Letter to the Editor: The miraculous recovery of dog found in Southern Utah

"Murphy" the dog in Southern Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of PAWS, St. George News

ALERT: This story includes details and visual material of severe injuries to an animal. Reader discretion is advised.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR — Murphy the black Labrador has so many wonderful qualities. He’s everything you want and hope for in a dog. He’s a happy, loving social guy. He has impeccable manners, loves to go for walks and if he hears the words “play” his ears instantly perk up and he’s up on his paws ready to go. He’s house trained and obedient.

So when you read his story, you will be confused — how does a dog like Murphy end up abandoned? Why did he have to endure such pain and why would it be necessary to put a shock collar on such a great dog? Here’s Murphy’s story.

An emaciated lab mix was found by the LaVerkin Animal Control entangled in barbed wire. This dog was in extreme pain, had severe injuries and was lame. Animal Control carefully cut the barbed wire off him, removed the shock collar from his neck and took him to the LaVerkin Animal Shelter where he was scanned for a microchip; he didn’t have one. They also looked through the records for a reported missing dog matching the dog’s description, but there weren’t any.

That same night at approximately 8 p.m., PAWS (Providing Animals with Support) received a call from LaVerkin Animal Control Officer Cathy Buschman asking for help, as she felt the dog’s condition was deteriorating and he might not make it.

PAWS immediately picked the dog up, called their vet in Cedar City and headed up north to meet Dr. Cameron Norton. The 40-minute drive seemed endless.

“We knew he was in shock,” said Lulu Hart, animal rescue manager for PAWS. “Even in his sad condition you could tell he was a beauty and we sensed he was a gentle soul.”

“Murphy” the dog shows signs of severe injuries after trying to chew through barbed wire wrapped around his leg, Southern Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of PAWS, St. George News

We needed a name to call him until his humans showed up, a strong perky name. PAWS volunteer Sarah Christensen and driver that night said “Murphy” seemed perfect, and he had a temporary name.

Murphy was on a legal stray hold for five days. The volunteers and vet would do everything they could to keep Murphy alive and comfortable, and everyone would wait for his owner to call to claim him, but that call never came.

Murphy’s wounds were deep and infected. Where the barbed wire was wrapped around his leg, it had cut down through the cartilage and tendons to the bone. He had deep wounds under his chin where he had clearly been trying for sometime to free himself from the wire, there were wounds in his mouth from trying to chew the barbed wire off and his under belly was bloody, bruised and had open wounds as well.

Murphy was dehydrated and his blood levels were very bad. He didn’t have enough blood to even consider any kind of surgery, and his wounds were all infected. The task of controlling his pain, cleaning his wounds, getting fluids in him and monitoring him began. His blood pressure was extremely low, his wounds were cleaned and monitored around the clock and we all waited. Day three was no better than day one, day four no better, day five came and a decision had to be made. In order for Murphy to survive, he would have to undergo surgery for a rear leg amputation, but his blood pressure was still low and he had very little blood to undergo the surgery. Cautiously optimistic was the theme.

“Murphy” the dog is severely injured after being found with barbed wire wrapped around his leg in Southern Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of PAWS, St. George News

So the dog who had already stolen so many hearts, been given a strong, sturdy name, endured so much pain and was never mean to his caregivers was readied for surgery. But his body was in rough shape. During the surgery, his body gave up. He coded.

It took five minutes of CPR, a determined vet and two vet techs to bring Murphy back to life.

Incredibly, Murphy’s life turned around. Within 24 hours, he was up on his feet. With the damaged and infected leg removed, Murphy began the true healing process. He was more comfortable and started to regain his strength. Soon enough, it was time to leave Cedar City Animal Hospital, and for Murphy and his constant caregiver, vet tech Jackie, a bittersweet goodbye.

We don’t know how long Murphy had been out alone in a rural area, entangled in barbed wire, how long he’d been without food or water, why anyone would put a shock collar on him and whether the barbed wire that was wrapped around his leg was done by a human.

We do know he endured. He had the spirit and the heart to keep going, Murphy wanted to live, to be loved and to love.

Murphy’s healing process still had a ways to go. We needed to keep his wounds infection-free, start putting weight on his body and make sure he knew he was safe and loved. Enter the PAWS dog room volunteers. Murphy was walked multiple times a day, short walks which he insisted get longer and longer, and he received multiple small feedings a day: Cleaning, loving, repeat. Murphy has been let down in the past, but the LaVerkin Animal Control, Dr. Norton and his staff and the PAWS volunteers would do everything possible to ensure he would never be let down again.

When Murphy was found, he was only 50 pounds, but he’s slowly been putting weight on by eating quality food and salmon oil to help his dry skin. His fur is now looking shiny and sleek, and his skin is soft.

Murphy kept persevering as if to say, “I have a job to do.” He’d been through so much, alone, starving, dehydrated, wounded, lame. All the odds were against him. He died on the operating table, and yet he fought one more time and came back. He kept rebounding. Why, when so many others would have stopped, did this dog keep pushing? We assumed it’s because we all have that will to live, to love and to be loved.

Murphy always acted like he had somewhere to go, wandering alone, hurt and sick for days, he kept moving. He never resisted or fought help when so many dogs would have snapped or at least snarled. When he was taken out of for walks, he walked like he had a purpose as though he had somewhere to go. Having only three legs meant nothing to Murphy; he was always sure footed and ready to go. He didn’t appear to ever be looking for a family he lost. He didn’t look back, he was always looking forward. When walked and returned to PAWS, he would always easily and happy go to his kennel as though to say I’ll be right here waiting. PAWS’ job was to figure out what was he waiting for.

PAWS waited for weeks for any sign of Murphy’s past — a human to show up, a phone call asking about him. And nothing. So the time was coming when they would prepare him for adoption. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what a great addition he was going to make to the perfect family.

“Murphy” the dog in Southern Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of PAWS, St. George News

Murphy’s picture and story had been posted for a month, and all of the PAWS community had rallied to support him in his recovery and help with his medical fund, people would inquire about his health and we got lots of “how’s Murphy doing?” We knew it was finally time to find him his new family – a home where he would be safe, secure and loved.

And then the phone rang. The voice on the phone was a kind one. Hart said she could hear a little pain in the words when the lady asked, “is Murphy still available?” The conversation of Murphy began, and when Hart asked did the caller know Murphy’s story, the caller said “no,” and his story was told.

Again, the words “cautiously optimistic” were felt. The caller listened to Murphy’s story, but she too had one. The caller spoke of a beloved black lab named Daisy. “We got Daisy when she was four months. She would have been 13 years this Feb. 1, but fell ill with kidney failure, and we sadly had to put her down Dec. 14, 2019.” The words were crushing to hear because you could feel the pain in her voice. We’ve all been there, and there simply aren’t words, there is nothing to say or do that can fix that hurt. Nothing a human could do, but certainly something the right dog could do.

The potential adopter arrived at PAWS to meet Murphy. He bounded out to greet her and immediately showed her what a great dog he was; he snarfled about her and went on a walk with her. He was falling for a human, and by the look in her eyes, she was falling for Murphy! There was still an application that needed processing, a home check, and the rest of the family would need to meet Murphy.

Around 24 hours later, all due diligence done, an anxious and happy family was waiting to meet the boy who steals hearts. A dog who had endured so much, lost a leg and overcome so many obstacles – a dog who deserved as good as he was willing to give. Would this family, these adults and their children be the lucky ones? Would this family who had lost their beloved friend and companion let Murphy fill the empty void they felt and love them? The answer is yes! They are now one happy, perfect whole family.

We will never know what was going through Murphy’s mind the endless days he endured alone, but we do believe we know what Murphy’s purpose was. He had hearts to mend, big paws to fill, a family to love and a family to love and cherish him!

PAWS (Providing Animals with Support) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and is able to do the the incredible work we do daily – save animals’ lives and find them great homes – because all our volunteers know all animals matter. In 2019, PAWS rescued more than 640 dogs and cats, and our volunteers are devoted animal lovers who refuse to give up on our rescues, whether it be bringing a scared dog or cat out of its shell, helping an abused animal to trust again, helping heal the sick and wounded or working round the clock feeding abandoned kittens and puppies, our team always steps up to the challenge.

If you are interested in joining the PAWS family, please submit a volunteer application. You can also donate to our mounting medical fund. To learn more about PAWS, visit our website.

Submitted by LULU HART, Animal Rescue Manager for PAWS.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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