Cheri Hanshaw, a fourth-grade teacher in Lancaster, owns a Shar Pei mix that she calls her lucky dog.  “Star is my lucky dog because she gets everything to happen to her,” she said.

The last couple of years, she said, Star has had veterinary bills of about $10,000, include more than $3,000 a year ago when she was hospitalized with pancreatitis.  The dog also has allergy problems.  “We’ve had one thing after another with her,” Cheri said.  “She’s usually at the vet’s every month.”

The latest iteration of her dog’s all too familiar relationship with veterinary medicine was recent surgery for a TPLO plate reaction, something that doesn’t happen often.  Cheri did some research, which showed that it only occurs to about one in 50 dogs.

“Basically she had an infection from the plate in her knee and ite had to be removed,” Cheri said.  “This is her second knee [to undergo TPLO surgery].  The left knee was fine and there was no problem after it was done a couple of years ago.  And we had surgery in November for the right knee.  It seemed fine and then after a few months, all of a sudden her leg started swelling up.”  

Star, who is eight years old, is a patient of North Valley Veterinary Clinic in Lancaster.  Dr. Eric Wright, who had done the TPLO surgery, told Cheri that the site infection could be treated with antibiotics but that it would continue to come back. “He recommended taking the plate out surgically so we don’t have to continue with these problems and spend all this money and then have to take it out surgically anyway,” she said.

Dr. John Chang, who assisted with the plate removal, told Cheri that he could see where an infection pocket was attached to a bolt on the plate.

The latest surgery took place in March.  Because of Star’s history of medical problems, Cheri sought help from Angel Fund to help pay for the surgery.  Dr. Misty Hirschbein, who sees Star for most of her appointments, told Cheri about Angel Fund and helped her apply.  A grant of $1,000 was approved. 

Cheri expressed gratitude to both Angel Fund and the North Valley Clinic, which matched the grant.  But she also had to take out a loan to pay what she still owed.  “I’m so in debt for this dog!” she said.

Star was still healing a month after the procedure, she said. “We had expected it would be healed by now,” Cheri said. “But the infection is almost gone. 

“Star, the poor thing, has been living in a playpen since October.  She has not been able to go outside to be a dog.  She waits for us to come get her.  So when I’m doing my school work, I’ll pull her out so she’s closer to me and not so isolated.  I’m hoping she’ll be able to go back outside in a couple of weeks.”

Cheri lives with her daughter Kayla, who is a community college student.  Her son, Zachary, She has a lives independently.

She previously had borrowed from her mother and taken out a loan from her credit union to help pay for her dog’s care.  But Cheri is hoping things will change. 

“I’m looking forward to being able to take Star on hikes again and to do the things that we used to do, like going to the beach.  She’s almost there.”

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