Dog survives desert ordeal

After skirmish with porcupine, chocolate Lab finds new home

A rescued chocolate Lab named Bridger receives tender, loving care from his new owner, Elizabeth Moore of Grand Junction. The dog, believed to be about 8 months old, was found Sept. 1 standing in the middle of the road in a desolate area of Delta County, emaciated and with a face full of porcupine quills. One quill injured his right eye so severely that veterinarians finally had to remove the eye.



A rescued chocolate Lab named Bridger receives tender, loving care from his new owner, Elizabeth Moore of Grand Junction. The dog, believed to be about 8 months old, was found Sept. 1 standing in the middle of the road in a desolate area of Delta County, emaciated and with a face full of porcupine quills. One quill injured his right eye so severely that veterinarians finally had to remove the eye.



No one ever talks about dogs having nine lives.

But a chocolate Lab named Bridger has clearly used up more than one life and has found a home, a happy ending to his survival story.

All that is known for sure about Bridger is that he was found on Sept. 1 in the middle of nowhere, badly injured and near death.

Now, he’s finally learning how to be a puppy and is getting used to his new forever family.

What we know of his story begins in the desert, the day a caseworker with Delta County’s Adult Protective Services found him by accident.

She had brought a little dog out to Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary in Crawford, the largest shelter for dogs in Delta County. The sanctuary had agreed to take the dog because its owner was going into assisted living and could no longer keep the animal.

On her way back to Delta from relinquishing the dog in Crawford, the caseworker was driving through Peach Valley, a dry, desolate area of the desert. And that’s when she saw the Lab, standing in the middle of the road, miserable, emaciated and with a face full of porcupine quills.

To say this dog had lost its battle with the porcupine would be an understatement. One of the quills was buried in his right eye. The dog let the caseworker load him into her vehicle and she took him to a vet.

Veterinarians who treated the animal estimated the quills had been embedded in the dog’s face, eye, mouth, ear and back for a month. After paying $250 for first aid and to have the quills removed, the caseworker called Debbie Faulkner, who runs the sanctuary, and asked if she would take him.

She did the next day, and called him Buster Brown.

The dog needed additional medical attention, another surgery to remove more quills, as well as treatment for other injuries and his eye that kept swelling. It turned out another quill was buried deep in his eye, and it was decided that the eye needed to be removed.

Surgery was required to remove it and the 1½ inches of quill that remained impaled in the eye that was causing so much pain, discomfort and swelling.

Faulkner documented the dog’s progress on the sanctuary’s Facebook page, and that’s where Elizabeth Moore of Grand Junction heard about Buster Brown. She was taken with the animal and convinced her husband, Jim, that they needed to give him a home.

Their beloved golden retriever had recently died, and they had two other dogs at home.

She was looking for a big dog to go hiking with her, Jim said. She visited the sanctuary and though he was skittish, the dog approached her and licked her foot.

After the surgery, the Moores brought the dog home and named him Bridger, a nod to their old stomping grounds near Bozeman, Montana.

While he’s still a bit skittish, Bridger is quickly getting used to his new companions, a Yorkshire terrier-poodle mix named Lola and a mini dachshund named Joseph Francis Triviani.

Bridger is figuring out how to navigate with one eye and running into everything with his plastic cone he has to wear until his eye socket heals.

He sticks close to Elizabeth most of the time, but if Jim has food, “he’s my best buddy,” he said.

And while they took Bridger on a trial basis to see how things went with the other dogs, it’s clear he’s a good fit.

“Right now my guess would be you couldn’t pry him out of this house,” Jim said.

The veterinarians who treated Bridger suspect he could be only 8 months old. He already weighs about 50 pounds and still has that awkward, gangly puppy leg gait, indicating he has a lot more growing to do.

It’s not clear why or how a dog that appears to be a purebred chocolate Labrador that a former owner bothered to neuter ended up in the desert.

“None of it really makes any sense,” Faulkner said.

The Moores say it’s a mystery, especially since they’ve found Bridger to be a docile, loving dog.

Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary received about $800 in donations to pay for the remainder of the dog’s medical bills.

Faulkner, who has been operating the sanctuary since 2009, estimated roughly 10 percent of the dogs she receives come from the Peach Valley area. She recalled one dog in particular, a German shepherd weighing only about 30 pounds, which was found dragging a chain still fastened to its neck.

It’s a desolate, harsh environment and it’s a popular place for dumping unwanted animals, which she finds especially cruel.

“There’s nothing out there,” she said. “There’s nothing to survive on.”


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