It was early December when the days start getting really short. Andie’s owners had just returned home after their workday, and went to let the seven-year-old American Bulldog mix and her two Shih Tzu housemates outside to relieve themselves. The dogs trotted down the back steps like usual into the fading light, totally unaware of the danger that was waiting on the other side of their yard’s fence.
Suddenly, two large dogs came barreling from the neighboring lot, barking excitedly and lunging at the fence. The fence held for a moment, but eventually gave in just enough for the dogs to squeeze through. Andie lifted her head at the sound and immediately moved to stand in front of her two smaller sisters. The dogs were headed straight for them, legs churning as they ran to close the distance. The two Shih Tzus must have sensed that the intentions of these dogs were not entirely friendly, so they turned and began to run back toward the house. Andie stood her ground and instantly the dogs were upon her. Her owners were still inside, although they thought it strange that the two little dogs were barking and jumping at the back door. As they let them inside, they heard the unmistakable sound of dogs’ fighting and with horror witnessed Andie bravely trying to defend herself.
When it was all over and the animals had been separated, Andie’s owners knew she was in serious trouble. Wounds and lacerations covered the once smooth and white fur of her forelimbs, with more punctures evident along her hind limbs. She was rushed to her veterinarian who treated her shock and stabilized her over the next few days before transporting her to the UTVMC for further wound care.
Upon her arrival we were all wondering how her temperament would have been affected by the trauma she had experienced. We were prepared for a dog that might try to bite us due to her obvious discomfort and fear, but what we found instead was a sweet, loving patient that just wanted us to scratch behind her ears, a place she couldn’t reach because of the Elizabethan collar she wore to protect her wounds. Andie was quickly transferred to our surgery department for them to begin caring for her wounds, but we have continued to spend time with her as she recovers from multiple surgeries in our small animal ICU. She remains one of the easiest patients to care for despite her intensive needs, always cooperating and just waiting for a good scratch between her eyes or behind her ears.
Andie’s owners remain forever grateful for her bravery, as they know she saved the lives of her smaller siblings. It’s also evident that our students, doctors, and technicians are learning from how Andie has responded to the tragedy she has endured. She takes every challenge and new procedure with an attitude of perseverance, and never lets what is happening to her affect how she treats others. And that’s true courage.
(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)