Hank the Saint Bernard: From Tijuana to Tank | San Diego Pet Photographer

Two weeks ago, I was the proud mom of four giant rescue dogs, affectionately known as The Pope Pack. Life was crazy, but to us it was normal. Doesn't everyone have a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Mastiff, a Saint Bernard, and a Great Dane under their feet in a small San Diego home?! We agreed we were "done." No more dogs! {ok maybe at least until we bought a bigger house...}

All of that changed with one Facebook post describing the plight of a young Saint Bernard who had been chained and abandoned in a garbage yard in Tijuana, with no food for over two weeks. He was skin and bones. His eyes were sunken. And his spirt looked defeated. We would come to find out later, he was literally within days of starving to death.

Saint Bernard in Tijuana

cell phone photos from Facebook thread, Wednesday, August 12th

My Facebook feed is a constant barrage of urgent dogs needing homes. I've solidified my name among the "big dog people," and get tagged on threads multiple times a week. My heart hurts for each of them, but I simply couldn't let this one die. Within hours of seeing his Facebook thread, the wheels were set in motion. The dog we would temporarily call El Chapo (while we worked on his jailbreak from Mexico) was picked up and on his way to a vet in Tijuana. Border Buddies Rescue coordinated his pull and vetting in Tijuana, Scratch My Belly dog rescue would back him, and we would foster and nurse him back to health.

Saint Bernard at Tijuana vet

cell phone photo from Tijuana veterinarian, Thursday, August 13th

El Chapo was too weak to travel. He stayed at the vet for three days on IV fluids, and spent three hours getting ticks removed from his skin. Under the cover of darkness {ok it was 9pm} on Friday, Scratch My Belly arranged a transporter to drive into Tijuana and bring him to San Diego.

Tijuana border crossing into San Diego

cell phone photo from transporter, Friday, August 14th

He arrived in San Diego late Friday evening, and we continued removing dead ticks from his skin. He was covered in scabs, even skinnier than we expected, and had patchy fur across his body. But he was free. And with that, he deserved a new name to live up to. Hank the Tank.

rescued Saint Bernard in San Diego

cell phone photo from transport arrival

We spent the weekend soaking him in Aveeno oatmeal spa treatments, feeding him small frequent meals, and loving on him. Despite all that people had done to him, Hank was the most affectionate dog, and melted into you with the faintest of pets.

rescued Saint Bernard in San Diego

We wasted no time working with Hank, and he was a smart dog! WIthin days he picked up sit, stay, and come. We worked on resource guarding and pack integration. And of course, the luxuries like couch snuggles ;)

rescued Saint Bernard in San Diego

In his first week with us, Hank gained TWELVE pounds! I promise, he only got ONE cheeseburger from In N Out! His scraggly fur started to soften, his ribs got a little covering, and peach fuzz started covering his naked body. The horrible red marks from all the ticks embedded in his skin began to fade, and most importantly, so did that heartbreaking look of surprise every time you showed him affection. He has a ways to go, but Hank is making a fast recovery. It won't be long before he truly is Hank the Tank.

Saint Bernard at Mission Trails San Diego

Saint Bernard at Mission Trails San Diego

Saint Bernard at Mission Trails San Diego

Saint Bernard at Mission Trails San Diego

Monday, August 24th, 10 days post rescue

So for now I'm the mother of FIVE. It's even crazier, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Hank's message is two-fold. The first, is the power of social media. Can't bring a Hank into your home? Share a post, because you never know which one of your friends might be able to! Some amazing people have stepped forward to help Hank in their own way - donating money to the rescue, donating supplies, even just sharing his story. Second, is the unwavering spirit of the dog, who after being pushed to the brink of death, can still see the love and kindness in a stranger.

Stay tuned for more updates on Hank's recovery, and if you feel moved to donate toward his rescue and vet expenses, please visit scratchmybelly.org or Paypal to info@scratchmybelly.org

For regular updates on Hank - and the rest of The Pope Pack - be sure to follow me on Instagram (@rdpphodography) and Facebook!

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