I cannot even begin to say how thankful I am to all the people who have already helped in so many ways (driving Bear to the vet, helping Bear in the rescue, feeding me dinner, supplying Bear with an ample amount of squeaky toys, or just coming to give scratches). Unfortunately, this has also been a very costly ordeal in which some people have been there to help, without my asking. So far, Bear’s treatment has come in over $6,000, not including the follow-up care over the next few months.
If you want to donate to help Bear in his recovery, any amount will make a difference and be greatly appreciated.
I can certainly say he has gotten the best care from Ocean State Veterinarian Specialists and will hopefully be making a full recovery. Thank you so much for reading our story and supporting Bear’s health.
If you are not aware of all the details regarding Bear’s accident, please read below.
The first weekend of December this year, Bear, my 5 year old German Shepherd/husky and I traveled north to spend two days skiing the backcountry in Stowe Vermont, one of our favorite activities as a team. With us were our two best friends, Giles and Adam, also eager to experience stashes of pow in the Green Mountains. Even understanding the dangers of the backcountry from previous accidents, I couldn’t have anticipated what lay ahead.
We woke up early on December 7th to drive to Stowe. We would begin our hike from the base of Mt. Mansfield, where half of the mountain remained closed, open only to backcountry skiers looking to earn fresh turns down the mountain. We were instantly filled with excitement as we saw the ecstatic face of Bear when I let him out of the truck to run free in the snowy wilderness, his natural habitat.
We immediately started our hour and a half trek up to the top of the gondola with Bear who ran between us and other hikers, easily covering twice as much ground as the rest of us. Eventually all parties met at the top of the Gondola exhausted, except for Bear who was just getting warmed up. Bear stood eagerly above the trail head waiting for humans to get ready for the ski down. A few passes of water and some trail mix, we clipped into our skis. Bears face lit up and ears perked.
Giles skied down first so that he could set up a camera to shoot us coming down the trail. After a minute or two, I dropped in on my line, Bear leaping along side of me, maintaining my speed. After 100 yards I stopped at where Giles had set up his camera, ecstatic from the great conditions.
However, I noticed that Bear had fallen behind and was no longer by myside. I looked up the trail to see Bear 100 feet or so up the trail slowly falling through the deep snow, whimpering. Adam, who had dropped in behind me, stopped at Bear to assess the issue. Adam yelled down to tell him me that he was bleeding. I yelled up “How bad is it?”. Adam quickly responded, “its bad.” Bear was able to lug himself the extra 50 feet down to Giles and me where I quickly saw the severity of our situation. It was hard to see where the bleeding was coming from, as both of his back legs and belly where covered in blood. I then instantly saw the large laceration on his leg. I must have clipped him with my ski.
I quickly stomached all of my worst fears. Giles grabbed an extra jacket from his bag and I took off my buff to use as a make-shift tourniquet, packing in as much snow into the wound as possible. Bear laid down and remained calm as I explained to Giles and Adam that I was going to have to carry him the rest of the way down the mountain. Unfortunately for us, we were still at the top, nearly 2,000 vertical feet to go until we were back at the truck.
Stopping every few minutes to catch my breath, I would readjust the position of Bear in my arms. From there I would push on, pizza-ing my way down the mountain in a foot of fresh snow. Bear remained calm and silent, coming to terms with his situation. In the background I kept hearing Adam yell “You are doing great Francis, you got to keep going! You got this!” while he noticed the blood still flowing from Bears leg onto me and the snow below us.
A split boarder traveling up the trail saw the scene and told Giles that he had gauze wrap and medical tape in his backpack that we could use. As I was ready to collapse from exhaustion, I rested Bear down in the snow as we were about two thirds down from the top. Giles came behind me, handed the gauze wrap to Adam who wrapped the wound and buff (the jacket did not stay on) tightly, packing the leg with snow to slow the bleeding. At this time I removed my helmet, allowing for Bear to rest around my neck and on my shoulders, not my arms. Adam picked Bear off the ground and as I bent down he placed him on my shoulders. Giles went down ahead of us to start the car and get ready for our departure to the closest animal hospital that would take us in.
After what seemed like hours, I was at the tailgate of my pickup unclipping from my skis. I was able to place Bear comfortably down in the bed of my pickup placing myself next to him. I held him close reassuring him that everything was going to be okay. I asked Adam for more snow to pack around his leg. Giles and Adam quickly packed the rest of our stuff. To my relief it seemed that most the bleeding had stopped at this point and when Bear laid next to me, he gently placed his head on my lap, like nothing had every happened.
Giles drove as Adam looked up the closest open animal hospital on a Saturday, which ended up being a half an hour away. I have never experienced such a long car ride in my life, desperately waiting for someone to give me signs of assurance that my dog was going to be okay. At this point Bears condition seemed to stabilize itself however I became an emotional wreck, having a moment to reflect on the incident for the first time since I had seen the wound.
I felt like I could breathe again as we pulled into the veterinarian parking lot. I carried Bear in, still wearing my ski boots, and brought him into the first available doctors’ room. We must have looked terrifying, all four of us covered in Bear’s blood. Considering the situation, Bear looked okay. The vet, after hearing our story, told us that they would clean the wound, sew it up, and then call us in an hour when he was all done. I was in disbelief. The gauze bandage we had put on Bears leg was still there, hiding the disfigured leg that scarred my mind and that the doctor had yet to see.
With a couple hours to burn, we drove back to the mountain to meet up with a few other of our close friends who wanted to see us, after hearing about the incident. I tried to hold my emotions back as I made a few important phone calls. My friends and family were very supportive, offering any help that they could. At this point no one knew what Bear’s injury really entailed. All we could conclude was that I had probably clipped Bear with my ski and it had caused a large laceration severing substantial arteries.
After an hour passed from dropping Bear at the local vet, I received a phone call from the doctor. I was praying that this would be the phone call telling me Bear’s wound had been cleaned and sewed up, and that he could be picked up at anytime. Unfortunately, the vets news was worse than I imagined. Bear’s Achilles had been completely severed and the vet did not feel comfortable performing a successful surgery. I balled. She told me I had approximately 24-36 hours to get Bear to a trained specialist.
Giles, Adam, and now my roommate Austin all immediately got on the phone with anyone they could think of who would know a vet or surgeon that would be available in the next day. Despite being a mental and emotional train wreck, I also reached out to every person I knew who had a dog and asked them about vet specialists and surgeons they knew. We soon had dozens of vets and specialists from Maine to New York to call. But being a late afternoon on a Saturday and there were few places that would answer the phone. Adam’s cousin, a practicing vet, recommended Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in Rhode Island. We determined that in spite of the 5 hour drive it actually made the most sense to have the procedures done near home having no idea how serious or long the surgery was going to take. Giles drove, Adam navigated, and I sat in the back, holding Bear for the car ride home.
11:45pm the same day, we arrived at Ocean State, more than exhausted but adrenaline still running. In the last hour of our drive, Bears pain meds had started to wear off and he was crying in agony, no matter how much I tried to comfort him. It was clear that he needed real treatment. They offered a stretcher, but Bear managed to hobble himself around to use the bathroom and eventually hobble inside the clinic. He was then ushered behind closed doors where visitors were not allowed to go. Between me signing papers and arguing with technicians we spent the next few hours at the clinic. Our tiredness was beginning to settle in as we got more and more frustrated, not knowing when bear was going to be get better. We finally came to terms with our situation and realized no questions were going to be answered tonight, but most importantly that Bear would be in good hands. By the time we got home is was 3am. I could still smell the blood on my clothes. I trekked upstairs to my bed and passed out in my ski gear.
Bear would continue to spend the next three nights at Ocean State, undergoing rigorous bandage changes, wound dressing, and high levels of antibiotics and pain meds. I would visit him daily to get updates on his progress and to lay next to him, ensuring him he was going to be alright. It was heart breaking. Although the veterinarians were doing their best to take care of him, it was clear that Bear was emotionally stressed, refusing to eat and hardly sleeping. After the three days of fulltime care, they allowed me to take him home, under strict orders, and insisting that I bring him back every morning for the next week to manage the wound. The surgery would not happen until the wound was determined to be clean and healthy.
The first night back home Bear laid on our Hinckley V-berth converted dog bed, exhausted and shaking from the lack of sleep and eating. It was crushing. I had never seen him like this. My friend Tara came over with a prepared meal for me while I put together some raw meat, sweat potatoes, cheese, and hot water in a bowl for Bear. There was no way he could refuse. Bears attitude turned around over the next hour after eating his first meal in days. Tara and I ate our meal and sat down to pet Bear. Giles and Adam also came over to see him on his first night back.
Over the next week, Bear and I would wake up early. I would then carry him down the stairs for breakfast where I would force feed him a formula of pills. Then I would carry him down the second flight of stairs out of the apartment to use the bathroom, lift him into the truck and drive to the clinic for a bandage change. If I was fortunate, they would do the bandage change in 20 minutes and hand him right back over so that he could spend the rest of his day next to me at work.
Bear’s wound progressed exceptionally well, as healthy tissue began to grow inside the wound. December 18th was determined by the surgeon to be the best day for his ACL surgery when he would stay another night at the vet. They would sew Bear's muscle/tendons back together and then staple his skin, wrapping the whole thing in bandage and a full leg cast. When he was finally released, I was again given strict instructions to make sure he gets no exercise except for a walk to use the bathroom. We would be scheduled for more regular visits after surgery.
After a very successful surgery from Dr. George Coronado it is predicted that Bear will be spending the next 8 weeks or so in a cast or splint. After his muscle is healed, he will then begin doggie PT, to rehabilitate his leg.
As mentioned, Bear’s attitude has been phenomenal, and he has done a very good job conserving his energy. We are giving Bear all the love and attention that a dog can get. I also have been fortunate to have Bear by my side at home and at work, hardly leaving him alone for more than an hour or two on occasion. I ask that in your own moments please send your healing thoughts to Bear so he can get back to do all the fun activities that he loves the most. Thank you.
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