Dolly And The Pink Painted Toenails

She reminded me of Grizabella, the once glamorous but now bedraggled cat that left the Jellicle tribe (Cats the Musical) and when she returned, her formerly stunning coat was dirty, torn and ragged. 

Dolly was just as worn, torn and nasty but Dolly didn’t voluntarily leave her pack. She was put out by her own. Dirty, matted, and sick, she was turned in to a NC shelter last week with a grapefruit sized tumor on her belly, grape size cysts protruding around her delicate lady parts, a cyst on her eye… 

And pink paint on her toenails. 

What an enigma.   

I met Dolly right after transport last Friday, April 20.  She was resting on one side in her crate, a barely nibbled bowl of food in front of her. She looked pregnant.  One look and I knew I was heading to the vet immediately.  She’d already been to the vet in Rocky Mount to make sure she was healthy enough to travel and she was sporting a bandage around her tummy. The bandage was barely containing a mammary tumor bigger than my hand could fit around.  My staff feared it was going to burst any minute and so did I.  She needed attention and it needed to be sooner rather than later. 

I called our vet and scheduled a late afternoon appointment.  Our regular doctors were all out of town but I knew the fill in vet and felt good about her seeing Dolly so headed that way.   

I had been so focused on the big tumor that I had not taken a good look at Dolly but there, sitting in the exam room on the floor with her, with her head in my lap and waiting for the doctor, I started to notice all the anomalies.  There was the massive mammary tumor and crusty eyes.  But she also had pink paint on the toenails. A musty and dusty odor like a closet full of old, moth-eaten coats emanated from her hair – but she had been groomed within the last two months.  Her hair was not long but what there was, especially on the top of her head, was matted.  You could clearly see she had bracelet puffs on her ankles but she was filthy.  

Where had this dog been?      

I started imagining what kind of care she had received. I’ve been doing intake long enough to know that there is always another side to the story.  My imagination took me to a place with an owner who was perhaps caring but either destitute or grossly uneducated or maybe some of both. Could she groom herself but couldn’t afford medical care? Did she honestly think that dogs should stay as nature intended them to, intact, even if it meant this suffering? Was she perhaps older and ill herself, unable to care for herself much less her dog?  Was she simply very poor?  Did she have dementia or Alzheimer’s and some kind soul had her dog groomed for her (including the pink painted toenails) but then she went right back to the pitiful conditions she had been in?  Why grooming but not a vet?  The tumor had been there a very long time.   

So many questions.  I doubt I will ever have answers to any of them.  Her past will have to continue to be something unknown.  Here is what I did know – we had one sick standard poodle on our hands.   

But Dolly’s past is not her present or her future and fortunately, this story has the potential to have a happy ending.  Dolly’s new life started last week when she was turned in.  It was her only hope and, whether accidentally or on purpose, whoever had her gave her that chance because had she gone to a vet and they said they could not or would not pay, she would have been euthanized.  Instead she found herself on a fast bus to the poodle farm and here, we believe in second chances and new starts.   

Dolly spent the weekend at the vet just in case the tumor did burst.  Fortunately, it did not and she had surgery on Monday, April 23, 2018 to remove the mammary tumor. The vet felt that doing more at that time would be dangerous to her because of the size of the tumor, her weak condition and the length of time she was under anesthesia to remove the tumor.  However, as of Friday, April 27, 2018 Dolly was not eating, and her white blood count was rising despite being on IV fluids and IV antibiotics. Her temperature had gone from very high at 104 to below normal. Our girl was slipping away.   

Our vet suspected more going on and together we made the decision to go back in.  It turns out Dolly was in closed pyometra, a serious infection of the reproductive organs which will kill the dog. The fix is to spay and it is the only way.  So weak as she was, it was either that or lose her. We opted to go to surgery.  Our vet, who worked 10 years as a spay/neuter vet, said she had never seen ovaries in such bad condition or so many cysts.  I am forever thankful a vet with so much experience in spay/neuter was in charge of Dolly’s case.  It was just right for her.  

Dolly’s right ovary was the size of a softball. It should be the size of a golf ball. Both ovaries were covered with cysts. Cysts produce estrogen. Too much estrogen suppresses the bone marrow so that it cannot make red blood cells. Too much estrogen increases the tumor’s ability to grow. In short, Dolly was a walking poster child for why female dogs should be spayed. Everything which can go wrong with an intact dog had gone wrong in Dolly. 

Now for the good news. As of Saturday morning April 28, 2018, after her second emergency surgery in a week, Dolly ate a little bit on her own. She wagged her tail. She is markedly brighter.  Her temperature is at normal after fluctuating all week. A simple surgery which should have been done when she was young has, in 12 hours taken her from critical to guardedly optimistic.  The vet said she is a fighter and she is fighting to live.   

Dolly is about 12 years old we were told although I think she is either older or has had a very rough life. Why would we do this for Dolly? Why go to this expense and this trouble? 

The answer to me is simple. Because life is precious. All life. We hope to give Dolly several more good years in a loving home with no disconnects. In a home that not only grooms her but then keeps her clean between times. In a home that make sure that if she needs medical care she’s going to get it. 

And if that home believes in pink toenails. I’m OK with that.   


Donna Ezzell 

Dolly’s sponsors are Pamela Fish, Chuck & Lynette Hodges, Cindy Staggs Van Wyk, Kelley Cates Thorton,Tricia Fl, Deanna Cox, Lynda Kelly Kaufman, Catherine Williams, Jaye P Brown, Darlene McGuigan, Jean Bellware Lewis and Joan M Christensen and all of you who support Luna’s Legacy Medical Fun.  Together we give the Dolly’s of our world a second chance at a better life.