by Cherie Damron (co-founder of Untold Animal Stories)
A few years ago I moved back to the small town in rural NC where I grew up. I started volunteering at the local animal shelter, photographing adoptable dogs and cats for the shelter’s Petfinder.com site and the “Pet of the Week” feature in the local paper. I’ve always had a soft spot for seniors and animals with special needs, shy pets, and animals needing assistance. I started a small rescue service, taking as many of the dogs as I could that weren’t likely to be put up for adoption, finding foster homes for them or working with other rescues outside of the area (usually in the northeast).
One day in May 2007, Animal Control was called to come and pick up Angela, a 6-year old female basset hound, and take her to be put down. Her back legs had become paralyzed and she was unable to walk or urinate on her own. Had Angela gone to the shelter, she would have been immediately euthanized (there is no “hold period” for owner surrenders of high-needs/unadoptable pets).
The Animal Control officer knew I loved hounds and called me as she was leaving Angela’s house to see if I were willing to take her. I met the truck before it arrived at the shelter and took Angela directly to our veterinarian. He explained the surgery that was needed, which had to be done at a specialty hospital, and left it up to me and my partner, John, to make our decision. There was no decision to make for me, and when John looked into those big, sad basset eyes as Angela sat crumpled in the corner of the exam room, he knew we were about to embark on a very expensive, difficult mission.
Off we went to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Cary, NC. Doc called ahead to schedule surgery to correct the two ruptured disk in her spine. The surgery had to take place within 24 hours of injury or the likelihood of her walking again would be slim. Angela was taken in to surgery that night.
Angela came through the surgery very well, although bloodwork revealed that she is Heartworm Positive and has antibodies for both Erlichiosis and Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever, 2 tick-borne diseases. I brought her home from the hospital two days later. Angela was still unable to walk or urinate on her own at that time; however, she had no problem wagging her tail!
By Day 4 Angela was going to the bathroom on her own and there was very slight movement in each of her back legs. By Day 9 she was still unable to support her weight or walk without a sling, but there was a great deal of movement in her legs and she “pedalled” in the air as if she were walking.
Exactly three weeks after surgery, Angela took a few steps on her own without the assistance of the sling. Five days later, she was walking completely unassisted by a sling, and although slightly wobbly, she was able to stand still and support herself without swaying from side to side.
A week later Angela had a setback—she became depressed, lethargic, and stopped eating entirely. She had a temperature of 105.5, and a full-blown case of Erlichiosis. Four days of hospitalization, IV fluids, and antibiotics later, she was on the mend but fragile.
She came through that, completed her Heartworm treatment, and just prior to her spay surgery, Angela’s teats started growing and she began “nesting” type behavior. There was no possibility of pregnancy, as she hadn’t been in contact with any except my pets, and mine were all neutered. Our vet suspected a “pseudo-pregnancy,” which I had never even heard of. We went ahead with the spay surgery and the pseudo-pregnancy was confirmed.
Finally the medical procedures were done and Angela could start being a dog. Throughout her recovery her personality blossomed. Angela Bassett Hound has become a fun, happy lady with a huge voice and a very, very big heart. She loves everyone she meets. Now, 6 1/2 years after her surgery, at almost 13 years old, Angela has moved across country twice, attended Basset Tea Parties” with founders, and although she is slowing down a bit, she now loves to run and play on the beaches of Cape Cod. I am so very grateful that I’ve had the chance to have this wonderful being in my life.