Rehab Therapy Helps Benelli the Rescued Lab

Benelli is one lucky yellow Lab. A few months ago she was in a Georgia shelter slated to be euthanized and now she has a new home in Maine — safe and sound with Dustin, Lindsay and Gauge, also a rescue dog.

I’ll begin Benelli’s rescue story with Erlene LeBorgne, who founded Maine Lab Rescue. Her organization focuses on saving Labs and Lab mixes from high-kill shelters in the South. She also rescues what she calls Lab wannabes, which includes other mixed breed dogs and cats.

In September, Erlene was contacted by someone in Georgia about Benelli’s plight. Her owners had put her in the shelter because they were moving to a place that didn’t allow dogs. No one had stepped up to adopt her (which I can’t understand because she is a beautiful dog) and time was running out.

Erlene posted Benneli’s picture on Maine Lab Rescue’s Facebook page and was contacted by Dustin.

It wasn’t until Benelli arrived in Maine that Erlene realized that something was wrong with her right front leg. It turns out that when she was a puppy, she jumped out of her owner’s truck and broke both front legs. The right one never healed properly. She wouldn’t bear weight on it and walked with a limp.

Erlene wasn’t quite sure what to do, but then had a brilliant idea. She contacted canine rehabilitation therapist Gayle Hickok, who runs a program in Cape Elizabeth called Pawsitive Results. Gayle has years of experience as a medical massage therapist for humans. Most recently, she was the lead therapist at Mercy Hospital’s Lymphedema Center. But it’s working with dogs that is dearest to her heart.

I recently had the privilege of watching Gayle work with Benelli.

All of the pictures from the session are courtesy of Donna Arledge- Segelken, who also helps to rescue animals by sharing their pictures and stories on her Facebook page On Borrowed Time. Donna works with Animal Welfare in Georgia and was on a visit to Maine.

Dustin couldn’t make it to the therapy sessions, so Gayle is teaching his mother Michelle how to massage and stretch Benelli’s joints. She says that, “stretching is really important because all the muscles and tendons are tight. You want them to be long and lean.”

After doing a thorough evaluation, Gayle decided that in addition to hands-on therapy, Benelli needed to learn new behaviors. Even as things began to loosen up she still wouldn’t use her leg the way she should. Using treats, Gayle taught her how to walk over things, for instance, something she had refused to do before.

Gayle also used low level laser therapy on Benelli. She says it speeds tissue repair, decreases inflammation and helps relieve pain. In recent years, laser therapy is being used more and more in animal and human medicine.

And last, but by no means least, Benelli had hydrotherapy right in Gayle’s backyard. Earlier this year she installed a special pool that yes, can be used by humans, but was designed for dogs. It has a ramp along the side, but all Gayle had to do was toss in a Frisbee and Benelli was airborne, using all of her limbs to push off.

After a week of intensive therapy, Benelli was ready to head to her new home, where she quickly fit in as if she’d always belonged. Before she left, she exercised her legs hard in the pool, and seemed to enjoy herself immensely! Yes, a lucky dog, indeed.