The History of Heath’s Haven
Heath’s Haven was started in October 2010 when Phoenix the Husky mix was adopted from a rescue in Kansas. At 6 weeks old she was abandoned in a box, in a pet store parking lot, on a 105 degree day. She was unconscious, severely dehydrated, and couldn’t use her hind end. New Beginnings Dog Rescue took her in and had her treated for dehydration.
When the rescue noticed she couldn’t use her hind end, they had her evaluated in the neurology department at The University of Missouri. An MRI, spinal tap, blood work, urinalysis, and xrays were all performed, but they could not diagnose why she had the weakness in her hind end. The rescue decided to put her up for adoption and she was placed in a foster home.
We found Phoenix on Petfinder.com and contacted the foster family she was staying with. After much discussion, we decided we would like to adopt Phoenix.
We ordered her a wheelchair right away so she would have it when we got her home, and the foster family was willing to meet us halfway in Cheyenne, WY.
When we got her home not only did she have hind end weakness, but she was food, toy, and water aggressive. We had three other dogs at the time so we had to work with her on these issues. She caught on to using the wheelchair very quickly, and right away she was running around at the dog park and chasing other dogs. In February 2011 we had her evaluated at Washington State University Teaching Hospital, but they were also unsure of her condition and what was causing it.
The doctors were not very confident she would live a very long life, even though she was not in any pain. She was very happy dog that functioned very well on her own. Housetraining was a nightmare, but after about 9 months she finally got it!!
In April 2011 we decided to start her on acupuncture treatments and hydrotherapy to see if we could get any improvement. At first, she hated the acupuncture but slowly learned to lay still while the needles were placed. The acupuncture provided stimulation in the nerves from her brain to her feet. She did well with the hydrotherapy and this provided strength training for her legs and helped build muscle. She was also on multiple supplements like vitamins, chinese herbs, etc.
As Phoenix gets older her condition progressively gets worse and now her front legs are affected. She can still function on her own, but is not able to stand and walk as well as she used to. She is now four years old and still as happy as ever! The doctors gave her a guarded to poor prognosis and did not believe she would live beyond her first year of life. She has proven them all wrong!
We were able to provide Phoenix with such a great quality of life, when normally a dog like her would have been euthanized, so we decided to entertain the idea of rescuing more special needs dogs. We had the time and the resources available so we slowly started rescuing more dogs. Jolene is employed at a local animal hospital so we were able to take on special medical cases a well. When owners could not afford surgery for their pets, and were going to euthanize them, we would have them sign the dog over to us. Then we would pay for the surgery, rehabilitate the dog, then find the dog a new home. We have been able to save a lot of dogs this way and we still continue with these efforts.
Our first surgical case was in October 2011 for Callie, a 5 month old Staffordshire Terrier. Her owners accidently dropped her and her elbow broke. They could not afford the surgery to fix it and were going to have her euthanized. We had them sign her over to us, and we agreed to cover the cost of her surgery. After surgery she was placed in a foster home for recovery because she needed strict, confined rest for 6-8 weeks until her bones healed. After she was spayed she was put up for adoption, and she went to a wonderful family with three kids! She is doing great and has had no problems with her elbow!
In 2011, we started doing transports for local shelters and rescues. Our first transport was 28 cats to Bellevue, WA! At least once a month we started volunteering our time to save more animals by transporting them to other rescues. We continue to help the same local rescues whenever we can.
The more we were doing for the animals in the community, the more we wanted to have our own rescue. By May 2012 we were rescuing strictly special needs dogs.
In May 2012 we rescued Selah the blind Newfoundland.
She was born blind, and she was going to be euthanized by the breeder. She was saved by a family that had a toddler, but they could not handle her rambunctious ways! We decided to take her in. She was a year old and had congenital birth defects in her eyes that caused her blindness. She immediately needed surgery to have her eyes removed because she had glaucoma with very high pressures in both eyes causing a lot of pain. She had a long, rough recovery and was hospitalized for four nights. She is now 2 years old and a sanctuary resident. She is a great help with socializing the new dogs that come into the rescue.
Most people who meet her don’t even realize she has no eyes! She has a great big goofy personality and has no idea she is special needs!
In March 2013 we rescued a 5-6 year old Pug named Bella from an owner that was going to have her euthanized due to hind end paralysis.
She came to us grossly overweight, she couldn’t breathe very well, had severe dental disease, hind end weakness, incontinence, and lice. We put her on a diet, had 22 rotten teeth extracted, soft palate surgery was done so she could breathe better, and she was treated for her lice. She is currently getting acupuncture treatments for her hind end weakness and does very well getting around on her own. She does occasionally get sores on top of her hind feet, from dragging them, so she has her own pair of pink boots to wear on her bad days! She is still incontinent, but she wears diapers when she is indoors, and we express her bladder three times a day to prevent urinary tract infections.
In May 2013 we rescued Zoom, a 4 month old boxer mix, from a shelter in Texas.
She was found as a stray. She was not able to use her hind end at all and was incontinent. She was only 4 months old but set to be euthanized. She was a very happy puppy, so a local resident took her in as a foster until a rescue could take her. We contacted the shelter and worked with a local rescue group to figure out transportation. She was flown from Austin, TX to Colorado Springs, CO where we picked her up from the airport and drove her back to Spokane, WA. Right away we purchased a pretty pink wheelchair for her and started acupuncture. We also had her evaluated at the Neurology department at Washington State University. She was found to have a spinal injury, most common with being thrown against a wall, and was put on strict cage rest for 3-4 weeks. Within 6 months, Zoom was able to stand, walk and run short distances! She continues to do well and is an ambassador for the rescue. She attends all fundraising events and has even gone to classrooms with us to help teach children about special needs dogs. She is a total social butterfly that loves children and any kind of attention!
In July 2013 we rescued Goose, a 5 year old Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix.
He had an embolism in his spine in April 2013. He was paralyzed in his hind end and incontinent. Prior to the embolism he was a completely normal dog that, hiked, went cross-country skiing, and traveled with his owner. After his embolism, his owner was no longer able to give him the care he needed, due to his work schedule. Goose is a very fixated, high energy working breed, who suddenly became sedentary due to the accident. His owner purchased a wheelchair for him, but traveled a lot for work and Goose could no longer go with him because of his incontinence. We drove to Seattle, and after a very tearful goodbye with his owner, Goose was on his way to Heath’s Haven. Goose was immediately started on physical therapy exercises, but still cannot use his hind end.
He can occasionally wag his tail and put weight on his legs, and we continue physical therapy with him to prevent any leg or joint problems. When he is in his wheelchair, his favorite thing to do is play fetch and “herd” the other dogs! Goose attends all of our fundraising events and loves to be around people.
In September 2013 we rescued Annie, a 10 month old chihuahua, that was hit by a car and not treated for her injuries for 2 months.
Her left hind leg was bandaged, her right hind leg was missing all of its toes, and she was incontinent. When we took her to the vet and had the bandage removed, her left leg was broken and out of socket. The tissue on her leg was rotting away. We had to have her leg amputated, and she now gets along great as a tripod! We take her to hydrotherapy sessions and also do it at home in the bathtub! She likes to chase the big dogs, sit on them, and take their bones!
In November 2013 we were contacted by a family with Penny the Boxer. She had hind end paralysis and they were no longer able to care for her.
She would spend her days on the couch, being spoon fed food and water, and was very sedentary. We made arrangements to pick her up and also found her a foster home. We noticed she was a very lumpy girl with no muscle tone left in her hind legs. We had her evaluated at WSU, and the doctors recommended we wait to do an MRI until we test some of her mammary tumors for cancer. They also recommended chest xrays to see if she had any masses in her chest. Her mammary tumors came back benign and her xrays showed no masses in her chest. She is now in the process of being tested for Degenerative Myelopathy and may still need an MRI to see if their is a lump putting pressure on her spine. We got her her very own wheelchair, and started acupuncture and hydrotherapy right away. Penny has a lot more energy these days and she moves her hind legs when she gets excited! She is up for adoption if her foster family doesn’t adopt her!
In December 2013 we rescued Misty, a 7 month old Siberian Husky from Canada.
She couldn’t use her hind end, and her owner ran out of options to care for her due to her own paralysis, and she was going to have Misty euthanized. We were able to arrange transport, through Air Angels, to fly her to Calgary. She was picked up in Calgary and driven across the border to Kalispell, MT where we picked her up. We started her on physical therapy right away and she was doing well. She started getting frequent pressure sores on her right hind leg and after treating them for 6 weeks with significant progress, she all of a sudden got an infection. Her leg had to be amputated. She does great with the 3 legs she has, and she is actually using her hind end more! She likes to sing when you bring her her meals, and she is an ambassador dog that attends all of our fundraising events!
In January 2014 we were contacted by a rescue in Burley, ID about Ausha, a pitbull that was hit by a car and had partial hind end paralysis.
We had her transported to our rescue and immediately started hydrotherapy and acupuncture with her. She is now hopping on her hind end and we are working with her to use her hind feet independently. She runs around the yard and wrestles with Selah the blind Newfoundland! She is currently up for adoption, and looking for a quiet home.
Also, in January 2014 we were contacted by a shelter in Jerome, ID about Abby, a 10 week old Aussie puppy with neurological symptoms.
She couldn’t walk very well and she had a hard time holding her head up. She was transported to our rescue, and we took her to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for MRI, Spinal Tap, blood work etc. Unfortunately, they could not diagnose her symptoms. She still has a hard time keeping her balance, but she is a very happy, thriving puppy! She found a loving family right away that adopted her, and they absolutely love her!
We also rescued Ivan in January 2014. He was a 7 week old German Shepherd Dog puppy that was going to be euthanized, by the breeder, for a condition called Congenital Mega Esophagus.
His esophagus is dilated so he must eat a soft/liquid diet 3-4 times per day in an upright position. He must remain in this position for 30 minutes after eating to prevent food from getting into his lungs. Right away we had interest from a family wanting to foster him. After fostering him for about 2 weeks, they decided they wanted to adopt him! He now has his own Bailey’s Chair to sit in while eating, and is starting obedience training. He is living a happy, healthy, normal life with his new family, regardless of his disability!
In February 2014 we were contacted again by the rescue in Burley, ID about Star, another pit bull that had a broken back and was possibly hit by a car.
She could not use her hind end, and it was a severe break. The shelter was having her treated, but had no where for her to go so they stopped treatment until they could find a rescue to take her. They would not release her to a rescue that did not have experience with this sort of injury so they contacted us. We were able to find her a foster home right away, and we had her transported to Heath’s Haven. She arrived in a body cast to wear for at least 4 weeks. She was evaluated at WSU for possible surgical options, but unfortunately, the break was already healing and had too much scar tissue to repair. Going in surgically, would have potentially caused more harm than good. She is still on strict rest while the break heals completely, and she already has her own wheelchair so she can be mobile! Once she is recovered and used to her wheelchair she will be put up for adoption!
We have also saved multiple animals from a variety of shelters in California. We arrange to have them pulled from the shelter, boarded until transportation is arranged, then transported to Heath’s Haven. Most dogs we have saved are saved literally at the last moment, on the their last day. Most are senior, unaltered, have been hit by cars, picked up as strays, and have special needs. When they get to Heath’s Haven we have them evaluated by a veterinarian, spay/neutered, vaccinated, and teeth cleaned. All special needs are addressed and they are put up for adoption. So far we have rescued and adopted out 7 dogs from California between January 1st and February 28th! We currently have a 14 year old hospice dog from California who is just enjoying the time he has left with a family and a warm home.
SERVICES PROVIDED BY HEATH’S HAVEN FOR SPECIAL NEEDS DOGS
We currently have two doctors that provide acupuncture for our neurological/special needs dogs at least twice a month and most often, once a week. The stimulation of the nerves helps keep the current nerve pathways active and stimulated. This also helps the dogs feel more motivated and gives them more energy.
Physical therapy exercises are done by the dog’s doctors as well as at home. We work on weight bearing exercises, range of motion exercises, and stretching. This keeps limbs from getting too weak and prevents muscles from constricting permanently. At home exercises are done 3 times a week, and we visit the doctor at least twice a month to check on progress and to learn new exercises.
Hydrotherapy is a great way for these dogs to get exercise, build muscle, learn to place their legs appropriately, and they have fun! It also helps build up their physical stamina for exercise so they can do well in their wheelchairs. They are on an underwater treadmill and the doctor controls the speed and length of time they are in the tank.
Current Events attended by Heath’s Haven:
In October 2013, The Pullman Moose Club sponsored The Pullman Moose Monster Dash 5K fun run and costume contest event to raise funds specifically for Heath’s Haven. We were able to raise $1100.00 that significantly helped the rescue provide medical care and mobility devices for special needs dogs.
In December 2013, we participated in the Santa Claws Event, put on by the Washington Basset Rescue in Spokane, WA. We had a lot of visitors to our booth, and a lot of interest from people about wheelchairs for dogs, fostering, and donating.
In January 2014 a local woman organized an event called Pool For Paws, in which a pool tournament was organized to raise money for Heath’s Haven. Gift baskets were donated to raffle off for donations and prizes, we had t-shirts available for donations, and their was a great turn out to support the rescue!
We will continue to attend every event that we are able to, in order to raise awareness about special needs dogs. Some of these events include The Basset Blast in April 2014 (put on by the Washington Basset Rescue), Parade of Paws in June 2014 (put on by the Spokane Humane Society), Dog d’Alene in July 2014 (an event in Coeur d’Alene, ID), Bark for Life in August 2014 (put on by the Relay for Life group for cancer awareness), and many more! Supporters of Heath’s Haven are always coming up with ideas for fundraising so we expect to be very busy!
In the fall of 2013, some of our rescue dogs, Phoenix, Goose, and Zoom were featured on the cover of the Instructional DVD for the Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair made by handicappedpets.com. Each DVD is shipped out with every wheelchair sold!
THE FUTURE OF HEATH’S HAVEN
Heath’s Haven’s mission, as a 501 (c)(3)rescue, is to continue to educate the human and dog community about special needs dogs.
As we continue to grow, we plan to buy 10 acres of land within the next 2 years so we have more room to care for these special dogs. We plan to build a home and facility to accommodate dogs with mobility issues and neurological conditions. The dogs will not be in a separate building from our home, but rather the dog facility will be attached to our home.
We envision a room for grooming, bathing, brushing, nail trims, feeding, medicating etc. We also plan to have a commercial blow dryer specifically for the dogs so they can be dried off quickly after coming in from the outdoors. Our physical therapy room will have padded mats for range of motion exercises and eventually a hydrotherapy tank or pool. Inside the facility we will have an indoor play area for the dogs when the weather is too wet or cold for them to play safely outside. The floors will have rubber matting that can be easily hosed off. We plan to have a “bedroom” for the dogs filled with soft mats, blankets, and relaxing music while they sleep!
Our passion is to continue to educate the public that these special needs dogs can have a healthy, active life-style just like any other dog! We already visit classrooms, but we would like to broaden our public education to visiting schools and programs for children in wheelchairs and disabilities. We believe it would be very rewarding and uplifting for children to see how well these dogs can function with their disabilities!
We plan to invite groups of people from the community to visit our facility as well, to see what we do for these dogs on a daily basis. We would like children and adults with disabilities to be able to visit and spend time with the dogs. We will also have volunteers from the community to help exercise the dogs and clean the facility to raise awareness about the care that goes into these dogs and how they benefit from it.
We take pride in knowing that one day, Heath’s Haven Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, will be a premier, well-known, successful facility and organization for special needs dogs!