Emaciated, Terrified Pup Learning to Trust

And she might someday realize that her water bowl will always be full.

Gia dog before and after
Gia when she was first rescued and today.

Speak Rescue and Sanctuary

My shadow weighs less than 20 pounds and wants to be touching someone at all times. 

Meet Gia, an Australian shepherd pup who was frighteningly close to death just a few weeks ago. Now, she’s learning that the world isn’t always a scary place, that people can be good, and that the water bowl will always be full. She’s my new foster dog through Speak Rescue and Sanctuary.

When rescuers heard about a small dog that needed saving, they had no idea how dire her situation was. The weak and scraggly pup collapsed when they picked her up and she started shaking uncontrollably.

Believing there might be some neurological issue, they rushed her to the emergency vet where they immediately placed an IV and started doing all sorts of tests. They determined that her collapse was likely due to severe malnutrition and dehydration. 

In addition to being emaciated, Gia was covered from the top of her head to the tip of her tail in fecal mats. In the first photos, she didn’t look like she was even alive.

After painstaking care from two veterinary teams, her mats were cut away and she slowly gained strength as she received much-needed fluids and nourishment. As she became more alert and aware, rescuers also found that she was terrified of so many things—from people to noises to attention.

Long, Slow Recovery

This sweet, scared girl faces a long and challenging recovery. She has to slowly gain weight and fight any possible effects from what were likely months of near-starvation. And if that isn’t hard enough, a new test revealed that she also has heartworms.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness spread by the bite of a mosquito. Young heartworm parasites are released into a dog’s bloodstream and eventually mature into long worms that can invade the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Heartworm disease is nearly completely preventable with monthly medication. But once the parasites have taken up residence, the treatment is long and painful.

Needy and Scared

Gia and foster brother Brodie
Gia and foster brother, Brodie.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Once she trusts you, Gia never wants to leave you. She wants to sit in your lap, follow you closely, and nap only within petting distance. If you stop stroking her, she paws desperately at your hand, asking you not to stop.

If someone new comes into her environment, she will eye them warily from a safe distance and gradually slink along the floor, her belly to the ground as she nears them, hopeful that they are friendly.

But if anyone laughs too loudly, gestures too grandly, or moves too quickly, she races to hide behind her safe person. Everything new and sudden is terrifying.

It’s so heartbreaking whenever Gia finds a bowl of water. She will drink and gulp and not stop until it’s empty. She likely rarely had water—particularly fresh water—so when she has some, she drinks and drinks, afraid she won’t have it again.

Gia weighs only about 18 pounds and she should be closer to 25. Her hip bones jut out prominently and her ribs are so distinct. Although we guess her to be about 4 years old, she’s eating puppy food so she can better get to a healthy weight.

She takes cues from my dog Brodie, who has been through this about 60 times before when we have temporary canine residents. If he goes through a door, jumps on the couch, or greets a person, she is brave and follows closely on his heels

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. We hope stories like this one will highlight to our readers the importance of adopting rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores.  Learn more about how to support local animal shelters.

Long-Time Foster

Typically, I foster puppies and, because they’re cute and young, they don’t stick around very long. Many of them have been blind, deaf, or both.

But Gia will be a long-time resident. She will be here for several months as she gets healthy, gains weight, and goes through her heartworm treatment. In that time, hopefully, she will become more trusting and less fearful. 

During veterinary exams, we found that Gia was spayed. So at one point in her life, she probably belonged to someone who took care of her. It’s hard to think about what happened to her between then and now.

Was she thrown out or did she run away? Did someone love her once or was she always mistreated? At one time, did she have bowls of food and clean water?

But all that matters is that now she is loved and safe. In a few months she will be looking for her forever family and on her way to a happily ever after.

Follow Mary Jo, her dog Brodie, and their foster puppy adventures on Instagram @brodiebestboy.