Had it not been for the litter/dam rescue in June, O'Riley's story would have made club history. He was only the 2nd puppy ever to come into Rescue in
recent memory (Keely was the first), and he was the first to come with an undocked tail and dewclaws. He was also the worst case of neglect and starvation
I have ever seen. Yet from nearly the beginning, his story was submerged by the news of the 7-Kerry Rescue, and he was relegated to the backseat as
one by one, the qualified homes went to the litter puppies first. It's time his story were told.
O'Riley was found as a stray on May 13, 2000 by none other than Suzanne Stull, a former club member, Kerry breeder and exhibitor, and the former Rescue Coordinator. She discovered him quite by accident in the mountains north of San Bernadino, in an area known as a popular "dumping ground" for unwanted pets. In the process of trying to rescue another dog, Suzanne was stunned to come face to face with what she was nearly certain was a purebred Kerry. O'Riley promptly sat in front of her as if he'd had some training, wagged his tail, and waited for a handout. He accepted the food she gave him and licked her hand. When she opened the car door, he hopped right in, curled up on the back seat, and went to sleep. So began O'Riley's new life.
O'Riley was estimated to be 8 months to 1 year old (his permanent teeth were in-and he had a perfect bite, too!), was intact, and completely emaciated (his hip bones protruded, and his skull bones were visible). He came with a collar but no ID tags, and a silky soft black puppy coat-what there was of it. Large patches of hair were missing from his body, either bitten or pulled off to free himself from the underbrush. The rest was long, matted, and filthy and had to be shaved. Judging by his condition, Suzanne suspected he'd been living in the wild (near campsites and a creek) for 2 or 3 months, probably surviving on handouts and garbage. The local animal shelter was notified, but was unable to match him with any lost dog reports.
Apart from embedded foxtails on his paws, body, and chin, which were removed by a vet, and his painfully thin body, O'Riley was otherwise in good health. One week after Suzanne picked him up, he came to me for fostering and rehabilitation.
It quickly became apparent that O'Riley, despite what he had gone through, was absolutely joyous, exceedingly sweet, friendly, and affectionate with everybody, and showed no signs of physical or psychological abuse. He was adorably playful, passionate about toys (and food!), energetic (but not hyperactive), and agile enough to impress any agility trainer. He easily outmaneuvered his Kerry housemates, badgered them endlessly into games of chase, and never tired. That's why it came as a great shock to learn from my vet that he had a Grade II heart murmur. Such things shouldn't happen to an active dog like him. This news was a devastating blow, despite the possibility that he could outgrow it.
His health continued to improve on a high-protein diet of poached boneless chicken breast and a host of nutritional supplements, nearly all of which were generously donated by Judith Bruno, the Rescue Coordinator of the KBTCNC. O'Riley went from 29 lbs. to 36 within a month, and his hair grew like gangbusters. His skin unfortunately remained a problem, and required twice-weekly baths with medicated shampoo (also donated by Judith). The hair on his back remained coarse, which is normal for a Kerry coat recovering from hair loss. He had sufficiently recuperated to undergo surgery on June 19th for neutering, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, and came through beautifully.
Throughout June, July, and August, prospective homes for O'Riley came and went. I worried that the longer he stayed with us, the harder the transition
would be-for all of us. Meanwhile, it was a true joy to live with such a happy dog, one who was gutsy but not aggressive, fearless but not foolhardy,
and playful but not wild. His only bad habits were pilfering the kitchen counter and robbing the laundry basket. He managed to steal two loaves of
freshly baked bread and a pound of frozen hamburger off the kitchen counter (I told you he was agile), and destroy three pair of socks! Even the con
artist side of him was not without its charm.
Then in mid-August, I met Lisa Carter for the first time. She wasn't looking for a Rescue at all, but was researching the breed as a possibility for her next dog. She had recently lost her Scottish Terrier of 14 years, and made arrangements to meet us and our Kerries to learn more about the breed.
O'Riley met her at the door as if she were his long-lost favorite person in the world. He jumped up on her (uh, we'd been a bit lax on his training), licked her from hand to face, climbed into her lap, and later sidled up to her on the couch (where he'd never been before), hoping to get in a few more cuddles.
This was exactly the dog Lisa was looking for. And she was willing to make the necessary arrangements to provide for his training, socialization, safety,
and care. Because Lisa works full-time as a 2nd-grade teacher, she arranged for quality doggie daycare and got approval from her principal to bring
O'Riley to class some afternoons. Her pupils were more than willing to "teach a puppy to love children." She lined up her groomer for a weekly appointment-a
national certified master groomer well versed in the art of the Kerry show trim and familiar with the breed. Lisa scheduled O'Riley for a clicker training
class, and researched agility classes for later. And she provided additional security fencing on her 2nd-floor deck, and put plans in place to heighten
the back yard fencing, designed for Scotties, not Kerries.
During this time, an incredible thing occurred. A final vet check before placement showed that O'Riley's heart murmur had totally disappeared! What better news could I possibly have had for his new owner?
By Labor Day weekend, Lisa had rearranged her life to accommodate not just any dog, but to accommodate O'Riley. Like he did with Suzanne Stull so many months ago, he happily hopped into her car, turned around and sat down, waiting for the next chapter of his life to begin.
Today, O'Riley spends his time at home on long walks along the beach, or stationed on the deck, keeping tabs on the dog walkers, neighborhood cats, and the soaring pelicans nesting on the nearby rocks. He is also getting used to the resident cat, Chilli Willie (slowly but surely), and is loved dearly by his new family. O'Riley, who began with nothing but a tagless collar, now has it all. At last, things are as they should be. O'Riley is now home.