Traffic mishap means expensive recovery for dog

VERMILION Dudley, a 2-year-old golden retriever, looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Dudley, a 2-year-old golden retriever, looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.

But this family pet is not short on courage.

On his way to enjoy a fall day at the Woollybear Festival with the Freeman family of Vermilion, Dudley broke free from his owners.

He dashed into the street, was struck by a car and then run over by a motorcycle.

With a fractured pelvis, internal bleeding, a broken leg and countless external bumps and bruises, Dudley clung to life.

Owner Joey Freeman, 11, sat on the floorboard of the family car petting Dudley while his mother, Jackie, drove them to a pet emergency care center in Elyria.

Pauly Freeman, 8, Joey's brother, witnessed the catastrophe.

"I knew Dudley was hurt real bad and that the vets were going to take care of him," Pauly said.

Dudley was stabilized, and the next day his owners took him to an animal hospital in Akron, where the Freemans visited daily while Dudley made his recovery.

To save their beloved pet's life, his family amassed more than $12,000 in veterinary bills.

Veterinarian Mike Metroka of the Metroka Animal Hospital, Sandusky, sees pets like Dudley every year -- dogs who break free from their owners with devastating results.

"Most people have to be realistic about what they can and cannot do," Metroka said.

A human with a situation similar to Dudley's could easily end up with more than $250,000 in medical expenses, he said.

"It's up to the individual and their financial means. I certainly never fault a family for ending a pet's suffering," he said. "Each situation has its different set of circumstances, both in the animal's prognosis and the owner's financial limitations."

For the Freemans and Tom Hug, Jackie's fiancee, the choice was simple: Dudley was a member of the family, no matter what the price.

"The vets kept telling us Dudley had a fighting chance because he was so young and healthy," Jackie Freeman said.

One surgery and a week later, Dudley was scheduled to come home. But then he took a turn for the worse.

An internal scab came off Dudley's healed lung, creating a hole. His lung collapsed. It would be another week and thousands of additional dollars before he could come home.

Now that he's finally home, life is beginning to get back to normal for Dudley.

After weeks of the Freemans supporting Dudley's hind legs with a towel so he could walk, Dudley is walking on his own and wagging his tail.

Now instead of daily hospital visits, Pauly and Joey spend time every morning petting Dudley.

And every evening Dudley calls his grandpa to say goodnight. Hug's father gets on the phone to talk to Dudley, and Dudley licks the phone receiver exuberantly in return.

It's moments like these that make the long, painful process worthwhile for Dudley's family.

Dudley's family has planned a benefit to help with his vet bills, and they intend to contribute a portion of the proceeds to the Erie County Humane Society.

"There are a lot of Dudleys out there. We know that," Hug said.

Want to help?

What: Dinner for Dudley & His Furry Friends

Where: German's Villa, 3330 Liberty Ave., Vermilion

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $20, available at Huggy's Coffee Bar in Vermilion or by calling 440-967-7575. Event includes steak dinner, soda, beer, cash bar, auctions, raffles and music.

Dog lovers may also donate to the Dinner for Dudley fund at Key Bank.