2007-07-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Mark Cummins with his pal Keira Mark Cummins with his pal Keira There's a Native American saying: "God made the earth, the sky and the water, the moon and the sun. He made man and bird and beast. But He didn't make the dog. He already had one." Be that true, then God must have made Keira for Mark, and vice versa.

Many pooch pairings are heaven sent. Perhaps that's why the word "dog" is "God" spelled backwards. How else could it be that a down and out pound pup finds her way to a kind veterinarian who must amputate her leg to save her life, and a week later becomes the cherished companion of his son, a young man who knows too well the meaning of disability?

Keira (aka "Fudge Ripple") became a Last Hope Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation foster dog sight unseen. One Friday last month Linda Stuurman, the group's president, got a call from a concerned Hempstead Shelter manager that a 5 month Whippet/ Pit puppy with a badly injured leg needed extensive veterinary care. Linda arranged for the pup to go straight to Jericho Animal Hospital, a longtime friend to Last Hope. The shelter even delivered the distressed dog the next morning.

No one knows for sure when the pup was hurt. She entered the shelter as a stray, and as is often the case, by then her wounds were at least a week old. By the time her hind leg trauma was discovered and the dog taken to the shelter's vet, her leg had deteriorated. She didn't respond to antibiotics. Gangrene had set in. She had to have her leg removed or she would die. The sweetie would need the help of a nonprofit rescue organization.

'Twas love at first sight for the Jericho staff and the delicious dog they named "Fudge Ripple" because of her brindle stripes. When vet tech Jeanmarie realized that the surgery couldn't wait, she called Dr. Kevin Cummings who performed the amputation on Sunday. Fudge Ripple's injuries told him that the poor dog had been hit by a car.

The loss of a leg never wavered Fudge Ripple's wag. Days later we heard a buzz that several staff members, including Dr. Cummings, were willing to take the pup home to recuperate. Fosters by veterinary folk have a way of becoming permanent. Dream come true again? Vet tech Chris had adopted "Natale" my million dollar baby Last Hope Retriever when he came to Jericho last year for heartworm treatment after diaphragmatic hernia surgery at the specialists. He was another hidden hit by car victim.

Dr. Cummings thought this gentle 3-legged puppy would make a great pal for his 20 year old son, Mark who uses an electric wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy. I happened to be at the hospital picking up another Last Hope dog when Dr. Cummings' wife, Linda, brought Mark to meet Fudge Ripple. Only 5 days after her operation, the pup hopped right into the van to cuddle in Mark's lap. However, Mark was on the waiting list for a Canine Companion for Independence (CCI) service dog, so the timing could be wrong. They would have to run the idea by CCI.

In the meantime Dr. Cummings took the tripod pup home. (She would be the second Last Hope dog to join his household. Years ago he adopted an older mix, "Julie" after removing a malignant mammary tumor. Julie miraculously lived 5 more years.) "Keira" (Fudge Ripple's new name) blended with the family, which now includes Darius a Pit mix and 2 cats. Despite her disability, Keira launches herself onto the bed alongside the pack. Dr. Cummings says that "at times there's some room left over for him to squeeze in". She zooms around the yard already equipped with wheelchair ramps. Her slight sighthound build, glucosamine, and veterinarian as a dad will continue to aid her mobility.

The partnership is perfect. Mark and Keira have a special bond, a cosmic connection, pooling positive attitudes to overcome their physical challenges. Although still a puppy, Keira has the sixth sense of a trained therapy dog. When Mark lies on the floor next to her, Keira's "puppy crazies" stop instantly. Mark Cummings just had his interview with CCI. If all goes well, in about 6 months, he'll have a pair of canine companions: Keira, his 3-legged soul mate, and a certified service dog from CCI. Two matches made in dog heaven.

Our poster pets at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset are celebrating "Dependence Day" this week. They want to love and lean on somebody nice. "Sparkler" #532 is a young Golden/Shepherd mix, posing proudly in his Fourth of July hat, while "Fireball" #455 is a majestic, longhaired orange tabby in the lobby cage. This affectionate Adonis cat is declawed. Can't understand why no one has taken him home. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.

+Cats: "Wendy"- a spayed tabby; #541- a "birthday card" photogenic kitten.

+Dogs: "Élan" #474- the Viszla mix; "Cody" #487- the handsome, mature purebred Siberian Husky; "Jata" #545- a chubby 3 yr. Beagle; "Buster" #476- a Golden Retriever mix.

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