Lexus, a product of a pet shop supplied by a puppy mill, is a ten-month-old pup who came into rescue with a twisted and fused jaw, unable to open her mouth more than an inch. Despite her circumstances, Lexus is full of life, has a wonderful Westie attitude, and loves to give kisses out of the side of her mouth as best she can.
Lexus’s condition is an inherited disease known as Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) or osteoarthropathy, noncancerous growth of bone on the lower jaw bone or over the angle of the mandible and tympanic bulla. The disease is painful to the puppy and is usually first recognized when a puppy shows discomfort while chewing or when his mouth is being examined. The disease is most often recognized between the ages of four and seven months, but can occur as early as three to four weeks, and rarely as late as nine to ten months. Experienced breeders and veterinarians usually recognize it earlier than four months of age by clinical signs or by palpation.
WestieMed believes Lexus deserves a chance to live a full, normal life, and has approved the funding of her medical costs including emergency surgery to correct this deformity if appropriate.
Update: Dr. Padgett, the Radiology Department and two different surgeons from Michigan State University, (as well as surgeons from a number of other renowned hospitals) all looked at the CAT scans and they agree that surgery cannot be done. The musclature from the whole right side of the face would have to be removed to get to the hinge and then that also might have to be removed. This would leave the jaw hanging so there would be no real jaw function or jaw control.
Lexus will continue on prednisone treatment in the hopes that the boney growth will receed on its own. All of us at WestieMed are pulling for Lexus, and we are pleased to be able to help defray her medical costs associated with her medical care.
Lexus is adopted!
Update October 28, 2000: Well, it seems that we have been blessed again. Our new little girl has blended in beautifully with nary a hitch or harsh word. A seamless integration would be another way of saying it. She is a joy! What an inquisitive soul with boundless energy. Within a half hour of arrival she had explored every square foot of the house, both upstairs and down, that was not closed off by a gate or door. Today, I opened the dish washer and took out the lower basket to do some repairs on it. She jumped right into the washer to look around. She also inspects the refgrigerator whenever we open it.
She began adopting us on the way home, and completed the process within one day. Chowder and she found a playmate in each other immediately. Already she snuggles and snoozes on the couch with either Fay or me. The rest of the pack has accepted her without any problem. She guards the house against those pesky squirrels and chipmunks with keen eyesight and nose (a real hunter). We found out today that she has a very loud bark when she sees anything amiss. Last night she fussed a little when put her into the crate in the family room, so we covered the crate and said goodnight. She settled down immediately and didn’t stir until this morning. Amazing.
Today, she had two walks up and down our dead end street and several around the yard on the lead, with praise when she attended to her piddling. This evening, she went to the family room door and barked to go out so she could piddle! I fell asleep on the couch at about 10:30 with her on my lap. I woke up after about a half hour and found her at the other end of the couch, asleep and snuggled up to a blanket. Right above her on top of a rear cushion, also asleep, was Chowder with one leg draped over her. I grabbed the camera and took a picture. It should be priceless.
She certainly has a mind of her own. We were out on the deck this morning with all of the dogs, and her on a lead. I told her it was time to go back into the house and started to take her in. She strongly objected until we also went in. I think she is a tomboy, very strong and eager to roughhouse if we let her. She really enjoys playing peekaboo.
She had done very well with her eating. This morning, we gave her some softened food while the rest of the pack had its usual breakfast snack fruit from my cereal and toast with jelly). She finished her own and joined the rest of us looking for more. I tried her on a small piece of banana, and she inhaled it. She also made a lightning-fast pass at Barney and grabbed a piece of toast out of his mouth, somewhat to his displeasure. She had it broken up and swallowed in no time.
That’s about it. Will keep you posted.
A Message from Lexus’s rescuer…
This has sure made my week! Only possible because WestieMed was willing to give this little girl a chance at life! I must tell you.. if my hands weren’t so full right now, I almost wanted to keep her myself.. She is soo full of herself. She doesn’t have a clue that she has a handicap. I swore she was chewing on my hand. she was digging her teeth into my hand. She “chewed” on a toy the same way. Its amazing how she has adapted. She found a piece of kibble and was flipping it into the air and playing with it until she decided she should eat it.
As Sandy (a WestieMed Board member) once said.. she’s proud to be part of this group. So am I. Without it, Lexus wouldn’t have had a chance. How ever long her life may be, at least she will be happy, loved and well cared for.
Update August 2002
Background: My wife, Fay, and I first heard of Lexus through Nancy Schoch and Lucy Ryley in the summer of 2000. I logged on to the WestieMed web site and downloaded her photos and history. It was obvious that she needed some tender, loving care if she were to have a meaningful life. We decided that we would help if given the opportunity. Word came that Lexus was to be introduced at the Montgomery County, PA Westie show in early October, and that we would be able to adopt her after she returned to Massachusetts. Fay, Lucy and I drove to Nancy’s home on Cape Cod to meet our new little lady and bring her back to Connecticut. Lexus had a few scratches about the face and head, apparently arising from some disagreements with Nancy’s dogs. Nancy advised us that Lexus had aspirations of being an alpha dog, and that we would need to keep a tight rein in order to maintain peace in our pack. It was sage advice indeed!
We were not new to helping dogs in need. Twenty years ago, we adopted a young female Cairn terrier from the Groton, CT animal pound the day before she was to be put down. At about the same time, we adopted a female Westie from a private shelter in Granby, CT. They joined our existing pack consisting of a male Scottish terrier that we had purchased from a well-known breeder on Long Island, NY, and a male Westie that we had purchased at a local pet shop (before we became aware of the evils of the puppy mill trade). Soon after, we adopted a young female Westie that was given up by a Rhode Island family due to their unfounded fear that she was a danger to their toddler son (their unnecessary loss, our wonderful gain), and a young male Westie whose owner had retired from the U.S. Navy in Groton, CT and was moving to Florida. Whenever possible, we have retained an adopted dog’s original name.
At present, our pack consists of the following in addition to Lexus:
Barney – a twenty-two-pound male Cairn terrier mixed breed; not overweight, just large frame. He was abandoned at a veterinarian’s office in Rhode Island in 1994. A friend and former Westie breeder in Rhode Island took him home to her pack of fourteen Westies, rather than see him put down, then presented him to us. We know neither his lineage nor true age (the best guess is approximately fourteen years). Cataracts in both eyes have left him almost blind, but he is still an avid hunter of things that crawl (usually earthworms that surface when we do the gardening). He can make it upstairs but needs to be carried down. He always wears pants in the house due to some incontinence and his habit of leg lifting.
Katharine – a sixteen-pound, ten-year-old female Westie. She came to us in 1995 when our friend in Rhode Island, the one who brought Barney to us, had to give up her breeding activity. Katharine suffers from cataracts, and recently had a new lens implanted in one eye. It has made a remarkable improvement in her quality of life. She was named after Katharine Hayward, the legendary New England Westie breeder, and mentor.
Chowder – a twenty-five-pound, five-year-old male Westie. With a large frame and muscular build, he can easily clear a twenty-four-inch high hurdle. He came to us in 2000 when his owner in East Haddam, CT could no longer give him adequate time and affection. She provided his unusual name.
On with the Update…
Lexus can best be described as a lovable character, a scamp with a sense of humor. She is very independent and opinionated. There is rarely a dull moment when she is up and about. She continues to be very inquisitive, knows everything that goes on both indoors and out, and is extremely vocal on every subject that comes up. In other words, she is a busybody. Although she cannot use her teeth in the usual way, she is fearless in defending that which she considers hers. She craves the company of both dogs and people. Like any respectable Westie, Lexus likes to snuggle on pillows, especially if there is another pack member or pack leader with whom to share them. She sleeps on the bed with Mom and Katharine, and is usually the first up to greet the new day. Our vet, who viewed her year 2000 CAT scans while on a trip to Boston, tells us that she has no hearing capability on the right side, but she does very well with what exists on the left. What we have is a well-adjusted Westie bitch in excellent health that ignores her disability and enjoys life to the fullest. What a loss it would have been if the “experts” had succeeded in putting her down. Although she tries our patience at times, we feel fortunate in being able to offer her our affection and a chance to live up to her potential.
She loves to play in water. Above the waterfall at the garden pond are two shallow pools through which the recirculated water flows. She thinks they were made just for her to bathe in. We also keep a small plastic wading pool by the upper terrace garden with a few inches of water for her use on hot days. She is in and out of it constantly. Recently, she discovered that when we put on our swimsuits it means some fun in the swimming pool. Just try to get to the pool without including her!
She loves to smell and roll in flowers, and the gardens often show the result. She stands up, wraps her front legs around the stalks, and pulls the plants to the ground. Raccoons and woodchucks do this, but who ever heard of a dog following the same procedure.
She loves games, whether wrestling with soul mate Chowder as they play keep-away or with me as I play with Chowder and his tug toy. Since she cannot grip anything with her teeth, she has developed the procedure of wrapping her front legs around the target and holding on with surprising strength. If I happen to have a drink in my hand when she decides to arm wrestle me, the result can sometimes be very wet clothing. In the absence of a biting and chewing capability, she mashes things with her very sharp teeth: food, my hand when she wrestles, or toes that are not protected by shoes. Shoelaces can be untied very quickly when she intentionally snags them with her canine teeth. She and Chowder have a racetrack of sorts in the back yard: up and down the ledge, through the mountain laurel, and around the garden pond and lower terrace garden as they play tag. Naturally, they have to stop and bark when the swans come up the bank from the brook looking for a handout. Chasing squirrels and chipmunks and digging up voles are also considered exciting games.
She loves food of any kind, including some that smell very bad. Yes, she is a connoisseur of fine, fresh dung, her only major vice. This necessitates a constant watch for any tempting morsels and their prompt removal from temptation. She has not yet agreed with us that functions involving body waste should occur only in the grass. Consequently, the deck across the back of the house is not so affectionately referred to as the poop deck. Our only concessions to her disability occur at mealtime. To minimize the chance of choking, her dry food is small kibble only (softened) and we check for bones as we mince whatever meat augments her diet. Choking is a constant worry, as we would be unable to clear her airway due to her disability. Her dish is placed in a crate in the family room and the door is locked behind her to prevent the other dogs from harassing her during the approximately 30 minutes required to mash and lick up her food. During that time, she lets others know that they should not even approach the crate. When Lexus came to live with us, she weighed 14 pounds and had a very sparse coat. Slipping through the four-inch-wide space between the bars in the fence around the swimming pool was a problem that required installation of a temporary barricade. She has thrived on beef, chicken and venison, now has a thick coat, and weighs sixteen very firm, muscular pounds. As a result of her growth and weight gain, she can no longer slip through the swimming pool fence.
Our most heartfelt thanks to WestieMed for helping Lexus become a cherished member of our pack.
Ralph E. Slater Old Lyme, CT