Nullah arrived at a special rescue in Tennessee in late March with no idea of the friendship she was about to make. The tiny brown Australian shepherd puppy was showing signs of neurological damage. Her vision was impaired and she showed symptoms as if she were recovering from a head trauma. But she had definitely landed in the right place. Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue specializes in special needs and medical cases — the pups that may not get a chance because of the things that make them just a little bit different.
And then there was Rhetta. The Toggenburg goat came to "Camp Snooty" when she was just 4 weeks old after a traumatic birth left her with an injured front leg that had to be amputated. She arrived not long after Nullah, and the two hit it off immediately.
"Our dogs are very accepting. That’s part of the beauty of everything here," rescue founder Shawn Aswad tells MNN. "But the other dogs didn’t take Nullah under their wing like Rhetta did."
They snuggled together on the couch and when Rhetta was confined to her crate, Nullah waited patiently outside for her three-legged pal.
"Even though they are both babies, it’s as if Nullah looks at her like a mamma," Aswad says. "She just wants to lay with her all the time, and Rhetta’s up for it."
A downhill slide
For a short time, it looked like Nullah was going to be OK. She had what they thought was an upper respiratory infection and a few other symptoms, but then she took a turn for the worse. One day she had symptoms that were like a seizure, and vets thought maybe she had a fracture in her neck.
Then Nullah woke up one morning and couldn't walk. She kept falling down and wasn't able to stand up again. Volunteers scooped her up and took her to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine for testing.
After an MRI and other tests, the vets found Nullah had secondary hydrocephalus, or fluid on her brain. They weren't sure of the root cause, but it could have been a viral or bacterial infection early in her young life or a toxin she had been exposed to in utero that caused the spinal fluid to collect.
The vets treated the fluid buildup to relieve pressure, in hopes that it would bring back some of her lost neurological function. When the sweet-natured pup was eating and drinking again, they let her go back home to Tennessee.
Upon on her return, Nullah made a beeline for Rhetta, who seemed the most relieved at the pup's reappearance.
Nullah couldn't get close enough to Rhetta.
Since then, Nullah's vision has stayed strong, but she hasn't regained the use of her front legs. She has been pulling herself around, while Aswad has been researching front-wheeled carts that will help her get around.
The only problem is that carts are expensive and a cart for a growing puppy would need to be replaced frequently, probably monthly.
"We know dogs live very successfully without their front legs with the use of carts," Aswad says. "We also have a chance that she gets her legs back because nobody knows what’s going on."
In the meantime, Nullah is playing, eating and barking.
"Is she 100 percent puppy in there? No, but she’s happy and active and communicating with all of us and interacting with all the other dogs," Aswad says.
And of course she's getting in as much Rhetta time as she can, including plenty of naps ...
... and even taste-testing the alfalfa. Now that's friendship.