PAWS Magazine


Issue 48, Winter 2001


From a story of neglect comes hope

Gus melted Colleen Smith’s heart the moment she saw him. A day earlier, Smith, the PAWS shelter director, had received a call from “Jim,” a gentleman that PAWS had helped out before. Jim was in hospice care out of state, dying, and very concerned that his beloved dogs Gus and Obie were not being cared for by the people he thought would look after them.


Smith and her staff help 4,500 dogs and cats every year. Lost, abandoned, or abused, PAWS provides the veterinary care, good meals and love that they need. Even though PAWS’ resources are stretched, Colleen knew that PAWS was Jim’s only hope; she felt that she had to try to help.

“It was so cold that December day,” says Smith. She pulled into a long driveway that Jim had described. Broken down cars and other trash littered the property.

Colleen’s heart sank as she realized that a thin, frightened face was looking at her from the back of a rusted-out pickup truck. Gus and Obie had been cast aside like the rubbish in the yard.

“As I moved slowly towards Gus I saw he was starving and injured,” says Smith. “Gus had a glassy look in his eyes and he wouldn’t look right at me, but rather was staring at some garbage on the ground.”

It wasn’t garbage after all. It was his brother Obie. He had been dead for quite some time.

Empty beer cans had been tossed at his small body. He was even thinner than Gus—he had been scavenging for food, but was probably too weak to find much. At least now whatever pain he had endured was over.

Gus 2

“I said Gus’ name and he looked up at me, almost as if pleading for me to help,” says Smith. “Jim had given me permission to remove the dogs if I felt they should be removed, and there was no question here.” She gingerly gathered Gus in her arms, set him on a blanket in the back seat of the warm car and drove him back to PAWS. She was called too late to help Obie, but Colleen was going to make sure Gus got another chance.

A veterinary exam found broken bones that had been left to heal on their own without treatment. He was about 15 pounds underweight, and had nearly every parasite a dog can get, weakening his already compromised immune system. Smith decided she would nurse him back to health herself, and thus began his rehabilitation. Smith adopted Gus that day.

Today Gus is nine. He suffers the effects of old age and years of hard living, but he’s healthy and happy. He loves car rides, enjoys people and cats, and relishes each minute he can lay by the photocopier at PAWS and receive pats on his head. It is clear that every day Gus has spent since leaving his horrible “home” has been a precious gift.

If you would like to help animals like Gus please visit our donation section.

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