Pico Gets a Reprieve

Pico de Aneto, a 12 week old Great Pyrenees puppy, was abandoned at an Iowa veterinary clinic by its owner. The puppy suffered from an undetermined orthopedic problem that the owner didn’t want to spend the money to fix. Animals are occasionally abandoned at veterinary hospitals, however, due to the big hearts of the veterinary technician students at Kirkwood Community College in Ames, Iowa, and their instructor Anne Duffy, CVT, this puppy received a new lease on life.

When Pico arrived at Kirkwood, he was a thin but an otherwise healthy pup except that he wasn’t using his left hind leg. An exam revealed that he not only wouldn’t use the limb, but couldn’t extend it fully. Radiographs were not conclusive, but staff veterinarians suspected that there were pelvic fractures, and the femoral head looked suspicious. They felt the surgery required to definitively diagnose and treat the puppy was beyond their capabilities and the program’s equipment. Sadly, the only hope for the puppy was to take him to Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine (ISU CVM) for a consult with orthopedic specialists. The program budget could not possibly accommodate the expense . . . however, Anne was not to be deterred. She told them, “Call and get an appointment for this afternoon, I’ll take him.”

Knowing that she could be in for thousands of dollars in surgery and hospitalization to save the abandoned dog, Anne and several students set out on the 100 mile road trip with the puppy to see the specialists. After a thorough exam, more radiographs, and consultation, it was determined that Pico would probably need surgery to remove the head of his femur, but no one could be sure until they had a look at the damage in the operating room. Anne committed to the procedure, knowing that the financial implications could be huge.

When Anne had completed the paperwork and handed Pico to the senior veterinary student, who would take care of him, the receptionist gave her some good news. The veterinarian who had given the puppy to the veterinary technician program had offered to assist Anne with some of his surgery expenses! Anne and her students headed back home, leaving Pico in capable hands. They checked anxiously about the puppy’s progress before, during, and after the surgery. Progress reports were positive and hope increased that Pico might lead a normal life. But looming in the back of her mind, was Anne’s financial commitment to the surgery.

However, concerns were short lived when senior veterinary technician students stepped in with a plan. To help defer the costs, they sold over $1500 worth of gourmet dog biscuits. But that was just the beginning of the students’ involvement. Both the first and second year students met with the physical therapy technician at the veterinary school to learn about Pico’s therapy needs. They organized teams which saw to it that the pup had his physical therapy three times a day and followed the directions to the letter. Students did hydrotherapy with Pico in a stock tank purchased just for that purpose. They even managed to talk the college dean into letting them put the “therapy pool” in a heated garage, and use nearly all of the building’s hot water supply to fill the pool on a daily basis. They purchased him an orthopedic bed, brought him to class, walked him, spoiled him, and loved him. When they asked if we could keep Pico as our program’s mascot, the answer was Yes! We had all bonded with Pico.

Pico’s recovery has been amazing. He runs, jumps, and plays with his best friend Zoe, Anne’s young Border Collie. He lives at the program facility during the week and with Anne on the weekends, school holidays, and breaks. This one, broken puppy has given 75 students, faculty, and staff a lesson in giving, in caring, and in teamwork that could never be learned in a traditional educational setting!



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