Trooper’s Story

by Carol Swindaman

I work at Redwood Animal Hospital in Redmond WA. Anyone who works at an
animal hospital knows that there is always an opportunity to adopt a new pet
due to a variety of circumstances.

In the fall of 2000, Trooper came to us by way of Pasado’s Safe Haven, an
animal rescue group based in Sultan, Washington. He was taken from a high kill
shelter where he was certain to die. He was very thin and had a badly damaged
left front leg. The story was that he had been roaming a neighborhood for 10
days or more with the damaged front leg, someone finally called and animal
control brought him in to the shelter.

At Redwood he was cared for as though he had an owner – Pasado’s was his
owner until he was healthy again and could be placed in a new home. He had been
at the emergency hospital where his leg was wrapped and stabilized. He came to
Redwood the next morning. Besides the damaged leg, he had cracked teeth, gravel
in his ears and various scrapes. I looked at this sweet beautiful chocolate
colored dog with huge soft ears and big brown eyes and hoped we could make him
better. I know this sounds real goofy, but something happened that day when I
looked at him in that cage. Our eyes met for a few seconds as I stood there in
front of his cage, some kind of connection happened. I was not thinking about
adopting him just making him feel better.

Dr Karen West was the surgeon on duty that day. After her exam and x-rays,
It was determined that his leg was so badly shattered and had gone so long
without treatment that amputation was necessary. His left front leg was
amputated; he was neutered, cleaned up and the gravel removed from his ears
where we could. The teeth would wait until he was healed and stronger. He was
probably hit by a car or truck or fell out of a truck, we will never really

Trooper and Family

He went back to Pasado’s Safe Haven to recover and find a foster home or
maybe someone to take him for his forever home. Trooper learned to walk missing
that leg but it was not easy. He weighed about 90 pounds and is tall with a
long body. He developed a funny sort of dipping gate that could cover ground
pretty fast. Running was easier for him than walking.

Pasado’s placed him in a foster home in November and in January he was back
at Redwood with severe neck pain. Things did not look good so a neurologist was
called, who at the time was teaching at Washington State University. There was
a huge snow storm in the pass so he could not travel for a week. We waited and
kept Trooper comfortable with medication. I was worried that they might give

Dr Harrington made it to the hospital and determined that Trooper needed
spinal surgery to repair the vertebrae in his neck. Surgery was done the next
day and Trooper was on his way to recovery.

Pasado’s was concerned that finding a home for a dog like Trooper would be
difficult as he was a special needs dog and may have problems in the

Trooper in Snow

I took Trooper home on February 1, 2002. We made that day his birthday and
guessed his age to be about 3 or 4 years old. He got his name from Craig, one
of the veterinary technicians at Redwood who thought it suited him and his
continuous positive attitude through everything. Our wonderful rescued Cat,
Zora, met Trooper face to face on his first steps in his new home. They sniffed
and both went about their business. I had been telling Zora about him and that
he was coming home to live with us and that she must be nice. The first day
Trooper spent alone in the house in his crate. Zora slept close by on his big
bed. She continues to be curious about him and often sniffs his nose, and
sometimes sleeps close to him on the end of his bed.

That year we had a February snow in Seattle, which thrilled Trooper as much
as much as us as we watched him play in the snow. With his neck shaved and a
hobbled walk he was finally safe and having fun. Trooper continued to thrive
and get stronger. We took him to beginning and advanced obedience and tried a
beginning agility and tricks class. Trooper loved to do things, he learned fast
and even though he could not do some of the agility equipment – we worked on
things he could do. The tall A-Frame was his favorite, but was a bit scary to
hear and watch as he pounded up the frame and down the other side.

Trooper in the Water

The final test for the advanced class involved placing the dogs in a down
stay; placing a hamburger about a foot in front of each and having all owners
leave the arena!! Trooper was amazing, drooling profusely but never made a move
until released. Then we all ate the hamburgers with our dogs. It was just one
of the proud special moments I have spent with him since he came into our

He loved to run in the park fetching a Kong toy and rolling on his back in
the leaves, frosty grass or snow. He loves squeaky toys, balls and Kongs with
peanut butter and carrots.

Trooper is a smiling dog. If he is ever doing something he should not and
gets reminded of it, he smiles and snorts and sneezes. He loves to sleep on his
back, rolling and wiggling until he gets comfortable then falling asleep with a
smile on his face, his front leg sticking up in the air.

Several years ago Pascal and I noticed that his joints in his front leg were
swelling and painful. After having joint taps done he was diagnosed with immune
mediated poly arthritis. His joints were sore for a while, medication helped
and he was back on his feet but much slower and stiffer when he walked. During
this time frame I decided to learn what I could to help him feel better and
heal no matter what the future held for him.

Trooper in his cart

We took him to water therapy at La Paw Spa. I met a wonderful therapist and
soon to be veterinary student at WSU, Tracy Romsland, who opened my eyes to
what I could do with my work and position at Redwood Animal Hospital. With Dr.
Ken Jacobsen’s approval and support I enrolled in the Northwest School of
Animal Massage (NWSAM) and the rest as they say is history. I became a Small
Animal Massage Practitioner (SAMP) and I was hired by Teri Sahm at Heavenly Spa
to swim dogs in July of 2004. I practiced my work at the hospital and continued
my education by watching surgery and finishing the 300 level small animal
massage and rehabilitation program at the NWSAM. Trooper was my teacher then
and has continued to be every day.

Two years ago it became apparent that he was really having difficulty
walking. We decided to purchase a custom Quad cart for him from K-9 Carts so he
could learn to walk with support. We had an MRI done in January of 2005 which
revealed more problems with the disks in his back. Surgery was not an option.
We opted for all kinds of treatment from acupuncture to swimming. In June of
2006, Trooper quit walking altogether.

He could not get up or coordinate his limbs. We worried and wondered what to
do?? We decided to give him some time and see what would happen. When he first
quit walking, he could barley move anything except his head and he was
depressed. His amazing spirit and resilience kept him and us going.

Trooper and exercise balls

After a month he could move more and as time went by he could move all of
his legs, sit up, and then he could roll over. Each week he seemed to gain more
movement. He was still the goofy, happy sweet dog, the same dog but he just
could not walk. Medically he was fine – everything else worked…just not his
spine. We developed ways to drag him around the house. We bought a soft
stretcher and one with wheels; we built a ramp down the back step; we took him
out in his cart; we took him to Heavenly Spa, a dog therapy pool, to swim and
float. He had learned to swim when we first got him and was strong enough to
not use a float. He needs a vest now but loves the water and the special ball
he gets to play with.

We have done just about everything you can think of to help him walk again;
Supplements, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, swimming,
and Chiropractic. I learned physical therapy techniques, purchased physio rolls
– exercise balls so Trooper could sit up right and feel his weight.

I found Animal Suspension Technology (AST) in Bellingham, WA that made
Trooper a custom coat he could wear and be suspended so his paws could touch
the ground. From a wonderful pool client, Craig and his dog Looie, we learned
about a way to suspend Trooper from the ceiling of our shop on a track that
slides so if he could he would move down the track.


Much of my research has been in the human field of spinal injuries as most
people are not equipped to keep a dog like Trooper, so not much research or
techniques have been developed to help dogs.

To date, Trooper is a normal healthy dog that cannot walk. He is not in
pain, not incontinent and is a most amazing boy. We recently installed the
track and bungee system in our shop so that with his new custom made AST Pet
Support Suit he can stand suspended from the ceiling.

We take him for cart walks where one of us or both pull him along and he
moves is legs and tail as I run in front of him to motivate him along. It is
quite a workout pulling a 90 pound dog so we both benefit.

Living with Trooper day in and day out is a lot of work. Our days are
planned around his schedule and vacations together are not something we can do.
We do it all for love, for the promise I made to him when I first took him home
that he would never be left or hurt or abandoned again. We play ball, and hide
the toy under the pillow. His favorite spot is in the kitchen especially when
Pascal is cooking. Food seems to just fly his direction which makes him very
happy. We are considering another drug protocol – one used in human spinal cord
injuries. I am always researching, looking for another doctor, therapy or
protocol that will help him.

Trooper in the leaves

Trooper has taught us more than any class or book or human could teach. We
always have hope. You cannot look in his eyes and not have hope. When we get
tired or frustrated or sad I just think of how short the time is he will spend
with us compared to all he has given us. You cannot help but smile when you
look at him. Kids cannot keep their hands off of his ears and he is always
teaching as I tell his story wherever we go. Trooper has not given up so how
can we?

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