by Lee Juslin
One day, Paula of Great Lakes Westie Rescue, received a call about a Westie with health issues that the owners wanted to turn over to rescue. The situation seemed a bit dodgy, but when Paula learned the Westie couldn’t walk and was most likely in pain, she made immediate arrangements to meet the owners and take the Westie.
The owners had called animal control with a story about Tabitha, the little Westie, having a rare disease. When the animal control officer learned the dog couldn’t walk, he recommended the owner call Paula. “I couldn’t get them to sign the release so I could take Tabitha fast enough, because when I saw her my heart ached. It was a cold January day, and they had attempted to bathe her but hadn’t bothered to dry her off. So, here sat this poor dog shivering and quaking with the cold,” said Paula.
Eventually, Paula learned that the man who owned her had broken her back and never sought vet care. The owners had another dog and Tabitha, unable to walk, was never able to get enough food so when Paula met her, she was just skin and bones. “She was such a mess, I cried all the way home.”
Paula took Tabitha to the rescue group’s vet but he was not able to fully address her injuries and, so, he recommended an orthopedic vet. This specialist examined Tabitha and determined that her injuries were too old and scar tissue had formed making her ineligible for surgery. Sadly, had she seen the vet sooner, he could have operated and perhaps allowed her to walk again. He explained that her shattered vertebras were severe, traumatic injuries not unlike ones he would see if a dog were hit by a car. He in turn recommended a rehab vet, one that specializes in exercise and massage therapy in cases like Tabitha’s. She taught the rescue volunteers how to express Tabitha’s bowel and bladder. Previously, since Tabitha couldn’t walk she was dragging herself through urine and excrement.
Meanwhile, Paula had each vet write a report on Tabitha, and she shared these with animal control hoping a case would be brought against the former owners. Sadly, it was not pursued.
Tabitha is now two years into her rehab which is the point at which the vet makes an assessment and prognosis. At this point, Tabitha can move her back legs independently during her water therapy, but can not bear any weight on them so she walks on her knees. Sadly, this will not change or improve. Many dogs suffer depression when in this kind of situation, but that is not the case with Tabitha. She is a happy girl and, with her doggy wheelchair, and enjoys life.
Great Lakes Westie Rescue was formed in 2010 and incorporated in 2011. They serve Indiana and surrounding states to the north as well as regions including Chicago and Erie, PA. Tabitha is one of the most challenging cases they’ve had, and, while they know her adoption will take a special person, they are hopeful they can find her a forever home, either through a permanent foster or an adoption.
Tabitha needs a home where she can continue her therapy, especially the hydro therapy. This can be done at home with a bathtub or, in warm weather, a child’s pool. She would also benefit from an adopter who has previous experience with special needs dogs and can do the expressing of her bladder and bowel. Tabitha gets around well with her cart and with her happy Westie-tude would make a good companion for the right person. Let’s face it, after what this girl has been through, she deserves someone to love and care for her.
Author’s Note: I try to remain objective in doing these articles, but Tabitha’s story touched me; made me mad. If we learn nothing else, we must push for stronger laws protecting animals and for action under these laws against the kind of cruelty and abuse that little Tabitha suffered. Get involved. Contact your state legislators.
Learn what laws your state has and, if they are inadequate, push for stronger laws. Be sure to support rescues like Great Lakes Westie Rescue through donations of time or money, signing up to foster a rescue dog, or applying to adopt.
Learn more about Great Lakes Westie Rescue on their Facebook page: GREAT LAKES.
Check out more animal rescue & therapy animal stories in our Pets section.