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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Above and Beyond, Our Unsung Animal Heroes

(I try not to use names or specific personal details in my “tails”, however when given permission and in extraordinary circumstances, some people deserve recognition.)

The behind the scenes shelter staff, kennel attendants, veterinary technicians and veterinarians, are often the unsung heroes. Because they are not as publicly known or recognized at the more visible staff such as ACOs, adoption staff, or volunteers, their stories often go untold. However, every day they make an incredible difference in the lives of not just the shelter animals, but the animals and people in our community.

I received a call from Sacramento Metro Fire for assistance with a rescue they were on scene at. The Fire Captain relayed to me that they had a small dog with his foot stuck in the drain of a bathtub. They had been trying and trying to get this little guy out and the dog was becoming increasingly agitated and was in pain. The Captain said they had tried about 30 veterinary hospitals from the one side of the valley to the other, including mobile equine vets and UC Davis. No one was able to come to the scene to sedate the dog so that it wouldn’t be so stressed out while they tried to get him out. The owner was willing to have the tub removed even, but that still didn’t solve the problem of getting a very stressed out ,upset and hurting little dog out of the drain.

I told the Captain I would see what I could do. This was an unusual request. They were going to have the owner keep the dog comfortable and clear the scene until we responded out. I made a call to the med unit at the shelter. I figured I would at least ask the vet on duty if I could come pick up a sedative to take to the scene and get the dog immobilized to see if that would help relax him enough to get his foot out.  I spoke with Dr. Jean Rabinowitz, our new addition to our wonderful vet staff. I explained to her what was going on and my request. After a brief conversation, Dr. Rabinowitz volunteered to meet me at the scene to ensure the safe administration of the sedative while the dog was being rescued. And that would also save time by her meeting me there.

When I arrived Dr. Rabinowitz was already there. She had arrived only a few minutes ahead of me, and had already administered the sedative. She had climbed in the tub and was working to try to free the dog’s toes that were stuck between the cross bars of the drain catch. This little guy’s toes were in tight. Even under sedation, there was no easy way to get those toes unstuck.

We ended up calling Sacramento Metro Fire crew back to the dog owner’s house. Time was becoming critical because the dog would soon be waking up from the sedation and we would then be back to square one.
The fire crew from Sacramento Metro Fire Station 111 arrived and immediately began to work on the drain. At one point we had a little dog stuck in a drain, along with one vet, four firefighters and one ACO, me, in this tiny bathroom. 

The dog’s owner was standing by anxiously. She kept saying anything that had to be done to the tub to free her baby could be done. Firefighters tried removing the drain, but the drain head was screwed into the drainpipe. And there was no way to get it un-screwed with the little dog attached to it. In these several minutes the dog was starting to wake up. Dr. Rabinowitz continued to monitor the dog and continued to try to free the toes. There was also no option to remove the toes. The drain cross bars had to be removed to free the dog. This proved to be more difficult and very precarious to do with little toes in the way.

The little dog was starting to wake up more and more as each moment went by. The firefighters continued to try to figure out how to get the drain removed and contemplated calling in the Engine Truck, with all the “cool” tools. But there really wasn’t time. The dog was waking up, in pain and surrounded by strangers.

The firefighters gave it one more shot using a breaker bar and a sledge to carefully break each of the cross bars. Those cross bars proved to be pretty resilient and made the task all that much more difficult.  Finally they were able to break three of the crossbars allowing just enough room wiggle room to get those toes out.

The little dog was pulled to safety and checked over by Dr. Rabinowitz. After all that, all he had were a couple swollen toes and a small cut. He was turned over to his anxious owner.

Dr. Jean Rabinowitz and the firefighters from SacMetro Fire Station 111 in Rio Linda are heroes. They all went above and beyond to save a little dog named Bailey, and his toes!

Dr. Rabinowitz also gets extra hurrahs in my book for surviving the shampoo bottle that fell on her head, the shower curtain and rod that came crashing down and when the waking up little dog latched onto her wrist during this rescue. Nothing stood in her way to make sure Bailey was rescued in one piece.


  1. Hurrah! What a great story! What a great vet! What a great team!

  2. Way to go Dr. R!!!!