Slimer’s Story: Resilient Pup Finds Home After Remarkable Recovery
On November 29, 2019, a five-day-old puppy was brought to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) with what appeared to be a facial laceration on her left cheek.
But when veterinarians examined the young animal more closely, they discovered her lower left mandible (jawbone) had sustained a fracture that exposed the bone, leaving an open wound about the size of a dime.
Dr. Daniela Gilbert attempted to suture the ends of the puppy’s mandible together, but the bones were so tiny that they splintered.
“Basically, it just broke apart. The needle was larger than the bone” says Dr. Gilbert. “And because she was so small, wiring the jaw was not an option.”
The veterinary team removed the loose bone fragments and sutured some of the puppy’s gums and lip.
“We hoped for the best,” says Jennifer Doyle, Senior Licensed Veterinary Technician who helped triage the puppy. “She was tiny, but feisty.”
A Sad, Challenging Injury
The tiny pooch was the runt of a litter and was reportedly bitten by her mother.
“As sad and ruthless as it seems, mother dogs may reject and even kill their offspring if they’re weak and unlikely to survive,” explains Pamela Reid, Vice President of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team. “They don’t know that people can intervene and help.”
After suturing the puppy’s soft tissues, the veterinary team tried bottle-feeding her. They began lovingly calling her “Slimer” for the drool that spilled from the hole in her cheek.
“She was suckling and clearly hungry, but unable to draw out milk without being fed by a tube,” says Agata Dabkowska, a Licensed Veterinary Technician at the AAH. “Our doctors informed the owner that Slimer’s prognosis was guarded, but the owner wanted to give her a chance. So we gave her owner a lesson on tube feeding and discharged her.”
But on December 4, the challenge of feeding proved to be too much for Slimer’s owner, who surrendered her to the ASPCA.
“The sutures placed five days before didn’t hold, and tube feeding was not going well,” says Agata. “Several of our staff attempted to feed her, and although she had a ravenous appetite, she just couldn’t create enough suction to get a good latch on the bottle nipple due to the missing mandible.”
Lead Veterinary Technician Jaclyn Scuderi discovered that if she sealed up the hole in Slimer’s cheek with a finger while bottle feeding her, Slimer was able to create a good latch and draw out the milk.
“Our primary concern was, ‘Could she continue to nurse and gain weight?’” explains Dr. J’mai Gayle, Director of Surgery for AAH who consulted on the case. “And the answer was ‘yes,’ so we said, “‘Let’s see how she does.’”
Taking Slimer Home
After several medical foster caregivers fell through, Agata made a long-term commitment to foster Slimer on December 5.
“I share my apartment with Diego, a rescue dog from Arizona; Princess Ruto, an old laboratory cat; and a tripod cat named Dirt Bike,” Agata says. “I knew Slimer was going to fit right in!”
Over several sleepless weeks filled with lots of attention and creative bottle-feeding strategies, Agata learned that Slimer was a true survivor.
“She was at risk of aspiration with every feeding, and her need for feedings every three hours meant that I took her everywhere with me,” says Agata.
“Everywhere” meant accompanying Agata to the opening of “Star Wars, Rise of Skywalker,” attending a martial arts tournament (featuring one of AAH’s front desk staff) and riding the subway to and from Agata’s shift at work.
After three months, Slimer’s jaw finally healed.
“Although she doesn’t have any teeth in that area, she eats on her own like a champ and even played tug of war with Diego,” says Agata.
“There’s a gap where there would normally be baby teeth,” adds Dr. Gayle, who saw Slimer at intervals following her initial visit. “But she grew scar tissue and her mandible remodeled back into bone. She looks normal now. It’s amazing. Babies are healing machines.”
A New Friend
Owen R. knew Slimer because he and Agata are friends.
“I helped take care of her since she was very young,” says Owen. “She was such an adorable little thing and so helpless. Not many people have that kind of relationship with an animal; an animal that young should be with its mother.”
As Owen witnessed Slimer’s progress, the two began to form a bond, and on February 29, as soon as Slimer was spayed, Owen officially adopted her.
A logistics coordinator for a fine art handling company, Owen had dogs growing up but thought hard about his decision to adopt Slimer, whom he now calls Slimy.
“I have a busy life with creative endeavors and knew having a dog again would be a big change,” he says. “But Slimy’s so sweet and makes me feel good about life.”
Now four months old, Slimy weighs nearly 15 lb. and is getting used to walking on a leash. She no longer fits inside the interior pockets of Owen’s leather jacket, but loves being in his lap.
“It’s nice having this little friend who depends on me,” says Owen, quickly adding, “and I depend on her.”