He’s a mix of mastiff and hound, it turns out.
Even Renee Lancaster, who knows her dogs, couldn’t tell what breed Doogie was when the starving pooch arrived at her Rotts of Friends animal rescue compound last November.
He was little more than skin and bones, weighing in at about 45 pounds — roughly 25 pounds shy of a healthy weight. He suffered from a heart murmur, inflamed ears, crusted-over eyes, and a hairless body brought on by severe malnutrition.
Lancaster, who has trained and rescued dogs for three decades, called Doogie’s sad appearance “one of the worst cases of animal abuse I’ve seen.”
But an intensive recovery effort that included frequent baths, medications and a special diet today has Doogie bearing almost no resemblance to his “before” photographs.
Two months after a passerby found the dog ambling along Highway 113 near County Road 27, Doogie’s weight has nearly doubled to 72 pounds. His coat is coming back, growing in a reddish shade that has earned him the nickname “Redhead” among the staff and volunteers who care for him.
Then there’s his energy and playfulness, previously nonexistent.
“He’s really developed a personality. He’s goofy,” Lancaster said Wednesday while walking Doogie, believed to be around seven or eight months old now, around her property on County Road 29 northwest of Davis. “Once we got rid of the starvation he really improved.”
When he first got to Rotts of Friends, “he was very quiet, and he just sat there all day,” added Megan Nealon, one of Lancaster’s employees. “Now he’s one of the louder ones in the group.”
How Doogie got to be in such bad shape remains a mystery. Lancaster offered a $1,000 reward — which has since grown to $2,500 thanks to numerous private donations — for information leading to the arrest of the dog’s previous owner, but no firm tips ever came in.
The closest lead came from a woman who reported once seeing a dog similar to Doogie being treated roughly by a homeless woman out near Sutter Davis Hospital, Lancaster said.
Meanwhile, media reports of Doogie’s rescue resulted in numerous donations of toys, clothing and money for his medical care, though much of that was donated by Valley Oak Veterinary Hospital in Woodland. He’s also developed a regular fan following on YouTube, where Lancaster has posted videos of Doogie’s progress.
Lancaster also has received several inquiries from people interested in adopting Doogie, and she said he should be ready for placement in about a month or so, following a final round of heart testing.
“So far his temperament has just been wonderful,” Lancaster said as Doogie plopped his hindquarters onto her lap in an outdoor play area. “We haven’t seen any real bad habits.”
Doogie would do well in a family with children — perhaps not very young ones, as he’s rambunctious and expected to grow to around 95 or 100 pounds, Lancaster said — but kids grade-school age and older will discover an energetic playmate in him. He’s been exposed to cats as well as dogs, from Chihuahuas on up, and interacts well with both.
He will come neutered, housebroken and with all his shots, as well as basic obedience training that was slated to begin Wednesday. Whoever adopts Doogie must attend all the basic obedience sessions, and lifetime training is included in the adoption cost, Lancaster said.
“I’d love it if somebody wanted to make him a therapy dog,” Lancaster said, referring to dogs that visit hospitals, retirement homes and other locations to offer comfort to people. “He’s a wonderful example of a dog that has been through rough times, and he could give back.”
Lancaster said it will be hard to see Doogie go, and she hopes he’s placed with a local family who will take advantage of the ongoing training so she can see him from time to time.
“It’s so rewarding to see him so happy,” she said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene