Adopting a rescue dog can be daunting because you never quite know what you’re signing yourself up for – but what’s certain is you’re changing a life.
A kindhearted woman has nursed a neglected dog back to full health – and discovered her breed in the process.
Jessi Sova was called to help a husky mix, originally named Natasha, after she was picked up by LightShine Canine, a rescue dedicated to stray and unwanted dogs.
“This little girl, this skinny neglected girl, was recovering from mange, parasites and malnutrition,” said Jessi.
Due to her condition, little Natasha was moved into foster care but still desperately needed an owner to come forward and take her home.
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Jessi added: “I messaged with Natasha’s foster mum and planned to meet them. The next morning, I was elated. My son and I fell instantly in love. It was impossible not to.
“She moved so cautiously but still stood and walked to greet us. She gave tiny kisses, she melted into pets, and she yelped when she moved the wrong way and something hurt.
“Her fuzzy fur was a glowing halo around her face and she was just so little.”
Natasha, who was thought to be anywhere between nine-months to two-years-old, weighed just 28lbs when Jessi and her family collected her.
She had a “patchy coat” and “some kind of back condition” which disguised her breed, leaving vets to guess at what it could be.
“Her breed was unclear, it was assumed she was some sort of husky mix,” said Jessi.
“The rescue offered me a foster-to-adopt but I couldn’t imagine her not being a part of my family, she was my girl and we left that moment to bring her home.”
Crying out in pain on the drive home, the dog, who has been renamed Mikita, sat with Jessi in the front passenger seat until she reached her new home in Minnesota.
When they arrived, Jessi calmly introduced Mikita to her other rescue dog, Kane, and her friend’s husky mix, Shapphire.
Jessi added: “Kane and Natasha were absolutely adorable together.
“She followed him everywhere and snuggled up to him when she wasn’t being petted by a human.
“I got her a set of pet stairs so she could follow him up on the couch and the beds because she couldn’t jump up on her own and being lifted hurt her, and so it went.”
Thanks to her loving new owners, Mikita began gaining weight and her fur started to grow back, enabling Jessi to finally see her true self.
And it didn’t take long for Mikita’s personality to shine through – including her adorable quirks.
“Her fur kept growing, she seemed to age in reverse for awhile as it came in,” she said.
“Mikita was always very particular, and became hilariously demanding as her strength increased.
“Bedtime was 9:30pm. She’d sing to me until we went to bed, but if I took too long my sweatpants paid the price.
“She took to grabbing the cuffs and tugging which she grumbled, and I could see her strength growing because eventually she tore off strips of fabric.
“I didn’t have the heart to stop her, because it was funny and it was probably good exercise for her!
“Her fur kept growing. She kept getting stronger.”
Wanting to help relieve Mikita’s back pain, Jessi visited a chiropractor who taught her how to feel the heat from her pain and massage her sore back.
Jessi added: “A few months in she woke up screaming and the same friend who helped bring her home brought us to the emergency vet and they managed her pain.
“She stayed the night and I cried, but I wanted her to be comfortable and she needed a specialist.
“I authorised all the testing, and late in the day she was able to come home.
“I cried again, but for a different reason – her back was shaved. My girl who made so much progress had a huge naked rectangle on her back and I knew she didn’t care but it just made me so sad.
“It seemed silly, but her glorious fur was my benchmark of her recovery, and her losing even part of that felt like a loss to me.
“The test results were mostly negative, but the MRI changed everything.”
Poor Mikita was diagnosed with discospondylitis, an infection of the vertebrae and intervertebral disc spaces which can cause severe pain as well as nerve damage in dogs if left untreated.
“It’s a completely treatable condition that yes, will have life-long consequences, but short-term treatment. Antibiotics, of all things. Antibiotics for two weeks, said Jessi.
“After one week she was a different dog. She still hurt sometimes, but her energy improved, she started becoming less timid with her movements and with playing.
“We could go to the dog park and she hardly yelped. She had always self-limited, coming to me for a break and a back rub, and she kept doing that. I think is terribly cute and she still does it.”
Today, Mikita weighs 52lbs, her fur has grown back and her pain is under control. She is completely unrecognisable to the dog Jessi picked up in September 2018.
She added: “I remember the first time I saw her climb up on something with her front legs, I was so excited she was strong enough I didn’t even call her off.
“Her fur now is incredibly long, as long as any other wooly husky I’ve ever seen.
“Her skin is damaged from the mange, so she doesn’t like being brushed much and her neck has perpetual puppy fur. It’s the softest fur, we call her Cloud Bear after she sees the groomer.
“She’s hilarious and opinionated. She talks to me to tell me what she wants – it’s like knowing your baby’s cries, I can always tell what she wants.
“She loves people, she adores having visitors at the house, she’s noisy at the dog park which some people find off-putting, but that’s a typical husky.
“Ear rubs are her favourite, and nobody gets them as good as mum. She’s my broken little princess, my Cheeto Burrito, my Miss Ma’am.”
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