Sweeping the Clouds Away from Sonny’s Days

February 9, 2022

Sonny, a one-year-old pit bull-mix, first arrived at the ASPCA Animal Recovery Center (ARC) in May after being found tied to fence in a New York City park. He was emaciated, likely a result of inadequate nutrition or starvation, and was unable to walk on his hind legs. We later discovered that Sonny had suffered fractures to both his femurs, or thigh bones.

Though he didn’t know it yet, poor little Sonny, despite having a long road ahead of him, was on his way to much better and brighter days.

Road to Recovery

Sonny began his recovery at ARC under the care of our dedicated veterinarians and behavioral specialists.

“It takes a tremendous amount of force to break the thigh bone of an adult dog,” Dr. Aubrey Crowley, Medical Supervisor at ARC, tells us. “Sonny was in incredible pain on arrival and for the first day or so would grumble with exams or any type of manipulation, but never displayed any reactivity—I think he was just in so much pain and uncomfortable.” 

Sonny during his intake exam at ARC.

Once Dr. Crowley and her team were able to effectively manage Sonny’s pain, he began to show his incredibly sweet disposition, seeking pets and belly rubs from those who cared for him.

Despite showing his love of affection, Sonny was still on a lot of medication for his pain and the next course of action was surgery for his back legs. Dr. J’mai Gayle, Director of Surgery at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, was consulted and determined  it would be best to perform surgery on both of his thigh bones.

“Sonny had complete fractures to both of his femurs which meant that he was unable to stand. Surgery was performed to stabilize the fractures and allow him to be able to stand and walk,” Dr. Gayle tells us. “The femurs were repaired with stainless steel plates, screws and pins. The repairs had to be very robust to allow enough stability to promote healing in this high energy, large breed dog.”

Resilient Sonny did very well during surgery despite still being very underweight.

“There was an almost immediate turn around in his body language after his operation,” Dr. Crowley remembers. “He started standing on all four legs and his body language was loose and wiggly when the doctors would examine him.”

Sonny wagging his tail for the first time at ARC. Despite being in pain, Sonny’s personality still shone through.

After the surgery, Sonny required physical therapy for two months while under our care. As a result of his fractures, Sonny developed scar tissue that compromised his ability to flex and extend his knees. During his time in physical therapy, Sonny worked closely with Susan Lee and Erica Valenti, two Licensed Veterinary Technicians (LVT) at ARC.

“It was especially challenging for his case, since we usually use a lot of treats to get an animal to enjoy physical therapy, however Sonny was on a refeeding plan, which is something we use for any starved dog,” Dr. Crowley explains. “This plan restricts the number of calories a dog gets each day for the first two weeks of reintroducing them to food to prevent something called refeeding syndrome.”

As a result, Erica and Susan couldn’t use treats for Sonny’s initial sessions. However, the direct care team at ARC made “pupsicles” comprised mainly of water with a bit of chicken broth, a very low calorie treat that soon became Sonny’s reward during physical therapy and would not conflict with his refeeding plan.

Through lots of hard work from our veterinary team, Sonny, initially weighing 28 lb., left ARC at a healthy 50 lb.—gaining 100% of his weight while in our care! During his three months of recovery, Sonny earned a very special spot in many staff hearts.

“I know I was not alone in loving this dog to pieces,” says Dr. Crowley

Becoming His Best Self

While our medical staff worked with Sonny to get him healthy, our Behavior team worked closely to help him become his best self for his future home.

“While he was with us, my team worked on building his confidence in new areas, including walking him outside,” Christina Lee, Director of Behavior at ARC, tells us. “We also worked on hand targeting to start training him and build a relationship with him.”

Additionally, Christina’s team worked with Sonny to help him transition to the ASPCA Adoption Center, where he would gradually meet new people, and eventually, his adopters. 

Meeting His Match

Now, fully recovered, Sonny was ready for adoption!

Our incredible team of Matchmakers knew they could find just the right home for Sonny. He needed a dedicated and experienced adopter willing to put the time and effort into helping him settle into a new home and deal with his separation anxiety.

As luck would have it, John S. and Chelsea B. were looking to expand their family and provide a loving home for a dog in need.

“We knew Sonny was the dog for us when we first saw him,” John recalls. “We learned that he’s the kind of dog that would love to go on adventures and hiking so we knew he would make a great addition to our family.”

Having had previous experience with high energy dogs with separation anxiety, John and Chelsea knew they were ready to take on this new adventure with Sonny.

In October, five months from when we first met Sonny, he was finally on his way to his new home in New Jersey. 

Only Sonny Days Ahead

“Sonny was very curious about his new surroundings when he arrived at his new home,” John tells us. “He was very rambunctious, getting the zoomies multiple times a day.”

But with time to settle in, Sonny found his place among the family.

“Sonny still enjoys getting the 10:00 AM zoomies occasionally but he loves to snuggle with mom and dad,” says John. “His favorite time of day is right before it’s time for mom and dad to wake up, he hops into bed to snuggle.”

Sonny also loves family walks and “he does in fact LOVE hiking,” John adds.

“Sonny has a huge personality and we’re obsessed with his silly little quirks such as sitting up like a human,” John tells us. 

Like any new experience, adding a new furry family member to the mix may bring some challenges, but it doesn’t compare to the amount of happiness it brings.

“Sonny has been such a warm welcome into our family, and he brings us so much joy. We can always count on him to bring a smile to our faces. We love seeing him grow, adapt and learn new tricks every day.”

John adds, “There is truly no better feeling than knowing you are making a huge difference in a dog’s life and providing them with a warm and loving home.”