As we work in veterinary medicine we get to ease pain, be a chance for hope, and share the lives (no matter how long or short) of wonderful pets and their families. But equally important, we get to witness the amazing love and compassion of people. This is a story of a puppy and a community who did not give up during the worst of times. Her courage has touched many hearts during her road to recovery.
In late October, the Asheville Fire Department received a call about a house fire. The family was able to get out with only minor injuries but their very young puppy Hex was still inside. She was found in the “only remaining survivable part of the house” in a pile of clothes. It was truly a miracle that she survived the fire. She was unresponsive for the first 40 minutes. The fire fighters administered oxygen and rushed her to the Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital (REACH). On arrival at REACH, Hex was in critical condition and had a very poor prognosis. She was responsive but suffering from smoke inhalation, severe pulmonary changes, and large thermal burns covering over 75% of her body. No one knew if she was going to make it through the night.
The doctors and staff at REACH worked through the night providing care and monitoring her. The family, overwhelmed by the fire, relinquished Hex to the Asheville Humane Society who could provide the care she needed. REACH and AHS did not give up on Hex and Hex definitely did not give up on life. During her time at REACH, Hex was treated for severe pulmonary damage due to smoke inhalation, and swelling of her face and torso. Surgery was performed to remove burned areas of skin and suture areas back together.
On Halloween, she was stable and able to be transferred to the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, where her care was taken over primarily by Dr. Paul Duncan. Her prognosis was still extremely guarded as she had approximately 75% of her skin missing. Even though Hex was showing signs of slow improvement, it was too soon to know if she would survive. Hex was maintained on intravenous pain medications, antibiotics and fluids twenty-four hours a day. She was anesthetized for bandage changes and wound treatments each day. Through it all, Hex showed her resilient spirit and sweet, sweet nature. Slowly the IV medications were able to be switched to oral medications then eventually tapered off. K-laser therapy was regularly administered to speed healing of her wounds. Bandage changes slowly decreased from daily to every other day to every couple of days to weekly as her burns healed and the tissues started to grow together. Gradually over 4 months, her bandages, which had covered over 75% of her body, disappeared. Her wounds have now almost completely healed leaving her with extensive scarring, but she is functional, comfortable and happy with only increased sensitivity in a few areas. Her ear canal and the severely damaged pinna of her right ear were able to be saved, and although it is badly disfigured, now her ear pinna has even started to show movement.
This was a lot for anyone to survive, especially a puppy who was only about two months old when she was burned. Anyone who has met her has seen her zest for life. The staff at REACH still talk about how even in the worst of it, she would try to wag her tail and give kisses. The staff at Animal Hospital of North Asheville treasured their months of kisses and snuggling with this sweet girl. Even when she had to be sedated to change her bandages she always woke up with a wagging tail and a puppy kiss.
Everyone at the Animal Hospital of North Asheville has been touched by Hex. To see a very critically ill puppy fighting for her life as the doctors and staff worked day after day to heal her wounds, change her bandages, hand feed her and do everything possible to minimize pain and keep her happy, has been amazing. Sweet little Hex grew up here at Animal Hospital of North Asheville where AHNA staff not only treated her wounds but tried to work with her limitations to help her be ready for life once she recovered. Realizing that Hex’s hospitalization was occurring during the very important period of a puppy’s life for forming bonds and social skills, great effort was taken to introduce her to new people, places, dogs, cats and other animals. As she healed, she was able to spend time in a home environment with staff, which helped to build her confidence and allow some fun. She will wiggle her whole body right into the lap of an old or new friend, and loves all the staff at AHNA, never neglecting to greet even one person.
Thanks to the Asheville Humane Society who provided funding, the Rudy to the Rescue Fund, and the donation by Animal Hospital of North Asheville of the cost for all care provided since Halloween, Hex got a second chance at life and was healthy and happy at a very special reunion that took place in the Education Room at Animal Hospital of North Asheville on January 11th. Animal Hospital of North Asheville and the Asheville Humane Society arranged a special reunion of Hex and her heroes from the Asheville Fire Department, including firefighter Zac Bass, who carried her out of the fire. As the WLOS camera rolled, Hex bounded into the room to happily greet the firefighters who saved her life, her heroes from REACH including Dr. Jeff Johansson, who led the initial care and surgical treatment of her wounds, the Executive Director of Asheville Humane Society, Tracy Elliott, and the staff of Asheville Humane Society who were there for her every step of the way, and her huge family of caregivers from Animal Hospital of North Asheville. It was a heartwarming sight as the firefighters saw her for the first time since that night so long ago.
Hex has a large extended family who will always love her, and she is now “set for life” as she is being adopted by a wonderful family. They will supply her with every advantage a dog could want in life, including two wonderful, kind older dogs whose company she greatly enjoys.
Click Here to watch a video of Hex and witness for yourself her amazing spirit and the lovely bond she has with all the people who helped her.