CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The smell is what hit the veterinarian first.
"The legs smelled like death. It was a horrific odor that permeated the hospital," said Dr. Alan Garret, owner of Everhart Animal Hospital.
Garret is trying to save a young dog's leg after another front leg fell off in a grotesque case of animal neglect. The dog was brought to the hospital Thursday after a man brought it to Peewee's Pet Adoption World and Sanctuary.
Ernie Cochran, Peewee's director, said the man found the dog by a set of mailboxes on his street when he was checking his mail. The dog couldn't walk, so it's likely someone dumped the dog in that location, she said.
The dog had tightly wrapped bandages on its front legs and makeshift splints made from a plastic back scratcher and a plastic spoon, Garret said.
"We took the splint off and the leg fell off. It was gangrenous," he said. "My biggest concern is the front left leg, which is still intact. We're doing what we can to save it."
The front left leg doesn't appear to be infected with gangrene yet, but the dog is undergoing hydrotherapy and laser therapy to stimulate blood flow and lessen inflammation, Garret said. The dog was injected with a painkiller Thursday and is being treated with antibiotics in the hopes that it will help salvage the leg.
"He's a brave little soul, letting us work with him," he said.
In Garret's experience, many pet owners do not realize their at-home treatments can be harmful to their pets. It's possible the dog's owner tried to heal an injury with the splints because they could not afford veterinary treatment.
"I think the person meant well and it blew up in their face," he said. "People love their pets, but don't understand veterinary medicine."
The animal hospital does not receive any government funding, so the cost of the dog's treatment will likely come out Garret's own pocket. Donations are welcome to help defray the expense.
"Money is not as important as trying to do the right thing for unfortunate dogs or cats," he said. "I would never put a dog to sleep for lack of funding. This dog is young, so we have a chance of hopefully making it viable."
When the dog has been rehabilitated, Cochran said the sanctuary, whose operating budget is funded solely by donations, will likely adopt it or find a foster home for it until a family adopts it. This would be the third or fourth three-legged dog that Peewee's has re-homed in its 20-year history.
"They're amazing dogs, and this one is young so it will be able to adapt," Cochran said.