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Norwich – Not every story that starts at a dog pound ends with a “happily ever after,” but Norwich Animal Control staff and volunteers and dozens of donors from throughout Connecticut and beyond are hoping to write one for Amazing Grace.
“Gracey” was found wandering the Pleasant Street area in Norwichtown on Jan. 25 in terrible shape, Animal Control Officer Michele Lombardi said. The 8-year-old German shepherd was extremely emaciated, with atrophied muscles so bad that she could hardly walk. And she was full of fleas.
“The boy who found her gave her a flea bath and said the water was completely black,” Assistant Animal Control Officer Donna Kelo said.
When the dog was brought to the pound, Lombardi immediately scanned for a possible microchip. There was none, but that’s when Lombardi discovered the dog’s biggest problem – a large ruptured cyst on her shoulder, oozing blood and puss. Lombardi brought the dog to All Friends Animal Hospital to have the wound cleaned, but it was clear she would need surgery. A second smaller cyst was found on the dog’s right hind foot.
That’s when the Sunny Fund kicked into gear. The fund, established by long-time pound volunteer Sue Ponder, seeks donations for medical bills for stray animals taken in by the Norwich pound.
First, they needed a name.
“We needed a name, but she’s an older dog,” pound volunteer and foster owner Ann Marie Jakubielski said. “She doesn’t need a foo-foo name. She’s a lady.”
Someone suggested Grace, as in actress and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. Lombardi doesn’t usually go for people names for dogs, so she suggested “Amazing Grace.”
Ponder put a heart-tugging close-up photo of Amazing Grace on the Animal Control Office’s Facebook page. Ponder sent an email to Channel 3 news, and a two-minute segment paid off. The Norwich Police Department posted the photo and an appeal for donations in the police station lobby.
Checks poured in, including one for $1,000 and several from far reaches of Connecticut. A few came from New York and Massachusetts. The drive raised $8,000, and the crew scheduled Amazing Grace for surgery at the Warwick (R.I.) Animal Hospital.
The next emergency hit the night before surgery, when a prospective adoptive family backed out, Lombardi said. She nearly panicked. A weak dog recovering from surgery needs care in quiet home, not an unsterile, noisy and bustling dog pound.
Jakubielski already had three dogs, two cats, four sons and an iguana at her Norwich home, but the St. Bernard’s High School teacher immediately agreed. She brought Amazing Grace home that night to make sure there were no conflicts with the other household residents.
“She’s been home ever since,” Jakubielski said. “She has her little spot on the couch that she likes.”
Surgery on Feb. 5 was successful. The two cysts were removed. The shoulder wound proved malignant, while the foot cyst was benign. Amazing Grace – now mostly called Grace or Gracey – also tested positive for Lyme disease.
She might have arthritis, but so far, her hind legs are getting stronger as she gains weight and stamina. Fur is growing back on her formerly flea-infested and chewed-up tail. She’s on a mild painkiller and antibiotics for the Lyme. A more detailed assessment of her arthritis and hips will come later. Her stitches came out last week, and now, Jakubielski can transfer her records to her own vet, Lisbon Animal Hospital.
Grace’s medical care has cost more than $2,000 to date. Jakubielski said with her large family of people and pets, she could not have afforded to adopt Amazing Grace without the Sunny Fund. As it has in the past for those adopted dogs with medical needs, the fund will continue to pay for Grace’s medical care, Ponder said. That’s the only way to find homes for strays with medical needs, she said.
Donations continue to be sought for the Sunny Fund, both for Amazing Grace and any future stray pet in need. Ponder said if Grace doesn’t need the full amounts donated, the money would remain in the fund for future cases. She sent personal thank-you notes to all donors.
How Amazing Grace got into that condition in the first place remains a mystery. Lombardi advertised her as a stray dog and posted pictures on the department’s Facebook page hoping someone would recognize this elegant, lanky black and amber German shepherd with a salty chin. No one called.
“At one time, she was loved,” Jakubielski said. “She is well trained, because she listens, especially to my son, Liam. She had a home at some point.”
The Sunny Fund in Norwich is seeking donations for medical care for Amazing Grace, a German shepherd rescued by Norwich Animal Control.
Make checks payable to The Sunny Fund and send to:
Norwich Police Department
c/o Michele Lombardi
70 Thames St
Norwich, CT 06360