There are many challenges for the management at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP). One of the less critical, but very messy, is a problem with the Canadian geese who like to gather in the prison yard. Until 2011, huge flocks of them made a stinky mess that caused sanitation issues. Then Felix came to the rescue.
Felix is a heeler mix who knows all about rescue. He was saved from a shelter by Project POOCH. The nonprofit organization places rescue dogs in youth correctional facilities, where inmates learn responsibility, and gain emotional support, by caring for dogs. They also train the dogs in basic obedience skills and prepare them for adoption.
Felix was the first dog from Project POOCH to be adopted by OSP. He was ‘hired’ to keep the geese out of the prison yard, a job he does well and enjoys.
Felix also participates in other activities at the prison. He visits patients in the infirmary, and he offers non-judgmental friendship, and the warmth of the human-animal bond, to the inmate population in general. One of Felix’s handlers says, “He is my pride and joy. I now can love for the first time in my life.”
Last year, Felix made a different kind of visit to a different kind of infirmary. He was referred to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital by his veterinarian, who suspected he was lame due to a torn ligament in his knee – also known as a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) rupture. A relatively common problem in active dogs, these ruptures can be successfully treated with a surgery called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).
If you look at a standing dog from the side, you can see that it’s leg is always bent and the knee is slightly flexed. This bend means the CCL inside the knee joint is always load-bearing, and the constant tension makes the ligament susceptible to injury.
With a torn CCL, every time a dog stands or put weight on the leg, the femur rubs on the back of the tibia. This rubbing causes pain and inflammation, and is why most dogs with a torn CCL are lame.
The philosophy behind TPLO surgery is to completely change the dynamics of the dog’s knee, so that the torn ligament becomes irrelevant. During surgery, the tibia is cut and rotated so the tibial plateau, where the femur and the tibia meet, can no longer slide backwards. This stabilizes the knee joint and eliminates the need for the CCL entirely.
TPLO is a delicate and complex surgery that should always be performed by an experienced veterinary surgeon. The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has two board-certified, veterinary orthopedic surgeons who perform many TPLO surgeries every year.
Felix surgery was very successful and, within a few weeks, he began taking leash walks, but he is not yet ready to resume his geese-chasing duties. His surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Warnock, also suggested he lose ten pounds to minimize the stress on his other knee joint, and to help prevent arthritis.
Recently, one of Felix’s handlers sent a ‘thank you’ note to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, along with a list of quotes from fellow inmates that was published in a Project POOCH newsletter. The quotes expressed how important Felix is as a friend and valued member of their community.
In his letter to the hospital, Felix’s handler simply said, “Thank you for taking care of my boy, Felix.”