Annette Olson imagined the horrible yelping sounds to be wolves fighting over a fresh deer kill somewhere on her wooded Canosia Township property Wednesday afternoon.
When the yelping persisted, she ran outside to investigate and saw what appeared to be her 4-year-old black Labrador retriever mix, Willow, injured in the woods. Not knowing whether she had been hit by a car or injured some other way, Olson called to the dog. That was a mistake, she said. The dog began walking toward her, and that’s when Olson noticed she was impaled on her left side by a branch more than 2 feet long and 1½ inches thick.
“She’s coming through the woods and it’s writhing and twisting through her all the more,” she said.
The branch had gone through the upper part of Willow’s abdomen and exited the posterior part, along the muscle layer.
Olson was terrified, she said, but she knew she shouldn’t pull it out. She called her veterinarian, who told her to bring the dog in if she could, or he would come to her. She drove her four-wheel-drive vehicle to the bottom of the hill where Willow waited, and knowing the dog liked car rides, used that to get Willow inside, branch and all.
Dr. Mike Shirley of Miller Trunk Veterinary Clinic treated the dog. He has seen a similar situation only once before, with a horse, he said.
“She’s a very lucky dog, that it went along the muscle layer and did not angle further,” he said. “If that went into the abdomen, you’d have major issues.”
Shirley put Willow under anesthesia and made an incision over the branch to remove it. It took more than an hour to clean the wounds and remove tissue, and more than 50 stitches were used to sew up Willow, with drains to remove possible infection.
Getting Willow inside the clinic was probably possible because of her gentle nature, Shirley said.
“This stick was really long,” he said. “It was difficult getting her into the car and through the doorway. If you had a dog a little more animated, it would have been hard for it not to do more damage.”
Indeed, Willow, an outside dog that comes and goes through a dog door installed in the garage where she has a house, likes to watch the deer feed at night in the yard and doesn’t chase them, Olson said.
“She wouldn’t hurt a flea,” she said.
The recovery period for the active dog, used to having free rein on the 120-acre property with the home set back from the road, is two weeks. That means no running, jumping or swimming in the pond. She must be confined and wear a cone to prevent pulling out the drains.
Shirley said Willow is probably uncomfortable because of the skin loss, but she is on pain medication and antibiotics to fight infection.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a fully healed dog,” he said.
Olson has no idea what the lab did to get stuck the way she did. The property’s many rolling hills might have had something to do with it, she said, if Willow suddenly jumped off a mound onto a branch.
The dog was patient and friendly with visitors Friday.
“It’s less than 24 hours later and her tail still wags,” Olson said. “She’ll be fine.”