Chalfont couple nurses paralyzed canine again to well being

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The screaming was constant. Audible from the little dog with the broken neck and inside of its owner with the broken heart.

When Sandra Gingras met Finn’s eyes, the family’s fluffy hybrid Shichon no bigger than a dust mop, there was no reassurance.

Night after night, between midnight and forever, she tried everything to comfort him while he cried and screamed like a colicky child. Care trumped exhaustion. She gently stroked his coat. Whispered chant conversations to him. Fed him medicine and love. Prayers were shared for him and her family. And if tears have been shed, it is of course because dogs, especially those that have been scurrying around the house for 10 years, become family.

The Gingras family in Chalfont are counting their blessings after a frightening incident with their beloved dog.

The screaming, crying, worrying and praying lasted two excruciating weeks.

Until it became clear it was time to make the tough but compassionate decision.

“Johnathan and I called Sara at Temple and Ryan at Penn State to let them know that we had decided to lay down Finn,” Sandra recalled from her home in Chalfont. “The children agreed. It felt selfish to want to keep him and continue his torture. ”

The torture began on March 23, when Finn, whose lion heart contradicts his size, foolishly sped out of the back yard and onto the street to meet an 80-pound Siberian Husky. The larger dog chewed on the small dog’s neck, shook it violently, and dropped it into a laundry basket like dirty laundry.

“We thought he was dead,” said Sandra. “He didn’t move. We took him to the vet. An MRI scan revealed three broken bones in his neck and his back legs were paralyzed. We couldn’t visit him in the hospital due to COVID restrictions. He finally came home four days later. ”

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And so began the sleepless nights of pills, petting, and praying. Finn was fitted with an orthosis to stabilize his neck fractures. He spent a lot of time on a blanket in a plastic laundry basket that was tended every hour. Johnathan sat in front of the dog in the basket and hand-fed it by tucking nuggets of water-soaked dog food between his index finger and thumb.

“He really is like a third child to us,” said Johnathan. “Just that little creature. We love him.

“Sandra always wanted a dog that didn’t shed and wasn’t very big. I grew up with a golden retriever. I didn’t want a small dog. ”

Sara Gingras wanted a small dog. Or big dog. Just a dog. As a little girl, she made a six-page handwritten letter to Santa Claus. Promised to bathe the dog, walk the dog, feed the dog, love the dog. But Santa at the gingras house said no, knowing exactly how a child’s promises would fade, and let mom and dad fill the gap.

But, as so often, a father melts under the warmth of his little girl’s pleading. (Personal experience here.) After Johnathan and Sandra returned from a farm in Elizabethtown with a six week old dog, they told their kids they had to come home because they caught a squirrel and it was in a box. The children opened the box. Slammed out Finn.

The Gingrases recorded Finn’s condition on Facebook pages for two weeks. His progress, his regression, their stress, their hope, and ultimately what they feared might need to be done. On the day the dog came home from the hospital, Sandra wrote the following:

“He’s in rough shape. I’m not sure how we’ll manage to take care of him. That’s overwhelming. Three broken bones in the neck leaving him in a cast for a month and paralyzing his back legs. Front legs very weak, as if partially paralyzed. They say that when the swelling goes down, he’ll likely get a sensation in his legs again. But to be honest, I find it hard to believe. I don’t know how our baby will fare with this injury. I could cry.”

In another post she asked for prayers. The neighbors sent their texts about them and called on St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, birds and the environment. Prayers seemed to have a partial effect, giving the dog some good hours in an essentially bad hurricane.

But the gingrases did what they did and worked tirelessly to turn evil into good.

When Johnathan’s oldest brother, Joel Jr., died in 1988 at the age of 26 of complications from a rare benign brain tumor, the family wiped their tears off, rubbed their palms, and went to work. They started an organization to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association. Since 1989, the JAG Fund (or Joel A. Gingras, Jr.) has raised more than $ 2.2 million. Lots of clenched fists in these gin grass.

On April 6th, after another sleepless night for the family, the long-dreaded decision was made. The time had come. The vet was called.

“DR. (Melissa) Logan (at the BluePearl Pet Hospital in Langhorne) said,” Before we do that, bring him in and we’ll change his braces and adjust his medication and then see, “Sandra recalled.” She said, Finn couldn’t be in pain, just frustrated because he couldn’t move because of the braces. ”

The vet took the dog to the exam room. The gingrases waited.

Then her little miracle went out.

“The doctor said his legs worked better now with the braces fitted,” said Sandra. “I was close to tears because we had put him to sleep the day before.”

Maybe, just maybe, love and prayers have finally arrived. Or maybe it was Gingrases’ relentless approach to challenging times. The little guy runs better, but still a little shaky. He will soon be evaluated for physiotherapy.

And he’s back to steal family socks and bark crazy bigger dogs.

“He’ll never change,” joked Johnathan.

Similar to its owner.

Columnist Phil Gianficaro can be reached on Twitter at 215-345-3078,, and @philgianficaro.