Ah Boy. Does Neglect Constitute Abuse?

On 22 April, we were approached by a girl, V, who wanted to give up her dog, Ah Boy. She told us that her family was not able to take care of him any more. This didn't sound very terrible at first, and HOPE was prepared to offer them aid. But as it turns out, Ah Boy's situation was much worse than "family not able to take care of him".
 

The first photo we received of Ah Boy when they asked us to remove him from their home

Ah Boy lived in a flat with V's brother, father, and grandmother. V's email to us said that Ah Boy was unusually smelly, that the smell was bad for their health and to please take him away. V suspected that he was suffering from some sort of chronic illness, but she claimed that his family was unable to send Ah Boy to the vet. We thought that the foul smell could be from his severe ear infection or his rotting teeth, both of which are possible cases of neglect.
 

Ah Boy's first vet visit with us. So hunched from arthritis, he could hardly stand straight.
Almost a walking skeleton. With no fur, he reminded us of Prince and Elmo.

HOPE always tries to help those who are unable to care for their dogs, rather than just remove the dog, especially in cases where a senior dog is involved as the dog may pine away for the family if taken away. We offered them financial aid. We were willing to cover all the medical bills for Ah Boy, for as long as he lived, and provide the family with pet food, supplies and grooming. We would also send volunteers to check on him twice weekly and bathe him every week. We just wanted to enable the family to continue caring for him and for him to be with his family in his golden years.

Ah Boy is 14 years old.
V bargained with us. She doesn't live with Ah Boy and his family and doesn't have much say in his care. She needed us to also take care of all transport and logistical arrangements for visits to the vet. It wasn't too much to ask, but it showed us that her family really wanted nothing to do with the dog any more. They were only begrudgingly letting Ah Boy continue staying in their house on the condition that we take up full responsibility for his care. We realized that they were not unable to care for Ah Boy, but unwilling.
 
Since Ah Boy is very old, we didn't want him to have to deal with separation issues at this age. On hindsight, we should have just taken Ah Boy in when V first called us. What happened to Ah Boy next taught us that we will really need to learn how to be less naive, less idealistic and more realistic in such situations in the future.
 
We brought Ah Boy to the vet on 28 April and 30 April. He weighed a mere 1.8 kg and we found that he had heart murmur. He was also suffering from enlargement of the heart vessel, which was pressing on the lungs and causing persistent cough. He had bacterial infections in the ears, which is probably the cause of the "foul smell" that the family has been complaining about (although personally, we didn't think that he smelled bad). He has arthritis and weakened leg muscles, which causes him to limp. His arthritis is so severe that his body is hunched and he can no longer stand straight. His hair loss is due to possible hormonal changes and malnutrition. He also has low blood pressure and is grossly underweight as he had not been eating. We later found out the family had been feeding him fried chicken wings this whole time. They had only switched to dry kibbles last year, which he couldn't even eat since his teeth had all rotted, but they continued with leaving the kibbles for him. 
After each visit, he was sent back to V's grandmother's place. Our volunteers showed his family how to feed him his new diet of canned food and medication. We promised to come and bathe him so the grandmother didn't have to, since she had difficulties walking.

 

But on 6 May, Ah Boy started having a seizure on the floor. His family didn't want to deal with him, so they took a cellphone video of him twitching on the floor, flailing in his own excrement, and sent it to us. When we received the message, we were horrified. What are these people doing?! We rushed to their home immediately, intending to bring Ah Boy to the vet. On the way there, we called them and instructed them to put a towel under him, so that he wouldn't hurt himself banging his frail body on the floor. They flatly refused. They said that Ah Boy was dirty with diarrhea and they didn't want to touch him. We were flabbergasted, but the worst is yet to come.

 
When we arrived, they opened the door and asked us why bother taking him to the vet. They had wanted to just wrap the thing in old newspaper and toss him down the garbage chute! We couldn't believe our ears. What were these people thinking? How could they say that about their own dog?
 
We didn't have time to argue. We grabbed Ah Boy and rushed him to the A&E, where he continued to seize, even after three hours. The vet on duty examined Ah Boy and found multiple bruises, which he got from slamming against the floor while seizing, since his family had refused to cushion his body with a towel. He had a large bruise on his head and several more on his back along his spine, and on his hind legs. He had been thrashing on the ground for over two hours. Ah Boy was warded, put on drip and kept under observation for the night.

At A&E. He had been having a seizure for almost 3 hours
His body was covered in pooh for having been left on the floor for hours. His spine was so badly bruised we could see the red mark running down his back.
More bruises and pooh on other parts of his body
A huge bruise on his tiny little head, caused by thrashing on the floor for hours
How could you do this to me? 

V told us not to return Ah Boy if he survived. The family was always fighting because of him, and she was worried that they might take their anger out on him. Apparently, Ah Boy had urinated on the floor in the apartment that day and they got angry with him. V claimed that the family beats Ah Boy. Whether she said this so that we would not return him, or it was a fact, we didn't want to find out.

More bruising caused by the seizure
Rotten teeth

We were furious. Furious at his family, and furious at ourselves. We were terribly mistaken in our hope that they would care at all for this animal that they had lived with for the last 14 years. We just couldn't fathom that a family could feel no love, no attachment to an animal they themselves had chosen to bring into their home 14 years ago. This animal that depended on them for his survival, that trusted them with his life and loved them unconditionally and faithfully. They didn't care about him at all. They really felt nothing towards Ah Boy. We couldn't believe that people could be this cold. But now we know better. We just wish that we had taken him in sooner. We should really have taken him when V first called.

They wanted to wrap this up in newspaper and throw him down the rubbish chute

Now that Ah Boy has been taken out of his unhappy environment, we are positive his life will be happier with brighter days ahead. The old boy is 14 years old, and he should be enjoying lazy days in the sun, or on a lap. Despite losing faith in humanity, we are certain that there are many kind souls who would be willing to open their hearts and homes to Ah Boy. When you meet him, his bright personality will amaze you. He is such a sweet, forgiving, darling boy.
If you're able to foster / adopt Ah Boy, please email [email protected]
Ah Boy is still warded at the vet, waiting for a foster to take him home.

Elena Lin

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