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Nitro’s Second Chance

By: Stephen Sawicki

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Nitro is the mascot at Dan Sullivan's collision repair shop in Marshfield, Mass., south of Boston. Last October, the year-and-a-half-old bull mastiff ran out as workers opened a shop door to pull in a boat. The next anybody saw of him, he was lying by the side of a road where he was found by a local animal officer and taken to a nearby veterinarian. Everybody figured the culprit was a speeding truck.

Veterinarian Jonathan Suber was on walk-in duty at Boston's Angell Memorial Animal Hospital when Nitro, tied to a stretcher and sedated, was brought in. X-rays revealed severe damage – both left legs were shattered, his right hip was out of joint, and a tooth was busted, with a tunnel-like opening or fistula, running up into his nasal cavity. In other words, the dog was a wreck.

However, on the positive side, Nitro's injuries were only to his muscle and bone, and not to any major organs. "The prognosis was actually pretty good," Suber recalls.
Sullivan was torn, not quite knowing what was best for Nitro, the pet that his seven-year-old son named. He considered having him euthanized, but then told the doctors to do what they could. "I've had a lot of broken bones in my life," Sullivan says. "I figured, 'OK, if it's just bones, he can make it. Bones heal.'"

Nitro Full of Hardware

Veteran surgeon David Knapp operated twice on Nitro over several days, using everything – from surgical pins and wires to stabilizing bone plates – to piece the dog back together. In fact, even the surgeon had to marvel at all the equipment that showed up in the animal's post-op X-rays. "He's got about as much hardware in him as any dog I've ever worked on," Knapp says.

Meanwhile, the nurses in Angell's Intensive Care Unit monitored Nitro around the clock and used a hoist and a body sling to help him stand and begin to bear weight on his legs again. Two weeks after surgery, he went home.

Subsequent complications had him back in surgery, and, though treatment didn't come cheap – Sullivan says the total bill came close to $14,000 – Nitro seems to be getting along fine. "He's doing great," Sullivan says. "He's walking, running, playing, jumping – doing everything he should."

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