Pancake, a paralyzed pup from La Cañada Flintridge, walks again

By Jack Hagerman

It was a very cold, damp morning on December 17, 2018. Most Angelenos were either warm in their beds, making a pot of coffee and listening to the morning headlines, or hunkering down in their car for slow-going commute. It was a Monday, so I’m pretty sure I was hitting the snooze button on my phone – yet again wishing I had been born a morning person.

A few miles away in La Canada-Flintridge, there was a little dog lying injured, freezing, and alone in the middle of a golf course.

Fortunately, a good Samaritan found her – and one of our animal control officers picked her up, hopeful that she could be saved. But honestly, it didn’t look good.

It was obvious she had been bitten hard by another animal – either another dog or wild animal. The bite clearly injured her spine, completely paralyzing her. She could barely lift her head.

It was a particularly cold night, and we had no idea how long she had been laying there on the golf course, exposed to the elements.

“She was in shock,” said Dr. Matt Toscano, Chief Veterinarian at Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, “her body temperature had dropped so low she was barely hanging on to life.”

He cleaned up her injuries, and the staff quickly set about the work of warming her up. They placed her side on a heating pad, and set a schedule for someone to flip her onto her opposite side every two hours, like a pancake.

This round-the-clock routine earned her the name “Pancake”.

Only about 11 months old, Pancake wasn’t interested in being sentenced to a life of being hand-fed and lying down. Oh no. She wasn’t going down like that.

A scrappy one, that little Pancake.

As it turns out, our health team is pretty scrappy too. They believed they could teach her to walk again – setting an aggressive plan of action that combined expert veterinary intervention and daily physical therapy.

In the beginning, Pancake couldn’t sit up on her own. But several days of water therapy, she slowly started getting movement back in her legs, and could hoist herself upright. She was wobbly, but it was progress.

The more our health staff got to know her and worked with her, the more determined they seemed to get to teach her to walk again. So determined in fact, they challenged Pancake to achieve even more movement and flexibility.

And Pancake was like, “Challenge accepted.”

With more water therapy, she got stronger and more balanced every day. Before long, she was walking on her own. She weaved, stumbled, and fell a lot. But she kept getting up, and trying again. Before long, she wasn’t just walking – she was running, playing, and finding ways to charm the heck out of us.

She still weaves, stumbles and falls. She is still working on getting mobility back in one of her front legs. Surpassing our wildest expectations for recovery, Dr. Toscano cleared her to be adopted last week. We posted a video about her story on Saturday, and by Sunday morning she had a new home.

That Monday in December was a really tough one for Pancake. But somehow she got through it. Thanks to our amazing health team, she lived to see the next Monday, and every Monday after that.

Against the odds, she got up and got moving.

Today is the first Monday of Pancake’s new life with her new family. With the love, help and support of our health team, she got a second chance – and isn’t wasting it lying down.

So when I woke up this morning, for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t hit the snooze button. I get to work with a team of people who make these kinds of miracles happen every day. Knowing that makes getting up on a cold Monday morning so much easier.

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