Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Special Amigos

Here's a great story from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah about a pack of special friends:

Not long ago, it looked like Guardian Angel dog Schwartz might have a hard time finding the right match for a roommate. The first dog he met at Best Friends picked on him – never mind that Schwartz was on his best behavior and tried to play nicely. Sometimes dogs single out another dog who walks differently. And Schwartz’s swagger is certainly different. He just needed to find somebody who could accept him for who he is.

Well, his lonely days are over, and in a big way. Schwartz just met up with two brand-new Guardian Angel dogs, both of whom also have mobility struggles of their own. These three became inseparable almost on sight. The best part is nobody gets singled out for walking a little funny. They formed the perfect support group for each other.

Darena the puppy was a hit-and-run victim. A woman named Josie, Darena’s rescuer and foster mom before Darena came to Best Friends, remembers watching in horror as a car ran over this darling puppy and then kept right on driving. Josie rushed Darena to the vet. She’s a foster mom for a rescue group named Homes for Pets, who immediately offered to help Darena.

The vets had to amputate one of Darena’s back legs, and there were still complications with her remaining injured back leg. Darena will need ongoing care to give her as much use as possible of that limb. (You’ll can follow Darena’s progress in her Guardian Angel updates.) In the meantime, she knows how to make the most of life while still on the mend. She’s not one to sit back and watch others have all the fun!

Rhubarb, another puppy, was born into a hoarding situation. He was seized from the property as part of an animal cruelty case. His troubles, however, were nowhere near over. Vets soon found that Rhubarb had a hole in his heart. He wouldn’t live long without help. Poor Rhubarb needed heart surgery at only three months old. After that, right when it seemed he might be out of the woods for good, he began showing signs of possible neurological problems.

Rhubarb went from a bit wobbly in his walk to not being able to even stand up. A visit to the neurologist didn’t reveal what the exact problem might be. Rhubarb came to Best Friends, where he will receive the best possible care from top to bottom. If there’s a way to help this loveable goofball find his feet again, rest assured his caregivers, trainers and medical team will find out how.

The training regime has already begun. “We do a lot of repetitive, short sessions,” explains Best Friends’ dog water therapist Carey Belcher. These sessions focus on stretching and building his muscles.

Since he can’t walk on his own, Rhubarb needs all the help he can get to keep his muscles strong. His exercise sessions with caregivers and trainers will certainly help, as will hydrotherapy once he’s ready for it. But there’s also another mighty handy solution to keeping him active. Just put Rhubarb and Schwartz in the same room!

Rhubarb may not be able to get up and walk around quite yet, but, good grief, you should see how much enthusiasm he has for playtime when there’s a friend willing to meet him halfway. Schwartz has no problem accommodating. He flops right down next to Rhubarb, and the two wrestle away the afternoon. Darena often joins in the fun as well, either directly by joining the tangled heap, or from the sidelines as a cheerleader when she needs a bit of a break.

“They’re best friends,” says caregiver Maddie Haydon of the three dogs. “They’re very gentle with each other.”

As Schwartz is only a year and a half old or so, and Rhubarb and Darena are under a year, these three dogs are loaded with typical puppy energy and play drive. Their physical setbacks might make it tough to chase each other around the yard, as most puppies would, but, by golly, they know how to improvise. It’s adorable to watch.

For now, there’s also a fourth dog who recently moved in with them. Happy the puppy doesn’t have any physical problems, and she’s a gentle soul. Caregivers wanted to place her in an easygoing play area now that she’s too old to live at the puppy building. Well, while she’s certainly enjoying herself, it might take a bit of imagination to call her new play area “easygoing” …

Let the wrestling matches, err, strength-training exercises commence!
Become a Guardian Angel! Some of the Sanctuary's most delightful animals are featured on the Guardian Angel program website, your support allows us to give these special pets the care they need.

~Story by David Dickson; photographs by Gary Kalpakoff and Sarah Ause

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