Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Injured hound's back on track in Grindstone

By Barbara Hollenbaugh
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Ron and Pat Russin of Grindstone were proud of their 3-month-old bloodhound puppy, Hector. He promised to be a fine natural tracker.

But on the evening of Jan. 19, 2006, Hector was left for dead in a hit-and-run accident. The dog's recovery would spawn a union between human and veterinary medical technology.

"I was taking some groceries from my car into the house," Ron Russin said. "I let Hector out into the yard. He went down over the hill to the road. He didn't come back, so I went looking for him. That's when I found him in the road.

"I moved him to the bank alongside the road. I got a wheelbarrow and took him to the house, then hollered for my wife."
Pat Russin immediately began to phone every veterinarian in the area, trying to find one whose office was still open.

Finally, at nearly 10 p.m., the Russins got through to Donald Tummons in Uniontown. The Russins said they were prepared to have Hector euthanized, if necessary.

Tummons' immediate concern was for Hector's front legs, which had taken the brunt of the impact. Upon examining Hector, he concluded the dog had only partial paralysis in his legs; there was hope that Hector would regain nerve function.

"Hector had been rolled during the accident," Tummons said. "That caused him to hyperextend his front legs, which caused bilateral paralysis in his front legs."

Although Hector sustained no other serious injuries, Tummons still was concerned for his long-term quality of life.

"Dogs can do well on three legs; they don't function so well on just two legs," he said.
The Russins visited Hector every day during his nearly weeklong stay in the animal hospital.
"We helped change his bandages," Pat Russin said. "We also gave him physical therapy; we massaged his legs and stretched them to keep them supple."

Many people throughout the community heard of Hector's accident, and they raised funds to pay for his care. Hector made weekly visits to Tummon's office for several months after the accident.

In the meantime, the Russins tried to track down the vehicle that had struck their dog. Pat Russin wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, hoping that somebody would come forward with information about the accident.

"All I got in reply was an anonymous letter, sent directly to my home," she said. "I think it was a guilt trip from the person who did it."

Ron Russin queried his neighbors, hoping that somebody could give an eyewitness account of the incident.

"Nobody seen nothing. Nobody heard nothing," he said.

Once Hector had been stabilized, Tummons and the Russins focused on helping the dog regain his mobility. At first, Tummons used a creeper, which mechanics use when they work underneath vehicles, to help Hector move around.

A local resident fixed a baby carriage to give Hector some more mobility.

In August 2006, Tummons suggested giving Hector's legs support while still allowing him to move. He contacted Anatomical Designs in Uniontown, and prosthetics designer Brad Scott agreed to take on the assignment.

"Hector's problem was that his paralysis caused his paws to curl under, so that he was walking on his ankles," Scott said. "He was developing sores. He had many of the same problems that humans have when their legs are paralyzed."

After much trial and error and many fitting sessions, Scott developed a set of orthotics that would work for his canine patient. To make the orthotics, Scott made a cast of Hector's legs, then used the casts to make solid molds of plaster. Afterward, he took the mold and added more plaster to ease the pressure onspecific areas of Hector's legs.

Finally, Scott poured molten plastic over the casts, then finished them by adding some padding and straps.

He said making the orthotics was a learning experience.

"I had never made orthotics for a dog before," Scott said. "I had to learn my animal physiology."
The orthotics helped to stabilize Hector's legs and will prevent him from getting sores.

"If he had continued like he was, his sores would have become infected and his legs would have had to be amputated," Scott said. "I wanted Hector to run and play and just be a dog."

Today, Hector is a happy, 2-year-old bloodhound. He has adjusted well to his orthotics, which relieved the pressure on his legs and allowed his sores to heal. These days, he hardly needs them.

"Hector loves to play ball. I can't keep up with him," Ron Russin said.

The dog has regained motion in his right leg, but his left paw remains paralyzed. Hector also has some slight unevenness in his legs.

Still, Tummons is pleased with Hector's recovery. "He has adapted amazingly well," he said.
Scott recently had another canine client, from north of Pittsburgh.

"The ligaments in this dog's rear left leg had snapped, so effectively that leg had been detached from the body," he said. "My vet referred me to the family, because she knew that I had designed orthotics for Hector.

"Because I'd worked with Hector, I was able to design a brace that would give this dog's leg the support that it needed while it healed."

Scott said the dog is doing well.

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