The nationally touring dog was passed up for Hero Dog of the Year, but his accomplishments inspired Animal ER veterinarian Brian Beale to repair his back legs.
By Abby Schreiber | Additional reporting by Matt Skoufalos
December 6, 2017
This summer, Haddonfield rescue dog Aladdin was headed to Los Angeles to compete for the title of American Humane’s Hero Dog of the Year.
Having been named the society’s Therapy Dog of the Year in honor of his work with trauma victims, “Laddy” was one of seven dogs in the running for its top title.
Although he didn’t take home the ultimate honors, the trip was a big win for the rescue dog, whose story touched the heart of veterinary surgeon Brian Beale.
Dr. Beale, a board-certified veterinary surgeon known for his television show Animal ER, was so moved by Aladdin’s resume that he offered to repair the dog’s hind legs at no cost to his owner, Michele Schaffer-Stevens.
“For me, that was better than winning,” she said.
Schaffer-Stevens had thought Aladdin was battling multiple fractures in his hind legs. Instead, she learned the dog is suffering from ligament tears and a developmental bone deformity that had worsened during years of malnourishment. Without surgical intervention, Aladdin was predicted to lose mobility in both legs from progressive arthritis.
“The quotes that I had gotten for his surgeries were $9,000 per leg,” Schaffer-Stevens said.
She had raised about $5,000 toward that goal before Beale and Compassion First Pet Hospitals offered to help. Dr. Beale plans to travel to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, to operate on Aladdin alongside Dr. Kathy Salmeri.
If the surgery can be performed in New Jersey, it would allow Aladdin to rehab his injuries closer to home.
Doing it pro bono means Schaffer-Stevens can dedicate the money she’d raised to Aladdin’s physical therapy.
Dr. Beale said the procedure would greatly improve the dog’s quality of life.
“What I really love to do is help animals that are in need and don’t have any means to get it taken care of,” Dr. Beale said. “I particularly fell in love with Aladdin.
“We can’t make him perfect, but we can certainly help him and make him better,” he said.
Dr. Beale has traveled the world teaching veterinary orthopedics and performing charity care, even as he works to renovate his own animal hospital, Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists of Houston, Texas, which was damaged in Hurricane Harvey.
He said that he was moved to intercede because without the surgery, Aladdin would no longer be able to maintain his active therapy schedule.
Aladdin is an ambassador for Ronald McDonald House, a spokes-dog for the Baltimore, Maryland-based “Show Your Soft Side” anti-animal abuse nonprofit, and was a first responder to the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Neither Schaffer-Stevens nor any of the humans Aladdin helped knew that the dog did all this work while battling arthritis, which the surgery can help alleviate.
“Dogs are tough,” Dr. Beale said. “It’s hard sometimes to know if they’re in pain.
“[Aladdin is] sacrificing something to do that [work],” he said.
“He’s got a big heart, and he wants to continue to do things.”
Although Aladdin didn’t win Hero Dog of the Year—that honor went to Abigail, a pit bull from the “Emerging Hero” category—his nomination set Aladdin up to continue the charity work that got him to the finals in the first place.
“If it were not for us winning Therapy Dog of the Year and going to LA for this gala, this would have never happened,” Schaffer-Stevens said.
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