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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Last February, Basil found what should have been a happy home.
Instead, the 4-year-old cocker spaniel wound up homeless and alone, his matted fur masking maggot-infested flesh, his friendly nature tempered by a sensitivity to touch.
"It's clear he's been around the block, and through hell and back," said Rebecca Warren, executive director of the Monroe County Humane Association.
Basil had been abandoned some time after his adoption this past winter, living alone until Animal Control picked him up in early August.
Finally, on Friday, he found long-awaited relief at the Monroe County Humane Association, where veterinarians anesthetized Basil and shaved him down to the skin to begin treating his wounds.
"When it gets this bad, there's not much else we can do for him," Warren said. "My heart goes out to him."
Beneath Basil's matted fur, Warren sees a happy soul. "He wants to be loved, and he's really sweet; he's just got some owies," she said.
Warren said she spent some time with Basil before his Friday procedure.
"I fed him some cookies," she said. "He's looking at me like, 'Pet me, pet me.' I'm like, 'No, you've got maggots on your skin, buddy. I'll pet you tonight when I've got gloves on.'"
After months of neglect, Basil's injuries were extensive. Warren said the coats of cocker spaniels like Basil require frequent attention. Never cut or brushed, his fur became matted, causing his skin to become infected.
"You know that feeling when your hair gets pulled? It's doing that to Basil, all over his body," Warren said.
Flea eggs inside of his ear also went untreated, and maggots had burrowed inside his neck wounds. Feces became matted in his fur, making it difficult for him to defecate and urinate. His tail — normally wagging in delight — clung motionless to his coat, stuck beneath feces and matted fur.
"He's in so much pain, all over," Warren said Friday.
Basil's treatment was paid for through the MCHA's Olivia Animal Protection & Rescue Fund, a private donation fund named for Olivia the cat, who suffered severe burns in a 1997 case of animal abuse.
"With the Olivia Fund, we wait for these dogs that come in such a poor condition that we need to provide a lot of care and support," Warren said.
And Basil clearly needed support.
"As a stray, you know, no one's coming for that dog," Warren said.
Out of all the association's rehabilitative work, Warren calls animals treated with this fund "the worst case."
Her real hope, of course, is that cases never get this bad.
The MCHA operates the Minor Medical Clinic to provide quick fixes before problems escalate — shaving down fur over wounds or treating fleas, so that pets never experience Basil's level of suffering.
"This easily could have been a $20-$30 fix," Warren said. "Now, this is a big problem."
Warren said Basil's procedure on Friday cost $100-$150 in equipment and staff time, and long-term treatment may draw another $200-$300 from the fund.
On top of that, Basil suffered throughout what should have been a successful adoption. Some time after a local woman adopted him from the Bloomington Animal Shelter this past winter, she found another home for Basil. Then last week, Bloomington Animal Care and Control picked him up after receiving a call about an injured stray dog — nearly six months after his initial adoption.
"I'm looking at the before and after picture," Warren said. "I'm just wondering, 'What did they do with him for six months that left him in this kind of condition?'"
Basil's case also underscores one of the shelter's central demands: not to give or sell the pet to someone else.
"If you can't keep it, take it back to the shelter where it came from," Warren said. "Let someone put some investment into the dog."
After Friday's procedure, Warren said Basil's condition was greatly improved.
"My goodness, he was wagging his tail so hard," she said on Saturday. "He came right out of it. You could just tell he felt better."
When Basil's fur came off, the gloves did as well — Warren could finally pet Basil, glove-free. "Oh yes, yes, yes," Warren said. "I definitely gave him lots of love."
Warren hopes that within six to eight weeks, his wounds will heal, and Basil will be back to normal and ready for adoption. In the meantime, she and the shelter employees will give him the love he deserves.