Re-post of three-part series: From Start to Finnish Part II

Posted by:


Due to the vagaries of this particular blog setup (and more likely my ineptness with WordPress) the three-parts of this series are stacked one on top of each other, so that you should start at the bottom to read Part I, then move up to Part II, and when I add the final part, it will be the first one you see. One of these days I’ll put it all together, but unfortunately today is not that day.  

PART II of 3
(An insider’s view of 63 Finnish Lapphunds rescued from a Northern California hoarder)yellow caution tape



An example of the yellow caution tape reminding us of no admittance without authorization. It was festooned all over the hospital/clinic area, like a yellow May pole.

When I arrived at the shelter early the next morning, the hospital/clinic section had been transformed.

No admittance without authorization warnings were prominently posted, and wide yellow tape (resembling “crime scene” tape—an irony if ever there was one) festooned the entire area, a visual reminder of who could go where. The entire area had been divided into two parts: one where the dogs were; the other for supplies. We had to don protective gear—scrubs, gloves, and booties—necessary precautions because of the many parasites the dogs carried (especially Giardia, fleas, and lice) that can be transmitted to humans (and also to our own animals at home).

Despite the already-intense interest in the “Lappies”, as we began to call them, the staff had determined that only those familiar with certain procedures would be admitted to see, help, and treat the dogs. There was just too much to do, and with the dogs in such a fragile state, it was more important to protect them than to allow the curious to stop by to see what they looked like.

This sounds harsh, I know, but we had to remember that the dogs had had little human contact other than their so-called caretaker (more on that later), and they were still frightened and confused, in unfamiliar surroundings, with people they didn’t know.

The noise could be overwhelming. It must have seemed chaotic to them. I know it did to me.

The best part of the second rescue day was seeing two puppies that had been born during the night. The proud little mother regarded us with a poignant mixture of exhaustion and fear, so we moved her and her family to a quiet room where they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Then the real work began.

The news was disheartening as medical examinations began on the dogs. Among other health problems they revealed:

  • Many dogs with fractured teeth, broken from trying to escape their crate prisons.
  •  Almost half with ear infections
  •  Rampant skin problems
  • Severe underweight and malnutrition
  • Widespread parasitic infections, including the above-mentioned, but also heartworm, hookworm, and roundworm.
  • And of course, horribly matted and filthy coats, literally stuck to the dogs’ tender skins.

Medications began at once.

Dressed in protective gear as we were, we looked like something out of a science fiction movie. I was afraid our appearance would frighten the dogs even more, but sadly, they just appeared resigned as we moved tables into the wards so we could work with them at waist level. Then we began the onerous process of removing their hair-like prisons.

As an example of how difficult this task was, a friend and I together spent an hour and a half working with surgical scissors, clippers, and forceps just to free one softball-sized ball of what could only be described as petrified fur from one dog’s tail. It seemed to be a combination of hair, dirt, urine, feces, fleas, and lice.

We had to work slowly and carefully because the ball was so big and so dense that we couldn’t feel where the tail actually ended. The entire time we worked on this poor little girl, we wondered what we would find when we finally cut away the last of it. Would the tip be gangrenous? Infected? Infested with maggots—or worse? To our vast relief—and near disbelief—when we finally cut away the last of this hideous clump, the tail was healthy. Scraggly, but healthy.

Then we began trying to cut or clip away the rest of her coat. Like the other dogs, it was literally glued to her skin with filth.

The Q-Tip Look

When all the balls of matted fur (some as big as oranges) hanging from the dogs’ sides, tails, and undercarriages were finally removed and they were shaved to their ears and given baths, they looked like skinny little bodies with big fluffy heads—cute little Q-Tips. As exhausted as they (and we) were, we could see their palpable relief at being freed from their rancid and heavy haircoats.

Then lice treatments began. Much to our dismay, we found out that after the first treatment, the dogs remained contagious for two more weeks before the final application. This meant that every time we went near the dogs—or even walked down the hall toward the wards where they were kept—we had to dress up in full protective gear. Invariably we’d all forget something once we reached the wards, and then we’d have to go back to the starting line, take off the booties and gloves, get what we’d forgotten, and dress up again. Let me tell you, that got old really fast!


Me and little Lapp cropped

Pakko–newly clipped and bathed. Right now he is barely tolerating my touch.



What didn’t get old—and what I thought was absolutely astounding—was the response from all over the world. After an article appeared in our major newspaper and people began posting on social media, offers of help cascaded in. Complete strangers responded to the story of the rescue not only with money donations, but also with blankets, beds, towels, soap, medications, food, collars, leashes, toys—anything and everything that the dogs might need.

stack of blankets

The shelter received so much that several volunteers were assigned to catalog and arrange all the donations so that we could maneuver our way through head-high shelves of supplies to get to the dogs.

Closer to home, several rescue groups (who knew there were Finnish Lapphund Rescue Organizations right in our own backyard?!) and other shelters volunteered to take some of the dogs. A pilot with a private plane transported some dogs to Los Angeles–for free. Children contributed their allowances; one woman from England made special collars for the dogs. The generosity of people was awe-inspiring and humbling.



Photo credits:

Jan Flores

Charlotte Tunstall Pearce

© Jan Flores, July 2014


About the Author:

In her contemporary mainstream novels, best-selling author Janis Flores writes about tangled family relationships, the power of lasting friendship, and women who dare to risk all they hold dear to secure the future.
In her contemporary romances, she is known for her love of animals and light-hearted stories with witty characters. Occasionally, though, she enjoys writing comedy-adventure, complete with glitzy backdrops and ultra-glamorous protagonists.

  Related Posts
  • No related posts found.