Spirit soars after surgery

Dr. Merrill Irvin holds Spirit after his ear flaps were amputated at the West Ashley Veterinary Clinic on Tuesday.

When Dr. Merrill Irvin learned about Spirit the Yorkshire terrier's critical ear infection, he told the Charleston Animal Society he would rather operate than see the dog euthanized.

Irvin said a medical approach would have taken weeks instead of two hours and would have been more painful for the dog. After surgery, Spirit was much happier and responsive to people calling him.

"Spirit is better and tends to bark a lot more," said Irvin.

Irvin of the West Ashley Veterinary Clinic performed the surgery free of charge. He said veterinarians don't enter the field for the money.

"If there are good animals that need help and have a chance, then they deserve to get it," Irvin said this week.

Spirit's underlying problem started with food allergies that developed into yeast which caused both ear canals to be blocked.

"All he could do was rub or scratch his ear," Irvin said. "It was very painful and the yeast could have gone further into his blood."

He said Spirit was either treated improperly or not treated at all prior to the surgery.

"People should not neglect such problems and should get their pets treated professionally and not at home," said Irvin. "An ounce of prevention is cheaper than a pound of cure."

The dog's owner brought him to the Charleston Animal Society, said Kay Hyman, the society's director of marketing and public relations. He will recover over the next month at the animal society, while having special medication and diets to suppress his allergies. "Our staff will be accepting foster family applications in order to find the best place for him to go with," Hyman said.

"It's heartbreaking to see them in pain, and we want to be there for them," Hyman said.

Irvin grew up on a farm in Camilla, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia. He has been a veterinarian since 1973.

"It's nearly time for me to retire, but it's a hard job to quit," he said with a chuckle.

For 20 years, he also has welded a talent for photography of small animals, and had traveled great distances for pictures of nature.

"I've traveled throughout the United States, Africa, Canada and Australia while seeing several jungles and mountains," Irvin said. "If you want great photos, go to Alaska."