Worth Every Minute


How cute the little puppy stray

we brought into our home that day

For warmth and comfort, food and play,

that poorly little puppy stray.

But not alone in life was she

and brought companions one, two, three;

Of tapeworm, tick and lice and flea.

Alarming armies ambushed me.

Well actually,  she also had mange.  Grimly complicated by an ensuing systemic staph infection.

The puppy was found by another expat at a road incident.  Its mother had run off into the woods with a live chicken in her mouth.  The puppy had been taken back to their house but they could not keep it.  They’d tried to track down the owners in the nearest village but to no avail.

We did want a dog at some point but not yet.  I’d reluctantly agreed to go look at it.

She’d spent all night behind the washing machine.  She came out for us.  It was love at first sight.  She clung tightly to my neck, nestling into my hair.  She stayed up my jumper for the remainder of the visit and the journey home (as far as the vets).  That’s where the cuddly-cuddly stuff ended.  For the next couple of months, at least.

She was given Ivermectin injections for mange.  I believe this to be a pretty toxic assault on the system but then it’s very awkward to turn up at the vets for their help and then refuse it.  And despite homeopathic treatment too, she just got worse.

The entire room and bedding had to be disinfected every day.

As the skin infection took a hold the scabs multiplied quicker than I could remove them.  An entire month dragged on as I fought a losing battle trying to soften and remove the scabs under which the bacteria multiply, as directed by our Brazilian vets.

Her energy was becoming less and less until the only thing that would perk her up was the approach of ‘Ting Tong’ (one of the cats) or the mention of his name.

Friends would not pop round for tea

And people were avoiding me.

If someone ventured in to see,

Then Leper-Dog would make them flee.

Before head treatment

The scabs, the spots, the scaly red

Offensive matter in her bed;

The pustules made her scratch her head

Til half her ear flew off instead…

Finally I gave in and took her back to the vets.  I had not been able to work on her head and a thick crust had formed over her entire scalp.  We would pay them to do it in surgery under anaesthetic.

It turned out they didn’t have the facilities.  It was down to me.  They were horrified at the state of her thickly encrusted head.  Bluntly, they told me what my two options were.  It was do or die, in essence.  ‘Can you do it or not?’ was the question. ‘Otherwise…’  (And there’d be no charge).

I do not cry easily.  On that day I cried.  And then I gritted my teeth, looked to the sky and asked for strength.

I went home and I took off the puppy’s scalp right down to the bone.

After head treatment

There was no heating and it was a bitter December.  It was she who got the oil-filled radiator.  Her recovery was swift.  Her lively character bounced back in no time.

She became the most adorable little puppy and all the more loved for what she’d been through, although in great need of the month of education she’d missed out on!

Estrela growing up, learning how to love cats (gently)

She is full of life, nutty, confident, unfortunately rather barky but healthy and robust.  She has a full life, friends and family, daily woodland walks, trips out in the car and her very own dog-friend Daisy.


She’s lucky.  She got the English.

Not bad for a Portuguese dog from the gutter, hey?!

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