It was a muggy August morning when a four-month old Beagle/Jack Russell terrier mix was dropped off at a local shelter in Mobile, Alabama. A staff member took one look at the puppy and knew the odds of the shelter saving his life were poor.
The young puppy had been beaten severely about the head. The blows had been so fierce the little dog’s left eye had burst. In excruciating pain, the shelter knew they would have to put him down.
That’s when a quick call was made to Jacki at a local refuge. Immediately, they came and got the puppy. For the next two months, he stayed at the TLC Vet Hospital in Semmes, AL. Although the dog lost his eye, earning him the name Wink, he never lost his fight.
The hospital flushed Wink’s sinuses and gave him medications, but nothing stopped the drainage. He simply could not breathe through his nose, and they didn’t know why.
The refuge could not afford to spend thousands of dollars for more testing, so Wink came back to the refuge and was placed with a foster until he was adopted. Seven months later, the adoptive family returned Wink to the refuge, unable to deal with the outcome of his injuries.
It was at the same time Kim saw Wink on Petfinder and immediately fell in love. She knew the dog had special needs, but that did not deter her. She and her husband met Wink and she adopted him even though her husband was concerned about getting a dog with so many medical issues.
However, Kim promised that she would pay for all of Wink’s medical expenses. That was a very big promise to make considering she had zero income and home schooled her two sons, 9 and 13.
This story is as much about Kim’s tenacity and her love for Wink as it is about Wink’s desire to simply live a normal life, surrounded by a loving family. It doesn’t sound like much to ask, does it?
But for Wink, even the most common everyday occurrences we all take for granted are extremely difficult. Wink must sleep in a dog bed with a rolled edge. He then props his head in a certain position on the rolled edge allowing his jaw to fall open so that he can mouth breathe. This is the only way he can sleep. As you can imagine, it’s a very noisy sleep.
During the day, he makes snorting and slurping sounds, sneezing violently to pass the mucus that’s stuck in his sinuses. His nose has a constant odor because of the trapped mucus. On an antibiotic continuously to prevent infection, this is Wink’s normal.
Kim wanted much more for Wink. Her first big hurdle was to overcome the anger she felt toward the people who committed such a gruesome offense. She held Wink’s face in her hands and saw nothing but a wagging tail and love.
That was the humbling part for her. After all the abuse he had received, Wink didn’t shrink from people or life. “Wink has blessed me way more than I have blessed him,” she said, marveling at his resilience and his happy nature.
Her two boys love Wink, too. Cuddly, outgoing and the perfect companion for growing boys, he stole their hearts as well. Seeing the impact that Wink had on her family and everyone he met, Kim decided not to let her anger consume her. Instead, she put it to work for her in a positive way, taking massive fundraising action, while making arrangements for Wink to see the vets at Mississippi State.
Kim started by opening a Go Fund Me account. Then she contacted the local TV stations to see if one of them would do a story on him. Fox 10 said yes. From that coverage alone, the Go Fund Me account raised almost $7,000. Kim was ecstatic!
Off to Mississippi State they went and the vet team discovered Wink had multiple broken bones in his face; tissue had also fused together in a hardened mass. It was difficult to operate because the left side of his face had been crushed and everything had shifted over to the right.
That’s when Kim reached out to
Texas A & M and discovered they had some experience with this type of injury. She would take Wink there, even though it meant a drive of 460 miles. Dr. Thieman and her A & M veterinary team were very optimistic that Wink could live a normal life. Plans were made for Wink’s first operation to remove tissue and bone from the right side of his face, then placing a temporary stent.
In the meantime, Kim continued to fundraise. Her dad was a local entertainer and she held bake sales at his events, selling $1 cookies. “People would hand me $20 and walk away. They didn’t care about the cookie,” she said. “Right from the start, we called all of our donors “angels” because that’s what they were.” Both times she held her bake sales, she raised $800 each.
Kim’s sister, Christi, and Jacki, from the shelter who helped to save Wink’s life, made up “Team Wink.” They worked alongside Kim to help raise the funds that would allow Wink to live a normal life.
Thanks to them, Wink was featured on local TV three times and on the cover of three local newspapers. Kim also started a website called Wink’s Wish where she sold jewelry. She also participated in 7-8 craft shows, selling plush puppies with a dog house and adoption tips for $5 each. Kim also sold pet portraits using her computer to create a portrait from photos people sent her.
Finally, Texas A & M donated $2300 towards Wink’s surgery. In all, the team raised another $7,000. Kim thought they were set. Wink had his first surgery and the temporary stent was in place. He came through with flying colors.
A couple of months later, the temporary stent was removed. For two weeks, Wink breathed perfectly, but then the congestion started again. That meant the passageway was starting to collapse.
Dr. Thieman found that a stricture, or tiny bit of tissue, was closing around one end of the stent. That microscopic slice was all that stood in the way of Wink breathing normally. Twice more Wink went in for surgery to remove the troublesome stricture, and twice more it grew back.
Through it all, Wink’s attitude never changed. He remained cuddly, outgoing and loving. It’s like he knew that Kim was trying to help him. But when the second stent failed, everyone involved became despondent.
By chance, Kim happened to see a TV segment on a pharmaceutical company that had created a 30-day dissolving stent, which emitted a steroid. Despair turned to hope and she contacted Dr. Thieman right away. “That is exactly what we need!” she told Kim.
The good doctor contacted the pharmaceutical company and explained the situation. Miraculously, they agreed to donate the stent to Wink even though it was developed for people.
What makes this stent so very different from the others is its ability to release a steady dose of steroids during the 30-day period, while the stent itself dissolves.
The hope is that the steroid will keep the stricture from growing back. If the stent does its job, Wink will still most likely need to follow that surgery with the placement of a permanent stent.
By this time, Wink had 6 surgeries in his two-year lifespan, including dental surgery. All the funds Kim had raised had dwindled down to a pittance. Facing two more surgeries and little funding, Kim admits she had a hard time. “It was a down time for me,” she said quietly. “It felt like I had already climbed a mountain. How much more could I do?”
Texas A & M encouraged her to contact The Mosby Foundation, which she did. We were horrified at what happened to Wink. Immediately, we began fundraising for him, which is on-going.
For Kim, once Wink gets his happy ending, she plans to turn her side business of pet portraiture into a financial avenue for giving back to animal rescues and non-profits like The Mosby Foundation.
Kim wants the dog who almost died from misplaced hatred to become a local animal ambassador. “He is so dear to our family,” Kim said. “It is our dream that, following his recovery, Wink will serve as a service dog at our local children’s hospital and visit area elementary schools to teach children about caring for animals and treating them with kindness.”
If it’s true that dogs have a way of finding the people who need them most, then perhaps Kim is right when she says that Wink has blessed her more than she has blessed him.
Maybe it all comes down to “Who rescued who?” That’s the great paradox of rescue, isn’t it?
We will keep you updated on Wink’s progress in the coming months. If you would like to donate to his fund, or another dog in need, please go to Wink’s page here