Jul 102007
Authors: Margaret Canty

Found wandering a Kuwaiti desert highway, she was thirsty, battered and missing a limb. Where Sally’s strong, lean leg used to be was now only a stump, scraped and bleeding from efforts to walk. With no known family or home, the young canine was in a desperate situation.

But her grim circumstances didn’t stop her tail from wagging playfully when she was finally picked up.

Her story would soon bring her across the globe to CSU, where she has made friends, headlines and a spot in the history books.

Sally is an almost year-old Saluki dog that was rescued early this year by a Kuwaiti chapter of Progressive Animal Welfare, or PAWS, an international volunteer group with animal shelters throughout the world.

Although it was clear she had suffered serious trauma, PAWS, along with local veterinarians, were able to nurse her back to health in just a few weeks. And, despite the still unknown accident that caused her to be crippled, Sally quickly won their hearts with her playful spirit.

Not used to being limited to three legs, Sally continued over the next several weeks to try and use her stump like the foot that used to be there, running and digging with the other dogs. This use continuously reopened the wound and kept it from healing completely.

Local Kuwaiti vets suggested complete amputation of the leg, but Steve Holden, a CSU graduate living in Kuwait and volunteer for PAWS, wanted a second opinion. After growing close with Sally during her stay with PAWS, he hated the thought of her losing the use of her fourth leg completely.

“I wanted to explore all the options before amputating, so I contacted CSU, cause I knew they were the best in the world,” Holden said. “I wanted to give her the best care I could.”

And he found that care with Eric Egger, a veterinarian specializing in small animal orthopedics at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Egger had recently been asked by veterinarian Robert Taylor in Denver to look for possible candidates for a new kind of prosthesis he was working on, done only a few times in the U.S.

The procedure involved having the bone grow into the prosthetic limb, becoming an actual part of the dog’s body. This is supposed to keep the animal form chewing it off, and requires less maintenance than a standard prosthetic leg, Egger said. The technology could one day also be applied to humans.

Egger believed Sally may be the right dog for the treatment, and offered to adopt Sally because of the long-term care involved. Holden, jumping at the chance of saving Sally’s leg, flew to Colorado with the dog in late June, and the process began.

“She was skittish that first night after flying all day and arriving late,” Egger said of her first night in his house. “But she warmed up. She’s really a great dog.”

“She’s fun-loving, young and already accustomed to the other kids,” he added, referring to his four other dogs.

Sally has since become part of the family, showing more of her character each day. Egger said she likes running, stealing things off tables and even has a taste for a good cup of coffee.

“We’ve learned that she has a caffeine addiction,” Egger said. “We can’t leave coffee cups laying around cause she’ll tip them over and lap it up.”

Since Sally’s first night in Fort Collins, Egger and the rest of the staff working with her at the vet hospital haven’t wasted any time. She has been spayed and her stump has been x-rayed to determine the shape of the broken bone.

Laura Cuddy, a senior from Dublin, Ireland and veterinary medicine major, was assigned Sally as her “case,” giving her the responsibility of getting the dog where she needed to be and becoming more involved with her treatment.

Sally was “nervous” when she first came to the hospital, but has become more trusting.

“I hadn’t seen her since last week, and she’s already come a long way,” she said. “She’s such a sweet dog. I’d take her home but they wouldn’t let me.”

Since those first few days, the vets have looked at different attachment techniques and discussed the custom made instruments and devices that will have to be used to attach the prosthetic.

Eventually, Egger hopes to have different detachable feet for different purposes, from outdoor hiking to swimming.

“We want the feet of the prosthetic to be interchangeable, like putting on a different pair of shoes or skis,” he said.

This kind of technology isn’t going to be cheap. With cost estimates now more than $7,000, the vet staff is counting on donations and the generosity of others to be able to complete the process, which could take up to six months.

“It’s worth it to me. People want to see her have the best life quality,” Egger said. “It was really brought home to me when I watched her running in the yard with my lab. She’s a real running dog.”

Staff writer Margaret Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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