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Nearly starved to death, dog completes amazing recovery


By Nick Hytrek

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    SIOUX CITY, Iowa (Sioux City Journal) — Watching a young dog named Dustin run, swim and bark at a Sioux City park, one would never imagine that six months ago he was hours, maybe only minutes, away from dying.

Starved down to a skeleton, unable to even lift his head, Dustin’s condition was grave when Brenda Iwen rushed him from Sioux City to Dakota Dunes Animal Hospital.

“I didn’t think he was even going to make it over to the Dunes,” Iwen, co-founder of Noah’s Hope Animal Rescue, said, calling it the worst rescue case she’s ever seen in which the animal was still alive. All other dogs she’s seen in that condition were already dead.

Covered in dried urine, the Boxer-Mastiff mix had shrunk to 28 pounds, less than half of what’s considered his normal weight. A relative of the dog’s owner turned him over to Iwen on Feb. 18, and Iwen said she learned the dog had been kept in a kennel in an apartment, given water, but no food.

“I could not believe my eyes. He was just a skeleton laying there limp,” Iwen said, remembering the moment she first saw Dustin.

His body temperature was so low, his treating veterinarian, Dr. Katie Bensen, couldn’t measure it. She couldn’t draw blood, the dog was so dehydrated.

But Dustin survived that night, and six days later was placed with Robert and Rita Lott, a foster couple who could accommodate the demanding feeding and treatment schedule Dustin needed. Now, this bundle of energy is fully recovered, showing no signs of the neglect he suffered through.

“He was normal in every way except extremely emaciated,” Robert Lott said of Dustin’s condition when he and Rita took him into their home. “He just turned into a real dog real quick.”

The Lotts initially maintained a daily schedule of administering 13 doses of medication or supplements and several small meals to help Dustin’s body adjust to receiving nourishment. Soon, Dustin was bounding back, recovering the puppy personality that starvation had sapped from him.

In the meantime, charges were filed against his former owner, Stephanie Pace, of Sioux City. She pleaded guilty to an aggravated misdemeanor charge of animal neglect, and on July 31 was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 60 of them suspended. She’ll be required to serve 15 of those remaining 30 days in jail and may spend 30 days on electronic monitoring to satisfy the other 15 days. She also was placed on two years’ probation and was ordered to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution to Noah’s Hope.

In many cases, neglected and abused dogs are found dumped somewhere, Iwen said, but this was a rare case in which animal rescue workers knew the owner’s identity. Iwen said animal rescue and law enforcement authorities are committed to prosecuting animal abuse and neglect when possible.

“I just want people to know here in Woodbury County we are not going to mess around with abuse and neglect. People are going to get charged,” she said. “If you don’t want your dog or you don’t have the patience for your dog, then turn it over. For something like this to happen, there’s no excuse for it.”

Dustin now weighs in at a healthy 53 pounds. He won’t turn 2 until November, and his adolescent behavior was on full display on a recent afternoon at Prairie Park, one of the Lotts’ favorite places to take him. He loves to swim in the pond there, finds the geese fascinating and has room to run and bark.

Robert Lott said Dustin has overcome many of the fears of unfamiliar objects he had when he and Rita took him in. He obeys commands and picks up training quickly.

“He’s got a 100% clean bill of health,” Lott said.

Neutered, fully vaccinated and house trained, Dustin’s been up for adoption since early May, but a permanent home still eludes him.

Dustin’s recovery has been amazing, and he’s ready to show a new owner what an amazing pet he could be.

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