Cayden's Story: an Accident and an Injustice,
One Texas Dog's Story of Desperate Survival
By Jaclyn Lynn Leedy
September 21, 2021
Coffee Cover Art by Mutt's Coffee
On June 16th of this year, Cayden was brought into BARC, the city animal shelter in Houston, Texas. Witnesses say Cayden had been hit by a car. Upon intake, it was immediately known that Cayden had suffered extreme injuries.
BARC intake photo of Cayden, taken on 6/16/21
BARC staff performed an x-ray of Cayden's hips and legs and determined that he had a dislocated hip in one leg and a complete fracture to his tibia in another. He also tested high positive for Heartworm.
Cayden was prescribed Gabepetin and Carprofen for pain and inflammation and Cephalexin, an oral antibiotic used to treat bacterial skin infections.
An email was sent out that afternoon by a BARC staff member, asking a list of dog rescue partners to come pick up Cayden and provide him the emergency help that he needed.
"Please let us know if you can help him, he needs to leave as soon as possible for additional surgical/medical treatment" is how the last sentence of the email reads (see photo below). There was never a question of doubt as to the urgency of Cayden's situation. By BARC's own admission, they recognized that Cayden needed help "as soon as possible" per the email that was sent out that afternoon.
BARC x-ray showing a complete tibia fracture to Cayden's left leg
BARC x-ray showing a dislocated right hip
On 6/22, Houston Animal Super Heroes (HASH), a Facebook networking group who networks dogs who are placed on BARC’s daily euthanasia list, listed Cayden’s story. H.A.S.H. is made up of a group of volunteers who coordinate with dog rescues across the U.S. and raise money through pledges to help assist with the costs associated with each rescue dog such as transport, medical, and boarding.
They are the only networking page for BARC's euthanasia listed dogs and through their hard work, have saved thousands of dogs from an inevitable fate.
It is important to remember that BARC is a kill shelter, though they claim otherwise. They do not save every healthy and treatable animal who passes through their care and they do kill for space and time meaning they will euthanize healthy dogs and cats who have been at their facility for too long, "too long" being just a matter of months much of the time.
The next day (6/23), and the same day Cayden was scheduled to be euthanized, Tammy with Lost Ball Canine Rescue of Louisiana found out about Cayden’s dire situation. Her rescue tagged him immediately and he was scheduled to be released to Tammy the following morning (6/24).
By now, it had been a full week since Cayden’s initial intake. That is an entire week that Cayden had not only suffered from his excruciating injuries, but an entire week that he was unable to stand or walk meaning he had no choice but to lay in his own urine and feces during that time. The urine saturation was so bad that it was believed to have played a role in the challenges he was about to face.
Cayden's BARC Kennel Card, please note the intake date of 6/16/21 and the "Available Date" of 6/20/21
When Cayden left BARC, he was taken to a nearby animal hospital immediately. Along the way, his transporter Sharon was able to understand just how bad of shape Cayden was in. It was clear from his skin and ears that, aside from his injuries sustained from being hit by a car, he had not been properly taken care of for years if not his entire life.
Despite his neglect, Cayden went peacefully in the car and maintained a calm and sweet disposition towards all who handled him, including Sharon. He rested his head soundly on Sharon’s shoulder as she rushed him to get the help that he so badly needed.
The first hospital that looked at Cayden immediately recommended he be put down. They saw a dog who was in extreme pain and had a rapidly decreasing quality of life. The injuries were so extensive that all they felt they could do was humanely euthanize him.
The "plea" or email sent out by BARC staff on 6/16, the same day as Cayden's intake
I want to take a quick moment and talk about “humane euthanasia.” In instances where a dog has an impossible prognosis: that even with medical treatment there is a high probability that the dog’s condition or injury will not improve or a situation where the dog may survive but will be in a lifetime of pain or have a decreased quality of life due to decreased cognitive function as seen with cases of brain trauma, humane euthanasia can be an understandable option.
But for a dog rescue who works incredibly hard to save dogs from Texas kill shelter euthanasia lists, including treatable dogs with medical or behavioral issues, the last thing that rescue will willingly want do is to not give a dog they saved a fighting chance.
Cayden absolutely deserved a fighting chance. Up until that point, all hands that touched him had failed him. BARC did nothing more for him after they sent out an e-mail asking for outside help. They gave him pain medication to take the edge off and then left him in a kennel for 7 days where his quality of life depreciated rapidly due to his immobility and his inability to relieve himself outside.
Now, facing the recommendation that Cayden should be euthanized just made the situation that much more frustrating. Surely this wouldn’t be how it ends for Cayden? Surely he wasn’t kept alive for 7 days with critical injuries and excruciating pain just to be denied medical help that he so desperately deserved?
"You smell like infection," is what Sharon says in the video below as she talks softly to Cayden, "We will get you taken care of."
So when faced with this recommendation, Lost Ball Canine Rescue made a decision that so many of us dog rescuers would have made ourselves: they simply left and immediately transported Cayden to a second hospital. Unfortunately, the second animal hospital echoed the recommendations of the first and so Lost Ball continued on to a third animal hospital, desperate for Cayden to finally be able to receive the emergency medical treatment that he so badly needed. Finally, the third hospital admitted Cayden and began what would be a long process of medical treatment.
Upon examination, Cayden was hit with what would be the first of many setbacks. His coat was so badly saturated with urine and feces that staff would need to wait at least a week before performing his tibia surgery, in order for them to fully clean his skin in preparation for the procedure.
Video taken by Sharon who transported Cayden to three hospitals before finding one that could help. Sharon points out in the video Cayden's injuries including his ears, puncture wounds, and his enlarged scrotum which was so inflamed that it can be seen sticking out from beneath Cayden's legs.
Meanwhile, Cayden tested positive for distemper, another huge setback. He was placed in medical isolation while given treatment. Distemper is not uncommon in the south and is treatable but is highly contagious among dogs. Shelters like BARC are infamous for having distemper outbreaks that become so severe it forces them to temporarily close. This happened the following month after Cayden was released and BARC had to shut down many of its available services to the public while it got the distemper outbreak under control.
Despite these many setbacks, Cayden was quiet and sweet to all who looked after him. His calm, forgiving disposition made it all the more difficult to watch him be in such a poor state of health. Cayden was seemingly ready to get past all of what he had gone through and live a normal, happy dog life. Lost Ball Canine Rescue was helping him get there every step of the way. But things were about to get worse for Cayden before they got any better.
Once Cayden was cleared for his first surgery, a plate was implanted to help correct his fractured tibia. The procedure went well but a few days later, the incision began opening up with infection. Cayden's remaining procedures had to be put on hold until the infection could once again be treated. But this time, the infection was so severe that it had spread throughout his entire leg and into his paw. When doctors took a closer look at his paw by examining beneath the skin, it became known just how bad the infection was: there was unfortunatley no saving his paw.
"I told them to do whatever it took to save his leg," Tammy with Lost Ball says, "If they had to amputate I prayed it would only be his foot because he could be fitted for a boot."
Cayden in medical isolation while he
recovers from distemper
Fortunately, Cayden did not need to have his entire leg amputated but he did lose his paw. Despite the infection in his leg, the plate looked healthy and did not require an additional procedure.
This meant that the doctors could continue on with Cayden's treatment and perform a femoral head ostectomy (FHO) to correct Cayden's dislocated hip. Doctors were finally able to go in and remove Cayden's enlarged scrotum that had been causing him so much unnecessary pain and discomfort.
It is now nearly the end of September and Cayden remains in the animal hospital to this day, undergoing continued medical treatment. He was admitted to the hospital the last week of June.
It's been a long 4 months for Cayden since he was last able to walk freely and without pain. Much to Tammy's delight, hospital staff sent her a recent video of the joyous moment that Cayden finally did walk again for the first time. He can be seen walking freely without restriction, nose to the ground, enjoying the feeling of real grass beneath his paws with a staff member encouraging him on.
After several months of medical treatment, Cayden walks freely for the first time without debilitation or severe pain
The video is on the grainy side but worth every second to watch. Despite all odds, Cayden continues to show improvement and will hopefully be ready to leave the hospital soon where he can finally move forward and have a normal, uneventful, happy dog life.
Lost Ball Canine worked relentlessly to save Cayden's life, despite the inevitable medical costs that would quickly accumulate.
Cayden's medical bill has now surpassed the $10,000 mark. Lost Ball is one of few dog rescues who takes on medical and behavior cases, specifically dogs who ended up on the euthanasia list in several major cities in Texas including Houston and San Antonio.
At the time Lost Ball pulled Cayden out of BARC, they also had taken on two puppies with broken legs (thought to have been intentionally caused by a human), several puppies who tested positive for PARVO as well as various other medical cases.
To BARC, who operates on a 14 million a year budget, not including private donations, $10,000 is a bill that they could have easily afforded, had they truly wanted to help Cayden by immediately offering him the emergency medical treatment he so desperately needed.
Instead, they passed that bill on to a small town dog rescue that is 100% funded by donations and not a dime comes from taxpayer money unlike BARC who is taxpayer funded.
What's especially troubling about Cayden's case is that it's not an outlier. There are multiple allegations against BARC claiming willful neglect of animals in their care, specifically hurt animals who they allowed to wait in a kennel without the proper medical help they so desperately needed before adding them to the euthanasia list and making them someone else's responsibility.
I can not tell you how many times I have heard, "yes, that happens a lot there unfortunatley" or "that's just the way things are at BARC" while working on Cayden's story. I take no comfort in knowing that there have been even more animals like Cayden who were intentionally denied immediate emergency care and forced to remain in a kennel before they were then scheduled to be euthanized.
I also take no comfort in the complacency that this has been allowed to happen because "nothing will ever change." How many more Cayden's will there be before BARC is truly held accountable for their actions?
BARC themselves would try to convince us all otherwise:
"Our vision is to be the nationally recognized model of excellence in animal care and placement where City governments throughout the United States see BARC as the beacon of best practices dedicated to delivering humane, efficient and high quality service"
This is BARC's very own mission statement, as seen on their Facebook Page.
Screenshot of BARC's Facebook "About" secion as seen on 9/21/21
But as we know now after reviewing Cayden's case, is that BARC doesn't just fall short of their "standard of excellence" but they are no where near even providing a proper baseline of care for the hurt and injured animals they take in.
Why is that?
How can BARC possibly not have a go-to protocol in place that would guarantee animals like Cayden receive immediate medical care upon intake? There is absolutely no excuse, none whatsoever, that would excuse BARC's irresponsible handling of Cayden but here is what I anticipate being told:
"It's a funding problem. We don't have the budget to care for extremely injured animals."
My reply: Why not?
"It's a resource problem. We don't have the resources or staff to care for extremely injured animals."
My reply: Why not?
"It's an operations issue. Our management/director did not approve care for this animal."
My reply: Why not?
It's a networking problem. We asked our partners if anyone could help us and no one responded."
My reply: So you did nothing more?
As the saying goes, "no change leads to no change." The only way we can ever truly get justice for Cayden and prevent this from happening again to another dog, is to hold those responsible who failed him and demand change! Because when we know better, we do better. If you would like to help support Lost Ball Canine Rescue in their effort to pay off Cayden's $10,000 bill, you can donate here.
Cayden with his tongue out while he takes it easy in his kennel at the animal hospital
Handsome Cayden, resting in his kennel. Notice he is able to fully sit up and support weight on his hips
*25% of profits from all coffee bags sold featuring "Cayden's Story" will be donated to Lost Ball Canine Rescue. To place an order, go here
**All photos and videos are courtesy of Lost Ball Canine Rescue