Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dealing with the Unexpected, Optimistically

Carolina Canines for Veterans is a unique program providing an opportunity for prisoners at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to learn news skills while giving back to their wounded comrades by train service dogs for our wounded warriors.

While this is a program about people helping people, the link between the two is a dog. These dogs learn over 70 skills to assist a person with a mobility disability, making the person’s life easier.

Where do the dogs come from for the Carolina Canines for Veterans program? The dogs come to us from rescues and shelters. They are anywhere from 9 months to 2 years old. The dogs are selected by first determining if they are heartworm negative, then doing a 20 point temperament assessment to determine if they have the interest, desire and drive to be a working dog. If this assessment is successful, then the dogs are sent to a veterinarian for hip evaluation by radiograph, updated on vaccinations and if the hips are good, spayed/neutered if necessary. Then, placed in the program and named. These dogs are given a second chance to help someone in need instead who being euthanized.

What happens if the dogs get sick? Recently, a newly found service dog in training named Miriam, an 11 month old yellow labrador, became severely ill within 5 days of entering the service dog program. Miriam had intestinal distress that progressively worsened. On Thanksgiving evening she ended up in the emergency veterinary clinic in Wilmington. Taking aggressive therapeutic steps to help manage Miriam through an unknown crisis, she survived the night to be transferred back to our program veterinarian, Dr. Pandolfi. Dr. P. continued the aggressive therapeutic treatment and again on Friday night, Miriam was transferred back to the emergency clinic. Hanging on for another night and back to Dr. Pandolfi Saturday morning, there now seems to be slow and cautious improvement. Miriam will spend yet another overnight at the emergency clinic for therapeutic support in the hopes that she will continue to improve.

The veterinary care is nearing well over the $1,200 mark with at least another 36 hours in the emergency clinic. All of these costs are the responsibility of Carolina Canines for Service. Many may ask why we are going to such efforts and such expense when the financial times are so challenging. For one thing, she was given into our charge and our care, therefore, if sick, it is up to us to provide for the best possible outcome for Miriam. And, she is a living, breathing creature of God. So, we wait, cautiously optimistic for a glorious outcome for Miriam.

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