Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bella's New Legs

I have told you about Animal Rescue, in New Freedom, Pa, already. The founder of Animal Rescue is Grace. She is compassionate, generous, and incredibly through all the abuse, neglect, and terrible cases she has seen she still keeps plugging along as kind and generous as ever. She is one of the most incredibly strong willed people I know. Grace has faced the most jarring sides of cruelty for a long time and yet she still answers every phone call with a smile and a hello. 
One day I got a call from Grace.  She was at BARCS, (the Baltimore City Animal Shelter) and they had told her that there was a small young white pit bull that had been surrendered to them because her legs were crooked. BARCS stated that they were not capable of the care she needed to “fix her”. Grace was there to pick up another dog when they had casually mentioned the "crooked dog". Grace wasn’t interested in trying to place another pit bull. You see in inner city Baltimore next to dime a dozen cats, there are a nickel a dozen Pit Bulls. 

Pit Bulls get a very bad unwarranted rap, and they pay for that bad reputation with their life. If you end up at the pearly white gates and they give you the option of being re-incarnated as the nicest, happiest, sweetest dog in the world, but you have a pit bull package say "No!". Most of the world will condemn you and the odds of being forgiven, or given a chance despite the face you were born with, is slim. Did you know that in some places in the world there is such a thing as breed bans? It means that if you end up in one of these places and you are a Pit Bull you are to be euthanized if your owner doesn’t come forward for claim you in the allotted time. It is a hot debate in the animal world. Here is my assessment of the debate. Color doesn’t decide whether you are less of a human, and breed doesn’t decide whether or not you are a danger to society. The man behind both of these determines what kind of soul you will become. I have known the nicest Pit Bulls in the world, and a man that will kill for fun. Don’t judge a book by ts cover. And in the famous words of one of the most famous dog trainer in history, Barbara Woodhouse, “there are no bad dogs.”
Let's get back to Grace’s call to me... She told me that there was a very nice young white female Pit Bull that had been surrendered. Grace said that she couldn’t take her, but she wondered if I could help? She knew that we at Jarrettsville Vet had a soft spot for Pit Bulls. She knew I had one, and that a few of my technicians did too. I told her to put her in the van and I would take a look at her. Grace brought Bella to the clinic a few hours later.

Bella’s original name was “Twister” some kind of cruel joke, so sad, so mean. We changed it immediately. She became Bella. She was about 3 months old. Her bowed front legs spread far apart from her chest and she needed the wide stance to stay upright. In veterinary medicine we are taught to grade everything by a scale system. On a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the worst, her legs were a 4 plus. She looked like she had ridden a horse cross-continental since the day she was born. It almost defied what you thought was possible. Her legs were so bowed that after a few days with us we noticed that she was developing sores on the lateral (outsides) of her feet and she could barely bend her legs. She was  pitiful to look at, but, was furious about  tail wagging, kissing, and tried with all of her might to get to you just to say "hello." Her will to be a love-bug was not stopped by her inability to get anywhere. 
We ran our basic blood work, checked her for any possible cause of congenital problems, took x-rays, and crossed off all of the possible reasons to give up on her. After she came up clear for everything we could test for we began the daily challenge of trying braces, splints, and contraptions to try to get her legs to start to grow back into normal.

Everyone asked me what I thought her diagnosis was? I told them all what I honestly thought was the truth. I think that she was kept in a cage so small that she couldn’t stand up. I say this because she didn’t have any sores on her feet when she arrived. She had no evidence at all that she had walked. It is almost to difficult to imagine that you could be deformed because you weren’t allowed to grow.

She stayed behind the front desk for a few weeks. We often have a foster dog, cat, (or two or three), behind the desk to help socialize them, and help identify any behavioral problems they may have. Its sort of like speed dating. We can learn an enormous amount about a pet when we throw a lot at them quickly. In that time our clients saw her go through a few generations of splints. In the end the one that worked best for her was PVC pipe cut in half length-wise and applied in clam shell fashion to her bandaged legs. This brace helped remind her bones which directions they were allowed to grow in and they gave her the much needed support to stand up and walk. Within weeks she was almost standing up straight on both front legs. She started jumping and running and acting like the puppy she was at heart.
Today the only remnant of deformity remains as a thickened carpus, (she has bigger than normal bony wrists). She is and remains one of our most loved dog, and we use her story many times over in reminding clients that sometimes a truly unbelievable miracle can happen. Sometimes modern medicine is merely determined don’t give up and try over and over again medicine. PVC and vetwrap medicine.

She is living with Laura now, one of our Technicians. Bella is one of the smiling Pit Bull faces in the pictures below (she is the all white one).

If you would like to read more on Denver Colorado or breed bans please see the following link

Update, February 19, 2014.

The technician who adopted Bella brings her to work every so often for a visit. Bella was at the clinic yesterday demanding attention, begging for some ball play, and in general acting like the puppy she will always remain. She is a bright, happy, energetic girl, with a soft heart, a sweet smile, and a larger than life love for everyone!

Thank goodness we saved this little girl from this...

Being a part of so many pets lives has taught me a few valuable lessons; 
1. Never give up on a pet with a drive to survive. They will amaze you.
2. Never walk away from a case because no one else wants to try.
3. Surround yourself with people who believe as strongly as you do that love can cure the ailments of the world.
4. Share a story of inspiration at every chance you get.

If you have a story of amazing pet experience to share please join us at Or visit all of us at Jarrettsville Vet in Jarrettsville Maryland.

I am also on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. This is officially my favorite story ever!!! You are so amazing at saving animals lives. I loved this story and I can not believe that people are so sickenly cruel and ignorant!!!

  2. Was one of the finest moments...for both of you!

  3. I recently adopted a pit bull with deformed front legs. I'm not restricting his activities. I've noticed he has small blister like sores on the tops of his paws. Is this common in dogs with this condition?

    1. Yes.. Sores indicate abnormal excessive wear. Like those of ladies who wear high heels and suffer the consequences of poor fit or infrequent wear. Add more padding, change the shape of the brace. Attend to sores ASAP and aggressively. They are usually over a bone and wounds over joints or bones are dangerous.
      If he is dragging them you need to figure out how to apply booties that stay on and absorb the trauma, OR, create a device to keep the feet in their normal position,, footpads on the floor.
      Remember PT is about regaining normal function (as much as possible) and avoiding complications. Good Luck