Baby Billy's Long Road Home
by Danielle Cookish
Southern shelters are battling a severe surge in animal overpopulation and continue to rely on life-saving transport to the northeast. These transports move at-risk animals into shelters with the space and resources they need. However, not every animal is ready to find a home as soon as they arrive.
As the transport vehicle’s doors opened, the sun caught a pair of striking green eyes, peering back at us from the stacked transport kennels. It had been a long journey from Georgia to Massachusetts, and Dakin was eager to provide safety and the comfort of a cozy bed to our new residents.
Baby Billy got settled quickly and behind those green eyes was an equally captivating personality. He was social, inquisitive, and demanded affection from every human he met. We learned quickly, although Billy was playful and friendly, that he was in severe pain.
His medical records detailed a former traumatic injury to his right front leg from an unknown cause, leaving him with a severe fracture. Under the care of an orthopedic surgeon at his original shelter, a metal plate was placed to stabilize the bone as it healed. Enough time had passed where the plate should not be causing any pain, so Dakin’s medical director began diagnostic testing.
Surprisingly, a new set of x-rays revealed new fractures, but this time, to his left front leg. If Baby Billy needed to undergo an amputation of the leg with the plate in it to stop his pain, he couldn’t be left to bear his weight on his remaining leg which also had fracture injuries.
Medical Director Dr. Rebecca Carroll arranged a consultation with a local orthopedic surgeon to assess Baby Billy’s very challenging situation while also managing his pain. In a small portion of animal patients who have undergone surgery involving metal plates, screws, or other stabilizing materials, the animal finds the presence of the materials to be a constant source of irritation, even when the injury is fully healed. This was true for Baby Billy, as he offered another clue when he began to overgroom the area around the plate.
After a three-month journey of diagnostics and pain management, Baby Billy’s metal plate was removed by an orthopedic surgeon. He spent his recovery in the comfort of a foster home where an experienced caregiver kept a close watch on his progress. The day finally arrived when Baby Billy was hopping up to his foster's lap, pain-free. The injuries to his other leg now healed, this very special cat was ready to put this all behind him. And, he did. Soon after our medical team gave him the green light, he was adopted to a loving home with humans so happy to welcome this bright-eyed, strong-willed feline.
The cost of Baby Billy’s care is estimated to be over seven times the average cost of care for an animal at Dakin. In addition, Billy relied on the compassion and dedication of Dakin volunteers, who took multiple five-hour trips to Billy's specialist appointments in New York. His unique journey was made possible by the collective and extraordinary efforts of Dakin's volunteers, medical staff, animal care team, and funding from Dakin’s PAWS Program.