Article by Darin Watkins, and photos by Henry Moore. Jr. , College of Veterinary Medicine
PULLMAN – After 4 months of surgery and rehabilitation at WSU, “Chocolate,” a rescued Chesapeake Bay retriever is heading back to the Tri Cities.
The abandoned dog was seen roaming the fields north of Pasco last winter; suffering from numerous fractures to his front legs, yet was able to survive on his own by getting around primarily on his back legs.
Now, after three surgeries, and months of intensive rehabilitation, Chocolate is ready to go to a new home.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with his progress,” said WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Martinez, who oversaw Chocolate’s recovery.
Surgery was required to repair the old breaks that had healed improperly, and left both limbs twisted and virtually unusable.
“Once both legs were moving properly, we could focus our attention on rebuilding his muscle strength and literally re-teach him how to walk correctly,” said Dr. Martinez.
The WSU team credits its new underwater treadmill as being a critical element in restoring Chocolate’s strength.
In the past few months, his sessions have helped rebuild lost muscle mass in his front shoulders.
“We absolutely could not have done this without the underwater treadmill,” said Lori Lutskas, a licensed veterinary technician and WSU’s veterinary physical rehabilitation specialist. “This was critical in his recovery.”
The new device allows physical activities in varying depths of water while providing buoyancy for gradual weight-bearing to allow motion and bone repair to progress simultaneously.
The underwater treadmill was recently added to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital thanks to generous gifts from two grateful donors to the college.
Despite his successes, Chocolate has more work ahead of him.  “He will still require continued stretching and physical therapy,” said Dr. Martinez. “We will certainly miss him around here.”
Chocolate will be returned to the care of Dr. Janine Swailes and her team from Meadow Hills Veterinary Center, in Kennewick, Wash., Dr. Swailes’ practice first took in the injured dog before transferring it to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for definitive care.

Their efforts to raise more than $25,000 for Chocolate’s care led to a special President’s Award from the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association.

The clinic has identified two families that are willing to adopt Chocolate and help him complete his physical therapy.