BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A 13-year-old former police dog was saved by over 20 staff members at a university veterinary hospital after he swallowed a chew toy and a Christmas decoration in December.
According to a release from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, whose parent institutions are Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, Thor, a 13-year-old Dutch shepherd and former Virginia State Police narcotics dog, swallowed two foreign objects at the home of owner Chris Sparks on or before Dec. 10, 2022.
Thor threw up multiple times that day and seemingly returned to normal until he began to throw up again on Dec. 13 and 14. By Dec. 15, Thor was throwing up mostly bile and Sparks took him to a veterinary clinic in the Floyd area.
Thor was treated for pancreatitis, which seemed to have been effective, but by Dec. 18, he was throwing up again and refused food and medicine.
“I called my vet’s office but they were closed for the holiday,” said Sparks. “So I spoke with one of the vet techs. I told her there was a sulfur smell when Thor threw up. When I told her that, she said take him immediately to Virginia Tech.”
X-rays could not identify what was in Thor’s digestive tract, but an ultrasound at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg was able to detect foreign objects in his stomach and upper intestines.
Through an endoscopy, hospital staff members were able to retrieve the first object, which was initially thought to be a sock but turned out to be a small stuffed elf, according to Sparks.
The second object, a Kong-brand plush teddy bear, had a knotted rope that could not be removed through the esophagus. In order to get it out, Thor had to be taken to the operating room for surgery.
Bobbi Conner, an associate professor and the director of emergency and critical care at the teaching hospital, led the surgery on Thor. With 20 to 30 people involved, including senior faculty, technicians, interns, residents and veterinary students, Conner said the effort to save Thor was a reflection of the teamwork at the hospital.
“The treatment and care he got there at Tech were just amazing,” said Sparks. “And the doctor called to check up on him after surgery. Everybody there loved him.”
Thor’s treatment was paid for by the hospital’s Working & Service Dog Support fund and Paws of Honor, a Williamsburg-based nonprofit that cares for retired police and military dogs.