On September 18, 2012, campers in Northern California heard an animal crying somewhere in the woods. They vowed not to leave until they found this obviously hurting animal. What they found was Frankie, tied to a tree and badly injured. Upon further examination, it appeared Frankie had been shot in the face. The campers immediately took Frankie to a veterinarian who examined him, but advised that Frankie be referred to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) at the University of California, Davis.
Upon arrival at UC Davis, veterinarians ran several tests on Frankie. It was determined that the litany of injuries Frankie had sustained included three fractures in his left rear paw, a severe gunshot wound fracture of his right mandible (lower jaw bone) and several gunshot pellets in his face. It was also discovered that Frankie had a healed, full thickness penetrating injury to his right cornea and cataracts in both eyes. It would appear the veterinarians at UC Davis had their work cut out for them.
Over the next seven months, they would slowly nurse Frankie back to health with some routine procedures and one very cutting-edge procedure to give Frankie a new jaw.
The Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service at the VMTH had recently been collaborating with UC Davis biomedical engineers to develop a way of re-growing bone in dogs. The procedure had been successful in several dogs before Frankie, and UC Davis oral surgeons Drs. Frank Verstraete and Boaz Arzi quickly determined that Frankie was an ideal candidate for the procedure.
Frankie’s right jaw had suffered severe damage from being shot. A large section of his right jaw bone was shattered. The surgeons removed the loose bone fragments and screwed a titanium plate into place on the remaining bone on each side of the removed area. A sponge-like chunk of scaffolding material, soaked in a bone growth promoter known as bone morphogenetic protein, was then inserted into the space where the bone was removed. The growth-promoting protein stimulated Frankie’s remaining jaw bone to grow new bone cells, eventually filling the entire defect and integrating with the native bone.
Frankie will have the titanium plate in his jaw for the rest of his life.
Titanium is lightweight and has elastic modulus and density close to that of bone. It is also bio-compatible, so in Frankie’s case it is not necessary to remove the plate,” stated Dr. Arzi. “The new bone and the plate will adhere together as Frankie’s jaw strengthens.”
As for the bullet pellets in Frankie’s face, some of them will also remain.
“Bullet fragments in a body cavity need to be removed due to a possible secretion of lead into the system,” continued Dr. Arzi. “But, fragments embedded in muscle tissue, like the few remaining in Frankie’s face, are better left in place.”
Once Frankie’s face and paw were treated, he was brought to the Ophthalmology Service at the VMTH to have his cataracts addressed. It was determined that the cataract in Frankie’s left eye was so pronounced it had rendered him blind in that eye. The right cataract was minor and would not require surgery. In early April, Frankie underwent successful cataract surgery on his left eye as Drs. Kathryn Good and Stephanie Moore restored his sight.
“We were able to remove the cataract which was obstructing his vision in the left eye,” stated Dr. Good. “When we examined Frankie the evening after his surgery, his left eye was open and comfortable and already showing signs that vision was restored.”
“It was apparent right away that he could see on his left side,” stated Claudia. “He was observing things on that side that he never would have before, and he was no longer startled by being approached on his left side.”
Frankie returned to the VMTH in late April to have another re-check examination on his eyes and face. His eye examination revealed that he had great vision in his left eye with normal eye pressure and no inflammation. An x-ray and CT scan of his jaw showed that new bone had completely filled the injured section. Frankie’s journey to health was complete, and he seemed eager to continue his new life with his new family.
Frankie has plenty of love in his new extended family. Claudia, her husband John and their four grandchildren—Arianna, her older brother Jeremiah, 12, and cousins Kamryn, 11, and Miles, 8—have all benefited in different ways from having Frankie in their lives. Jeremiah especially loves how affectionate Frankie is, and looks forward to cuddling with him after a long hard day at school. Miles, who has special needs, was once distrustful of dogs and now has formed quite a bond with Frankie. As for Kamryn, having another pet to look after is old hat to her. She and her mom have several animals of their own and also foster some dogs through a local rescue. Frankie certainly won’t be at a loss for new friends.
“We are very happy to see Frankie adopted out to such a great family,” states Dr. Arzi. “He certainly deserves it after all he’s been through.”
Photos of Frankie can be seen on the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Facebook page: