HoochHooch hasn’t been very lucky so far in his life, to put it mildly!  Found as a stray and taken to the Bakersfield Shelter in Bakersfield, CA, it was obvious the French Mastiff was in very rough shape.  His ears had been brutally hacked off, he was severely malnourished, suffered from a terrible Upper Respiratory Infection and had several lacerations around his mouth and what appeared to be a broken or dislocated jaw.  

Rescued by  Zach Skow of Marley’s Mutts and taken to  San Joaquin Vet for an examination, it didn’t take long to find out that Hooch had an even bigger problem.  When they were getting him ready for an x-ray they discovered that he had no tongue!

“His mouth didn’t have a tongue. Absolutely no tongue at all, not even a stump,” said Thomas J. Willis of San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital.

Yes, some monster in the guise of a human had removed Hooch’s tongue at the base.  For Hooch, this meant that he couldn’t eat or drink without help.  How he survived as a stray is anyone’s guess but the fact that he weighed only 55 lbs. for a adult Mastiff will tell you alot. It also means that he cannot regulate his temp by panting as a normal dog would.  Again, how he survived is a miracle!

Hooch at vets“The dog has NO TONGUE. No way of regulating his body temperature. No normal mechanism for eating – including the various parts of that whole process: pushing the food back toward the throat, chewing, swallowing. No way to hydrate.”

Vet and Rescue believe that Hooch was mutilated as he was so that he would be completely helpless as a bait dog.

When you hear about the torture this dog went through, it rips at your heart but it seems that Hooch is pretty stoic about the whole thing and just wants love, cuddles and attention.  Didn’t take long for the Vet staff to fall in love with him, just like everyone who meets him.

“It tugs at my heart to think that somebody could do this to this poor dog,” said Andrea Bertolucci of the San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital. “He’s such a sweetheart and he just wants to be loved on.”

At 45 lbs. underweight, one of the first things is to make Hooch able to get some food into him so step one, install a feeding tube.  This will start the healing process, getting some weight on him.  After that, it’s step by step…

And he’s become quite the canine celeb too, pics and interviews and he’s just loving all the attention.  Bringing attention to him, to his situation, to what happened to him, is essential!  His medical costs were mounting up and he will need specialized care throughout his life.

Here’s Hooch getting fed through his feeding tube.  To start with he was getting fed about 6 times a day, small meals to put some pounds on him slowly.  See how wonderfully agreeable and patient he is…

Here’s an update on Hooch from Zach Skow of Marley’s Mutts from 8/22;

HOOCH UPDATE: What can I say about Hooch? I feel as though my words should be dripping with sympathy and compassion because, after all, he’s been tortured. If you hang with Hooch, however, those aren’t necessarily the emotions that dominateyour conscience. It is definitely true that Hooch’s physical appearance conjures up sadness and semi-shock. If you follow him with your eyes from tail to snout here’s what you’ll notice: his tail is broken, his ribs pop out like they are in 3-D, his ears have very obviously been hacked off and his face is less emotional than you would expect. Initially, most folks approach Hooch with caution, careful not to startle, frighten or intimidate him– understandably hypersensitive– but that hesitance quickly falls away as you find yourself on the ground, loving on Hooch, while being slimed with some of the nastiest drool you’ve ever smelt (sorry, Hooch, stating facts). I don’t know if dogs understand sympathy but if they do, I would confidently say that Hooch doesn’t want or need it. Hooch lives in the moment–lesson 1, which quickly jumps off the page when reading the “Hooch biography”.
Lesson 2 is not to get caught up with with controversy. Hooch has a noticeable stoicism that, if translated into English, would communicate something like this: “Would you all please stop talking about mutilating, torturing and even killing those responsible? It is what it is, I’m fine, you guys seem awesome, food doesn’t taste as good as it used to but, hey, I’m at a veterinary hospital, not Morton’s. I know, I know, I have no tongue, other dogs are worse off, now PLEASE come over here and pet my belly–don’t worry about the smell, you can wash your hands later!
Lesson 3 is Hooch’s motto and he abides by it gloriously and swears by it emphatically: live life on life’s terms! Hooch languished in 100+ degree heat for a month before we rescued him! That’s a tremendously long time to survive without the ability to regulate your body temp, much less drink or eat. Hooch lost a lot of weight in that period and could have easily given up and lost hope– if only to stop the suffering. Did he stew in that kennel, vowing revenge upon those that put him there? No. Did he preoccupy his mind and divert his suffering by focusing on resentments? Not even close. In fact, the first action that Hooch took when I pulled him out of the shelter was to try and LICK ME! How’s that for beautiful, tragic and ironic?
Hooch is trudging forward, one day at a time, and doing a darn fine job of it. He is gaining much needed weight (through his feeding tube) and seems perfectly content and happy–more so than most dogs that we rescue. He has become somewhat of a mascot at SJVH and putters around the hospital with Andrea, Sam and the others by his side. He certainly does not feel sorry for himself and I don’t think we necessarily should either. We can honor his plight by sharing his story; his honorable survival against the odds and his uncanny ability to keep his emotions positive, proactive, anti-malicious and productive.
I learned how to survive and how to live because of my dogs. My dogs got me through each day, one day at a time, until I qualified for admittance into comprehensive transplant at Cedars Sinai. My dogs stuck with me until, miraculously, I no longer needed that transplant which was, up until that point, the only thing that could save my life. Quite honestly, in those early days out of the hospital–of drugs and alcohol– the dogs gave me the strength to face the day without killing myself. Dogs are capable of delivering wonderful messages, if only we let them in and strongly consider what they are capable of teaching us.
Z and the Mutts

So rather than feeling sorry for Hooch, it’s more like, “What a resilient, amazing dog he is!”

Then, about a week ago Hooch ripped out his feeding tube… Uh oh!  Actually turned out not to be as much of an “uh oh” as the team at Marley’s Mutts first thought.  From Zach…

Hooch eatingAs promised, I’ve got some amazing news to report! Hooch ripped out his feeding tube (not good news) two days ago, so we figured we’d have a go at attempting to feed him by hand. This process turned out to be much more simple and effective than we had anticipated.I fed hooch an entire bowl of normal kibble (about 4 cups) which only took about ten minutes. This means that Hooch will NOT NEED his esophageal feeding tube (hole in his neck) and CAN eat normal food from now on, albeit by hand.
Feeding Hooch was actually a very enjoyable experience for both of us. Hooch was very gentle and passed the food easily down his gullet, a process that became more effortless with practice. Better yet, he is keeping the food down and not chewing it very much, if at all, which is great for a variety of reasons. Early on, he was regurgitating some of his food, likely due to the absence of an entire epiglottis and tongue mechanism to help push the food into the proper position. Hooch has obviously adapted and honed the muscles needed for his own particular style of digestion. By not chewing his food, Hooch keeps his mouth clean and requires less maintenance, which will help keep his teeth clean and avoid early onset periodontal disease. In addition, it lowers Hooch’s overall maintenance requirements which could open him up to a whole new field of potential adopters.
Hydration is still being accomplished with a syringe but we are working on a couple different options including a large rabbit water feeder. We are one step closer to figuring out the riddle of Hooch and devising a life plan that will keep him healthy and happy with out much toil. The consistently positive aspect of this entire experience is of course Hooch’s attitude. He is so happy and welcoming when we see each other–which also extends to the canine pals I have with– and so tolerable when it comes to trying out new methods of consumption on him. Im sure that I can speak for the staff at SJVH when I say that the ratio of effort to joy is well tipped to the joy side of the equation, in fact, being with Hooch and experiencing his essence, really is pure JOY!

Wow… more and more amazing day by day!  You just cannot feel sorry for Hooch because he will not let you!

Step by step, day by day, the rescue is working on making Hooch’s life as “normal” as possible… next step  was getting him set up with a Bailey Chair… 🙂

Hooch in his Bailey Chair
The folks at Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs are setting him up with a chair  that will help facilitate his consumption. The chairs are for dogs with megaesophagus, a condition that makes food consumption and retention very difficult. The hope and belief is that the Bailey Chair with make it easier on Hooch which will make it easier on his adopter. Hooch (and the other canine victims) have done the hard part and survived, all we have to do is tell their story and speak honestly about how we feel! We are learning from Hooch as well as from one another and honestly helping to spread a “never say die”, “hope because we can” attitude that IS making a difference!

Hooch in his Bailey Chair, check him out… looking like a cool customer… ready for chow time!

Now check out the vid of Hooch chowing down…

When I first saw the story of Hooch I just wanted to cry… to cry for him and to rail in anger at the monsters who did this to him.  But as I followed along, the pity I felt for Hooch slowly but surely dissipated… yes, I still feel the anger but not as much.  It’s hard to hold negative feelings in my heart watching Hooch overcome and reach out a paw and just love.

I’m sure it won’t be long now before Hooch is ready to start checking out potential forever homes… 🙂

Big thanks to everyone involved in Hooch’s rescue and rehab… what an amazing bunch of people starting with Marley’s Mutts… then of course you have to mention the groups that helped to get his story out and fundraise for him, DOG for DOG and Hendrick Boards, and   Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs who took care of getting him his chair so he can eat.

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