SPCA New Zealand

From rescued to rehomed: follow Gemma on her road to recovery

23 September 2020
From rescued to rehomed: follow Gemma on her road to recovery

At SPCA we have dozens of animals come through our doors every day. Animals who are in pain, and often fighting for their lives, who go on to make a miraculous recovery. This is Gemma’s story.

Clinging to life

SPCA Inspector Elissa will never forget when she first met Gemma.

Gemma was so emaciated that her rib, hip and spine bones protruded, and her eyes were sunken. Her skin clung to her thin frame; every bone distinct and visible, and her teeth were worn and damaged from spending hours chewing the bars of her cage.

It was clear to Inspector Elissa that Gemma was being severely neglected. She was thankful she had found Gemma in time. This sweet dog was clinging to life and needed urgent help.

“Gemma was living in horrendous conditions, with faeces littering her kennel and no bedding. The smell of urine was overwhelming. I immediately took Gemma into my possession,” Inspector Elissa says.

“Gemma was the sweetest, gentlest dog. Although I could see that Gemma had been through a lot, she tolerated me handling her and securing her safely into my ute. Once at the SPCA centre, I handed her over to our Vet team, where I knew she would receive the appropriate care and attention that she so clearly needed.”

Here Gemma’s journey at SPCA began.

Recovering in a home environment

After being seen by SPCA vets, Gemma was then looked after by SPCA’s canine unit who would give her the care she needed and help her gain weight.

Gemma had been deprived of essential food and nutrients for so long, our team had to carefully reintroduce Gemma and her body to food again.

A few weeks later, Gemma had made massive improvements and was given the all-clear by the team to continue her recovery in a foster home. A shelter can be a stressful environment for an animal, so recovering in a home environment would be the best next step for Gemma.

A home with foster parents Robyn and Des

In June, Gemma went home with foster parents Robyn and Des- a dedicated foster family who have helped animals from SPCA for over two years.

“We have generally only fostered puppies who are adorable and so much fun to have around. No matter what sort of day you’re having, they will always make you laugh. No day is a bad day with puppies in the house and it’s so lovely watching their little personalities evolve,” Robyn says

“In saying that, we have fostered two adult dogs. Odie was our first and was the mum of 10 adorable puppies that we had from five days old until they were eight weeks. And then of course Gemma.”

“We became more attached to the older dogs. With the puppies you know they’re always going to find loving homes, but you worry more for the older dogs. Will anyone want them and will they love them as much we do!”

Gemma was so excited when she first went home with Robyn and Des.

“She didn’t want to stay in the backseat and kept trying to climb into the front seat to be with me! She was very inquisitive when we got home but didn’t leave our side and hasn’t ever since,” Robyn laughs

But when Robyn and Des saw the extent of Gemma’s condition, they werespeechless.

“Gemma had a coat on so we hadn’t seen her condition until we got home and took her coat off. I remember we were shocked to see how skinny she was. She was 15kgs when she was first rescued and 18kgs when she came home with us.” Robyn says

Not only had Gemma suffered physically, but her trauma had impacted her mentally too.

“Des was getting changed after work one day and he whipped his belt off without thinking. Gemma hit the floor and just cowered and looked terrified. At that moment, we thought you poor baby, what has happened to you.”

After years of neglect, Robyn and Des wanted to give Gemma a real taste at being a part of a loving family.

Gemma's happy ever after

After two months of recovery in foster care, Gemma looked like a completely different dog. She had gained weight, and was happy and healthy.

During her time at foster withRobyn and Des, Gemma became a firm part of the family. Gemma settled in so well they decided she had to be theirs forever, and permanently adopted her into the family.

“Gemma is a girl of complete routine – who needs an alarm clock with Gemma around? Even though she’s most definitely a daddy’s girl, she hasn’t figured out to go to Des’s side of the bed, so every morning at 5.30am on the dot, she puts her two front paws up on my side of the bed for cuddles. I can ignore her and she goes back to bed for five minutes but then tries again!” Robyn laughs.

“Between the two of us, we take turns in taking her to work with us every day. Our work colleagues all love her too which is so lucky (for her and us!)”

For Inspector Elissa, these fantastic outcomes make everything worthwhile.

“I was at the centre and I walked past a bright, healthy looking dog at reception. I didn’t think anything of it until my colleague mentioned that Gemma was at the centre that day. That was when I realised the dog I had seen earlier was actually Gemma. I couldn’t believe it was the same dog!” Inspector Elissa says.

“Her coat was shiny and healthy; she had put on a good amount of weight; I couldn’t see her hips and rib bones; and her tail was steadily wagging. I spoke briefly to her foster parents and it was clear to me that they adored Gemma. I knew right then and there that she had found her happy ever after.”

SPCA rescues around 40,000 animals just like Gemma each year. To find out more about the work we do to rehabilitate and rehome animals in need, click here.

Hello! Choose your nearest SPCA Centre and see content specific to your location:
Hit enter to submit