By Savannah Verdon, RedRover Development and Engagement Coordinator
When you’re young and still learning to navigate the complexities of adult life, having a four-legged companion by your side is a priceless gift, providing comfort and reassurance at the end of difficult days. Devon, a first-year graduate student, had the added obstacle of living with an anxiety and panic disorder. Her German Shepherd puppy Sage was so much more than a pet – as a psychiatric assistance dog, Sage ensured that Devon could thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
Sage’s special bond with Devon began when Sage was just one month old. Devon fostered Sage and all of her littermates as puppies, and when the rest of the pups returned to the rescue to be placed with their forever families, Devon held onto Sage, intending to train her as a psychiatric assistance dog. When Devon packed up her car and drove cross-country for graduate school, Sage was her faithful copilot for the long days and nights on the road.
As Sage grew, Devon noticed that Sage seemed reluctant to get up and play or go for walks. Every step seemed to cause her pain and the otherwise happy-go-lucky young pup soon preferred staying in to going out and having fun with Devon. Concerned, Devon took Sage to the veterinarian, hoping to find an explanation for the sudden change in her sweet girl.
After several x-rays and a CT scan, the veterinarian informed Devon that Sage had bilateral elbow dysplasia with fragmented medial coronoid processes, a developmental defect common in large breed dogs like German Shepherds. Sage was still young and would have a good prognosis with surgery, but without intervention, she would develop severe arthritis and live in chronic pain. At 10 months old, she was approaching the point where her growth points were almost fully formed. She needed to have arthroscopic (joint) surgery as soon as possible.
The quote for the initial surgery was in the thousands – much more than Devon could possibly afford as a student working less than part-time. Her primary source of income was her student loans, and what she earned as an hourly contractor went to Sage’s routine care and other expenses. Devon couldn’t bear the thought of her beloved Sage living in constant pain and missing out on the joy of an active life, and she feared that Sage would no longer be able to act as her psychiatric assistance dog, potentially derailing Devon’s success in school and life.
Armed with joint supplements and pain medication to keep Sage comfortable, Devon focused all of her energy into raising the money she needed for Sage’s surgery. She had already spent well over $1,000 on Sage’s diagnosis, and she would be able to pay nearly as much for the surgery… but that still left her short of the full amount with her savings depleted. After applying for loans to help pay for the surgery, she began to apply for assistance from every organization she could find for which she and Sage qualified, including the RedRover Relief Urgent Care grant program.
While Urgent Care grants are typically intended to cover a small gap in funding that is preventing an animal from receiving emergency veterinary care, Devon had been diligent about raising the majority of the money for Sage’s expensive surgery. Her devotion to Sage was clear – from rescuing and raising her litter to investing time and love into her training, Devon and Sage were family. Knowing that this grant would ensure Sage had her surgery before she was fully grown, and that she would be able to avoid a lifetime of pain, we approved Devon’s application for a RedRover Relief Urgent Care grant.
After a successful surgery, Sage returned home with Devon to begin the long recovery process, which would require her puppy exuberance somehow be kept in check. Nevertheless, Devon was overwhelmed with gratitude for the happy and pain-free life ahead for her sweet girl, and for the many more years their special bond will have to flourish. A little over a month into Sage’s recovery, Devon shared this update with RedRover:
“Sage is doing well so far! The surgery itself went as smoothly as possible and the surgeon was very optimistic. She is still recovering and has just started taking short walks around the neighborhood, although she is definitely eager to be doing more already. Thank you and all of your donors for making this surgery possible for Sage!”
This holiday season, we are so grateful for the compassion of our FurEver Friends who help RedRover bring hundreds of animals like Sage from crisis to care! Thank you for the Happy Tails that you make possible!