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WSU Veterinary College aids homeless Tri-Cities dog with broken legs: February 2008

Thank YouPlease follow the date links (most current is at top) at the left for updates on Chocolate

A Chesapeake Bay retriever that ran for months on two broken front legs and has captured the hearts of many in the Tri-Cities area of Washington may now get the help he needs.  
Chocolate will undergo surgery today (Friday, Feb. 8th) at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital to help repair his injuries that healed improperly on their own.  
The injured dog was seen wandering through fields north of Pasco, Wash., for the past six months.  Despite injuries that may have killed many other animals, Chocolate taught himself to walk primarily by using his back legs.  The big dog, arrived in Pullman Wednesday night after being seen by a Dr. Janine Swailes of the Meadow Hills Veterinary Center in Kennewick, Wash.  X-Rays revealed old, abnormally healed fractures in both forelegs, along with several  fragments from both a pellet gun, and a small caliber weapon.  

The injuries are extreme, said WSU veterinary surgeon Dr. Steve Martinez who will be performing the surgery.  He reminds me of a T-Rex in the way he has taught himself to walk, most likely because of the severe pain from his broken bones.  
The injuries appear to be months old and have healed improperly.  The WSU surgical team will work to realign, and strengthen the bones, while working to return his range of motion to joints that have been partially fused. 

chocolate 2
Dr. Steve Martinez, WSU Veterinary Surgeon
WSU veterinary student Kamala Severs

Dogs are remarkable creatures, said Dr. Martinez, Chocolate has certainly demonstrated a resiliency that is critical to his long-term recovery. Surgery on both limbs is expected to take most of the day Friday (Feb 8, 2008), and may even require follow up procedures. Following surgery, Dr. Martinez says that Chocolate will require extensive physical therapy to gain the use of his front legs.
WSU has recently upgraded itspost-operative rehabilitation facilities with a state-of-the-art tool. A new underwater treadmill for physical therapy was purchased and installed with funds from two grateful donors to the college.

Despite his painful injuries, the team at WSU says Chocolate continues to maintain a happy and even playful attitude.The WSU team will have a better idea of his long term chances, after Dr, Martinez completes todays surgery.

Please visit our Good Samaritan Fund for more information.


Feb. 8, 2008 WSU veterinary surgeons complete first surgery on Tri-Cities dog with broken legs:

"Chocolate," the Chesapeake Bay retriever that has captured the hearts of many, is out of surgery and is resting comfortably at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  The large dog underwent a five hour procedure to help repair old breaks to both of his front legs that had healed improperly.

"I am pleasantly surprised at the range of motion we have in the left leg," said WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Martinez. The procedure involved removing muscle and ligament tissue that had become adhered to the bone callus formed when the broken leg healed improperly.  The WSU Team measured an increase of range in motion from only 10% of normal, to now 80%. "It leaves me very optimistic that with proper physical therapy Chocolate will dramatically improve the use of his left leg." said Dr. Martinez.

Surgery has been scheduled for noon on Monday to begin repair on Chocolate's right leg. The primary goal has been to straighten the bones, while rehabilitation will add back the strength needed to support Chocolate's weight. Additional surgeries may be required.  

Surgery Prep
Preparing Chocolate for Surgery

Good Morning ChocolateThis morning, Chocolate was in good spirits, even showing signs of being playful. His playful nature is dependent upon close proximity of his favorite toy; a yellow rubber ball.  

He will remain in WSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital's Intensive Care Unit over the weekend.  
Chocolate was seen running at large by many residents of south central Washington with multiple fractures and dislocations to both front legs.  Over a period of months, good Samaritans tried to coax the injured dog to them so they could seek care.  Last week, Sonia Ayala of Pasco, Wash., a local resident was able to capture the dog and get him to a local veterinarian who then referred him to WSU's teaching hospital.

Feb. 11

"Chocolate," the Chesapeake Bay retriever suffering with multiple, old front leg fractures has been released from the intensive care unit at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital.   

The dog underwent a nearly 5 hour procedure Friday to help repair old breaks that had healed improperly in his left front leg. A similar surgery for the right leg gets underway today beginning at noon  

"He is doing really well," said fourth year WSU veterinary student Lindsey Ehlers, who has been closely monitoring Chocolate's condition. "He is on light pain medicine and has even been out for some light exercise. So far, he has had a really great attitude."  

Chocolates HarnessThe WSU team has been using a harness to help support Chocolate's weight. "He has already shown signs of wanting to use his left leg," said fourth year veterinary student, Maci Keithly. "He has even tried putting weight on the leg."  

On Friday, WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Martinez, reported the procedure had returned a range of motion to the elbow from only 10 percent of normal, to now 80 percent.  This was accomplished by removing muscle and connective tissue that had adhered to the bone callus formed when the broken leg healed improperly. His focus now will be on repairing damage to the right leg.   

The primary goal in Chocolate's extraordinary case has been to straighten the bones and return a functional range of motion to the joints involved.  Comprehensive rehabilitation will add back the strength needed to support Chocolate's weight.  Both will reduce or eliminate any pain he still has related to the original injuries.  WSU veterinarians caution however that additional surgeries may be required and that it is too early to tell what the final outcome of the work will be.    

photo courtesy: Henry Moore Jr – BCU/WSU

People in photo: Maci Keithly 4th Year WSU Veterinary Student (pink shirt) Lindsey Ehlers 4th Year WSU Veterinary Student  

Feb 11, 2008 8:00pm


Pullman - "Chocolate," the Chesapeake Bay retriever suffering with multiple, old front leg fractures is out of surgery tonight.  The nearly six hour long procedure at WSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital focused on the dog's right leg which had suffered the worst injuries.
"We were able to do what we wanted," said WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Martinez. "We installed a metal plate to help stabilize the bone, and worked to repair the dislocated elbow."  The most difficult part of the procedure involved rotating the right broken front leg 90-degrees back into its proper alignment.  
The dog underwent a nearly 5 hour procedure last Friday to help repair old breaks that had healed improperly in his left front leg. Dr. Martinez said that procedure was a great success, and that Chocolate's bandages can be removed to begin physical therapy almost immediately.
Chocolate is resting comfortably tonight in WSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital's Intensive Care Unit where he will receive around the clock care.

Feb 12: WSU veterinary surgeons finish repairs to Tri-Cities dog's broken legs

PULLMAN, Wash. – "Chocolate," the Chesapeake Bay retriever is resting comfortably at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital after undergoing a 6-hour surgery to multiple old breaks in his right foreleg. Previously, he underwent a five hour procedure to help repair old breaks in his left front leg that had also healed improperly.
"He is doing surprisingly well," said WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steve Martinez. "We have removed all the bandaging from his left leg, and have placed his right in a soft support bandage.  So far, he has had very little pain. In fact, he may be able to begin physical therapy very soon."
Monday night's procedure was far more extensive then Chocolate's previous surgery.  Dr. Martinez used a metal plate to stabilize the leg after manipulating the foot 90 degrees back into its proper position. At the same time, he attempted to surgically rebuilt Chocolate's elbow joint that had become dislocated as a result of the extensive fractures that had healed improperly.
Chocolate continues to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from gnawing and licking his incisions.  The incisions were closed with skin staples that will be removed in about 10 to 14 days.

martinez X-ray"His long-term prognosis will be dependent now on how he responds to the intensive physical therapy that he is about to begin," said Dr. Martinez.  The next steps will be to monitor Chocolate's surgical sites closely for the next few days. The first step in his rehabilitation will be in WSU's new underwater treadmill.  The device acts by allowing physical activities in varying depths of water.  The water level provides buoyancy that provides for partial weight-bearing while the bones knit together. "This tool will be of great benefit to Chocolate, and for many cases just like his."
The underwater treadmill is a recent addition to WSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  The purchase of the device and its installation was provided through generous gifts from two grateful donors to the college.

Feb 13: Where is Chocolate's yellow ball?

You may be wondering, "Where is Chocolate's yellow ball?"  

Chocolate In His ConeChocolate has to wear what's called an "Elizabethan collar" designed to keep him from biting at his stitches. Unfortunately, this prevents him from easily being able to reach his yellow ball, causing plenty of frustration.

WSU's veterinary students have been spending extra time with him. They remove the collar during some light play with the yellow ball, but have to replace the collar and put away his yellow ball when he needs his quiet time to heal.

Chocolate has spent most of his day resting.
Veterinary students have spent time working on the range of motion of Chocolate's  left leg. Range of motion is how far the joints can be flexed and extended.

His progress is moving along very well. In fact, he may have the bandage removed from his right leg tomorrow.

Our certified veterinary rehabilitation expert believes Chocolate may even be able to start his first treatments by tomorrow afternoon!

Feb 14: Chocolate begins therapy in the underwater treadmill

A busy day for Chocolate.

Chocolate On The TreadmillHe enjoyed his first day with all of his bandages off, along with his first session in physical therapy.
WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine has a special underwater treadmill that is used to help rehabilitate patients like Chocolate. Of course, water and a Chesapeake retriever go very well together.
Chocolate really enjoyed the swim, but became moderately tired after ten minutes of activity.

The good news is that he used both of his "new" front legs to swim. 
The buoyancy of the water took the weight off his limbs, giving him a chance to work out both his leg muscles and his shoulders. 

Chocolate's road to recovery will be a long one, but his journey has now begun!

Pictured with Chocolate is Lori Lutskas, Veterinary Technician and Rehabilitation Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner

Feb 15: The World is Watching Chocolate!

Chocolate had a short session today on the underwater treadmill. He tires easily so the length of the sessions will be gradually increased as he builds stamina. 

During his stay at WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, a number of people have sent in some terrific messages of good will.

Here are just a few:


Thank you for all the updates on Chocolate. I check on his progress everyday and I'm so happy he is in such good hands. I look forward to the day he can go home to a new, loving family.
                             -Linda, Knoxville TN
A very heartfelt thank you to the entire WSU Veterinary College staff taking care of Chocolate.  He exemplifies the spirit of hope and goodwill that solidifies people in a common cause and without your professional expertise, his situation could be so different.
                             -Judy, Richland WA
Thank you for all you are doing to help Chocolate.  The care and support the WSU Vet School is providing is just another reason I am proud to be a Coug.  
                             -Andrea, Seattle WA
Thank you for taking care of Chocolate. Although I have never meet him I pray and think about him often
                             -Sarah, Benton County
Your hospital is the BEST!  I have been following Chocolate's story since the first day it hit the news.  I visit your site every day looking for updates.
                             -Andrea, New Jersey

Please check back on Monday to follow Chocolate's progress. Also watch for video of his treadmill therapy.

Feb 18: Chocolate is progressing well!

Chocolate walked on the underwater treadmill with both front feet today, bearing part of his weight. His bandages were removed and changed.  His wounds are healing nicely and his recovery continues at a surprisingly successful rate.

Feb 19: Chocolate in the underwater treadmill

Chocolate is using his front legs better each day.  He is now standing on his front paws and is able to take a few steps placing his front feet correctly.   He is taken for short walks without the support of a sling. He was able to use the underwater treadmill for 4 minutes on Monday. Chocolate will be exercised daily in the underwater treadmill, gradually increasing the duration as his strength and stamina increase.

Feb 22

After his first full week of rehabilitation, the team at WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine says Chocolate is doing better than was expected.  "He is doing very well, we couldn't be happier with his progress," said WSU veterinary surgeon Dr. Michelle Powers.  

Chocolate's daily routine includes spending about 5 minutes using WSU's new underwater treadmill, a tool that allows a dog to exercise without putting full weight on injured legs.  The best news is that Chocolate now uses both of his front legs in a normal fashion showing no sign of pain putting his paws down in proper alignment. "It's just great," said Dr. powers, "He continues to improve everyday."  

Chocolate has now become a favorite among the clinical staff. Part of his routine includes spending time on a blanket in their office. This allows the team to remove his Elizabethan collar that's needed to keep him from biting at his stitches. In fact, he is expected to have his surgical sutures removed next week.  As for his long-term prognosis, "If all goes well, and he continues to show strong progress in his rehabilitation, he could be released in five or six weeks," said Dr. Powers.

Feb 29

Chocolate RehabIt's Friday, and Chocolate continues his rehabilitation daily regime. He has built up his time in the underwater treadmill to five minutes a day. He is also undergoing joint flexing and extension exercises, while taking short walks.

Chocolate occasionally uses a splint on his left leg to help him get used to placing his foot into a more normal position. We've also started using rubber booties to give him better traction when he walks, and to protect a small sore that has developed on one of his paw pads. Remember, this is the leg that he rarely used before he came to WSU.

The good news is Chocolate's attitude continues to get better with each day, as he learns to trust again.

Photo credit: Henry Moore Jr - BCU/WSU
Pictured with Chocolate are:
Lindsay McBeth Foley - 4th Year Veterinary Student
Christina Ojanen - WSU Orthopedic Technician

Washington State University