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“An Old Dog Gets a New Life”
By Cathy Brauner, Townsman Staff
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Article in the Wellesley Townsman about Coal, a senior citizen black lab who has found a new home:
Coal, a senior citizen black lab, was abandoned a year ago outside the Wellesley Animal Hospital. Rescued by Stray Pets in Need, he was eventually placed with the Kelley family of Elmwood Road. In front: Grace, 6, getting a kiss from Coal. In back, from left: Melanie; Rosie, 13, Camille, 9, and Brent, 11. (Keith E. Jacobson)
Coal landed on all four paws after he was adopted into the Kelley family of Wellesley. But only a year ago, all the odds were against this senior citizen black lab.
Early one morning in January 2006, the dog was discovered tied outside the Wellesley Animal Hospital on Weston Road. Whoever dumped him left behind a quilt for him to lie on, but stripped his collar of any identifying information.
The dog had a sweet personality, and was quickly dubbed Old King Cole, in recognition of his merry soul.
But he was indeed old — Wellesley Animal Control Officer Sue Webb estimated his age at 10 — and sick. Besides arthritis, he had a urinary infection. Webb speculated that the owner might have been unable to afford his medical care, even though urinary infections are treatable.
Stray Pets in Need, the Wellesley-based nonprofit group founded by Webb, covered the cost of his medical treatment and found him a foster home. But because that couple already had dogs, Cole needed a permanent placement.
That was where Elmwood Road residents Scott and Melanie Kelley and their kids came into the picture. They had recently lost their female lab, Lindsey, at age 13, and Melanie didn’t feel ready for a puppy.
“I knew that I could take care of a dog that had some urinary issues, because of Lindsay,” she says.
As it turned out, Cole — now renamed Coal — began dribbling all the time once the infection was treated. “I was going crazy running after him with a mop,” she said.
He was also vomiting and seemed constipated, and Melanie worried that he had a tumor. So SPIN helped her pay for an ultrasound, which found nothing amiss.
Eventually, a urethroscope was done at an emergency hospital in Waltham, which showed that his urethra “was just completely destroyed because of long-standing urinary tact infection,” Melanie says. “I thought he might have been abused. It was that bad. The doctor said he had never seen anything like it. He must have had that infection for a very, very long time.”
At that point, the family was faced with a decision: live with the dribbling, or return him to Stray Pets in Need. But, says Melanie, “I committed to this dog. I wanted to help him. I couldn’t give him back. What a bad message [for the kids].”
Fortunately, someone in a pet store suggested diapers, and that became Coal’s salvation — and the family’s group chore. The kids help change the diapers, and Melanie washes them every day. “He doesn’t object,” says Melanie, adding that in the past year, he’s put on a few pounds and “the diapers are getting a little snug,” she says.
Meanwhile, Coal has become more and more a part of the family— no small task, given that he spent the first 10 years of his life in some other household. His only phobia, if it can be called that, is that he doesn’t like hardwood floors and races across them to reach the carpet.
“We very much enjoy him. He’s an easy dog,” says Melanie. “It took six months for him to bark. Finally, when he barked, he scared us all to death.”
They taught him to swim last summer, and they take him for walks when it’s warm enough.
Six-year-old Grace is particularly attached to him. “She absolutely adores him. She smells like him, because she’s always touching him,” Melanie says.