Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Charity

A former client of mine is a fireman.  Former because his beloved dog died this year, and they aren't ready yet for the next one.  His wife made a lovely Christmas card that had family pictures on the outside, and a montage of dog photos on the inside with a memoriam to him.  It was sad and beautiful and made me cry.

The fireman came in with a buddy from the firehouse and the dog that the firehouse had adopted.  He was an old lab mix, about 10 years old.  A good samaritan dropped him off at the firehouse because they found him as a stray driving home from the hospital with their newborn baby.  Understandably, they did not want to drive all the way to the shelter, but knew one of the firemen so stopped there.  (FWIW, I don't think I would stop and pick up stray dogs on that first car ride home; that is one good samaritan!)  The fireman tried to find his owner, but had no luck, and of course loved him too much to take him to the shelter.

The dog loved the firemen, too.  Within two weeks of his arrival, the dog knew the routine.  When they got a call, he'd run down to the fire truck and run around as they got ready to go.  When they returned, they could hear him barking happily inside, so happy that all his new friends were back.  It was the only time he ever barked.

The chief said they could keep the dog, so they brought him to me for vaccines and a check up.  They knew he had a dental problem.  In fact, his first name was "Stinky."  He was sweet natured, but his breath was foul.  I lifted his lip and found terrible periodontal disease.  The gums were receded from nearly all his molars, exposing the roots which were dripping pus.  No kisses for me, please!

We vaccinated him and ran senior bloodwork -- all healthy except for those teeth.  A dog from a firehouse comes with limited funds - this one had one person volunteering to pay for heartworm prevention, another paying for food, another for shots.  However, I knew he needed about $1100 in serious dental surgery.

After speaking to our hospital manager, we decided to do most of the dental work pro bono.  I was so excited to tell the firemen, and they were happy, too.  I put "Stinky" on some antibiotics and scheduled the appointment for the following week. 

After 7 days of antibiotics, he wasn't smelly anymore, and his gum tissues were healthier.  I knew that would make his healing go much better.  It took 3 hours to extract 9 molars, fill them with synthetic bone graft, and suture all the sites closed.  It was a lot of work, but it is my passion, because I know I can help a patient like this feel SO MUCH BETTER and be much healthier in the long run.

"Stinky" did great on recovery.  Although my patients are totally anesthetized, I always block their nerves with a long acting local anesthetic, so they wake up numb.  Within an hour, he was wagging his tail and taking a brief walk to relieve himself.  Although I pulled a lot of teeth, it must immediately feel better to have all those aching abcesses removed.   On his post-op phone call, the firemen reported he was doing great, back to normal the day after surgery, and had much more energy.  Such a happy outcome for a hard-luck dog and the public servants who love him!


EdamameMommy said...

Woot! Woot! Go Jenn. This one should go in your Harriot-esque memoirs for sure!

Emily said...

What a great story, and a great gift. I'm glad your clinic (and you) were able to donate so much of your time and effort!