Phoenix Rising

first_img Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Email WHITEFISH – When she’s lying on the grass in the April sunshine, it’s hard to imagine this sweet Rottweiler missing most of the skin on the right side of her body, bleeding and broken, a pathetic lump on the side of the road in Evergreen that, had no one noticed, would have ended her short existence in pain and fear and loneliness.But that’s not how Phoenix’s story ended. Instead, hers is a story of hope and love, of interspecies empathy and respect, of human hands healing not hurting, and of course, dogged determination.Last week, Phoenix lazed about in the grass outside of the Whitefish Animal Hospital, doing her darnedest to entice visitors to scratch her belly. She’s been to the hospital every day since last August, when she transferred up from the Flathead County Animal Shelter after the veterinarians there had done all they could for her.While no one is entirely sure what happened to this dog, the theory is this: while riding the back of a truck or car, she either fell or jumped while still connected by a collar around her neck. She was dragged and left for dead, and would have been, were it not for the kindness of a human stranger who found her and took action.When she got to FCAS, the prognosis wasn’t good. Phoenix – the name given to her by the medical staff of The Animal Clinic in Kalispell – was missing about 50 percent of the skin on her right side, from her hip to her shoulder, and had broken bones in her front paws. Her ear was torn, and the vet wasn’t sure she would keep one of her back legs.But, according to Whitefish Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Jim Thompson, it was Phoenix’s gentle spirit that kept the medical team – led by Dr. Meg Gordon of the Kalispell clinic – working.“Her little nubbin-tail would still wag even though she was in extreme pain,” Thompson said. “So they decided that they were going to try for it.”Since the animal hospital had more technology, Phoenix went north to Whitefish, where she underwent at least 10 surgeries. It was painful for her – skin grafts, skin dying off, infections, skin-expansion surgeries – but she never snapped or growled.“I’ve been practicing for 29 years and I’ve never seen a dog with that bad of skin lesions and the dog was still so nice,” Thompson said.Healing animals is second nature for Thompson, so it wasn’t a question about whether Phoenix should be given a fighting chance. In these situations, it usually comes down to money, he said, and though Phoenix was essentially an orphan, the hospital’s Mooch Fund – a nonprofit fund to help pay for procedures on homeless strays – made it possible.Phoenix also presented an opportunity for veterinarians to learn more about wound treatment. Thompson got in touch with Kinetic Concepts, Inc., an advanced wound-care solutions company, and received a donated negative-pressure vest in exchange for information on how the vest worked in a canine case study.Since laser and water treatments weren’t helping the massive wounds regrow skin, Thompson tried the negative-pressure treatment, which acts as a vacuum to draw out dead tissue and bacteria and pull in healthy cells.Phoenix wore the vest for two months, and now, most of her tissue is growing back and she is no longer on pain medication. She’s still on an antibiotic regimen, but that will likely taper soon as well.These days, Phoenix lives with animal hospital manager Margaret Evans, who watched over her for a weekend while Thompson was out of town and never gave her back.“She’s so sweet,” Evans said, adding that Phoenix gets along well with her other Labs.Thompson estimated that the hospital had performed about $10,000 worth of procedures on Phoenix, through the help of the Mooch Fund – named after a cat – and donated services.“It was a labor of love,” he said. “We really fell in love with her.”Phoenix also helped the animal hospital learn about new techniques for wound care, providing helpful and rare information for other patients.And with such a dazzling personality, she’s become a celebrity of sorts. Other animal hospital clients love giving her a scratch and ask after her, Evans said. She’s also set to become the poster dog for the upcoming Whitefish Animal Hospital WAG Race, held at the Hugh Rogers WAG Park for human and canine runners.Thompson and Evans hope to have an autograph session with Phoenix, so local families can meet this determined, gentle wonder during the May 17 event.At times it was frustrating and tough to have to perform so much work on a dog, because she was in pain and some procedures didn’t take, Thompson said. But given the choice, the staff would make the same decisions for her.“It was worth it,” Thompson said. “She gave back to us, too.”Update: This article has been edited to reflect the efforts the medical personnel at The Animal Clinic of Kalispell made to save Phoenix’s life.last_img read more