Ithaca, N.Y. — It was a Wednesday night when Gretchen Evans received a frantic call from the director of Cayuga Dog Rescue about a labrador. There were mixed stories and no details. The dog desperately needed help.


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The next day, Evans got into her car and drove 20 minutes to Pupper’s home. A painful stench greeted her when she walked into the basement where the dog was living. The black lab’s skin was covered in wounds that she feared were contagious.

“He just looked at me with these warm, loving eyes,” Evans said in an interview this week. “I wanted to hug him and pat him and snuggle him so bad — and I couldn’t. That was the worst part.”

See related story: Ithaca dog rescue program has saved 500 lives since 2005

Today, Pupper is safe in the home of one of 10 volunteers who helped the dog recover from that basement. The rescue occurred in March.

Pupper is now awaiting test results to determine the underlying causes of his infections. It could be a long road of vets and treatment for Pupper, but volunteers say he continues to be in good hands.

Photos of Pupper courtesy of the Cayuga Dog Rescue

There were people helping Pupper every step of the way, said CDR director and co-founder Susan Wiser. Earlier that week, Pupper’s owner had emailed Wiser saying she could no longer afford to take care of Pupper.

“She tried to treat him, but he was still in really bad shape,” Wiser said. “She was being advised by friends to euthanize because she couldn’t afford to keep trying to get him well.”

From there, Wiser made the phone call and Evans came in to do a preliminary check on Pupper. Another volunteer went out to pick Pupper up; another dropped the dog off at the vet. Several others rallied to babysit and keep the dog entertained awaiting pick-up from a foster owner.

“Then it turned out that Pupper’s medical condition might be contagious​ to other dogs​, which meant that he then could not go to the foster home that we had lined up for him because that home had other dogs in it, and we didn’t want to pass along a contagious disease,” Wiser said.

Pupper getting check out at the vet college.

The CDR once again shook its trees of volunteers and found someone able to take Pupper despite the fear of contagion. The volunteers continued to flood in as one who used to be a groomer came in to give Pupper a much-needed bath.

Wiser commended her volunteers, saying those involved often find helping these animals to be very rewarding.

“People are very generous with their time and they are aware of the desperate situation that so many dogs are in and that stepping up and saying ‘Yes, I will help out’ is often the difference between life and death for a dog,” she said.

Here are 2 more photos of Pupper:


Pupper is one of more than 500 dogs the CDR has rescued over the past 10 years.

Wiser said anyone who is aware of a dog in need should contact their local dog rescue. She added that CDR is grateful for donations to help rescues like Pupper.

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