A senior Labrador retriever mix who received emergency care after a high-risk pregnancy has been released from the vet hospital and placed in foster care.
The dog, recently named “Ruthie” in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has exceeded expectations with her improved health, despite losing the 21 puppies she was carrying.
Caregivers at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine chose the namesake for “another tough senior lady who fought for what was right,” the Boone Area Humane Society posted on Facebook. The caregivers made Ruthie a lace collar, similar to Ginsburg’s iconic one.
“She received the very best care we can provide — and it was aggressive care,” said Dave Gieseke, communications director at the vet med college. “(Without it), she probably would not have survived.”
It is estimated Ruthie was in labor for approximately 24 hours before being brought to the Boone Area Humane Society around 10 a.m. on Oct. 24. She was immediately taken from there to the Hixson-Lied Small Animal Hospital at ISU.
At that point, she was not able to stand and had a puppy stuck in her birth canal.
“Her breathing was labored and her belly was painful,” said Dr. April Blong, assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences. “She had free fluid in her abdomen which we were concerned about being infected or septic.”
Ruthie underwent an emergency cesarean section. Half of her 21 puppies were stillborn, with the others dying shortly after birth, Boone Area Humane Society director Vanessa Heenan said previously. The final puppy died early in the morning on Oct. 26.
She received supplemental oxygen, heart rate/blood pressure supportive medications, a temporary feeding tube, intravenous antibiotics, fluids, electrolytes and amino acids, according to a news release from the veterinary hospital. She was discharged with pain medication, anti-nausea meds, antibiotics and appetite stimulates, and will later need to receive vaccinations.
“She would not have survived without veterinary treatment, without the aggressive and intensive care she received,” Blong said. “It really took the whole team to treat Ruthie.”
The total cost for the dog’s care had initially been estimated at around $15,000 to $20,000. The Boone shelter took to social media seeking donations. To date, more than $19,000 has been raised.
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“She recovered much quicker than they’d anticipated, so her bill is well under the estimate and is around $11,000 to $12,000,” Gieseke said. “The blood products are really what is expensive, but they are necessary.”
The shelter shared short video clips of Ruthie’s improvement. The black dog, speckled with gray on her chest, muzzle and paws, was shown licking up some baby food in one clip and shaking a caregiver’s hand then receiving a hug in another.
Heenan said she’s been flooded with phone calls, emails and messages about Ruthie — both positive and negative.
“We’ve had an outpouring of love and support, but some people are criticizing how much money was spent on the dog and puppies’ care,” Heenan said. “We feel that every life matters, and if it wasn’t for the community, we probably couldn’t have saved Ruthie.”
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Ruthie will remain in the care of a foster family while the case goes through the proper legal channels. Heenan said the dog’s original owner has expressed interest in taking the dog back.
“When we know of any owner, there are different protocols we need to follow,” she said. “We don’t feel that (the owner) is able to take care of this dog properly, so this will be a court case: a civil matter between the humane society and the owner — and let a judge decide where the dog is better off.”
Ruthie is estimated to be between 7 and 8 years old — past the recommended age of breeding. Seven puppies per litter is the average for Labrador retrievers, according to the American Kennel Club.
The work of the BAHS is ongoing. Heenan said an emaciated, young male black lab stray recently came into the shelter’s custody. The dog had been hit by a car and needs one of his front legs amputated, at a cost estimated between $3,000-$4,000. Heenan said this dog is not connected in any way to Ruthie and comes from the Madrid area.
To donate to Ruthie’s Fund, visit bahs.us or the Boone Area Humane Society’s Facebook page. Extra donations will help fund other emergency situations. Donors can also contribute to the bill by calling the ISU College of Vet Medicine at 515-294-4900.