A warning that there are a few graphic photos accompanying this blog.
When I saw a missed call from Lynn Leach in March of last year, I knew something must be terribly wrong. Lynn doesn’t call me. Not that we aren’t friends, but our normal mode of communication is email and text.
Lynn is the creator and head of a life-saving dog rescue called 2nd Chance 4 Life in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania that helps to find our dogs (and others too) homes in her community. Occasionally Lynn makes the 330 mile trek to Parkersburg to sleep with my cat Jack in my guestroom and we sit up talking like old girlfriends. And we are, but rather than a friendship based on growing up together, college years, etc. our bond is helping homeless animals. And I’ve learned my friendships built on that history are some of the strongest of my life.
Usually I hear from Lynn through an email about a dog in our shelter she’s considering, an update on one of my fosters she’s helped to get adopted, or a question about a fundraising idea. But never a phone call in the middle of the day!
I’d soon learn that Lynn was frantically calling the handful of people that she knows here locally, trying to find someone that could drive to another shelter about an hour away and pick up a dog. She’d seen a Facebook posting about a Boxer who days earlier had sustained ghastly injuries from being hit and drug by a car. The dog’s owners, for whatever absurd reason, had not taken him to the vet but had just dumped him at the local shelter.
Lacking the funds or good sense, that shelter had not gotten him treatment either, but at least posted a plea for help on Facebook. Lynn would see his pictures and leap into action. Horrified and frantic, Lynn could not allow this dog to languish in that shelter a moment longer. But more than 300 miles away, she was desperate to find someone that could go get him and take him to Parkersburg Vet Hospital immediately! By the time I’d reach her, Bo the Boxer was already on his way.
Lynn described his injuries to me over the phone. Large portions of flesh missing from his chest, as well as one leg bare of virtually all hair and skin. Despite the graphic description, I was taken aback when I saw firsthand Bo’s gruesome condition a short time later.
How could someone let him suffer in this state? I was furious that his owners and this other shelter had permitted him to suffer in what must have been agony for days without treatment or medication. This is one of those cases where if you can’t afford to get him help, the humane thing would have been to put him out of his misery. And while I’m now of course thrilled that they didn’t do so, a part of me was irate that they’d allowed him to suffer so.
Now heavily medicated, his injured areas had been cleaned but with a raw chest and badly injured leg, lying down had to be excruciating and so he stood unsteadily in the kennel with a sort of glazed look in his eyes. It was very hard to watch.
The immediate concern was infection. Lacking of treatment for so long, Dr. J.D. Cunningham thought it was unlikely he could save his leg as infection probably had already begun to attack the flesh and muscle and potentially the bone. Which in some places you could see through his gaping wounds. It was horrific and reminded me of why I am not a veterinarian.
As soon as I could, I’d call Lynn and share Dr. Cunningham’s initial reaction. It was not very promising. In part because while trying to save the leg was one option, Dr. C knows that shelters and rescues have limited funds. Assuming that Lynn’s rescue would be the same, he gave her several options including amputation of the leg now rather than attempting to save it. Trying to do so would take weeks and weeks and probably thousands of dollars. Bo would have to remain in the clinic for at least a month and possibly longer. And even with all of this effort and money, Dr. C thought there little chance of success.
Yet Lynn was undaunted. She would raise the money needed for his care and understood that it might be for nothing, but he was a young dog and a Boxer and it was his front leg! While dog’s cope well with losing a leg, the front leg is always tougher long term. Front leg amputations can cause more problems because of the pounding on the remaining front leg can lead to problems in that leg or the back ones. Holly, a dog I adopted at nine years of age with only one front leg eventually had such severe arthritis in her remaining front leg, that I had to say good bye to her way too soon, so I was quite familiar with the risks associated with this procedure.
Anyway, Lynn and Dr. Cunningham agreed to give him a week and see how things went. Later I’d explain to Dr. C that Lynn can pick and choose what dogs to help. They could also focus fundraising on this one dog if they chose to do so. And on top of all that, Lynn wasn’t ready to give up hope for this dog she’d never met. Lynn’s direction to him was “Do whatever you would do for your own dog until I say enough.” I love this woman!
Dr. C too was so wonderful in his thoughtfulness not only for Bo but also not wanting to get Lynn’s hopes up by providing weeks of treatment and then failing Bo and Lynn. The last thing he wanted to do was leave Lynn with a broken heart and huge bill. I love this guy too!
I assured Lynn that there were people here that would want to help Bo when they heard his story. Knowing several “Boxer people” who would leap to Bo’s cause gave me confidence and in no time, both the Boxer people and just plain old dog lovers were stepping forward. And in Lynn’s community, the same thing was happening!
So began daily visits with Bo and regular updates to Lynn. I felt like Bo needed someone here to be caring about him even though the “girls” at the vet office were all falling in love with him too. Funny that feeling I get with animals that seem to have no one.
Progress was slow and hard to see, but after the first week, Dr. C seemed cautiously optimistic that at least there were no signs of infection and the skin looked better. And what a patient soul Bo was to stand quietly for his daily hydrotherapy treatment and the bandaging of his leg.
That discomfort alone would have made most dogs a handful at best but Bo seemed to understand that this was for his own good. Ceinwein, a Vet Tech at Parkesburg Vet became his best friend. The attention and tenderness she showed to him might make one think that this was the only animal in her care. And Bo responded to her with tremendous adoration and appreciation.
By the second week Bo was not only happily greeting everyone with a wiggling Boxer butt, but also began to put a little weight on his leg. While he still had a long road before him, this lifted the heavy weight of doubt off everyone. Even Dr. C was amazed.
About then, a Boxer person and friend, Rick Braham, who already had two Boxers and assured me he didn’t need another, joined in. Rick just couldn’t help himself and had to come meet Bo. Before long Rick had taken over my daily ritual of visiting Bo and when Bo took his first walk outside, it was Rick holding the end of the leash.
Three weeks after a grave prognosis for Bo’s leg, Dr. Cunningham marveled himself at Bo’s recovery and progress…a miracle. I think deep down he had held little hope at all for Bo but didn’t have the heart to tell us. And now Bo was healing wonderfully and his personality beginning to show itself. And boy, was it ever!
Bo would never make his way the 300 miles to Lynn and 2nd Chance 4 Life. As just like Rick had said, he didn’t need another Boxer but apparently someone forgot to tell Bo that, as he wiggled himself right into Rick’s heart and home. Bo would be adopted before he ever left Parkersburg Vet!
Lynn, who rescued Bo sight unseen, would see Bo for the first time eight months later….long after his scars had healed and any memory of his ordeal had been replaced by the joy of an incredible home and pampered life with Rick and his family. It was a wonderful moment!
And as I witnessed their reunion of sorts, I couldn’t help but wonder where Bo might be if not for the caring of Lynn, Dr. Cunnningham, Kaiwin and Rick. All who were so vital to giving Bo the Boxer exactly what he needed most…a second chance for life!
I learned after posting this column that Bo has not only wiggled his way into Rick’s heart and home but even into his bed. Not even the girls sleep in the bed! What a lucky boy!