A dog that once seemed to be near death has reunited with its owner after a Winnipeg woman offered to take him in more than seven months ago.

Rossburn, Man. resident Rita Polnau-Szpakowski’s 11-year-old dog Gunther was in rough shape, with clumps of hair missing, scabs and sores all over his body, and a bad smell. On several occasions, Polnau-Szpakowski thought she would have to put Gunther down.

“It was like I felt guilty keeping him alive, putting him through that,” she said.

Last September, Polnau-Szpakowski reached out to the animal welfare group Strays That Can’t Pay. They put her in contact with Brenda Johnson, who consults owners on taking care of sick pets.

After messaging back and forth several times, Johnson did something she said she’s never done before. She offered to take Gunther into her home and care for him personally until he got better.

“I wanted to see what I could do for him. I had never worked with a dog that had this kind of condition and I wanted to know what it was like for other people that went through it, and I wanted to learn,” she said.

At first, Johnson wasn’t sure she would be able to help Gunther. “Because he was so much worse, like the pictures don’t do any justice,” she said.

Seven months later, however, Gunther’s condition has improved to the point that he is ready to go home. On Saturday, Polnau-Szpakowski drove into the city to pick him up.

“He wouldn’t be here, like really, if it wasn’t for Brenda,” said Polnau-Szpakowski. “I’m just really grateful. It’s so unbelievable that someone would do that.”

Johnson said she and her family will miss Gunther, having grown attached to him after taking care of him for more than seven months.

“We’ve grown to love him as our own so yeah, it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye, but it’s not goodbye,” she said.

Although this is the first time Johnson has taken in a dog to care for temporarily, it isn’t the first time she’s adopted a sick animal.

In December 2015, Johnson received a five-year-old Dachshund named Peanut after a trucker with Bison Transport drove him from London, Ont. Peanut has a disease that left his hind legs paralyzed, and his former owner gave him up.

After a little more than a month, “Beanut”, as he was renamed, could walk, run and jump up on furniture. 

As for Gunther, other than a few missing fur patches, Johnson said he has made a full recovery.