One recent morning, Kiki the bulldog woke up in a puddle of her own waste. She could barely stand.
“I thought this was her goodbye,” says Skip Van Der Marliere, founder of Southern California Bulldog Rescue.
It’s just one of the many times Kiki’s been rushed to the vet, since Skip took the pup in about two months ago.
It’s just one of the many times she’s pulled through.
Her rescuers think Kiki’s former owners kept her in a crate in a garage for most of her early life — so terribly confined, that she developed scoliosis. And that’s the most easily treated of her conditions.
Her previous owner gave her up in May. She was in shockingly bad shape: malnourished and thin, with big infected bed sores, and two types of serious, untreated autoimmune diseases — one affecting her painfully raw and infected skin, the other her bowels.
“She was able to still walk, though that was even painful because of blistering sores on the bottom of her paws,” says Skip. “Despite her health issues, she was still always interested in what was going on around her and liked human contact.”
Skip has been trying hard to keep Kiki alive, to get her well enough to enjoy this new life she’s been given.
It’s not always easy.
Even after all the trips to the vet, Kiki’s skin problems are still acute, and she’s having a hard time putting on weight. Her conditions feed on each other; Kiki can’t take the steroids or stem cell treatments that might help her bald, irritated skin until her bowel issues are under control, and those have been tough to manage.
So Skip is trying out some “novel meats” he hopes she may be able to tolerate, like duck and rabbit.
For Kiki’s skin, there are lots of medicated baths, and nice gentle scrubbings with all kinds of different brushes — tooth brushes, makeup brushes, anything soft that might afford the little dog some relief.
And while Kiki isn’t always in the mood for a bath — she’s crazy about the attention, which she probably didn’t get a lot of, before.
“She just lays still when you pet her and scratch her now. You can tell she loves it,” he says.
Kiki still isn’t really well. She doesn’t have much energy, and doesn’t show interest in toys or treats.
If she becomes critically ill again — if she needs oxygen, or surgery — Skip and his husband will not put her through that.
But despite the ups and downs, that’s not now.
“It’s not her time to go,” says Skip.
Not long ago, Kiki’s fur started to grow in on her right front paw.
And the other day, Skip saw her trying to get up on the couch. She didn’t quite make it, but it filled him with joy to witness Kiki making a decision, to see her want something.
“It’s the baby steps forward that tell us we are doing good for her and she’s getting better,” says Skip. “She’s happy.”