By Lyda Gould
The Broken Ones Bring the Sweetest Rewards
Every year the SPCA of Northern Virginia rescues dogs and cats from a variety of circumstances. Some rescued animals require only the most routine care before they are adopted. Others, however, come into our care requiring extensive veterinary treatment. While we’re always pleased when the cats and dogs entrusted to us are adopted, it is especially sweet when the broken ones find their forever homes – and even more heartwarming to hear how they have healed and thrived. We recently visited three such dogs to see how they were doing.
Between 2014 and 2017, SPCA NOVA assumed responsibility for Bear, Caesar, and Cooper, three dogs who had each suffered severe bone injuries and needed immediate and intensive medical attention. SPCA NOVA, with the help of a network of super-star veterinarians, caretakers, and foster parents, was able to change the luck of these three hapless pups.
Bear was just five months old when his owner backed into him with the car while leaving the driveway. The pup sustained injuries to his pelvis and femur, requiring surgery and rehab time. Because the owner could not afford the surgery, she released the dog to the veterinary office. The vet contacted SPCA NOVA to see if we could accept Bear. We immediately took him in.
After three weeks of cage rest and twice-weekly laser therapy, Dr. Walker of D.C. Vets discovered Bear needed femoral head osteotomy (FHO) surgery, which sent him back to more cage rest. Finally, six weeks after the accident, longtime SPCA NOVA foster parents Dave and Patty Szurek were able to begin foster care for Bear. Patty then introduced Bear to her good friend Danny. Danny, who often hikes, had been considering a dog for some time. When Patty contacted Danny, he remembered, “She said, ‘This is the dog for you.’ And she was right.”
Danny thought the name Bear fit him perfectly, “He’s just the sweetest dog; they don’t get any sweeter than this one.” On walks, “if people would not stop and say ‘hello,’ he’d turn and look at me funny like ‘Why aren’t they saying ‘Hello?’
Bear is also very active and intelligent. “I swear he knows his left from his right,” said Danny. A mix of Australian shepherd and lab means he has a lot of energy. “He’s go, go, go.” Lucky for Bear, Danny takes him on long walks – five to seven miles at a time – and he loves every moment of it.
Bear has come a long way. “When we’d go walking, he was hesitant around things that were moving fast, a runner, bicycles,” Danny said. “Now he’s just as calm as could be.” While Danny’s daughter was in college, she brought home a Boxer puppy named Blue who gets along beautifully with Bear and provides canine companionship.
Danny notes that other than a few quirks, you probably wouldn’t know Bear was ever injured. “If you watch him go down the stair, he looks like an 80 year old.” He slightly drags his back right foot, and with his high-off-the-ground pickup truck, Danny has to lift Bear to get in because he won’t jump on his own. “But you see him run, and you would never think anything is wrong,” he noted.“I couldn’t be more thrilled that he came into my life and hangs out with me,” Danny said.
For the last two and a half years, Caesar, a Korean Jindo, has flourished in his home with Tim and his family. As a 3-month-old puppy, Max (as Caesar was known back then) had jumped out of the back of his owner’s truck and suffered a break to his back right leg. His owner surrendered Max to the vet after learning what it would cost to fix the break. After four weeks of strict confinement with SPCA NOVA foster mom Hillary, Max was ready to greet the public. Since so many SPCA NOVA dogs had been named Max, he was given the name Cedar for his red coloring and was added to the adoptable list on our website, where he caught the eye of Tim and his son who were hoping to adopt a Jindo. It was pure luck that a dog of this relatively rare breed was available as a rescue.
After adopting Cedar on Valentine’s Day, Tim’s family considered yet another name change. Ironically, one of Tim’s sons was already named Max, so giving him his original name was not an option. Instead, Cedar morphed into Caesar. According to Tim, Caesar has lived up to his Jindo breed temperament.
“We learned a couple of things about him: he doesn’t like to be confined. [Jindos] are escape artists. He’s never escaped, but once he goes out into the backyard, he’s hard to get back,” said Tim. The first time the family left him alone, they put him in their finished basement where Tim’s son’s room was. When they returned, they found Caesar had tried to find his way out by chewing through the carpet underneath the door. They learned quickly from that situation. Caesar’s bed is now on the main floor under the dining table.
Though he’s not overly affectionate, Caesar follows Tim around the house from room to room, a testament to his companionable nature. Every morning, Caesar and Tim have a ritual. “He always meets me at the bottom of the stairs… I come over and scratch his head for three minutes and I talk, and it’s bonding, and then I get the leash, I get a bag, and we go out the door.” One thing Caesar rarely does is bark, “We had him for three to four months before he barked,” Tim said. “He just seems to match everything we wanted him to be.”
“When we brought him home,” Tim said, “he first had a bit of a limp, but even from the first days he would run… no pain.” Tim observed Caesar appears to have no residual effects from the injury. Though he doesn’t enjoy long runs, he can sprint. They’ll say, “Come on, Caesar, run like a crazy dog!” after which, Tim said, “He’ll run up onto the stairs of the deck for about a minute, but he runs 100-150 yards, then he’ll stop, lay down and pant. When he’s done, if he gets excited he’ll chase his tail, then he’ll lower himself to the ground.
”When the family first brought him home, he had a lot of lengthy walks. Tim said, “He got four walks a day, and he was walking up to two hours a day. I would like to believe that if there was any lingering weakness that he was fortunate to land in a family where he had four walks a day.”
At his one-month SPCA NOVA follow-up visit, Caesar’s foster mom Hillary brought a few of his old toys to take back home, one of which was a fabric duck with a squeaker in it. Though the other toys have gone, Tim reported “the duck he likes having around.”
“He’s been a terrific dog,” Tim added. And with the confidence that comes from absolute certainty, he stated, “He’s been a joy in our life.”
Less than a year old, sweet Cooper was found severely injured on the side of a country road. With multiple breaks in his pelvis and rear leg, he was in a lot of pain and needed help immediately. He endured two surgeries to realign his femur and insert a plate in his pelvis. Then this young beagle put up with eight weeks of confinement with foster parents Dave and Patty, only being allowed to move for potty breaks. Beyond that, there were follow-up veteri-nary visits and x-rays to ensure proper healing. In fact, Cooper’s name came from how long he spent “recuperating.” Cooper even became the face for SPCA NOVA’s 2014 #GivingTuesday campaign.
While Sharon was perusing the SPCA NOVA website, she was thinking of the family dog they had recently lost to cancer, and how much she missed having a dog around. She grew up with a beagle, and when she saw the face of Cooper, she couldn’t resist. When he became available to visit in January 2015, she saw first-hand how gentle and low key he was.
“It was fun and interesting to see him adjust to us and become more confident,” Sharon said. When Sharon and her family first brought him home, they found him to be skittish of trucks and cars. He was very fearful of men in baseball hats and hoods. Sharon’s husband and son both play baseball, and they noticed Cooper wanted nothing to do with the bats. Over time, however, with repeated exposure to the sport, Cooper’s confidence grew, Sharon noted. Today he exhibits none of the fearful behaviors he once did.
“For all the injuries he had, unless you knew, you wouldn’t notice.” Sharon said that though he “kind of drags one leg, he runs with the others!” When viewed from the back, he still shows a drop in his hips from the severe break. Cooper had a very funny sleeping position where he would sleep with his hind leg straight up over his neck. “He did it for the first seven months then he stopped. We could tell through those months that things were still improving, but he was in pretty good shape,” Sharon said.
Cooper is a quirky, fun dog. Sharon said, “Cooper absolutely loves to be covered. If there is a blanket on the floor, he is under it. He’s good at covering himself. Sometimes he’ll sit up and it’ll be like a ghost, and he’ll try to get out.” Sharon thinks it must be for comfort. Cooper gets carsick, but oddly enough, if they cover him with a blanket, he’s good to go.
“We’re so lucky to have him” Sharon said. It looks like the feeling must be mutual.
Bear, Caesar, and Cooper, were all in immediate need of expensive, surgical attention and care. It is because of the support SPCA NOVA receives from adopters and donors, fosters and surgeons, that these dogs and many others are given another chance to bring joy into people’s lives and feel love and kindness in return.
Thank you to everyone who provides us with the means to continue rescuing dogs and cats who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance. Bear, Caesar, Cooper, and their guardians certainly appreciate your support.