“The dog was laying on the lake and was so cold it could no longer move,” Meidinger said. “The fisherman called and asked if we’d take him.”
When the dog, now named Piper, was warmed up, it was found to be emaciated with cockle burrs and skin issues from tick bites, Meidinger said. This was another indication Piper was on his own for some time and likely abandoned.
Piper lost movement of his back legs for a time, and although he can walk now, only time will tell if he will fully recover, Meidinger said. Piper is graying around the muzzle on the face, which indicates he’s at least 10 years old and maybe as old as 12, she said.
“He’s an old boy,” Meidinger said. “We just want to give him time to rest and heal. He’s got a long road to go ahead of him.”
Because of Piper’s condition, he was given space in Meidinger’s office rather than a kennel. Throw rugs and shelter beds were placed all around to make him feel more at home, said Meidinger. The dog was treated by a veterinarian and is on a special high calorie diet, she said. He will also need a lot of grooming once he is strong enough, she said.
It’s too soon to tell, but Piper’s sight and hearing might be failing as well, Meidinger said. If he was left unattended and got lost, no one is sure how he ended up on a lake, she said.
The police and sheriff’s offices were called to see if anyone had reported a dog resembling Piper missing, she said. There was no matching description for the past several months, according to Meidinger.
Humane Society staff have mixed feelings about an owner stepping forward now, she said. If Piper was missing, the owner should have checked to see if anyone found him, she said.
The dog had no tag or identification chip, but he was wearing a shock collar, which is unusual for an older and friendly dog, Meidinger said.
“We do normally want to find the owner but this dog is in sad shape,” Meidinger said. “There is no reason why Piper should have been out there by itself like that in these temperatures. That took a toll on him for sure.”
The message for the public here is that in subzero temperatures it’s important not to just open the door and let animals out on their own, especially in unfenced yards, she said. Animals that run off will likely freeze to death.
Gary and Sandie Sahr will care for Piper until he’s healed and adopted to a forever home.
Gary Sahr is the current president of the James River Humane Society and Sandie Sahr is a former president. They have one dog already, Cole, but say it isn’t an imposition to watch over Piper’s healing.
“We used to board dogs,” Sandie Sahr said. “We like them all.”
Gary Sahr said that it wasn’t a difficult choice to help in this case. The dog is very affectionate and loves attention, he said.
“After what this dog has been through, how can you say no?” he said. “We’ll get him back to health and we’ll find him a good home, no doubt.”
Some people prefer older dogs because they usually aren’t chewing on things and are potty trained, he said. They tend to be better behaved.