,000, which represents a discount for hospitalization and intensive care," said Halm. "Dr. Kramer and Dr. Putter also travel here about twice a month to evaluate the dogs at no cost."

"It was a major effort to get the puppies to live," said Halm.

Parvo Protocol at Adopt-A-Dog
"We believe full disclosure is the only way to educate the public and let them know these problems exist," said Halm when asked whether she worries about scaring potential adopters.

Halm described the rigorous Parvo protocol at Adopt-A-Dog, adding that this is probably their fourth litter of Parvo from the south.

The puppies go straight from the van to the puppy house for the standard two-week quarantine. They are monitord constantly for signs of lethargy, vomiting, or diarreah, which would trigger an immediate trip to the vet. There are scrubs, gloves and booties, and a "puppy-only" volunteer rule during quarantine. Then there is the constant cleaning and disinfecting with a solution of bleach diluted in water.

Why Rescue from the South?
"Driving in the south, there were so many strays running along the highways and dead on the side of the roads that eventually I stopped looking out the window," said Alouisa. "You see dogs chained to fences or kept in small pens," she added. "Or running free, skinny and scared. They come to the kill shelters with little hope of finding a home. They almost have better chances roaming as strays." 

Alouisa said the shelter Ring-Ding and his family were pulled from was about 50 miles in from the highway. "It was very remote, we drove down a dirt road to this couple's house, which was a trailer. As soon as we pulled in the driveway, our truck was surrounded by dogs, 50 or 60 dogs. Little dogs, big dogs, medium dogs."

Alouisa said she often grapples with the Why rescue puppies from the south? question. "When you meet them, it's all worthwhile," she said. "Plus I know how they're set for life once they get to adopt-A-Dog."

Alouisa paused and nodded her head reluctantly, as if asking herself the Why puppies from the south? question again. "But we just can't keep rescuing all these dogs."

Anyone interested in adopting Ring-Ding, his siblings, or any of the dogs at the sanctuary should go to http://www.adopt-a-dog.org/ or call (914) 273-1674.

Leslie Yager December 23, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The puppies are free and clear of Parvo. Survivors! I commend Halm at Adopt-A-Dog for her honesty about Parvo.
Kathleen Gemmell December 23, 2012 at 07:04 PM
What a terrible virus! AND, so preventable with timely vaccinations. I've seen the strays and sickly dogs in Alabama. In New Hampshire, many folks have a dog tied to a dog house 24/7, and on it goes state by state. So so sad. I have a hard time understanding how people can be thrilled to get a pet and then discard it. I recently wrote a blog on the Hoarder Syndrome, yet have a difficult time with that as well. Someone said to me once, "If we can't take care of our children, how can you expect this society to care for pets." Again, so so sad. The people who rescue, advocate for and adopt needy animals will certainly have a place in heaven. Have written some of my thoughts, I will end with my familiar cry, "Please don't shop at stores that sell LIVE animals." Ninety percent of them are from mills...an AWFUL place for feeling creatures." AND,as this article so clearly points out, regular vet care is imperative.. Thanks Leslie Yager
KerriAnn Hofer December 23, 2012 at 08:31 PM
people often tell me they would adopt, if they could get a puppy. Adopt-A-Dog and other shelters make a real effort to have puppies available (sometimes at great expense). thanks, Leslie, for getting the word out -- every puppy adopted supports rescue while puppies purchased from pet stores support a puppy mills.
Annie Cooper December 27, 2012 at 09:11 PM
What a wonderful effort on behalf of Adopt A Dog and the Greenwich Animal Hospital. To answer the question why rescue the puppies from down south, shouldn't we ask who will rescue these wonderful loving pets if an organization like Adopt A Dog doesn't?. We need to support rescue and shelter organizations like Adopt A Dog to help them with their incredible efforts and mission. I just checked out their website, over 30 years of coming to the rescue. - thank you for all your amazing work on behalf of these beautiful puppies , dogs and cats.
angelina December 30, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I wish you luck animals. I hope you find a home safely. Are prayers go to you and we wish all you safe holidays and hope every sick animal survives. All of the animals should have a loving and safe home and owner.

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