This is Stella. Do not be alarmed by her sad looking face. She is one happy lady! She just has what I call “resting sad face” but in reality she is a happy, sweet pit bull whose tail is constantly wagging. I wanted to share the story of how Stella came into my life (and the raucous she has caused!) in the hopes that it will not only dispel the stereotype of pit bulls being aggressive dogs, but also in the hopes that it will motivate people to adopt not shop. Stella also has outstanding medical fees for $975 that are due this month and we need help – you can visit her Gofundme page to learn more: https://www.gofundme.com/sweet-stella039s-tumor-fund
Rescuing Stella the Day After Thanksgiving
I first saw Stella after she was dumped in my neighborhood this past November. I live in a rural area that often gets used as a dumping ground for trash, live animals, and dead animals. Stella came up to my gate and I could tell right away she sweet because she was wagging her tail. She looked like she had had puppies recently, her ears were cropped, but most disturbing, she had a fresh streak of blood on her belly. I went to go put my dog in the house so I could try to get a closer look at this poor baby, but she had already continued down the street. I saw her after that, hanging out with the dogs a couple of houses down, and I thought maybe the neighbors were feeding her.
Then, the day after Thanksgiving, I woke up and noticed the dogs that live down the street and around the corner were across the street from my house. Even from my kitchen window, I could tell they were eating something on the side of the road – an animal. All of the neighborhood dogs were coming around. I called the sheriff’s department so I could make a report because I knew the animal had been dumped. That afternoon, I was in my house when I heard a loud commotion outside. A dog was screeching. I looked out the window and saw the neighborhood dogs attacking one of the other dogs who had come up to the dead animal. I ran outside and when the dogs saw me, they scattered. The poor dog that had been the victim stood up and limped toward me in shock. It was the same pit bull that had come to my gate a couple of weeks earlier. She was dripping blood so I ripped off my sweater and wrapped it around her front leg, where I saw the most blood leaking. I applied pressure for a couple of minutes and then decided to carry her inside my house to clean her up and get a better look. I was covered in blood and blood was dripping all over the place.
Stella let me rinse her off a little in the shower and I realized that most of the bleeding was coming from underneath her front leg, where she had some deep puncture wounds. She also had puncture wounds on her head and other places on her body, and some gashes on her legs. The side of her head was already swelling from a dog bite and a large hematoma had formed. Despite all the pressure I was placing on her injuries, the one under her front leg would not stop bleeding. I knew I needed help, but couldn’t afford to take her to the emergency vet. I took some photos of the situation and posted on Facebook. Another dog rescuer asked for a video so she could share it. It was hard to get a photo in my bathroom because it was dark, but also because I was using one hand to try to stop the bleeding. This was the best I could get. If you look closely on the right side, you can see the hematoma on her face.
On the Road to Recovery
Stella wouldn’t eat or drink, she just seemed lethargic, which worried me. I was connected to the owner of a local dog rescue group who offered to give Stella some basic medical care to get her out of the danger zone. I took her over that night. I was there until about 1 am, waiting patiently while Stella went through a couple bags of drip fluids and got some shots and medicine to help prevent infection. That was the main concern, because apparently the infection could cause kidney failure, which could cause death. I went home with two more bags of drip fluid to change out throughout the next 24 hours. Stella had perked up a little bit, which was a good sign. I set my bathroom up as Stella’s bedroom, so my other dogs and my foster kitten wouldn’t bother her and get tangled up in her IV.
The next day she was doing much better. She was outside going potty while I held up her IV. Here’s a video of her being entirely interested in smelling my car! (which she still likes to do)
I called the sheriff’s department back to update them on the incident. My next door neighbor, who is also my landlord, told me the dead animal was a goat. She said there’s a goat farmer in the neighborhood who dumps the goats that die, which I also ended up telling the sheriff’s department.
I can’t recall if it was the day I rescued her, or the next day, but I noticed an unusual looking growth on Stella’s belly. It was larger than the size of a golf ball, mostly dark colored (gray and black) in these weird bubble-shapes. My first concern was that it was a mammary tumor. My second concern was that I saw smaller looking growths in the same area. I made an appointment to take her to the vet the following week. In the meanwhile, she was already fitting in with my other dogs. I hadn’t introduced her to my foster kitten yet, but I had a feeling they would get along.
Stella’s First Vet Visit
The photo above was a week after I rescued Stella, on our way to her first vet visit. The wounds from the dog attack were healing pretty well, but I was worried about that tumor. She got her vaccines and a heartworm test (which was positive). The vet said her tumor could indeed be a mammary tumor. He quoted me at about $800 to have it removed. His other concern were the other spots on her belly that looked like they could tumors-in-the-making. I felt so bad for Stella, I wasn’t sure how serious it was, but I just hoped there wasn’t cancer that had spread below the surface. As a broke college student, I knew I couldn’t afford the surgery, and because she seemed stable, I decided to give it some time and think about what to do. My Facebook post from the day I rescued her had circulated quite a bit. I had strangers from all over messaging me, and a few people donated $10 or $20 dollars to help with the vet visit, which was extremely kind of them. But there were other people that had very judgmental and negative reactions. Some people had commented that instead of taking a video of Stella after her attack, I should have been at the vet, even though it was another rescuer that had asked me to take the video so she could share it and get help for me! There were a couple of rescue groups that wanted to take Stella, but they were very rude to me from the start, and treated me in a condescending way, so I didn’t feel comfortable handing Stella over to strangers that did not seem like nice people.
In the meantime, I just decided to spoil Stella with love. I discovered that she got along great with my foster kitten, loved to play, was potty trained, loved food, and was a champion snuggler. I have never met a dog that loves to snuggle so much!
For a couple of months, everything was great. Stella fit into our little rescue family, I had finally settled on a name for her, and she seemed to enjoy having a home. I had even gotten a second opinion on her tumor at another vet clinic and scheduled an appointment to have it removed for a much lower cost.
Stella’s Tumor Opens Up
Then one day I noticed drops of blood on the floor. I thought maybe Stella had gone into heat, because she wasn’t spayed yet. But after taking a closer look, I realized that the blood was coming from the tumor on her belly. For the next few days, I did my best to stop the bleeding, and tried to wrap her belly with cotton pads and tape. It didn’t work very well, and it was stressful because blood was dripping all over the place. One night, right when I was about to get in bed, I went to check on Stella and there was blood all over the sheets. Her tumor had opened up more and there was a constant flow of blood. I did my best to stop the bleeding, but it wouldn’t stop and I was getting really worried. I had to rush her to the emergency vet that was 45 minutes away. I put an old rug in the back seat for her to lay on, because she was bleeding everywhere. The vet saw her right away. He put a belly wrap on her and gave me some antibiotics to prevent infection. It cost $130. They wanted me to bring her back everyday to rechange the belly wrap until her vet appointment to have it removed. When I added up how much that would cost, it was $350 ($25 per visit). I only brought her back twice to have the bandage replaced, but each time the vet said there was still bleeding. The second time, the vet was very concerned because he said the opening on the tumor had opened up to about the size of a nickel and was continuously bleeding. He said the tumor needed to be removed as soon as possible. They gave me a quote of $1500.
A friend from a local rescue group suggested I try The Country Vet, which was located a couple of towns over. I had gotten my foster dog spayed there the previous year, and remembered really liking them, so I decided to take Stella there on Monday to get another quote for the tumor removal, as I had concerns about the quality of care with the vet who I currently had a future appointment with. I went to class, and then rushed home to get Stella and drive her to the vet. I was in such a hurry that I forgot to bring her leash, so when we got there, we had to wait in the car. Even though we didn’t have an appointment, they saw us pretty quickly because of her condition. I had to carry her inside to the examination room. They cut off her belly wrap and blood immediately began dripping all the floor. The vet quickly came in to look at her, and without any hesitation, said that he wanted to get her into surgery right then. That was about 3:45 pm. I went and sat in the waiting room. I was so relieved and happy that she was having the tumor removed, but concerned about the surgery going well, and stressed about the costs. But I wanted to do what was best for Stella. The vet came out a while later to tell me that the surgery had gone well and he not only removed the big tumor, but some surrounding growths that he suspected would become tumors as well. After some more waiting, around 6 pm he took me to the back so I could see Stella. She was groggy, but happy to see me. The surgery cost $680 (not including fees for the follow-up visits).
Poor Stella was groggy from the anesthesia. She didn’t want to eat anything when we got home. I carefully lifted her onto my bed and she was trying really hard to stay awake, but kept nodding off. The next day she felt better and ate something. I put an e-collar on her when I wasn’t home, just to make sure she didn’t mess with the incision. But she seemed to be doing well. I was supposed to keep her calm because too much movement could make the incision open up. Everything was going well, but then maybe 3 days after her surgery, the incision started bleeding more and more.
Stella’s Incision Opens Up & Biopsy Results
It was hard to get a good look at her incision because it was on her lower belly, but I was able to see that a couple of the staples in the middle of the incision had come undone and the incision was opening up. And every time Stella moved, it opened up more. By Sunday night, it had opened up so much that I could see inside the incision and I started panicking. I was supposed to turn in a midterm paper in my class the next morning, but knew that Stella needed to go to the vet. I had to email my professor, explain the situation, and attach my paper as a Word document.
The next morning, I took Stella back to the Country Vet. They used the stitches that were already in her incision to tighten it a little and close the gap a bit. They showed me how to apply a mixture of honey and sugar to the incision, then wrap her belly. I had never heard of that before, but they said the honey and sugar helps heal wounds. I went home and googled it, and it’s true! I reapplied the mixture a couple of times throughout the week, then took her back for a checkup a week later. They also gave me the results of her biopsy – cutaneous hemangiosarcoma – also known as skin cancer. Probably the result of being a stray, exposed to the harsh South Texas sun. Maybe she has lived her entire life outside, that is common in the rural area where I live. The good news is, the vet was able to remove all of the growths at their root. It’s possible that there are other tumors below the surface that will pop up, but for now, the outcome seems positive.
Stella Needs You!
I took her for her most recent check up yesterday and the incision is almost healed. The sides have closed and now we’re just waiting for the middle part of the incision to close up. But it’s almost there! The vet said the skin and the muscle underneath it look really good. That honey & sugar really did the trick! But now I have to worry about how to pay for her medical needs. The total bill that I still need to pay is over $900, and that doesn’t include the credit cards fees that I will incur from her Gofundme page, so I’m probably looking at closer to $975. Please help Stella by donating or sharing, we would both really appreciate it!
Stella defies the pit bull stereotype by being a sweet, snuggly, friendly girl. Despite this, at one of our recent vet visits, the lady in line ahead of us refused to stand near us and tried to make us move away from the line so she could walk past us, even though she had plenty of room. All because Stella is a pit bull with cropped ears. Now when Stella goes out in public, I add a big pink clip-on flower to her collar to help show that she’s sweet. At our last visit, in the waiting room, everyone was commenting on what a “cute puppy” she was and a couple of people asked to pet her, which Stella enjoyed thoroughly.
Despite everything Stella has gone through these past couple of months, she’s literally been wagging her tail through it all. I think Stella is the perfect example of why you should never judge a book by it’s cover, as well as why people should rescue and adopt, not breed and buy. Stella may have died from the dog attack if I had not intervened, but even if the attack had never occurred, her tumor still would have opened up and she could have bled to death or died from infection if she was still living on the street. It’s heartbreaking to think about. It’s been extremely stressful and time consuming, but I’m glad that I was able to help Stella, and I fell in love with her immediately. To me, every dog is perfect, but Stella is really really perfect!