In the winter of 2018, Donna Lochmann and her rescue team witnessed a confusing and heartbreaking sight. As chief life saving officer with Stray Rescue of St. Louis (SRSL), Lochmann was combing the city’s streets in the middle of a snowstorm for needy animals when her search came to a sudden stop.
From her Jeep, Lochmann spotted a white van with a mysterious gray mound resting beneath it. The fluffy clump of fur moved slightly, and Lochmann instantly knew he was an animal in need. But she couldn’t tell exactly who he was at first.
“His hair was so long, you could barely tell which side was his face,” Lochmann told The Dodo. “You could kind of see his nose.”
Lochmann soon identified the pile of fur as a horribly matted dog. She assumed he was in pain, as his heavy clumps of hair inevitably pulled at his skin. But taking a closer look, she realized that this poor pup was soaking wet from the worsening snowstorm, and his mats were fusing to the concrete.
“His mats were frozen to the ground,” SRSL wrote on Facebook.
Lochmann crawled under the van without skipping a beat and slid a leash over the dog’s neck. She called out words of encouragement and comfort as she attempted to pull him out from underneath.
“He screamed …” SRSL wrote. “But with skill and patience, Donna got him safely into the warm Jeep.”
Lochmann wrapped the weak boy in a towel, then shuttled him to SRSL’s animal hospital.
When he arrived, the vets rushed to give him a thorough checkup, but his hair was blocking them from doing so.
“We had to get the hair off of him,” Lochmann said. “It’s a real process when it’s that knotted up, trying to get it off.”
The veterinary team slowly combed through the dog’s fur with electric clippers and carefully removed his mats. Before long, his icicle and leaf-covered fur fell to the ground, and the tiny gray pup, later named Pilgrim, was completely smooth again.
“He had to feel so much better getting all that hair off of him,” Lochmann said. “It might’ve been about six pounds of hair.”
While shaving Pilgrim, the vet team discovered an injury on his back legs, which X-rays later revealed to be a broken pelvis. The poor pup was a survivor for sure, and the SRSL team vowed to do everything possible to nurse him back to complete health.
Pilgrim underwent surgery for his fractures and made a full recovery within three weeks. With his mats gone and injuries healed, Pilgrim was ready to start his next chapter in foster care.
A loving couple, Taylor and Joe, soon took Pilgrim in as a foster dog. He quickly began to thrive at Taylor and Joe’s house as he fell absolutely in love with his new foster parents and furry siblings.
It wasn’t long before Taylor and Joe decided to change their minds about adopting Pilgrim out.
“Pilgrim fits in so perfectly with our family, so we decided to foster fail,” the couple told SRSL in a letter, later shared on Facebook. “He’s a very happy boy.”
It’s been over four years since Lochmann discovered Pilgrim, now called Oscar, frozen to the ground during a snowstorm. Although his rescue was nerve-wracking and heart-wrenching, SRSL is so happy to know just how much their efforts changed his life.
“He’s living [a] good, comfortable life and brings joy to his family every single day,” SRSL wrote in an update on Facebook. “[We] love this!”