When the doggie with the waggly tail needs serious medical attention, to what extent will pet owners go for help?
For one Hoquiam couple, and their daughter, they’ll go quite far. Jessica Orr loves her brown-eyed “Velcro Dog,” who stuck by Orr’s side during a recent illness.
“I was in bed for a week,” she said. “That week, she actually stayed in bed with me the whole time … after I was sick, she started following me around, almost to the point where it’s annoying. But I also found it really endearing.”
Orr, her partner, Brandy Kamakawiwo’ole, and their 13-year old daughter Kamakani, have a playful pup named Kona, who has impacted their lives, as well as the life of her adopted puppy “sister,” Stormy.
And they’re sticking by Kona in her time of need. After all, she’s a member of the family.
“They’re inseparable and it’s awesome that they have each other,” Orr said about the bond Kona, a 10-month old Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix, and Stormy, an 11-month old Husky-Malamute-shepherd mix, share as adopted sisters.
A companion for Stormy, who was adopted a couple months prior to Kona’s adoption, is just what Orr and Kamakawiwo’ole were looking for after a fateful trip in September 2021 to North Beach PAWS in Hoquiam.
A neighbor suggested the couple, who have been together for 10 years, check out a dog the neighbors had previously seen at the shelter.
Orr and Kamakawiwo’ole didn’t actually expect for that trip to lead to adopting another puppy. But their trip was memorable, as Orr recently recalled.
“She was very playful and kind of sloppy,” Orr said. “She kept putting her feet in the water dish. She had these big ears, and was super cute.”
In Kona’s first few months of life with Orr and her family, they got her at 4 months, she was just like any other young puppy — playful.
But life, as good as it has been for Kona since her adoption — who turns 1 in June, has gotten tougher.
She now needs a surgery to fix her bilateral elbow dysplasia, which will ultimately cost thousands of dollars.
The Merck Veterinary Manual describes elbow dysplasia as “an abnormal development of the elbow joint in young, large, rapidly growing dogs,” according to American Kennel Club’s website.
In Kona’s case, she’s got Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP) from which elbow dysplasia develops.
“She has two bones where there is supposed to be one,” Orr said about Kona’s front leg joints.
Fortunately, for Kona, her problem is defective, not degenerative.
“The outlook for recovery after surgery is good if degenerative joint disease hasn’t developed,” according to The Merck Veterinary Manual.
Kona is already 90 pounds. She was 35 pounds on Sept. 28, 2021, when she was adopted.
Kona’s problems with her legs were first observed after playtime, Orr said.
“We would take her to play and she seemed fine,” Orr said. “Sometimes she would kind of do a limping thing. I wasn’t sure if (maybe) she ran too hard. But these things started to happen a little bit more and more to where it was like ‘I need to take her in for a full exam because I don’t really know what’s going on.’”
Then, Kona’s joints made “popping” noises, so Orr took her in to see the vet.
Banfield Pet Hospital, in Lacey, did the X-rays — which helped diagnose Kona’s problem — for $830. It was step one in solving Kona’s issues, but also the least expensive part.
“We were told they basically can’t do anything more because they don’t do those kind of surgeries,” Orr said. “So, they gave me the handout for the Olympia Veterinarian Specialists.”
Orr, who has lived in the Harbor for nearly her entire life, won’t accept anything less than their expressive puppy Kona, who has demonstratively floppy ears, getting back to her playful self, and without limitations.
Orr used to take Kona outside — where they’d spend a couple hours — but with Kona’s new physical limitations, she can’t do it.
“I have to take (Kona) on 10-minute, short-leashed walks and observe her play, so she doesn’t play too hard with (Stormy,) which is almost impossible,” Orr said. “How do you make a dog not jump and play? We’re doing the best we can.”
While Orr isn’t exactly sure what the figures owed will be to fix the elbows on Kona’s legs, she’s done some preliminary research on the cost of such a surgery.
“When I was doing research online, it says it can be anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000 to $5,000-per elbow,” Jessica said.
The cost was verified on American Kennel Club’s (AKC) website. But, the cost also varies depending on the part of the country, the size of the dog, and veterinary specialization, according to AKC. The final cost for Kona’s surgery won’t be known until May 31.
Orr hasn’t just done research on the surgery. She’s also researched how to get funding assistance.
“I called North Beach PAWS and asked if they had resources for unique situations like this,” Orr said. “They sent me an email listing of these places that actually had dead domains. Some places weren’t accepting applications anymore.”
Orr has made it a priority to try to find funding through other organizations that help animals before she asks people to help with their own money.
“I didn’t want to (ask for personal money,)” she said. “I didn’t want to do that. It’s partly a pride issue, and if there was funding in different ways, I would prefer to do that, if there’s animal funding. But, it’s looking pretty dismal.”
Orr and her family went through a similar situation before with a cat they received a few years ago.
“It had a really weird, strange tibia break, where we went to the same veterinarian specialist and they had to do a $5,000 surgery,” she said. “I know most people would be like ‘put the cat down,’ or whatever, but they’re family and I just don’t look at animals different from humans.”
Orr said putting down an animal is not an option, and that she tries to find a way so they can have their best lives.
“Plus, she’s so young,” Jessica said. “She’s only 10 months too, so it’s an extra bummer.”
Fortunately, for Kona, people are already showing how much they care with more than $1,480 in donations to the GoFundMe webpage that Orr set up on Thursday, May 5. To donate to the family’s page, search “U.A.P. Surgery for Kona,” on www.gofundme.com. As of Monday, May 9, Orr’s page shows up as the first result.
Orr said their 13-year old daughter, Kamakani, loves Kona, Stormy, and the two cats who roam around their house. Kamakani has taken Kona on short neighborhood walks since her limping got worse.
Orr said Kamakani doesn’t like the bad news about Kona, but Kamakani does ask how she can help.
Through the recent physical restrictions that Kona’s had to deal with, Orr said her puppy hasn’t seemed down. Orr said her partner and Kamakani have tried to keep Kona occupied with elbow massages, treats, and other nice things.
Kona, despite dealing with her current physical woes, seems to be enjoying her life inside the house filled with “animal lovers.”
“I would say her quality of life is still really good in that she has animals around her to interact with, and of course us, to play with,” Orr said.
The bond the family has made with Kona in their short time together, seems unbreakable.