She lost a limb – and gained her life.
For that, Suzy Anna, a loveable, spirited three-legged Labrador mix, has two guardian angels to thank – a local animal lover with a heart of gold and Volusia County Animal Services, which performed Suzy’s life-saving amputation free of charge.
It was the evening of Aug. 12 when Suzy Anna’s DeLand family found their 44-pound pooch underneath their car, unwilling to come out for her nightly feeding. The next day, when they got a look at Suzy Anna in the daylight, the family discovered the problem – a severely injured hind leg. Although no one knows for sure, the assumption is that Suzy Anna had been hit by a car.
That’s when Good Samaritan Charlotte Walling entered the picture. Walling, a fixture at Animal Services who frequently brings them animals in need of care, had helped Suzy Anna’s family before. Not sure what to do or how to pay for it, the family once again asked Walling for help. And she knew just who to call – Animal Services.
Walling brought the dog to a local vet first for x-rays and then took Suzy Anna and the scans to Animal Services. The x-rays confirmed the worst – a totally severed left rear leg bone. A surgical repair would have been hugely expensive and iffy at best.
Officials at Animal Services concluded that amputation would be the best course of action. And as it turned out, it gave Suzy Anna a new lease on life.
The surgery was outside of the customary services rendered at the county’s animal clinic. In fact, it was performed outside of their normal business hours. They just wanted to give Suzy Anna her old life back.
Understanding the family’s financial situation, Animal Services decided to do the surgery for free.
Last week, a month after the 90-minute surgery and with the dog fully recovered, the owners were reunited with their beloved family pet. Suzy Anna had been recuperating with Walling since the surgery. But last week, it was time for Suzy’s family to take her home.
The emotional reunion and hand-off took place at Animal Services’ headquarters in Daytona Beach, where there were hugs and slobbery wet kisses from Suzy Anna for all. Suzy was playful as ever, not skipping a beat despite the loss of a limb.
“She’s a happy dog again,” said Michelle Barrera, who came with her mother to pick up Suzy Anna. “She’s not hurting anymore.”
Watching Suzy Anna return to her family was equally emotional – and rewarding – for the staff at Animal Services.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Laura Stiwinter, the clinic supervisor at Volusia County Animal Services. “It’s great to have them all go back to where they need to be. A dog needs to be in its home. That’s where they belong. So we do everything we can at Volusia County to make sure that all the animals get back to their homes.”
Volusia County’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Joni Goldstein, said she was only too happy to volunteer her time to help Suzy Anna recover.
“It just makes me very proud to work for an organization that gives us the opportunity to help an animal in need like this,” said Dr. Goldstein. “It was a lot of people with a lot of big hearts coming together for a dog that’s really deserving.”
Virtually everyone involved in the saga of Suzy Anna says Walling is the true hero of the story. But she shrugged off any credit, simply saying that she was happy for Suzy, happy for her family and incredibly grateful that Animal Services was there to help.
“If it wasn’t for you all, she’d be in doggie heaven right now,” said Walling. “It takes everybody involved. That’s why she’s still here.”
– Volusia County Community Information Manager Gary Davidson
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