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Carbon monoxide survivor heals at Headwaters Animal Shelter

Rochelle Hamp, Headwaters Animal Shelter director, found it difficult to say farewell to Buckshot. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Buckshot arrived at the animal shelter after his owners died, and a member of the family was in serious condition, in October. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

A unique, often poignant, story accompanies every animal arriving at the Headwaters Animal Shelter.

But Buckshot, dropped off in mid-October, had suffered unparalleled trauma.

The young Wirehaired Pointing Griffon was a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. His owners, Lee, 57, and Nancy, 55, Schwarze, were found dead in their cabin near Longville Oct. 17.

Their 22-year-old son, Michael, was alive, but in serious condition. He was found in a hallway, the dog beside him. Michael currently remains hospitalized.

While the emergency medical team attempted to assist the Schwarze family, a paramedic brought "Buck" out to the porch, and began administering oxygen.

Meanwhile, Cass County sheriff's officer Mike Diekmann, in Bemidji at the time of the call, arrived at the scene. He upped the dog's oxygen and monitored Buck's progress.

Family members who'd found the Schwarzes were consumed by tragedy, he said. "The dog was secondary.

"Dogs can't talk," Diekmann said. But he remembers reading the message in his eyes: "Help me."

So with the family's permission, he loaded Buck in his car and took him back to his home near Walker, dispensing oxygen throughout the night. The next morning, Sunday, he made a call to the Headwaters Animal Shelter.

Diekmann is no stranger to shelter staff. Having rescued over 40 dogs in recent years, many of them having been cared for at "minimal standards," he often calls the shelter.

"That's where Rochelle (Hamp) and Diane (Nash) come in... They are so compassionate, so helpful. It's unconditional."

Sunday, Oct. 18 Buckshot arrived at the shelter.

"The stories of the dogs are always new," Hamp said. "Taking dogs when owners pass away is fairly common. But we had never worked with a dog that had survived carbon monoxide poisoning.

"He was very weak," Hamp recalled. "He could barely hold his head up when he arrived."

She consulted Dr. Susan Pudwill at the Ark Animal Hospital, who recommended fluids, sugar and rest.

Hamp began to see progress within hours. Buck began to hold up his head for a few minutes at a time and attempted to get to his feet.

"He was confused, weak and uncoordinated," Hamp said. "I feared he would exhaust or injure himself with his flailing."

So she decided to take him home for some TLC. The shelter would be closed the next day; no one would be on hand to monitor his condition.

Buck was kept "warm and quiet" through the first night in her care.

By Monday evening, Buck was standing on wobbly legs, eating and drinking - with some assistance, Hamp said.

"Every day, he was making progress - in leaps and bounds. Improvements came with great difficulty, but Buckshot's persistence is something to be admired," she said.

By last week, he was "mooching French fries," Hamp reported. He was running, high stepping and trotting.

And he may have found a new home.

Jim and Annie Olander, who live near Walker, were considering acquiring a Griffon pup, Jim aware of the breed's hunting prowess.

But with winter approaching, they decided a puppy "might not be a good idea."

Then Olander learned of Buck and decided on a foster-to-adopt agreement. He arrived at the shelter last Friday to take him home, where a Yorkie and a Springer spaniel were waiting.

Buck was shy, initially, but, like Hamp, Olander sees progress daily.

"He's wagging his tail," Olander reported Tuesday. "And playing fetch."

Some of Buck's neurological symptoms remain.

"He's a little quirky," said Olander, who's a pharmacist. "He still has some issues." Buck appears to be disoriented outside after dark, circling the house.

But he's now putting his head on Olander's knee and knows the kitchen's the destination for treats.

Dr. Pudwill said it could take six to eight weeks to determine if the damage is long term.

"I miss him," Hamp admits. "I've fostered a lot of animals. Usually I just hand them over." But tears fell when this one left the shelter.

"It's a win-win situation," she said, noting "there's a vet in the family," referring to Alan Olander.

"It's a happy ending to a bad story."