Sully's Safe Landing

By Terry Kratchman

Most of us recently enjoyed one of the happier times of the year with family, friends, celebrations, gift giving & receiving, roaring fires in cozy homes, eating too much and feeling a special glow of love & kindness. We dressed our pets in silly outfits, took their pictures and gave them special treats because we love them so. We rang in the year with cheer, hopes of good health & fortune.

Little did we know that during this time there was a young Airedale lad huddling, alone & wounded, in frigid temperatures, struggling to stay alive. Little did he know that this new year would bring him a sparkling future where he'll never be alone again.

This black & tan dog was first seen around Thanksgiving hanging around a rural family home. It was quite obvious that he had something very wrong with his hind leg. For weeks he came & went until he made another appearance on New Year's Eve with blood all over his face. Concerned, the family called their local sheriff for help. Without hesitation the friendly sheriff offered his his best advice, saying, "Shoot him". The family couldn't do that and mercifully made arrangements to get him to the nearest shelter, some 35 miles away.

I was immediately notified by the shelter adoption coordinator that that there was a male Airedale in with a badly damaged, left rear leg as well as fresh wounds on his face. He couldn't be released to me until the mandatory hold period of seven days, but they did send pictures and keep me informed of his temperament & physical condition. 

The face wounds were obviously from a severe bite; they were cleaned and treated with antibiotics. Who knows what he got in a tussle with, maybe even a raccoon who took exception to sharing a dumpster meal. They weren't certain about the leg, but guessed he'd been hit by a car and was just left to "heal on his own." He is described as inordinately sweet & friendly. He is estimated to be two years old and had been neutered. 

After the tortuous seven-day wait, he became ours!It was decided that he needed a good, strong, noble name, so he became known as Sully after Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in January 2009. He, like his namesake, defied the odds of survival.

The shelter agreed to take him to a nearby vet clinic for an exam & x-rays of his hind end. Radiographs proved that this young guy had, indeed, likely been hit by a car no less than six months ago. By now, everything has improperly healed, leaving his leg stiff as a board, toes on the ground. There were multiple breaks in his pelvis, the head of his femur is obliterated, there is a a break in the femur, and his knee is twisted & fused. One more thing showed on the x-rays, telling the horrific story of Sully's other life: pellets from being shot.

After a very short stay at that vet, Sully was brought to an orthopedic surgeon. It was determined that the leg is now simply a lifeless appendage. It is causing him to abnormally adjust his gait, thereby a potential threat to his hips & good leg. There could also the distinct danger of him further damaging the "bad" leg during play or taking a misstep. The leg is severely atrophied from the months of non-use; the only option now is for it to be removed. (Note the stiff left leg in the picture, which will have to be amputated)

Is he in pain? It's uncertain but likely, as he does have some feeling in it. He does not feel sorry for himself, stoically dealing with what is, instead of what used to be, or what could have been. He is, above all, a fighter with a tremendous will to live.

Fortunately, Sully has been legally adopted by ATRA (AIREDALE TERRIER RESCUE AND ADOPTION). The family that allowed him to run at will, get hit by a car, didn't treat his injuries, fed him while he suffered unthinkable pain, watched as his hind quarter grew almost skeletal, let his coat get so matted he could hardly defecate, and allowed him to live with two different parasites, has no legal claim and will never see him again.

Sully is about ready to start the next step in his journey by going to a foster home. He seems to lack in the social graces when meeting dogs, favoring humping when a simple butt sniff or two would be more appropriate. He has met the same female twice and didn't seem to have any problems. It's not positive, but males don't seem to be his cup of tea and this isn't the time to do a lot of testing.

While it isn't imperative that he have the surgery immediately, the specialist feels it's better done sooner rather than later. Keep your fingers crossed that he does okay with a foster sister. He's been groomed now and the transformation is already amazing.

One thing we know for sure is that Sully is going to have some very expensive care in his future and going to need a lot of love to get past this and learn what it means to finally be on the inside, not painfully on the outside looking in. Updates will be coming as this brave boy journeys down the path to a better life.

Click here for UPDATE