The Will to Survive - Patrick's Story, Part 2

Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ
February 02, 2012
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Patrick the Pit Bull’s Extraordinary Recovery from a Life of Abuse and Neglect

Part 2

The Will to Survive - Patrick's Story, Part 1 familiarized petMD readers with Patrick the Pitbull. I am so grateful that Patrick was given a second chance and was able to overcome the suffering he experienced at the hands of his former owner, Kisha Curtis. Let’s now move further into his recovery from the first-hand perspective of his physical therapist, Susan Davis.

After assessing Patrick’s deficits and setting rehabilitation goals, I knew my treatment approach would need to accommodate the effects that prolonged starvation and neglect had had on him. Patrick had severely decreased muscle mass; his treatment could potentially create injury if not done with considerable care. I had to balance providing enough physical therapy (PT) during each session to obtain results without creating further soreness and strain on his already debilitated body.

The hospital staff noted that Patrick favored his left hind limb, especially during his first morning walk. There was tightness in the limb’s tendons, likely due to his positioning when he was unable to move.

Therapy began with a soothing massage ("effleurage"), Reiki, range of motion, and stretching the tight hind limb muscles and tendons. Techniques were gentle, slow, and were performed at intervals of only a few repetitions at a time. For this phase of care, I held Patrick and draped him across my lap, gently helping him to stand and support his weight evenly on all four limbs using an inflated physioroll, rocker board, and balance bubble. He was sweet and cooperative throughout the entire process.

Patrick soon regained full range of motion and stopped favoring the left hind limb. His coat thickened, his energy level increased, and he started taking short leash walks outdoors. PT treatment then focused on building muscle mass and strength by focusing on his abdominal and spinal muscle groups — the "core" muscle groups — eventually encompassing his whole body during "functional exercises."

Patrick was soon able to take longer walks, climb steps, go up and down inclines and around trees, tackle varying surfaces, and play with toys. Mini intervals of increased speed or intensity, similar to sprint intervals done by runners, helped to further "ramp up" his endurance. Patrick soared through his PT and seemed to enjoy every moment, with steady improvement each week. As the weeks became months, he was able to stand with even weight distribution and a normal top line. He gained muscle mass, improved his speed during walks, and showed less fatigue.

Besides PT, Patrick received ongoing expert medical care from the hospital, daily visits by Associated Humane Societies (AHS) staff, and sessions with an animal communicator and distance healer.

In the midst of Patrick’s physical progress, various battles raged regarding his custody, "ownership" of his image, and access to donations being made in his name, all of which resulted in considerable tension for those on all sides of his care. I often felt caught in the middle of some very uncomfortable situations, but Patrick and his needs kept my focus on his therapy. Throughout this process, Patrick showed love and appreciation for everyone involved in his recovery.

I provided Patrick’s PT treatments twice weekly for over a two month period. The AHS openly shares his progress, including my PT progress reports, pictures, and videos on Patrick’s page on the AHS website. He no longer needs my help, as you can see by the photo above, taken in July 2011. He has become a healthy, strong, and muscular boy!

The public response to Patrick has been overwhelming. I received e-mails and notes from kind, encouraging folks from all over the world, all expressing their love and healing wishes for Patrick. My time spent with him has been extraordinary.

Please return next Thursday to the petMD News Center for Part 3 of How Physical Rehabilitation Aided Patrick the Pit Bull’s Remarkable Recovery From Abuse and Neglect.

Top Image: Patrick Recovers / via Basset Hound Rescue Organizations