In April 2019 Lonzo, a young pit bull, was found on the side of the road in Spokane, WA, emaciated and close to death. It was the start of a life-saving journey for Lonzo, who would need months of medical care, rehabilitation and training to address his special needs. Thanks to the love and care of Associates at VCA North Division Animal Medical Center, Lonzo’s story has come full circle, as he is now thriving and a certified emotional support animal, giving back in his own way to the human who adopted him.

Fighting for his life

Lonzo’s story has a heartbreaking beginning. When he was found, Lonzo was less than a year old. He had been locked in a crate and covered by a tarp, left alone to starve to death. 

The Good Samaritan who found Lonzo took him to Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services, where an officer recognized the critical nature of his condition and rushed him to VCA North Division. 

When he arrived at the hospital, Lonzo weighed just 32 pounds – half of what a healthy dog his age should weigh. He was severely emaciated, dehydrated and hypothermic. His initial core body temperature was 93 degrees (about eight degrees below normal).  A dog in his condition would typically not be expected to survive for long. It was nothing short of a miracle that Lonzo was still alive.

The medical staff of VCA North Division immediately began emergency and critical care procedures. Lonzo was very weak, barely able to stand on his own. His prognosis was deemed “guarded to poor.”  

“Here was this dog who was close to lifeless, but with a glimmer of not only hope in his eyes but also tenacity,” remembers hospital manager Tami Stokes. “He was beginning an uphill battle, but we were going to do everything within our capabilities to ensure we gave him a fighting chance to recover and to live a happy and healthy life.”

Since he required so much daily care, VCA North Division decided to house Lonzo until he was ready for a foster or a shelter. Because of Lonzo’s emaciated condition and extended period of caloric deprivation, he had to be reintroduced to food very gradually to avoid potentially devastating complications. He was often too weak to get up to go outside, so technicians would carry him out while offering him support to stand while relieving himself. 

After months of care and rehabilitation, Lonzo put on weight and built up his strength. Associates at VCA North Division fell in love with the sweet, energetic pit bull, who they cared for and socialized on their personal time. 

“There have been many times where someone from the hospital staff would be found in his kennel snuggling him, offering words of encouragement and love,” says Tami. 

Training Lonzo for a forever home

Unfortunately, as Lonzo grew, so did his fear of strangers. He also became very protective of his run. Associates realized that Lonzo needed to find a foster soon, or his anxiety and fearful behaviors could start causing permanent issues.
It was around this time that Leslie Montgomery, VCA local marketing manager for the northwest and Hawaii region, met Lonzo. Inspired by his story and drawn to his loving personality, she offered to help Tami find a shelter or rescue that would be willing to help Lonzo with his special needs. After searching for four months, Emerald City Pet Rescue in Seattle agreed to take Lonzo. In February of 2020, Leslie personally drove Lonzo from Spokane to Seattle. 

Emerald City worked with Lonzo to help him manage his fear of strangers. He also worked on his manners and learned how to walk on a leash and not jump – even lovingly – on everyone he met. Shortly after Lonzo arrived at Emerald City, COVID-19 hit, making it difficult to find a him foster home or introduce him to prospective owners. 

Finally, in July 2020, Lonzo was adopted.

Full circle: life as an emotional support animal
Aidan Drake, Lonzo’s new owner, says it didn’t take him long to fall for Lonzo.

“When I met him at the shelter, after about ten minutes he rolled onto his back for belly rubs,” remembers Aidan. “That sealed the deal.”

Lonzo is now flourishing in his forever home, and he has even been certified as an emotional support animal. The dog that once needed so much care and support now helps his human to cope with PTSD from past trauma.

Leslie and Associates at VCA North Division keep in touch with Aidan, receiving regular updates and pictures.

“We will never forget Lonzo,” says Tami. “He taught us not to take days for granted, he taught us to take a moment each day to appreciate a simple ‘tummy rub,’ to remember to laugh a little each day, and to love more freely.”
To continue what VCA North Division began, VCA Magnolia Animal Hospital in Seattle agreed to provide one year of veterinary wellness care for Lonzo. Thanks to partnerships between VCA Animal Hospitals and over 100 outstanding animal shelter and rescue organizations all over the country, adopted pets can get a healthy start in their new home. The VCA Healthy Start Shelter program gives adopters peace of mind by offering a free initial health exam and treatment of any minor illness up to 14 days after adoption (up to $250) at any VCA Animal Hospital. 
“Lonzo is now flourishing in his forever home. The dog that once needed so much care and support now helps his human to cope with PTSD from past trauma.”