Eyesight compromised, a sick dog named Ruffo struggles to survive in Playa

Almost a year ago, September 7, 2015 to be exact, I was doing my monthly visit to one of the impoverished communities we assist in Playa del Carmen, where we provide veterinary services, and check up on past patients. A family asked if I could take a look at their dog because he was very sick.

We had neutered him already through the sterilization program that IFAW partner Coco's Animal Welfare has, but I had not seen him the last couple of months for prevention treatments. I walked towards him and what I saw shook me.

He was tied next to a cooking fire, and by his side there were rocks and some trash. This small fellow´s body was very thin, he had only a few strips of fur remaining. The rest of his body was furless. And he was full of ticks.

When I looked into his face I saw the worst part: His eyeballs had both been perforated.

By that time he wasn’t feeling pain anymore, but I was very concerned that he had been left like that for several days while he was in excruciating pain. Ehrlichiosis, a tick borne disease very common in our area, can result in a change in the intraocular pressure – the fluid pressure inside the eye – which needs to be treated or the eyes can be lost.

Ruffo had been with his family for the past five years, but when a baby was born to a very young woman whose father was in a wheelchair, he was no longer a priority.

Unfortunately, Ruffo suffered because of the lack of resources and the lack of commitment when he fell sick, and they didn´t seek help. It saddens me because, of course, we could have helped.

But was it too late?

I took Ruffo with me. He was in an awful state, he had the most ticks I have ever seen on a dog in just the few spots of fur he had left. I tried a new medicine on him, which was very promising for getting rid of fleas and ticks with just one dose.

Laura Raikes, President of Coco´s Animal Welfare, after meeting him immediately said Coco´s would find a sponsor for anything that Ruffo needed, if I fostered him. I agreed, but I was worried about his quality of life, because he had lost his sight. I even said to Laura I would not be able to foster a blind dog for a long time; it was simply too much for me.

His right eye was removed and the left one was closed with a technique that we hoped would save it. I had to put medication on him every six hours (day and night) for the following three weeks.

Ruffo Recovery

He gained weight back little by little, and after several weeks he started showing new fur, all over his face and legs, it was soft and white. His behavior was good, he learned to go outside on the terrace or to the front yard to potty, and he eventually memorized the house, every little corner. He even used the stairs, so I didn´t have to carry him around wherever I went!

The most rewarding day was when he found the stairs that would take him to the top of the bed! He was so happy! And even though he could not have his sight back, his eyeball was saved, leaving an opacity in place as the eye scarred.

I became very attached to him; I had fostered dozens of dogs and never had the problem of feeling anxious that they would go to a new home, until I had a possible adopter for Ruffo.

I was happy, they seemed like a perfect family! But my gut ached at the thought of not seeing him again, not sleeping with him next to me, not hearing him and holding him ever again.

So I made an abrupt decision and added a member to my family!

I already had a one-eyed dog very similar in size and who was missing the same eye! Yes, it seems I have a weakness for one-eyed dogs! Who would have thought that after having considered not being able to foster him for very long, I would be so madly in love with this now fluffy, blind and stubborn doggie!!

I just want to share my excitement and ask you to please consider fostering or better yet adopting special needs dogs.

It is very rewarding and changes your life forever!


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy