A rescue dog who survived being run over by a car is getting a new shot at walking again thanks to a new hydrotherapy clinic for pooches.
Wonka, a beagle-mix, was hit by a car on a remote reserve in Northern Manitoba sometime in March.
Tracy McWhirter, director of Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba, says she belonged to a loving family but with no veterinarian in the community, they decided to surrender her so she could get medical care.
McWhirter said it took almost a week to get Wonka, thought to be about seven years old, to Winnipeg.
And by then, the dog was in pretty bad shape.
"She had been run over by a car," she said. "Her pelvis was crushed. Her leg was shattered in four places."
McWhirter said it was clear Wonka was in a lot of pain, but she never complained.
"We refer to her as a very dignified lady," she said. "The first day ... when she came down with those injuries, she just would not let us know how much pain she was in. She's like, 'I'm here, and I'm happy and I'm grateful.' And it's really something to see them when they come down like that. It changes you."
Wonka had surgery on her leg in April. Rods still hold the bones in place, which are supposed to help support the body's weight on the leg.
But Wonka has refused to use put weight on the leg, and it’s taking a long time to heal.
In a last ditch effort, McWhirter is taking her to a specially designed pool for dogs.
Dog wellness centre opens pool for pooches
The Pawsh Dog Wellness Centre officially opens on Saturday but has been accepting clients for the last couple of months.
Owner Laurel Skuba, who had planned to be a vet but now owns two locations of Pawsh Dog for grooming and daycare services in addition to the new hydrotherapy centre, said it's been a dream of hers to open a facility for older dogs and those recovering from injury or surgery.
"So many of the dogs in the daycare, we watch as they age, [they have] just complete loss of mobility," she said. "It's often a factor that shortens their lives. So the big driving force of the facility was to provide an opportunity for dogs to get exercise in a low impact method to try to keep them mobile, to keep their muscle mass, to keep them moving for longer."
Skuba said it cost over half a million dollars to build the facility, which houses an inground pool for hydrotherapy and is also used for swimming classes. There's also a matted area with special equipment such as a treadmill for dogs for dry land rehabilitation.
Skuba said so far, the reception from Manitoba's veterinary community has been positive.
"It's something new," she said. "There is some skepticism about hydrotherapy, about non-vets providing these services."
Skuba said vets don't get training in hydrotherapy in school, but they are working with the new facility. "They are sending us clients and answering questions we have."
She said the world leader in hydrotherapy for dogs, the U.K.'s Angela Griffiths, is doing a presentation for vets at the Pawsh Dog Wellness Centre on Thursday.
Skuba said the therapy is widely accepted in Europe.
"Most dogs [in Europe] are insured, so the health care's just far better for animals. They have access to physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, more surgeries if they need it," she said. "North America a little bit behind."
Wonka’s recovery begins
During her sessions, Wonka is learning to swim back and forth between her handlers from the rescue.
She is not yet receiving hydrotherapy but McWhirter said there's already a difference in Wonka after a handful of swimming sessions.
"Wonka looks more confident and happy, and she's using the leg," she said.
The facility also has an underwater camera that helps track progress.
"They've already notice some improvement underwater with her using the leg," said McWhirter.
McWhirter's optimistic, but Wonka also has to start using the leg outside the pool.
If she doesn't, her vet, Sheri Gould of Best Friends Animal Hospital, said she may lose it.
Gould said it should have healed by now but hasn't.
"The swimming ... is her last chance (to get) walking with that leg," she said. "If that doesn't work, I think we're going to have to wind up removing the leg."
But Gould said the therapy she's getting at the Pawsh Dog's new facility holds promise for other dogs.
"I think it's very exciting," she said.
Gould said often vets want to get dogs swimming for rehabilitation or after surgery but even in the summer, lakes and rivers aren't the answer.
"That's not clean water," she explained. She said bathtubs are usually too small and chlorine in outdoor pools isn’t good for dogs either. "So this is the first time we've had a facility specifically designed for dogs and people that have been trained in how to do physiotherapy ... So it's a great opportunity for Winnipeg."
Wonka's swimming session over, she heads home for a rest.
McWhirter admits, Wonka's one of the lucky ones.