Hershey's Kisses

Hershey's vet appointment to evaluate her leg

Hershey just after surgery

Hershey's leg one week after surgery

Hershey and her foster mom

Healing - but getting better

Hershey's Success

written by Connie Versagi, April 2008


Who doesn’t love if someone walks up to you and says, “put out your hand,” and when you do, they drop a Hershey Kiss in it.  That is exactly what happened.  The most wonderful Hershey was dropped in our lap.

The call came in from a man wanting to surrender his Airedale.  He said she was two years old. She had spent her life living outside.  He specifically said that this past winter that had been so bad, she had never come in the house.  

The owner was asked to bring her to a vet’s office to surrender her.  He said he didn’t have time.  A plan was being formulated to go get her and the phone rang again.  The vet’s office called, to ask if we were expecting an Airedale to be brought in.  Her name was Hershey, she was handed to them by a man who then turned and walked out.  She was a terribly frightened, terribly messy girl cowering in a run and the first thought was that her right front leg must be broken.  With a little coaxing she came out of her run and walked on the leg.  No one had seen anything quite like it before. 

Her right front paw does not face forward.  It faces directly out to the side and the paw itself to the ankle joint is longer than it normally would be.  It looks like a flipper on a seal.  Hershey doesn’t seem to notice it.  She just simply uses it.  When she stands at your side, she holds it up to her chest and protects it, again with the foot sticking straight out from her chest.  Both of her sides were missing large patches of hair.  It took two baths to get the filth off of her. She may have survived the winter, but she didn’t come through unscathed by any means.

When volunteers got there, It only took her a minute to warm up, and then the kissing began.  No matter the loneliness or the harsh conditions, she was still a pup and wanted to be loved.  There was some degree of pain for her with this foot and we needed more answers.  In true Airedale fashion, she was being stoic and just carrying on.  She did learn that the volunteers who visited her regularly always had homemade dog biscuits for her and she gave out lots of kisses.

X-rays were taken and there was no break in the leg.  The next step was off to see an orthopedic specialist.  Of course, on the drive there, Hershey gave so many kisses over the seat that she got her new nickname – Miss Hershey Kiss.  She was not enjoying everyone wanting to examine her leg, but she was reveling in the first opportunity in her life to be getting so much attention. 

No one can say for sure exactly what happened to her leg.  The two bones in her lower leg grew at different rates.  Perhaps a trauma to the leg caused one bone to stop growing, or it could be genetic.  One bone is 2 centimeters longer than the other.  This caused her to throw her paw out at the angle you can see in the pictures in order to be able to walk.  The orthopedic specialist gave us two options.  One was amputation; the other is surgery to rebuild her elbow joint, which has been damaged by her walking on the leg, the bones now slide past each other in the joint, and then to spread the shorter bone to the length needed, straighten the foot.  Doing nothing was not an option.

ATRA wants this very young, very sweet girl to have a chance at a full life, so the decision was made to go ahead with the surgery.  For 12 weeks after surgery she will be in an external fixatur, which will have rods running through her leg bones to the outside forming a cage.  She must stay quiet during this time and let the bone knit back together.  Twice a day the entire leg will need to be washed to keep infection out of the fixatur openings in the skin.  An ATRA Angel who is a vet tech has volunteered to foster her through her tough recovery. 

Hershey is really not sure what is going on.  All these nice people who are paying attention to her, regular meals, and best of all living indoors.  We will all have to be brave on April 29th, as we hand this dear girl over for the huge surgery to be done.  She has stolen everyone’s heart who has met her with her gentle ways and wanting to nuzzle her nose into your neck. 

So now I am calling all the Aire Angels again.  We need donations to pay for this surgery that will change Hershey’s life.  We need all the good Zen you can muster to send her as her pain will be great while healing.  12 weeks from now, we will need a wonderful home for a great girl with a new lease on life.  Are you out there Aire Angels?  I need your help, come through for me again – come through for Hershey.


UPDATE 4-29-08

Hershey came through surgery today like a trooper.  She was picked up from the vet and taken to her foster mom, see the 4th photo.  The wrap around her neck is transdermal pain patch to give her morphine through the skin.  The wrap  on her leg is over the top of the metal fixatur.


UPDATE 5-5-08

Hershey went to the vet to have her bandages removed this morning.  She has been a very good girl not chewing on her dressings.  As you can see in photo #5 after the bandage came off, this was a HUGE surgery.  Everything is progressing well, and to our amazement - her foot now faces forward!!!!  As painful as the picture looks, we can now see just what this surgery is going to mean to Hershey in the long run.  The leg will now stay unbandaged as you see in the picture. 
Hershey is bright-eyed and happy, eating well, and in constant search of a lap to lay in, someone to snuggle up to, or a face that needs kisses.  Her spirit is amazing.  Staying quiet, with no running or jumping seems to be the biggest challenge in her mind right now.  Her foster mom is doing a great job of caring for her and will now be washing the leg every day and watching for any signs of infection.  In seven weeks we will go back for x-rays and to decide how long the rods need to stay in, depending on how fast the bone is healing. 
Thanks to all of you for your concern over this amazing girl.  How any creature could be as loving, gentle and happy as she is after all of this is just astounding.


UPDATE 6-29-08

Hello All,
I wanted to pass along a new picture of Hershey to all of you who have been her big supporters and fans.  We are at the halfway point in her healing process.  She is such a doll.


UPDATE 8-11-08

Here she is, with a wonderfully straight front leg.  She is groggy in these shots.  She was in a lot of pain when we got her back to Laura, so Laura gave her something for pain and crated her for some rest.  It was a big day.  I know Elaine and I are exhausted!



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