Sarge's Animal Rescue Aids
Special Needs Dog
Petra, a beautiful Great Pyrenees dog about a year old, was rescued from the Haywood County animal shelter in January by Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation volunteers.
But something was terribly wrong. Petra was very thin and would cry when she tried to eat. Hungry as she was, she couldn’t get the food down.
The dog, named by the shelter officers, had been abandoned in an outside pen at the shelter. She was classified as a stray and stayed in the shelter for five days, unclaimed.
When Sarge’s volunteers brought her to the adoption center, operations manager Debi Slater saw that though she appeared hungry, she could not eat the dry food offered to her. She choked after a only a couple of pieces.
Slater took Petra to Junaluska Animal Hospital, where it was discovered that she had a throat deformity called canine megaesophagus, which interfered with her ability to swallow.
Since gravity can overcome the problem, Slater had to find a way for Petra to be vertical when eating. At first she had Petra stand up with her front paws on a stack of chairs while she fed her.
“She could eat. In fact, she did — eat and eat. She was so-o-o happy,” Slater said.
To help Petra out, Slater’s husband, George, and Gary Smith, president of Sarge’s board of directors, built a chair that facilitates vertical feeding from instructions they found on the website www.caninemegaesophagus.org
Debi Slater, operations manager for Sarge's adoption center feeds Petra in her special feeding chair.
Petra licks her lips in pleasure as she eats in her special feeding chair.
Meanwhile, someone was looking at Petra on Sarge’s website, www.sargeandfriends.com.
“Pamela Brostean was looking online at Great Pyrenees, because she and her husband are thinking about starting a Pyrenees rescue at their home in Knoxville,” said Diana Ritter, who is adoption coordinator of Sarge’s with her husband, Michael. “She saw Petra’s photo and had to meet her.”
Brostean’s niece in Michigan, Tammy Cauffman, has three rescued dogs that need special care, and Brostean thought her niece might want to add Petra to the family. She was already the kind of caregiver who would be willing to take the time to feed Petra in her chair.
Brostean and Cauffman researched Petra’s condition, as well as the type of food Petra would be able to eat and digest well.
Then Cauffman made a decision: Petra would move to Michigan. Adoption forms were completed, and Petra and her chair were on their way to the Great Lakes state. Brostean drove north, Cauffman headed south, and they met halfway to make the exchange.
Petra had a new family — and a new name.
“We’ve nicknamed Petra ‘Gracie’ for Grace Kelly,” Cauffman wrote in an email after Petra arrived and met her new family. “My husband, Jim, said that she moves very elegantly and smooth, just like Grace Kelly. ...
“She is just too sweet and fits in wonderfully with all the animals. The cats are new to her and she still sniffs them up and down trying to figure out what they are. The cats are so laid back they just stare and say, ‘Go ahead. We’re used to being checked out.’”
Cauffman put the newly named Gracie on a schedule, feeding her every six-seven hours. “We gather all the animals up, and we all fit into the kitchen and eat,” Cauffman said. “Well, the animals; not Mom and Dad.”
Petra/Gracie soon experienced what may well have been her first snowfall, and “she had fun prancing around the backyard” with her adopted siblings — and Mom and Dad.
Pamela Brostean gives Petra a big kiss before sending her on the long journey to her new home.
Petra enjoys a Michigan snowfall with her new adoptive sibling Tippy.