Ranger was found lost, injured and alone, limping through rugged bushland around Abercrombie Caves, at least 20 kilometres from any roads. He was only nine weeks old. His rescuer, Louise Lonergan, who was bushwalking in the area said, “He appeared out of nowhere – tiny, badly injured and emaciated. He had a broken front leg and was struggling to drag it along the ground.”
“At first he was afraid,” Louise said, “but he quickly started wagging his tail. I got him to the car and laid him on my lap. At that point he breathed a huge sigh, almost like a sigh of relief. I drove him into Bathurst and he slept for the entire journey – he was totally exhausted.”
Ranger was taken straight to a local vet to be examined and they estimated that his injury was several weeks old. His left foreleg had multiple fractures and he had significant nerve paralysis. Further examination of his ribs and hips indicated that he had not eaten anything for at least four days. The vet concluded that Ranger’s leg would need to be amputated and this surgery could be expensive.
As a homeless nine-week-old puppy requiring significant surgery, Ranger would very likely be considered ‘unadoptable’ and his future looked very grim. But having already experienced such a terrible struggle for survival in the first weeks of his short life, Ranger had captured the hearts and minds of the local community who felt it was just too cruel to turn away from him and not help.
A community unites to save a life
“We named him ‘Ranger’ because the area he was found in has an infamous history as a hideout for bushrangers - such as Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and the Ribbon Gang. Our little puppy was roaming around out there just like a bushranger.” Louise Kelly - Dogs for Diggers Program Manager at Bathurst Correctional Centre
The staff at the Bathurst Correctional Centre immediately stepped forward to adopt Ranger and provide the care he needed. The Bathurst Correctional Centre has worked in partnership with veterans groups and veterans for several years through the ‘Dogs for Diggers’ program. Louise Kelly from the Correctional Centre said, “Ranger is a wonderful addition to our existing programs and has the potential to be the perfect ambassador for our brave diggers from Afghanistan or Iraq. He had already proven he was just as tough, overcoming extreme adversity, just like our soldiers. Any one of our diggers could relate to Ranger’s struggle to survive when the odds were stacked against him.”
Louise contacted the University of Veterinary Studies in Sydney, who kindly agreed to review Ranger’s injuries and attempt to save his leg. And the local volunteers from German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Rescue were quick to put up their hands to help Ranger too. They travelled from Sydney to Bathurst and back with Ranger, delivering him to the University for his specialist treatment.
“The care and compassion the University gave to our little boy was wonderful,” said Louise. “He was given the best medical attention possible and remained in hospital for six days. Unfortunately, despite all their best efforts, specialist orthopaedic surgeons could not save Ranger’s leg and it needed amputation.”
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the staff,” added Louise. “On one occasion they phoned me just to tell me that ‘Ranger was a superstar, and that they all adored him’. Their team was amazing.”
Volunteers, Jo and Heather, from German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Rescue also put up their hand to help Ranger. They travelled from Sydney to Bathurst and back with Ranger, delivering him to the University for his specialist treatment. Of course, Jo and Heather also fell in love with this brave baby boy and continued to check on his progress throughout his stay in hospital.
And when it was time for Ranger to be discharged, German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Rescue came to his rescue again. Jo picked him up from hospital and took him home for some more TLC and then Heather made the long trip from Sydney and back to return him to Bathurst Correctional Centre safe and sound, and in much better health and spirits than when he left.
Though certainly not a German Shepherd, German Shepherd Dog (GSD) Rescue took him under their wing - showing their love and kindness for all animals in need, whatever the type or breed. “Jo and Heather now refer to themselves as Ranger’s Sydney aunties, and we thank them both for all their amazing volunteer help,” says Louise.
Ranger visiting a local school with the Dogs for Diggers program to teach the kids about his job raising awareness for injured diggers.
“Ranger is now a healthy, happy 16-week-old pup. We are amazed every day by Ranger’s resilience as he grows stronger and stronger. He manages so well on three legs and is in such good spirits,” says Louise. “He is learning to be a puppy again. He is happy and safe. He loves, and is loved by everyone he comes across. He has a very special quality about him that melts everyone’s heart in an instant.”
Ranger is becoming known as a ‘Dog for all Diggers’, and is thoroughly enjoying the attention he receives out in the community. He has an important message for everyone – to show tolerance for others every day because you never know how much someone may have suffered, or how much good they are doing for others.
Ranger represents all rescue dogs and the hope that they can have a bright future. He even has his own Facebook page called ‘Saving Ranger’ where everyone can follow and support his amazing story as he becomes ‘a dog for all people’.
He began his life as a dog no-one wanted, abandoned in the bush to fend for himself, nine weeks old, suffering with a painful injury. He has become a dog to be shared and loved by everyone, proving that every creature is worthy of our care, compassion and kindness.
Special thanks to Bathurst Pound for donating Ranger to the Dogs for Diggers Program; to the University of Veterinary Studies Sydney, for their intensive medical care; to German Shepherd Rescue for dropping everything to travel back and forth from Sydney to Bathurst (no matter how inconvenient) and sharing their homes with him; and also, various members of the Bathurst community who have assisted with his foster care.
What to do if you find a stray dog or puppy
It’s very rare that dogs are abandoned. Ranger was one of the unlucky minority. However, dogs do get lost for all sorts of reasons - even the most obedient pup can wander off.
If you find a lost dog or puppy, the first thing you should do is check for any form of identification - check the dog’s collar or tag for the owner’s contact details.
Many people use social media and word-of-mouth to help locate the owner so, chances are, they’re trying to find you as much as you’re trying to find them.
If you’re not having any luck, then legislation in most states requires all strays to go to the pound or council so they can be checked for microchipping and processed. In addition, you can always use the PetRescue Rescue Directory to find a rescue group in your area - they may be able to help you out, and advise you on what to do next.