Dying stray hits generosity jackpot

Adopter made instant commitment to save injured dog

November 15, 2010 (published)
By Phyllis DeGioia
Dog Hits Jackpot 1
Dog Hits Jackpot
Infected with maggots and emaciated, this pit bull/hound mix was found roadside by passerby Don Callahan. The dog, rescued and adopted by Callahan (above), is known as 'Red.' Doctors say he is making a full recovery following amputation, medication and love.
If Don Callahan and his daughter hadn’t gotten lost on their way to an appointment last month, the severely injured dog lying by the side of the rural road probably would have died.

Callahan and Shannon Byerly, who work in a family business called Carpet One in Burlington, N.C., were en route to a client’s home. They slowed down to turn around in an intersection and saw the dog lying still with his head up.

“We kind of looked at each other and said ‘Do you see that dog?” Byerly recalled.

A closer look at the dog revealed an emaciated and intact male pit bull/hound mix. About 80 percent of the skin on his front, right leg was missing. Infested with fleas, the dog's infected, necrotic shoulder-to-paw degloving injury was crawling with maggots. 

"We thought it would be more humane to euthanize him than to leave him on the side of the road," Byerly said. Speaking of her father, she added: "Dad has always liked animals."

Callahan put the dog in the vehicle, and they ended up at Woodsdale Animal Hospital in Roxboro, N.C.

“He had no ID collar or chip. They asked his name while we were admitting him, and just out of the blue my dad says ‘Red,'” Byerly said.
Dr. Vicki Soares was the first veterinarian to examine the dog. She figured the dog had been hit by a car and estimated he would have died in a day or two if left untreated.

“First we had to get all the maggots off of him; the whole front of his leg was just bubbling. We plugged up the tub drain with maggots,” she said.

Red endured the wound-cleaning stoically. Soares said, "He was just the sweetest dog right from the beginning. Everyone here just fell in love with him.”

Red needed daily bandage changes, so his adoptive new owners had him transferred to Burlington Animal Hospital, a veterinary practice closer to their home. By the time the dog was released from the first clinic, he had gained two pounds.

Practice owner Dr. April Markin admitted Red and handled his initial care. Drs. Deanna Tickle and Jennifer Harris also cared for Red, who once again became a clinic favorite due to his sweet temperament.

Red’s team planned to perform a skin graft to save his leg, and Tickle queried her colleagues on Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession, about the difficult case. In preparation for Red’s anticipated surgery, she practiced harvesting a skin graft from a cadaver.

Despite their efforts, amputation was necessary.

“We had hoped to save the leg, but he kept developing severe edema, and we had to amputate,” Tickle said. “I was disappointed that we could not do the graft and save the leg, but we’re pleased Red is doing great on three legs.”

Red continues to heal and has put on 15 pounds since arriving at Burlington Animal Hospital. Tickle commends the dog's adoptive owner for willingly spending thousands of dollars to save a stray.

Byerly and her father, Don Callahan, are equally impressed with Red's doctors.

"They really care for animals there and what’s in their best interest," Byerly said. "They treated him like a human and gave us updates all the time. It probably made the decision to amputate harder.”

The Burlington Animal Hospital gave Red a purple heart charm for his collar, and he is spotlighted on their Facebook page.

“This is a really positive story about a wonderful client,” Tickle said. She believes having cases like Red’s makes it emotionally easier to deal with other difficult situations.

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