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Ailing dogs will to live inspires humane society volunteer
Mary Murphy, a Humane Society of Forsyth County volunteer, holds Lucy, which she is nursing back to health. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie

Lucy perked up her ears at the sound of her name and her tail began to pick up pace as it whipped back and forth.

Just days earlier, the malnourished dog didn’t have the strength to lift her pointy ears, though her tail twitched even then.

“I loved her from the minute I saw her,” said Mary Murphy, a Humane Society of Forsyth County volunteer who is caring for Lucy.

Murphy has been amazed by Lucy’s love for everyone and her fighting spirit despite the neglect she’s suffered. At the time she was turned over to the humane society, Lucy weighed 22.6 pounds, less than half of the expected weight for a German-shepherd-mix dog her size.

Murphy said she’s always had a soft spot for dogs that haven’t been well-fed when they enter the shelter, but she felt something more powerful when she met Lucy.

“Her ability and her will to want to live is quite remarkable,” Murphy said. “I wouldn’t want to if I had been her.”

Lucy had been surrendered by her previous owners nearly two weeks before Christmas because they couldn’t afford the medical care she needed to recover from her drastic weight loss. Even if she ate regular meals every day, Murphy said a medical condition called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency kept Lucy from properly digesting essential nutrients.

In her four or five years, Lucy had not been taken to see a vet until her ribs nearly pierced the skin and her organs were days from shutting down.

Murphy planned Lucy’s last meal — a steak with chocolate sauce — in case the German-Shepherd-mix was given just a few days to live.

“I didn’t think I’d ever take her out of (Georgia Veterinary Services) alive,” she said. “I mean I had hope, of course, but there was very little. I’ve just never seen a dog that was in this bad of condition.”

That’s why Murphy is calling Lucy “her Christmas miracle.”

Murphy, a foster dog coordinator for the humane society, is keeping Lucy as a foster in her home. But if all goes well with her pets, she plans to adopt her.

“If she fits in, she’s mine,” Murphy said. “Nobody can take care of her like I can.”

She takes Lucy with her everywhere she goes. She sings “You Are My Sunshine,” to her, often while cradling her. And she feeds her a special diet, with a powder that allows Lucy to absorb enzymes and nutrients.

So far, Lucy has gained 3 pounds. Murphy said it’s only a matter of time in her home before she gains back the weight she needs.

The veterinary care and Lucy’s expensive special dietary needs have brought her medical bills to $5,000 and counting. The Humane Society of Forsyth County relies on donations and fundraisers to run the nonprofit, no-kill shelter.

Though Lucy has been in the society’s care for just a few weeks, Murphy has seen community support for her. Some have made donations for her, and many more have come by to visit, Murphy said.

Karin Barbato, a volunteer and friend of Murphy’s, said she noticed immediately Lucy was very thin.

“It didn’t hit home until Mary handed her to me to hold because she felt so light,” Barbato said. “When you hold her, it’s shocking.”

She’s also marveled at the progress Lucy has made from day to day. When the friends picked up Lucy from the vet, she couldn’t stand or even lift her head. Murphy said she would fall down halfway through eating her meal.

On Christmas night, though, Lucy walked over to the stairs in Murphy’s split-level home and did something she hadn’t yet done — lifted a paw. She didn’t have the strength to clear even the first step, but she wanted to try.

“I know it’s seems silly, but it’s there. Her will is there,” Murphy said. “She’s a remarkable girl.”