When Gabe was taken to a vet in Kentucky near where he was rescued last fall he was in rough shape. The 2-year-old liver and white Brittany Spaniel had three air rifle pellets and six BBs in him and his right front foot was missing. It looked like he might have chewed it off after getting stuck in a trap.
The New England Brittany Rescue arranged for the dog to be driven to Pennsylvania, where two of their volunteers, LeeAnn and Ken Menut, had agreed to foster him.
Originally, the vet and the rescue decided the best plan for Gabe was to amputate his whole leg – that’s generally the course of action when a dog is missing a foot.
But after meeting Gabe, LeeAnn couldn’t do it.
“I just looked at this young dog and said I don’t know how I can take his leg off,” LeeAnn said.
She felt she could see his future as a three-legged dog, one where he’d end up old and arthritic and would need to be carried around. She didn’t want that for the shy little guy who’d already been through so much.
She started searching for prosthetics for dogs online and found Animal Orthocare LLC. Their office was only a couple hours from her home in Etters, Pa., so LeeAnn e-mailed a picture of Gabe’s foot to owner Derrick Campana, CO, and asked if there was anything he could do.
“Absolutely,” Derrick said.
Her next job was convincing the rescue to agree to try a prosthetic on Gabe. It’s not all that hard to adopt out a three-legged dog because there’s not a lot maintenance involved, LeeAnn said. A foster with a prosthetic was unchartered territory for the rescue, but the president agreed to try it out.
Within a few days of Gabe’s arrival, the Menuts took him down Animal Orthocare’s office in Chantilly, Va. to meet Derrick and get a cast taken of the dog’s leg.
“We were welcomed from the time we walked through the door. It felt like family,” LeeAnn said. “[Derrick] sat down and put his hands on Gabe and you could just see the wheels turning.”
Just seeing Derrick interact with Gabe was priceless, she added. Well worth the drive.
A week later, Gabe had his first prosthetic. Per Derrick’s instructions, they took their time helping Gabe get used to his new leg, gradually increasing the amount of time he wore it during the day. Within a week, he was wearing it like he’d always had it.
“We take it off for bedtime and in the morning when we go to put it on he literally barks when he sees me with the prosthetic,” LeeAnn said. “He likes to have it on.”
Watching the dog race around with his leg on, LeeAnn said there’s nothing different about his gait compared with other dogs. This tells her that – barring any genetic problems -- his joints should be fine for the rest of his life.
While Gabe has been able to avoid surgery so far, because he has an irregular stump, he might require it down the road to round it out and make it more uniform. Derrick has tweaked the design of his prosthetic so the dog is putting pressure on his forearm rather than his stump to help reduce the likelihood of surgery and to make the dog more comfortable. This has also helped with the contractures he developed from holding up his foot for so long.
The Menuts have had three prosthetics at this point – they keep a backup in case one gets wet (the backup came in handy recently when one of their other fosters decided to grab Gabe’s prosthetic off the kitchen counter and use it as a chew toy). Looking forward, LeeAnn said she doesn’t see Gabe needing anything beyond minor adjustments if his leg changes shape or if there’s any wear and tear on the prosthetic.
As far as costs go, she said Derrick is very rescue conscious. The price of the prosthetic was less than what the rescue would’ve paid to have Gabe’s leg amputated.
After observing Gabe’s experience with Animal Orthocare, the New England Brittany Rescue even invited Derrick to speak about his work at a fundraising brunch in April. The whole process has opened up a new world for both the Menuts and the rescue, LeeAnn said.
“I get on kind of a platform and am a little cheerleader for it,” LeeAnn said. Any dog with a mobility issue should be giving a chance to have a prosthesis.”
One of LeeAnn’s colleagues at Pet Bath and Beyond where she works as a certified cat groomer, has a 15-year-old miniature poodle with an ACL tear. The dog wasn’t a candidate for surgery, so LeeAnn told the dog’s owner about Animal Orthocare. Now the petite 5-pound dog has a brace to help her walk.
“She has her little trot back,”
LeeAnn said. None of the other dogs living at the Menut’s pay any attention to Gabe’s prosthetic. They wrestle and play like normal – though LeeAnn thinks Gabe uses the leg as a weapon sometimes, like he has one up on his buddies. There’s no knowledge that he’s handicapped. It doesn’t exist in their world, LeeAnn said.
The Menuts have big plans for Gabe.
After losing their beloved Siberian who worked as a therapy dog, the couple decided to adopt him. He just started obedience classes and they hope that one day he’ll be a therapy dog, too. LeeAnn said Ken dreams of taking Gabe down to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.
“I just think this little guy has a mission out there,” she added. We want people to see he can have a normal life and if this little dog is doing it, so could you.”
Watch a video of Gabe playing in the snow with his new prosthetic.