A New Life for Darwin

By Lee Chambers, Marketing & Communications Manager, Dakin Humane Society

When Darwin first arrived at Dakin Humane Society, the first thing the staff noticed about the loveable yellow lab was his curious walk.  He seemed to put most of his weight on the front half of his body (especially his front legs), and was babying his rear quarters.  An exam by a staff veterinarian confirmed the problem -- Darwin was experiencing significant weakness in his hind end and tiring too quickly.  He was having trouble getting up and was wobbly when he managed to stand.  It was presumed that Darwin was suffering from arthritis, which was complicated by extra pounds on his frame.  He was clearly not a candidate for adoption in his condition.

A specialist who was consulted about the case later made the determination that Darwin’s strange movement was due to bilateral cruciate disease.  In his case, ligaments in both of his rear legs were wearing down and creating increasing lameness for the six-year-old charmer.

The verdict was that two operations, one for each leg, would be necessary to improve his mobility.  How would a non-profit like Dakin – which operates solely on contributions from the public – be able to cover such a major medical expense?  Donors to Dakin’s Buddy Fund would once again save the day…and the dog.

The Buddy Fund, which is supported by public contributions, was established in 2007 in honor of a German shepherd mix with a cardiac disorder.  The Fund’s initial donations were used to cover Buddy’s substantial diagnostic testing, surgery, medication, and more, and since then the Fund has financed countless complex medical procedures needed to restore Dakin’s animals to health.  

For Darwin, the first order of business was to take off some pounds prior to the first surgery, and he did, thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers.  Dr. Michael Frost, a veterinarian who specializes in orthopedic cases, agreed to conduct both surgeries, scheduled one month apart.

In the meantime, Darwin settled in nicely with his foster family in Florence and awaited his surgeries.  Diane Roeder and her husband Bill provided a bucolic setting for the lab, with Diane reporting that Darwin “put his nose up in the air and smelled the smells…he loves the country.” 

Darwin sailed through his first surgery.  Diane, a registered nurse, was already up to speed about what he would need to recover.  “The medical stuff is not a big deal for me,” she states.  “He puts up with the rehab tasks I’m doing with him. He likes the massages and tolerates the passive range of motion exercises, but when I approach him with the ice packs, he looks at me with the big eyes and puts his paw on my arm. I don’t know whether he’s thanking me, or asking me not to do it,” she laughs.

Diane noticed an interesting change in Darwin’s personality, post-surgery.  After showing little initial interest in playing with toys or chewing on bones, Darwin has embraced these typical dog activities.  “He’s also become more expressive,” Diane says.  “If you talk to him, he responds with this playful cross between a whine and a grunt, and it becomes a conversation that ends up in a friendly bark.”

As of this writing, Darwin’s second surgery date is approaching.  Following that, he will spend more recovery time with Diane and Bill until he’s ready to be a candidate for adoption.  With his amiable nature and sweet personality, Darwin is bound to attract some attention when he becomes available to the public.

There’s much for this wonderful lab to look forward to in the weeks ahead.  A new home, a soft bed, and lots of adventures lay ahead for this gentle canine who will continue making remarkable progress, thanks to the generosity of Dakin’s Buddy Fund supporters.

Dakin Humane Society delivers effective, innovative services that improve the lives of animals in need and the people who care about them from its two locations in Springfield and Leverett, MA.  The organization shelters, treats and fosters more than 20,000 animals each year and has performed more than 60,000 spay/neuter surgeries since 2009.  Dakin is a local non-profit organization that relies solely on contributions from individuals and businesses that care about animals to bring its services to the community.  

To donate to Dakin Humane Society, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 109865 on your paper pledge form.