If you want to see living proof that pit bulls can be sweet, gentle dogs, you just have to meet Wombat. Despite a very rough start in life, including bad owners and painful ear infections, he greets everyone, dog or human, with a happy face and wagging tail.
When Wombat was young, his ears were mutilated in a botched, at-home, ear cropping attempt. The resulting damage to his ear canals left him with constant infections and significant hearing loss. Then he ended up in a Los Angeles animal shelter. Because pit bulls are euthanized at a much greater rate than other breeds, his hopes of survival were slim.
Lucky for Wombat, a guardian angel from Oregon came to his rescue.
Liesl Wilhardt is the executive director and founder of Luvable Dog Rescue, a Eugene organization dedicated to re-homing exceptional, loving dogs rescued from high-kill shelters. “I was so moved by his story, I started working to get him transferred to my shelter,” she says. “He was a victim of cruelty and ignorance, who has remained gentle, patient, and trusting with every human who has befriended and cared for him. I love this dog so much.”
Once Wombat was settled in Eugene, Wilhardt took him to Edgewood Animal Clinic where Dr. Jason Kimball quickly realized that the only way to control his rampant ear infections was through a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy (TECO-BO) in both ears.
The delicate, complex surgery removes damaged ear canals, and diseased tissue in the middle ears. It requires an experienced veterinary surgeon and Wilhardt knew just where to go. “From working with OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) in the past, I knew the surgeons, residents, and students could provide Wombat with the exceptional care he would need,” she says.
She also knew the cost of the surgery would be a challenge, so she asked one of her volunteers, U of O student Claire Colby, to help create a video of Wombat’s story. The video was posted on You Tube and Go Fund Me, and raised most of the money needed.
Dr. Katy Townsend is a board-certified, soft tissue surgeon at the VTH. She agreed to perform the challenging surgery. “Due to the high risk of complication with this surgery, we decided to do one ear at a time,” she says.
In April, Liesl brought Wombat to the hospital for his first surgery. She also brought his best buddy, Pika, for moral support. Third-year student Jennifer Kelsey assisted with Wombat’s intake exam: “I was not expecting his ears to be so bad,” she says. “I had never seen ears so calcified. He must have been in extreme pain, but he still greeted us, wagging his tail, with lots of kisses.”
Throughout his stay in the hospital, fourth-year student Jennifer Moore was assigned to his case, and responsible for his care. “I was essentially his advocate, and spent a lot of time making sure he was comfortable and healthy,” she says. It was a great learning experience for her. “I was so excited to be a part of the process; seeing a TECA-BO was on my bucket list of procedures to observe.” she says.
Although the surgery went well, and Wombat was able to go home, he developed an abscess that spread to his salivary gland, requiring further surgery. “We did not raise enough money to cover this,” says Wilhardt, “so I’m hoping people will read your story and help us again.”
In May, Wombat was able to have his left ear repaired and, so far, has had no complications. Wilhardt now has the challenging job of keeping him quiet so he can heal. “He can’t play with Pika for two weeks,” she says. “I have been applying ice packs to both sides of his face several times a day. He is very good about sitting still while I do this; in fact, he usually falls asleep.”
Wombat’s hearing was minimal before surgery, but now seems to be entirely gone. “He is adjusting to a world with no sound,” says Wilhardt. “But the good news is that he is more comfortable than I have ever seen him. I’m sure it’s the first time in his life that he has not been in pain.”
All Wombat’s caregivers credit his successful recovery to his remarkable personality. “To overcome such an invasive process as quickly as he did, he had to have a very positive personality,” says Moore. “He was the best patient I could have asked for in any situation.”
“Wombat has an unconquerable spirit,” says Wilhardt. “He is young and happy, and as soon as he heals, he should be able to have a long, enjoyable life.”
You can help Luvable Dog Rescue pay for Wombat’s surgery on his Go Fund Me website.