Not long before Christmas, a tiny little rescue group in Luther, Oklahoma, got a call about a tiny little puppy. Jennie Hays, founder of Oliver and Friends Farm Rescue and Sanctuary, heard from a breeder about a 5-week-old treeing Walker coonhound. The puppy had some birth defects and the breeder was unable to care for him, so Hays said she would take him.
"Initially, they sent me a small video and the quality was pretty crappy," Hays tells MNN. "I was surprised when he showed up and thought, 'Oh wow, this is a severe defect.' Our regular veterinarian wasn't able to do surgery on it because it was such a rare condition."
It turns out the puppy — who quickly became known as Milo — had a congenital dislocation of both elbows, which forced both his paws to face upwards instead of down. Milo was getting around by doing a sort of army crawl.
Hays took the tiny puppy to specialists at Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, and the dog's surgery was scheduled for the next day.
"He was putting pressure on the sides of his wrists and was getting pressure sores. His chest never left the ground," Hays says. "It was kind of if we're going to do something, we better do something now. He was certainly on the road to causing a lot of skeletal issues, too."
Back to his normal, feisty self
Milo went back to Hays' home after surgery, wearing a full cast on his chest and two front legs. The first few days were tough.
"It's been really kind of moving to watch. When he first came home, when he was first in that full frontal cast, he was miserable," Hays says. "And he was so confused and I'm sure he was pain. But by the end of that first week, he was like, I guess, this is my life now, and he went back to his normal, feisty self. And then he just didn't seem to notice them anymore."
Since then, Milo has had another cast change, which he has endured like a champ, Hays says. Other than the monstrous, colorful cast on his front limbs, he is the picture of a normal puppy, proving that animals sure are resilient.
"He's very happy, very talkative. He doesn't have any problem telling you exactly what he's feeling," she says. "He's super sweet, happy-go-lucky, just a very vocal, very normal puppy."
Milo just had surgery to remove the pins holding his newly straightened paws together. Now he will move out of the cast into bandages, but he still faces months of physical therapy, which Hays will do with the help of her veterinarian.
So far, her small rescue has over $5,000 in medical bills just from the surgery and follow-up care, and there are still months of water therapy, veterinarian visits and other treatments ahead for this feisty and happy little puppy.
"There's a really good chance that he will live a relatively normal life," Hays says, hopefully. She says she is amazed that this tiny dog from this small rescue has captured the hearts of people around the world. She says she is grateful that some people are even donating money to help pay Milo's extensive bills.
"Maybe they were struck by his story because it's such a rare disorder," she says. "The news is often filled with horrific cruelty cases. But nobody was cruel to him. He was just born special and we were able to help him. Him being adorable doesn't hurt."