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Case of the Month

Angel Fund Helps Puppy With Injured Legs

Angel Fund Helps Puppy With Injured Legs

When Joey Nazario and Caleigh Swanson, his fiance, first saw Astro, now their young German Shepherd, the breeder told them that his apparently bad hip had simply popped out of its socket and that doctors had easily popped it back in and his rehab would consist only of light stretching.

When they came to pick up the dog later, they heard something different. “They said that his mother had stepped on him, that she had hurt him,” Joey said.  “At that point, we decided that he’s such a cute puppy and he has such a great attitude and we’re going to give him a good home.  Whatever we have to do, we’re going to do for him.” 

That was last December when Astro was about six weeks old.

But they soon discovered that both hips were dislocated.  There were other complications, including that Astro’s right hip was rotated out 180 degrees and he had lost all sensation in his right paw. He had close to zero function in that leg.  The young couple took Astro to four veterinarians, three of whom told them that his right leg should be amputated.

Then a neighbor in San Juan Capistrano told them about his dog’s doctor, DVM G. Robert Grant at Beachside Animal Hospital in Capistrano Beach.  Joey and Caleigh made an appointment.  “We went to him as a last-ditch effort to save our puppy,” Joey said.

“When Dr. Grant saw Astro, he was super excited because he saw a rare case and he knew he could fix it.  That made him happy and it made us happy.

“That’s when we started talking about what we were going to do and when we were going to do it and how we were going to get funds to pay for it.  Dr. Grant helped us out by suggesting Angel Fund.  We applied and we got a good amount,” $500, a sum matched by the hospital.  “Without Angel Fund, we would have been struggling.”

Joey and Caleigh are thankful for the help Angel Fund provided.  “It was amazing that they did that for us.  We were newly engaged and we loved this pup.  He’s part of our family.  Everyone else said, ‘Well, why don’t you send him off, write him off.’  That’s not what was going to happen.  He’s our little guy and part of our family.”

Astro had his initial surgery on his left hip, where the socket was fractured and the femur required reconstruction.  Dr. Grant created a hip socket using a bone graph from one of the dog’s shoulder blades to anchor the femoral head into the socket with a “De Vita pin” to anchor it. 

Astro also suffered from “severe quadriceps tie down,” a common defect that Dr. Grant has studied extensively to find the most effective way of correcting it.  In Astro’s case, he created a groove in the bone to guide the knee. Since Astro had never been able to bend his leg at the knee, there was no groove to help the leg properly function. Because of the knee cap not being used, it migrated toward the inner side of Astro’s leg. Lastly, Dr. Grant attached a temporary metal “hinge fixator” to the outside of Astro’s leg. This device helped Astro in many ways, like stretching muscles and tendons that have never been stretched before, helping with placement and taking some of the pressure off his underdeveloped bones so he could heal and grow stronger.

The young shepherd is recovering nicely.  He was quite small for his age but is gaining weight and is growing “a lot faster now,” Joey said.

Dr. Grant soon will perform what is expected to be Astro’s third and final surgery on his right leg, which he was dragging when he joined Joey and Caleigh.  “He was barely able to walk when we adopted him. He would skoot around on his stomach using only his front legs,” Caleigh said, and his right paw often was bleeding. 

In the third surgery, Dr. Grant will put the right knee back to its proper place.  “We’re hoping after this third surgery that Astro will have full range of motion of his leg and will be able to use the leg that has been giving him so much trouble,” Caleigh said.

“Dr. Grant loves his work and takes great care of his patients,” Caleigh said.  “I am very thankful he wanted to work on this case and help Astro get the life he deserves.  Even after two traumatic surgeries, Astro walks into Dr. Grant’s office with the biggest smile and the most enthusiastic tail wag you’ve ever seen.  If that doesn’t tell you how Dr. Grant loves his patients, I don’t know what will.”

Joey is a Los Angeles County firefighter, who works in Santa Clarita.  Caleigh is a special education teacher in San Clemente. They have an apartment in San Juan Capistrano.  He commutes every week to Santa Clarita and sleeps at the station or at his parents’ house not far away.  He looks forward to the time when he will get to see Caleigh and Astro as often as he would like.