It’s a strange paradox that sometimes the greatest acts of cruelty, or even injuries sustained accidentally, can redirect an animal’s life in the best way possible.
This statement is in no way meant to justify intentional cruelty or make light of injuries. Maybe it’s God’s way of evening things out, or possibly the laws of physics somehow apply, where a terrible event is balanced by something equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction.
We called her “Momma” dog because she appeared to have been recently nursing puppies. Her mammary chain was slightly prominent, and her level of emaciation suggested that she was under severe metabolic stress.
Presumably, having been a stray, living on the streets of Myrtle Beach and nursing a litter of pups was a strain, but what she had to endure on top of that could have broken her.
For weeks a rescue group tried, but she eluded them. Her jaw was severely fractured. Her face was swollen and bruised. Drinking was difficult and eating, nearly impossible, but she could still run. Inevitably, she grew weaker and slower, and the group never gave up.
After two full weeks of watching her suffer the effects of starvation, dehydration and a severely infected jaw fracture, they finally caught her.
They immediately contacted me (Henri Bianucci) and we arranged for surgery. The injury was severe, actually worse than I had expected. The teeth were shattered and the bone was exposed. The tissue was deeply infected and rancid.
The jaw was broken on both sides. This left the front half of her mouth dangling in an open position.
Her overall condition was poor, with a “moth eaten” appearance to her coat and an emaciated body.
In spite of her condition, and all she had been through, Momma was an absolute angel. She had a truly intelligent look in her eyes and she accepted her examination and surgical preparation with stoic resolve.
The next piece of good fortune for her was that the mouth has a tremendous capacity for healing. So, despite the severity of her injuries, her prognosis was actually good. Momma was discharged to foster care and was recovering beautifully. When she came for her one week recheck, she looked great. The mouth was well-aligned and functional. She was eating well and, as expected, had gained a few pounds.
She required some minor adjustments along the way. When she arrived for one a week later, one of our techs exclaimed, “Wow, Momma has gained six pounds in the past week.”
She came a week later and again the tech commented, with some surprise, that Momma had gained another four pounds since the last visit. We performed a brief anesthesia, and she went home the same day, looking great.
Later that evening, while I was out of town, I received a text from the foster family. It was a picture of Momma’s mammary chain, and it looked seriously engorged. The text described her exhibiting nesting behavior, licking herself and pacing.
She posed the question, “Do you think she could be pregnant?”
Of course! All the notations of weight gain suddenly came rushing back. I was so focused on the mouth, believed she had just finished raising puppies and assumed the weight gain was all because she could now eat and was being fed well. Tunnel vision will get you every time.
“Yes!” I answered, “she definitely could be pregnant.”
I suggested she give her a quiet dark place to whelp the litter. I had no sooner pressed send, than my phone rang. It was the foster.
“I have Momma in the car and now there is a puppy in my backseat,” she exclaimed with a mixture of excitement and disbelief. Within a short time there were four beautiful, chunky little pups.
Now, I know that the last thing the world really needs is four more unplanned puppies. But now that they are here, all one can do is celebrate their arrival, nurture them and find them great homes.
Momma has been such an excellent mother. She was in my office with the puppies recently. One puppy was brought to the back to be shown off while the others were up front.
Momma looked up at the two people who were holding them, looked at the one puppy in the basket and then turned her attention to the door leading to the back, through which the fourth pup had gone. It was the first time I have ever seen a clear demonstration of math skills in a dog.
Whatever the environment that allowed for the harm Momma dog suffered, these injuries initiated the gateway out, for her and her puppies.
It’s amazing that there are people who will stop at nothing to help injured animals.
These guardian angels range from large organizations to individuals. Their personal effort and sacrifice to alleviate suffering is something that inspires me every day.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.