FARMINGTON – His name is Oliver Twist.

A young stray who, like the Charles Dickens character, has seen misfortune early in life.

Close to death when he arrived at the Franklin County Animal Shelter on May 1, the American Staffordshire terrier mix, better known as a pit bull mix, is a “sweetheart of a dog,” said Jessie Geis, a staff member at the shelter.

Believed to be about six months old, Oliver appears to have been on his own in the Farmington area over the last couple months. Brought to the shelter by a local family whose own dog apparently found and brought Oliver back to their home, he looked bad, according to Geis.

The family came home to find him lying on their porch with their own dog cuddled up beside him, Geis said. So lethargic, a couple more days on his own and she said he might have died from the infections that racked his body.

Oliver has demodectic mange, a skin mite that can flare up in puppies under stress or with lower immune systems, she said. He also had staff infections covering his body, eye infections, Coccidia (a parasite in the intestine) and Lyme disease.

“He shook when he came in because it itched so much,” said Amy DaCosta, a staff person at the shelter. “He would lick himself. He seemed to realize if he scratched, his skin would peel off.”

Those first two days, he just slept and ate, but 19 days later, he’s doing great, she said. He started responding to treatment after that first weekend. Now, he’s happy, acting like a puppy, chasing his tail and playing with nearby kittens. His eyes are clear and he only has one small open sore.

A predicted six months of treatment may be down to just three months because he’s responding so well but it’s an expensive treatment because of the multiple issues. The shelter has no budget to pay for it. With medication and care, Geis quickly estimated the cost to be at least $800 or more.

“A lot of people are helping and just through word of mouth,” she said. Volunteers and staff at the shelter including some high school students have spread the word and started raising funds but there’s still a need to cover his treatment.

While no donation is too small, Dacosta said, volunteers are also needed to spend time with him. He’s going to need more interaction. With monitoring, he should be a great pet, she said.

“He never growled or nipped despite the pain of having his skin scraped and baths three times a week,” she said. “Somehow he seemed to know we were helping him. He’s very tolerant.”

Although a veterinarian gave permission to euthanize Oliver, every staff member wanted to treat him even though it was the worse case some had seen, Geis said. He’d won their hearts.

It took two hours to name him as they pondered how best to describe him – where he came from and where he’s going. They finally settled on Oliver Twist because he’s a dog coming out of the shadows, she said.

“He’s a fantastic ambassador for his breed,” she added. “He’ll prove his breed to people … because of his great personality.”

The brindle-colored puppy is trusting. He’ll make an exceptional pet, Geis said. Reason enough for them to continue treating Oliver Twist.

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