Ralph is one lucky dog

By Rozella Hardin
STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com

   Ralph is one lucky dog in one sense of speaking. In another sense, the mixed shepherd/yellow lab has had more than his share of misfortune.
   On July 25, Ralph hobbled onto the grounds of the Elizabethton Animal Shelter on three legs. "He was the most pitiful thing you ever saw. No one knows where he came from, but he ended up outside the shelter. One of his feet was gone. The bone was sticking out of his leg. He was very thin and dehydrated, and had a large hole in his back in which there were maggots," said Jane Montgomery, a member of the Carter County Humane Society.
   No one was at the shelter that day, since it was on the weekend, except for some volunteers who were cleaning the kennels. Tracy Malone, who had gone to the shelter to claim her lost dog, saw Ralph first-hand. "This one captured everyone's heart," she said referring to Ralph, who was taken in by Malone, and now makes five dogs living at the Malone home, located on a hill off the old Bristol Highway.
   Montgomery was on call for the Humane Society that Saturday when Ralph showed up at the Animal Shelter. "We really did not know what to do. I was thinking our only option was to put him to sleep when Tracy volunteered to take him to the veterinarian and to provide care for him until a permanent home for him could be found," said Montgomery.
   Several calls were made before a vet could be found. Malone took Ralph to the Appalachian Veterinarian Clinic at Piney Flats, where he was described by the vet as "the most pitiful case" she had seen.
   "He was so dehydrated that he began licking the antiseptic applied to his leg," Malone said. "His leg had been ripped off. The bone was sticking out, and you could see the raw meat. He was so malnourished and dirty. In spite of all that he had been through, he still wagged his tail when you spoke to him," she explained.
   "He just broke my heart. I volunteered to take him to the vet and to take care of him," Malone said.
   After spending several days at the animal clinic, Tracy was able to take Ralph home with her, where he is free to roam on the family's 17 acres of land with Tracy's four other dogs. "I actually only had three, but another dog showed up about the same time I took Ralph home, so I kept it, too," she said.
   "Ralph is an adorable dog. He's probably about one year old, and is still on antibiotics," Malone added.
   Montgomery said Ralph's veterinary bill ran over $300. "He required a lot of stitches and had to wear a neck brace," she said.
   "It was some fate that Tracy showed up at the animal shelter the same time Ralph showed up," Montgomery said.
   However, Ralph is just one of many cases that the Carter County Humane Society must deal with on a daily basis. "This is one of the worst cases we've had, but we get as many as 14 calls a day," said Catherine Armstrong, a member of the Humane Society. "Some are to investigate claims of animal abuse, others are to help with injured animals, or to find homes for abandoned animals," said Armstrong.
   She noted that this year the penalty for cruelty and neglect of animals had been upped to a felony.
   "We really are at the mercy of the community to help us," said Armstrong, noting that the Humane Society exists for the purpose of investigating animal abuse, to help all types of needy animals, and to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. "We operate mostly on donations," said Armstrong.
   Persons wishing to help with the organization's expenses can send their donation to the Carter County Humane Society at P.O. Box 134, Elizabethton, TN 37644.