A Tribute to Gumball

We received a call on our Helpline from a woman who was a part of rescue network transporting dogs from a high-kill shelter in North Carolina to fosters in the New England area. She was seeking help with one of the dogs, being fostered in Connecticut, who had been diagnosed with diabetes and tested positive for heartworm. His foster wasn’t equipped for the amount of care the dog required and was having a hard time getting him adopted. Upon finding out about our organization and the special-needs animals that we care for, they reached out to us for assistance.

When we first met 4 year old Gumball, it was clear this dog desperately needed intensive care. He was severely underweight due to his unmanageable diabetes and a history of pancreatitis. Prior to his time at the shelter in North Carolina, a witness contacted animal control after she saw someone throw Gumball over a bridge and he was found unconscious below; amazingly still alive. Due to that traumatic event, he had experienced both physical injuries and damage to his brain. Once he healed and was brought to the shelter, he was in such a highly stressed state that he was constantly trying to escape the kennel; inflicting permanent marks and scars to his legs and face. He was finally brought to the foster in Connecticut, but he soon needed to be admitted to the hospital for four days for an episode of pancreatitis, lethargy, eye discharge, and consistently losing weight. Soon after, he was diagnosed with diabetes. She found herself overwhelmed with the amount of care Gumball needed to get stable, while also caring for other foster dogs in her home. After hearing all of this, and meeting this sweet boy, we knew we needed to step in and welcome Gumball to our Sanctuary.

Our Ashford Sanctuary was created for animals just like Gumball. A safe, nurturing environment where animals that have experienced trauma can receive the utmost care to rehabilitate and thrive. We knew taking over Gumball’s care was going to be a long road, but we were determined to help Gumball feel healthy, loved, and fulfilled. Stabilizing his diabetic condition proved to be much more difficult than we anticipated. Dealing with his episodes of pancreatitis and heartworm, and navigating a strict diet, there were so many variables that attributed to his health that it was a day-to-day struggle trying to get Gumball’s health stable. It was no easy task in the slightest, but our incredible Dog Team was dedicated to Gumball’s wellbeing.

On top of his constant health struggles, it was clear that Gumball had mental challenges given all that he had gone through in the last four years. Not only was he suffering from brain damage, but also mental wounds from the trauma he had experienced in his young life. Our Dog Team wanted to make sure he had positive outlets to work through his challenges and to help him have a happy mind, especially when he wasn’t feeling well. His room had his own side yard where he could go in and out at his leisure. He wasn’t fully housebroken, so they were hoping this might help, but he also just loved sunbathing, getting fresh air when he needed, and hopefully he didn’t feel as trapped as he once was back at the high-kill shelter in North Carolina.

Gumball also loved to dig! Digging is such a great exercise for dogs to get their energy out and to sniff out new, interesting smells in the ground. Though we do have digging pits at some of our play yards, it was hard for Gumball to stray away from the canine cottages. We often find that some dogs when they first arrive to us hesitate to stray far from the cottages and like to keep close to the place they feel most comfortable. Therefore, we brought the digging pits to Gumball! The team set up a kiddie pool with sand for Gumball to dig to his heart’s content! When he felt brave enough to go to the play yards, he immediately found the digging pits and had a blast digging around, making a mess! It was such a joyous feeling watching him just simply be a dog and have fun! His staff and volunteer friends would spend their time with him hanging outside, sunbathing and digging, or spend time inside the cottage for couch cuddles and tug-a-war with his stuffies. Though he had many reasons to not trust humans, we’re so grateful he found love and friendship with our community.

Months went by with some success to Gumball’s diabetic condition, but he was still not gaining weight. Our vet decided to conduct almost every blood test you could possibly imagine to figure out if there was something else we weren’t finding in his previous tests. Much to our surprise, he tested positive for a rare tick-borne illness called Babesiosis, a disease caused by a microscopic parasite that infects the red blood cells. Treatment was quite expensive for this rare disease and included a number of injections, but we were right by Gumball’s side and ready to take on this next challenge with him. In the midst of his treatment, we finally knew we were on the right track when we started to notice Gumball gaining healthy weight!

Slowly, Gumball continued to improve, gaining weight and feeling great! We felt like we finally found the missing piece of the puzzle for our sweet Gumball. Yet, as months went by, we noticed some abnormal behavior from Gumball, extreme lethargy and vomiting. Knowing Gumball, any slight change in his behavior or health required an immediate call to our vet. He went to our closest vet partner at the Sanctuary for treatment where he was then transported to another vet partner for further specialized care. Our poor pup had a fever, elevated liver levels, an enlarged spleen, a low blood count, and wasn’t interested in food at all. He received a number of blood transfusions and spent night after night at the vet. He was diagnosed with Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) at that time, which is an autoimmune disease in dogs where the body attacks its own red blood cells. He was finally feeling better and was brought back to our Sanctuary, but the vets couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was the cause and suspected that the Babesia parasite was resurfacing.

Only a short time later our Dog Team started to notice a wound on the top of his paw and they contacted our vet again. It was discovered that Gumball had necrosis on his paw, spreading to his leg, and seemed to be now attacking his back leg due to the Babesia. Necrosis is extremely painful and the risk of infection is very high. The only way to address this necrosis would be to amputate his legs from the shoulder. While this was happening, Gumball was on opioids to ease the pain he was feeling. Due to his diabetic condition and IMHA, the likelihood of recovering from such an intense surgery was slim. We had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to our dear friend Gumball. He was surrounded by the ones that loved and cared for him, where he ate lots of yummy foods that Gumball was never allowed to have. There are never any words that bring you comfort when losing a friend, but the thought of Gumball finally being at peace brings us some solace. His body was constantly fighting to survive, and though Gumball was a true survivor, it was now time for Gumball to be free of any discomfort or pain. Despite it all, we know Gumball was happy with us; happy to be surrounded by love, a sense of safety, and so many beautiful friends. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to our staff and volunteers for all that you gave to this special boy. We were Gumball’s family, people that loved him unconditionally and supported him through every challenge he faced. We’re so grateful that Gumball’s path in life led to us and we could be there for him when he needed us the most. We’ll miss you, Gumball.


  1. Shirley Murtha on October 18, 2023 at 10:38 am

    You went above and beyond to give Gumball the chance for a healthy life. Although the fates intervened, and did not let that happen, you gave him the love and comfort he had never had. His last days were full of the joy of knowing he would be safe forever. He crossed Rainbow Bridge surrounded by your love; he will always remember how you changed his life.

  2. Traci on October 18, 2023 at 12:42 pm

    Such a beutiful tribute to sweet Gumball. To every single person that made his life easier, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You ! I believe in Karma and you all have some really good stuff headed your way. The next time you or a family member get good news from a medical test, that’s your Gumball Karma coming back for you 🙂

  3. Terry Walker on October 18, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    Gumball was a special soul who I walked and tucked in weekly for the entire time he was at the sanctuary. I still think of him each time I visit the sanctuary and hang with my other doggie friends. I’m glad he is at peace and know he is looking down on us and smiling.