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Homeless Dog in Mississippi Survives Gun Blast to the Face and Leg, Undergoes Reconstructive Surgery

MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center Gives “Claire” a Second Chance with Her New Family in Massachusetts

BOSTON, Aug. 20, 2018 – A stray dog from Mississippi named “Claire” is lucky to be alive after she was shot at close range in the face and leg before being rescued from the streets by the Second Chances Animal Rescue in Pontotoc, Mississippi and ultimately adopted by a Massachusetts couple, the MSPCA-Angell announced today.

Claire, a three-year-old Retriever mix, made her way to Kathy and Chris Ambrose’s home in Reading on June 17 after having her mangled leg amputated by a Mississippi veterinarian in May.  The open and extensively scarred wound in her upper palate made breathing and eating difficult, and left her vulnerable to choking every time she ate.

The Ambroses immediately booked a consultation with Dr. Mike Pavletic, head of surgery at Angell Animal Medical Center, to determine whether and how her upper palate and nasal cavity could be repaired.  X-rays and a CT scan performed at Angell revealed bullet fragments still lodged in Claire’s snout, tongue and neck.

“It’s astounding to think that someone could intentionally do this to a dog—and we’re grateful that the attempt to kill her failed,” said Dr. Pavletic, after performing a two-hour surgery on Aug. 8 to cinch the two sides of Claire’s upper palate together, thereby closing the hole.

“The surgery was a success and our hope is that she will continue to breathe normally through her nose, and eat comfortably for the rest of her life,” he said.

Unwanted, Starving and Nearly Killed
Claire was first spotted in late April scavenging for food in a neighborhood close to Pontotoc, Mississippi.  “She was emaciated—nearly 20 lbs. underweight—and was seen picking through trash just to survive,” said Alissa Barton, director, Second Chances Rescue.

“We went looking for her as soon as we saw Facebook posts from members of the community describing her condition.”  Second Chances staffers and volunteers scoured the town but were unable to locate Claire.

“She turned up in the woods, several days after she was last spotted, and we were devastated to learn what happened to her,” she said.

Claire had been shot at point blank range through her muzzle, with the bullet ripping through her upper palate and tongue before exiting through her jaw.  She had also been shot in the right leg.  She escaped to nearby brush and collapsed.  By the time rescuers reached her, her mangled right leg was infested with maggots. “We rushed her to a local vet who honestly didn’t believe she would make it through the night,” said Barton.

But Claire did make it.  She recovered well enough from the leg amputation to travel to Massachusetts after the Ambroses, profoundly moved by her plight, formally adopted her.  Soon after, she landed in Dr. Mike Pavletic’s exam room at Angell.

Dr. Pavletic, who is the author of Atlas of Small Animal Wound Management and Reconstructive Surgery, is known around the world for his pioneering work, performed a similar surgery in February on a dog named “Luke,” a stray rescued from the streets of Beirut, Lebanon after he too was shot in the face at close range.

Claire’s Road Ahead

Claire left Angell on Aug. 9, the day after her surgery, and is expected back later this month for a check-up, during which Dr. Pavletic will determine if any follow-up interventions are necessary.  “Hopefully, this is a ‘one and done’ surgery and we won’t need to put her through any other procedures for the rest of her life,” he said.

As for Ambrose and her family, they are happy to have their sweet and loving dog back home.  “Our heart breaks for Claire and every other animal suffering unnecessary cruelty,” she said.  “We are grateful to Dr. Pavletic and the team at Angell for making all the difference in the world for our Claire—and we rest easy knowing that she’ll only experience unconditional love in a safe home from here on out.”