Elmer was found wandering the streets of South Los Angeles in late February 2016 and brought into a local shelter. It was there that workers realized the sticky white dog had been deliberately covered in Epoxy glue. “The shelter said he had glue on his muzzle, body and paws,” says Julie Grosman, manager of the Halfway Home Kennel for the Lange Foundation, who eventually pulled Elmer from the shelter to help him find a home. “He was unable to open his mouth and the substance was hard and burned his skin.”
At the time of his rescue, Elmer was about four years old and little is known about his background. But whatever was done to him resulted in skin burns that required extensive treatment at a local animal hospital. “He received many medications for his skin, pain, and infections,” says Grosman. “These included Tramadol, Simplicef, Rimadyl, Buprenorphine, and Metacam.”
It took over two weeks of daily medications, a full shave, and frequent baths with aloe vera and special oils before Elmer was ready for adoption.
A New Home for Elmer
That’s when Scott Lander came into the story, about four weeks after the initial rescue of Elmer. Lander had been thinking about getting a dog and in fact had almost adopted a different one (from a different shelter) a month before. “I realized at the last minute that it really wasn’t the right dog for me and that I was getting him because the friend I was with liked him,” says Lander.
Then, one random day, Lander was driving near the Lange Foundation—where he had adopted his first dog 18 years before—and decided to stop by. “I finally thought I was ready to get another dog two years after the passing of my last dog,” Lander explains.
Lander had waited that long because he was heartbroken. “I had such a great dog that I thought I would not be as lucky again,” Lander says. “I also liked the freedom of not having a dog for a while, since I was renovating a new house that took months to finish.” After the project was over, however, Lander realized he felt lonely and the new house seemed empty and ready for a furry presence.
Choosing the Right Dog
When Lander walked into the rescue, he knew exactly what he was looking for. “I wanted a small dog,” he says. “A poodle or poodle mix that didn’t shed.”
The Lange Foundation showed Lander two dogs that matched his requirements, but Elmer caught Lander’s eye right away. “Although the other dog was in better shape, I liked the temperament of Elmer better,” Lander says. “He was shy, quiet, sad, and I always like the funny looking ones that you can tell need love.”
Lander spent about an hour with Elmer and then had to wait for the foundation to do a house check before he could take him home. “He looked terrible being shaved and I really didn’t know what he would look like,” says Lander, who adds he was curious to see what Elmer could transform into as he got better. “He was shy but gave me kisses and made a connection with me that other dogs had not; he just wanted to climb in my lap.”
The first few weeks at home were hard because Elmer was scared. So Lander hired a trainer to help. “He was quick to learn most things, but I didn’t realize he wasn’t potty trained and that was a challenge,” Lander recalls.
Elmer is still not fully potty trained and he and Lander continue to work on small things. “He still uses his crate while I am gone in the day, but he sleeps on the bed with me,” Lander says. “First I put his bed on my bed, and now he just sleeps with me.”
The small, white dog has made slow but steady progress. Elmer is much more confident now and not as shy. “He did this weird thing in the beginning where he would put his body across my neck when I was lying down,” Lander remembers. “It was hard for me to breathe but it almost felt like it made him feel safe feeling the pulse in my neck.”
Lander can’t point out an exact day when he felt a change in Elmer. “He got happier by the day and the sadness left his eyes after a few weeks,” he explains, adding that toys really helped him learn how to have fun. “Elmer loves other dogs and cats, but especially loves his toys.”
And while Lander confesses Elmer is still moody at times and continues to have some trust issues, the pup is in a much better place than he was in his previous life. Elmer has opened up and Lander says his personality has come through. “He is such a happy dog now,” he says.
Images courtesy Lisa Ortiz