BIG HORN — This past fall, life was good for The Brinton Museum’s “spokesdog” Dickens. The 6-year-old wire fox terrier was happily romping the grounds of the museum and basking in the limelight of his fame as a muse for various artists in the newly published book “The Dickens of the Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum.”
Though he is a well-known and much loved fixture at the museum, many people may not know that in January, he was seriously injured and narrowly escaped death under the wheels of a vehicle.
On the morning of Jan. 24, Ken Schuster, curator of the museum, pulled into the drive in front of his house, keeping an eye on the family’s four dogs as they romped and played.
“Doc was over in the yard and I figured Dickens was somewhere close,” Schuster explained. “I was going really slow fortunately. I heard this bump and I heard a second bump. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out. I was on his face with the rear tire.”
Schuster got back in his car and backed up, releasing Dickens and revealing the extent of his injuries. He believes that Dickens jumped a rock retaining wall next to the vehicle and went right under the wheels on the other side.
“I went to grab him and he shot off like a scalded cat,” Schuster said. “Fortunately when I got in front of the house he came running back. Blood was going everywhere because his whole face had been crushed.”
Schuster and his son, Andrew, wrapped Dickens in a towel and rushed to Mountain View Veterinary Hospital while Schuster’s wife Barb called the hospital to let them know Dickens was en route.
“Barb called when he was on his way and all they really told us was that he had been hit and was bleeding profusely from his face,” said Hanna Mudder, nurse and manager at MVVH. “That is all we knew really.”
“He was bleeding out of his nose and mouth,” said Dr. Chris Newton, the veterinarian who treated Dickens upon his arrival. “He was congested (with blood) and not very aesthetically pleasing to look at. The big concern was more internal injuries and potential brain injuries at the time. I knew we had some orthopedic problems with the face but I was more concerned with stabilizing him and making sure he didn’t have any other injuries.”
After giving Dickens fluids and pain medication to treat his shock, Newton began an initial examination that determined Dickens had broken his lower and upper jawbones in several places. He had also lost a canine tooth. X-rays and ultrasounds determined that Dickens had amazingly avoided other head or internal injuries.
Two days later, on a Saturday, Newton and Dr. Pete Pelissier performed an hour and a half long surgery on Dickens to repair his broken jawbones.
Holes were drilled into the bones and four wires strung through the holes to stabilize the bones.
Three of the four wires were removed in a second surgery approximately eight weeks later and one will remain in place.
Newton said the type of complex surgery that Dickens had is rare and could only be accomplished because the nature of the fractures allowed for the surgery in-house, rather than being referred to a specialist.
“It just so happened that these were three fractures that were in a place that was accessible enough to do it in this fashion,” he explained. “They just happened to be the right fractures to repair. They can certainly get more complicated when it involves the jaw. His jaw was unstable and he had an open fracture which means the bone was exposed. It was exposed in the mouth, which is obviously a dirty place, so you want to get those done sooner rather than later.”
Two days after his surgery, with a prescribed regimen of antibiotics and pain medications, Dickens returned home. Obviously, eating and drinking were a challenge and the Schuster’s prepared special, liquid meals for Dickens for several weeks. He also had difficulty lapping water from a bowl, but readily took handfuls of snow.
True to his terrier nature, Dickens was stoic throughout most of his recovery period, though while the wires were in his jaw (with two of the wires exposed through the skin), he understandably did not want anyone to touch his mouth, which made giving medications a challenge.
“Getting the pills down him was pretty hard,” Barb Schuster said. “You can’t hold on to anything. We ground them up and put them in the Pill Pockets. It was tough. The first couple weeks you couldn’t even point to him or he would shy away. He didn’t want anything done to his face.”
Dickens is thoroughly healed now and back to his role of greeter and mascot at the museum. He has a slight disfiguration of his nose, but can eat and drink normally, and of course, take the occasional dog biscuit.
“He was happy-go-lucky, easy going Dickens,” Mudder said about the canine patient. “We were fortunate. We were glad we could save him. It was pretty scary at first.”
“Apparently he is back to his old ways, riding on the Kubota!” Newton added.
“He is back to being a normal dog. With a lump on his nose.”