by Jennifer Cohen
In 2012, in Albany, NY railroad workers found three 3-week-old blue nose pit bull mix puppies nailed to railroad tracks on the Hudson and Mohawk rail line near North Pearl Street. All of the puppies were malnourished and had infections. One puppy died soon after she was found. The others puppies were named for the streets near which they were found: Hudson and Pearl.
Hudson’s back paw had been cut off and was so badly injured that it had to be amputated. It was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ever seen in Upstate New York. Hudson was in such bad shape, they weren’t even sure he would survive the short ride to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society where the pups were taken for care.
The puppies came to be known as the “railroad puppies” and the horrific nature of the abuse case attracted intense media attention.
After multiple surgeries, Hudson became one of the first dogs in New York State to be fitted with a prosthetic paw.
The shelter was inundated with calls from people who wanted to adopt Hudson. When the shelter decided to require interested people to write an essay explaining why they should be considered, they received hundreds of essays, including one from Richard and Rosemarie Nash.
“We knew we could give him a really good life,” said Richard Nash. “I worked for myself and my wife works from home. We could take him to doctors and do media and be there for him in every possible way. So we wrote our essay and soon after, we learned we had been chosen to do a meet and greet with Hudson. We brought our dog, Sami, with us to the shelter and it was like they were brother and sister.”
By this time, Hudson was about 4 months old.
Hudson was able to walk on his stump and had a prosthetic, but it was not a good fit for him. Hudson’s surgeon, Dr. Tom Bowersox, reached out to Derrick Campana, who had not intended create a new career for himself back in 2005 when he started Animal Ortho Care to create prosthetics and orthotics for dogs, cats, and other animals. He was a technician building prosthetic and orthotic devices for people at Hanger Orthopedic Group. One day a vet brought his dog into the office to see if Campana could create a prosthetic device for a congenital deformity of the dog’s paw, which looked like a lobster claw.
“I had never made such a device, but was up for the challenge. I successfully fabricated a prosthesis and the dog was able to walk much better with it. The vet said no one was really doing this type of thing for animals. At that moment, a light bulb went off and I thought to start a new business,” said Campana, who knew he would able to apply principles from people to animals. “I thought it would be a great way to combine my experience and my love of animals.”
Campana’s company is one of a few practices in the world that cater specifically to the needs of animals. (There are only 10 people in the world who make prosthetics for animals.) His clients include dogs, cats, horses, camels, cows, goats, lizards … and even an elephant. His patients are either born with a congenital defect or have issues due to old age, an accident, or abuse.
Campana was touched by Hudson’s story and got right to work.
“The best part is watching animals walk again, sometimes for the first time,” said Campana. “The look in their eyes and seeing them wag their tail – especially with the more traumatic cases – that’s just great, but unfortunately, we see a lot of cruelty cases.”
Dr. Bowersox took a cast of Hudson’s stump. Campana created several prototypes. A few months later Campana traveled to Albany to fit Hudson with his final prosthetic.
“When Hudson received his prosthetic, the change in him was instant. Before he did not trust people,” said Nash. “After the cruelty he had experienced, I knew something had to change for him. The prosthetic gave him a lot more self-confidence. He got up and was running for the first time. He was like a normal dog playing. It was instant, like a light switch. He got up and started running and playing like he had a paw. He knew.”
Hudson has different prostheses, but uses one called the “bladerunner” most often.
“Campana sends different prototypes of prosthetics to Hudson to test out to keep improving them for future patients,” said Nash.
Today Hudson is 4-years-old and his life is anything but sad and tragic. He is a therapy dog and visits schools, nursing homes adult day care facilities, hospice centers, and hospitals.
Canon flew Shuster to New York to video in real time, A Dog’s Best Day, with shelter dog Willa, a 65-pound Hound who had trouble finding her forever home. “With shelters overcrowded and adopters reluctant to see dogs in a sad, caged condition, I wanted to do my part to change opinions about shelters and their residents,” Shuster says. “Canon was amazing to work with. We were able to show the dogs having fun instead of the usual photos that show them sitting behind bars.” The video was shot entirely on a Canon EOS Rebel T6i.
Willa thought it was fun to catch soap bubbles in the park, drink from a golden toilet, and search a room full of toys to find just the right one, which turned out to be a giant rawhide bone. In one scene, Willa sits in a dining room chair with a domed plate in front of her. When the dome is lifted, there’s a steak. Willa’s shock and surprise is evident on her face, but then the look of transforms. “How do I eat it?” she seems to wonder, as she’s never dined at a table before.
When it was time for dessert, Willa simply walked across the table to get to the cookies she wanted. All food items were animal-friendly, of course.
Shuster also partnered with Dogs of Instagram to further highlight the needs of adoptable dogs as many shelters are near capacity at all times.
Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO at Canon U.S.A., Inc., says, “Guinnevere embodies the modern rebel in the world today and shares a passion that many share around the country. She aims to make a difference by finding forever homes for shelter dogs.” Shuster has photographed over 7,500 animals, and in 2015 the Humane Society of Utah placed 11,318 animals in homes. Some of the dogs are obtained from overcrowded California shelters, working in cooperation with the HSU. In California, Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls have the hardest time finding a home.
“Hundreds of people wanted to adopt Willa but many lived in apartments in the city,” Shuster says. “The shelter felt Willa, being a Hound, needed more space to run and play. Willa continued to wait for just the right home for her. I checked with her shelter again and found out Willa was adopted over the Thanksgiving weekend. She has a lot to be thankful for this year!” Willa’s video led to the adoption of many other dogs as well.
The video is a happy one as watchers see the joy on Willa’s face as she gets such special attention. “She wasn’t trained to do any of this,” says Shuster. “She just got into the fun and ad libbed.”
Even before the contest and Willa’s video, Shuster recommended a Canon Rebel. “It’s easy for new photographers to use, is smaller and easier to handle. It’s just a workhorse of a camera,” she says. “I’m really grateful to Canon for choosing me as the last of the Rebels with a Cause. It was great fun and got a lot of dogs adopted. That’s the most important thing.”
Shelters always need help, whether it’s towel donations, volunteer dog walkers, cat petters, photographers, office help, or items from their wish lists. Money and labor are always in short supply. Spread the word on social media. Every pet deserves a “best day” and a forever home.
To read about some of the HSU’s success stories, go to https://www.utahhumane.org/success-stories. Take a hanky for happy tears.
Splash photo: Canon