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Coltan often lived under a woman’s front porch and he was welcome to stay there, but that wasn’t really his home. The woman figured he belonged to her neighbor down the road, but in rural Hardy County, West Virginia, there is a lot of room between houses and concepts of dog ownership get a bit fuzzy, at least compared to what most of us are used to. So she didn’t bother to tell the man that his dog was at her house.
But when the two-and-a-half–year-old mixed retriever came limping back to the porch with blood flowing from a fresh gunshot wound in his chest last Thursday—in West Virginia it’s perfectly legal to shoot dogs if they are bothering livestock— the woman figured she had better call Coltan’s owner so that he could get his dog some help.
“Whatever,” was the man’s reaction. “Just turn him loose. He can fend for himself.”
The woman decided she couldn’t do that, so she brought Coltan to the town veterinarian, who took an initial look at the dog and proposed a treatment plan. When the woman heard how much the plan would cost, she decided she couldn’t do that either.
And that is how Coltan became a ward of Potomac Highlands Animal Rescue, a small but deeply committed, all-volunteer group that rescues a surprisingly large number of cats and dogs with lots of ingenuity and hard work and very few resources. Their president, James Grapes, collected Coltan from the veterinarian, took care of him over the weekend—that is, he did his best to, though Coltan ran and hid under James’ tractor when he tried to clean the wound—and then drove him to the League’s Medical Center for continuing care on Monday morning.
Our Medical Center routinely helps other local shelters in the District and Maryland by treating their injured and sick animals, and when we heard Coltan’s story, we readily agreed to help him, too.
Assuming that he survives, the Medical Center’s battle will now be to save Coltan’s front leg. The bullet, evidently from a rifle, shattered into dozens of tiny fragments, which at this point cannot be removed. Infection from the wound has spread throughout his shoulder, so the dog is being kept on two types of IV antibiotics and a skin patch to give him relieve the pain, which our veterinarians specialize in treating.
Given Coltan’s sterling personality, you’d never know he was in any discomfort at all. He happily greets anyone who stops to say “hello” to him, tail wagging and eyes smiling, and a small pat on his head fills him with gratitude and contentment. Even among a species famous for its selfless and open-hearted nature, Coltan is an uncommonly amiable dog.
Because of his condition, Coltan can’t be made available for adoption for several weeks yet, but when he is ready, he will make some fortunate adopter an exceptional companion. Even if he ends up with only three legs. We’d rather he had all four, of course, but given this remarkable dog’s singular character, we’re sure he’ll take that loss in stride, just as he always has.