Puppy Matilda fights back from death's door with help from Alvin, her canine protector

 EATONTOWN - Barely more than a week ago, Matilda lay alone at death's door, shivering on a public street in Neptune.

Now, the eight- to 10-week old pit bull mix puppy is starting to thrive, being fostered in a caring home, with a loving protector who won't leave her side.

Matilda, the puppy who was starving to death when the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued her May 7, now spends her time chowing down on puppy food in her foster home and cuddling with her new best friend, Alvin, another pit bull mix who was abandoned himself in Puerto Rico several years ago before he, too, was rescued by the Monmouth County SPCA and adopted.

Matilda, who was found in Neptune emaciated, dehydrated, shivering, barely able to breathe and too weak to lift her head, was rushed to the SPCA's facility in Eatontown, where the agency's medical staff went right to work. 

"It was something out of a television show like 'Emergency,'" Ross Licitra, the SPCA's executive director said of the effort to save Matilda's life. "It was all hands on deck.''  

Matilda "was literally hours away from death, she truly was,'' Licitra said.

In addition to being malnourished, dehydrated, weak and having trouble breathing, Matilda also appeared to be suffering from carpal laxity, a syndrome characterized by deformity in the legs and paws caused by malnutrition and being confined in a cage, Licitra said. 

"This poor soul was really suffering,'' he said of Matilda.

The medical team gave Matilda intravenous liquids and made sure she was warm. Eventually, they began feeding her little bits of food until she could get used to eating more without sending her little body into shock.

"She responded well to all the medical staff and all the help we were giving her and, within a day or two, oh my God, the difference was astronomical,'' Licitra said. 

Because the puppy needed round-the-clock care, she went home with the facility's senior veterinary technician so she could be checked on throughout the night, Licitra said.

In her foster home, Matilda has made two canine friends, Bug, whom the veterinary technician adopted after the dog underwent surgery for a cleft lip, and Alvin, who appears to be Matilda's self-appointed protector.

Alvin was abandoned in Puerto Rico and transported on a rescue mission to the Monmouth County SPCA, where the senior veterinary technician took him home and adopted him, Licitra said. 

The SPCA is keeping the identity of the veterinary technician private. 

"It appears that Alvin has a watchful eye on Matilda, and Matilda is digging it,'' Licitra said. "She loves the companionship of another canine, and they seem really congealed with each other. We call that being bonded.

"Alvin is gentle and watchful and just knows to do exactly what Alvin should be doing - overseeing Matilda and making sure she's safe,'' Licitra said. 

"I've seen pictures of them cuddling together with her head either on Alvin's legs or kind of nestling in each other,'' Licitra said of Matilda and Alvin. "They're absolutely connected - that's for sure.''

With all the love and care Matilda has been receiving, not only from the shelter staff, but from members of the public who so far have donated $6,000 toward the cost of her care, Licitra said he feels fairly certain the puppy will soon be out of the woods and could be ready for adoption in the coming weeks. 

"She'll be in our care and custody for at least four or five more weeks until she's ready for adoption,'' Licitra said. 

Matilda's progress so far has been remarkable. 

"We're seeing a lovely, beautiful animal who is jumping and running and feeling so energetic and wanting to just live,'' Licitra said of the puppy. "I mean, her will to live was incredible. That's why we picked the name 'Matilda.'" 

The name means "sweet and innocent,'' but also "warrior princess,'' he said. 

"She is a warrior and she was fighting to live,'' Licitra said of Matilda. 

Alvin, a rescued pit bull mix, watches over Matilda, 
an 8-week-old  pit bull puppy abandoned in Neptune, at the home of a veterinary technician from the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on May 10, 2023.

When asked if Matilda and Alvin will be heartbroken when they have to part ways upon an adoption, Licitra said he didn't think so. 

"Animals are very resilient,'' he said. "When animals do live with each other for a very, very, very long time, there is, without a doubt, a bond between them. But, we often see it with puppies in litters - they're born together and they spend the first few weeks of their lives together, but they often split up and go toward their forever homes, so I don't think there will be an issue once Matilda and Alvin part ways.

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