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From Belize to College Station to Save Jack

Posted April 05, 2012

From Belize to College Station to Save Jack

It was hope and personal sacrifice that led to a successful recovery for Jack Penland, a six-year-old yellow Labrador, during his seven week stay at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences' (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). Mary and Doug Penland, Jack's owners, traveled the almost 2000 mile trek from Belize to College Station when their veterinarian in Belize referred them to the VMTH so that their dog would have a chance at survival.  

"Jack was referred in from his veterinarian in Belize for vague signs of lethargy, weakness, muscle pain, and some blood work changes," says Dr. Heather Kvitko-White, veterinary resident instructor at the CVM. "After running several tests, we eventually discovered that he had a bacterial infection of his vertebrae in his spine, heart, and joints." 

Kvitko recalls that Jack was in a lot of pain. He spent three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the VMTH. He then spent another month building up his strength in the hospital's rehabilitation service. Jack also benefitted from the multi-disciplinary teamwork that is a hallmark of the teaching hospital, as he saw almost every specialist in the hospital.  

Jack and Mary in the aquatic treadmill

Kvitko adds, "Because he was so sick for so long, he became very weak - due to muscle wasting, joint pain, and severe back pain - and was not able to stand up on his own. It took a lot of work managing his pain before our rehabilitative service could work with him. Eventually, with a lot of persistence from his owners, our ICU nurses, and our entire hospital staff (internal medicine, neurology, orthopedics, anesthesia/analgesia for pain consultation, and cardiology), were able to control his pain enough to start working with him on the water treadmill. He is now able to walk."  

Even though his disease is currently well under control, he will need to be on antibiotics for a while.  

"Jack was very sick and not every family would have been able to push through this," says Kvitko. "Fortunately, his owners had the will to go forward, and things have turned out very well." 

Mary resided in a local hotel for the full seven weeks of Jack's treatment, while Doug traveled back and forth from Belize to come to Mary and Jack's side. Together, they were able to be supportive of Jack during the whole process.  

"This entire journey has been such a rollercoaster for us," says Mary. "He was very sick, and now we are eternally grateful for Dr. Kvitko and the rest of the staff's hard work to save his life. He can now go back home to be with his brothers and sister and enjoy his favorite pastime - diving into the ocean for conch shells."  

The moment was bittersweet as Kvitko said goodbye to Mary and Jack when he was released from the VMTH on April 4. However, the clinicians and staff have something to look forward to when Jack returns in six months for his follow-up.  

Jack in his cart

Contact Information:
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718

*Top Photo: (From left to right) Abigail Rafferty, veterinary technician in the rehabilitative service, Mary Penland, and Dr. Kvitko gather around Jack.

*Middle Photo: Mary Penland looks on as Jack exercises in the aquatic treadmill.

*Bottom Photo: Mary Penland pulls Jack in his wagon as they exit the Small Animal Hospital.

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