pebbleA little, nine-pound cat with a dicey history is trying to give Benny Beaver a run for his money in the mascot department. The cat’s journey from critically-ill stray to Beaver Believer began at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland, Oregon.

A unique partnership exists between the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) and the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU. It began in 2007 with the opening of the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC), a full-service animal hospital adjoining the OHS shelter.  At the center, veterinary students from OSU live onsite in dorms and take two-week clinical courses in primary care as part of their graduation requirement. They join OSU veterinary faculty and the OHS medical staff, working on everything from diagnoses to surgery. It’s a win-win collaboration and, as the first program of its kind in the nation, has become a model for other universities to follow. The benefits of the program to veterinary students and the Humane Society are obvious but for Pebble the cat, the partnership between OSU and OHS was a life saver.

Pebble arrived at the AMLC in December 2010. She was brought in as a stray and was barely moving. The AMLC medical team put her on IV-fluids and ran blood tests that indicated liver problems. They thought she had eaten something poisonous. After weeks of TLC from the staff, Pebble improved and was sent to foster care. But one month later, she was back, vomiting and lethargic. This time they ran more tests and found a serious flaw in her liver. Things were not looking good for the little black kitty with the big orange eyes; she needed surgery ASAP.

A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal blood vessel that runs from the intestines into the circulatory system without passing through the liver to be cleared of toxins. It is rare in cats and requires delicate surgery to correct. Pebble was sent to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital where surgeons Jason Spina and Bernard Seguin found and isolated the wayward blood vessel then surrounded it with an Ameroid constrictor. The constrictor is a ring that swells over time, gradually shutting down the blood vessel.

Pebble came through the surgery fine and while she was recovering, had the good luck to be cared for by OSU veterinary technician Nichole Hovelsrud. “She was so tiny, scrawny, and stinky, I couldn’t help but love her,” says Hovelsrud. “It also didn’t hurt that she was Beaver colors!”

Hovelsrud adopted Pebble and took her home to a menagerie that includes a husband, three other cats, and two pit bulls. She is the smallest sibling in the household and has become the family princess. “Her big brother kitty, Sluice, adores her and comes running to her rescue if she makes the slightest squeak,” says Hovelsrud. As avid Beaver fans, the Hovelsruds like to dress Pebble in a cheerleading costume they had made just for her.

Pebble is thriving in her new home. Hovelsrud is really grateful to the medical teams at the AMLC and OSU for the expertise and dedication involved in their team effort to save her cat. “There were so many people involved, it just warms my heart that they cared enough to help get her to us and her forever home.”

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