Therapy dog who was hours from death back on the job after surgery

ANN ARBOR, Mich. –  Sable the therapy dog suffered a ruptured splenic mass and was hours away from death when she was brought to the BluePearl Veterinary Partners emergency room in Ann Arbor.

birthday card picturing dog

Sable the therapy dog is doing well after her emergency surgery at BluePearl Veterinary partners.

But now, thanks to emergency surgery and top-notch care from Dr. Noah Bander and his team at BluePearl, as well as her oncologist, Sable is back at work doing the job she loves best. She visits nursing home residents, hospital patients and schoolchildren, leaving smiles all around the Central Michigan city of Chelsea.

“She brings a lot of comfort to a lot of people,” said Barbara Marshall, who owns Sable with her husband Paul. She takes Sable out three or four times a week to work as a therapy dog.  Schoolchildren read to Sable, knowing she won’t criticize their diction.  Nursing home residents say “there’s my dog,” and come up to pet her. Patients at a medical clinic gather round and “they forget their pain for that hour that we’re there,” says Marshall.

Sable, 11, an 80-pound black Labrador, threw up one day in March and then had trouble walking. “We thought she was having a stroke,” Marshall said.

The Marshalls took Sable to their primary care veterinarians, Lane Animal Hospital, where the staff diagnosed Sable as having a ruptured spleen.  They carefully discussed Sable’s condition with the Marshalls and recommended surgery at BluePearl.

At BluePearl, Dr. Tamiselvam Gunasekaran and the ER staff stabilized Sable and gave her an abdominal ultrasound. A mass – later determined to be cancerous – was discovered in her spleen, and the mass had ruptured.  Dr. Noah Bander made an incision into Sable’s abdomen and surgically removed the spleen, using a specialized device which seals blood vessels as the organ is removed.

“Sable presented in a very critical condition and we weren’t sure she was going to make in spite of all of our efforts,” Bander said. But now, thanks to the surgery, “She is now able to continue working as a therapy dog and help hundreds of people.”

Marshall, a retired high school math teacher, said she and her husband Paul are overjoyed to have Sable back at home, and helping the community of Chelsea along with their other therapy dog, Bella. She said she and her husband are grateful to Dr. Bander and all the staff at BluePearl.

“The competence and overall understanding for her when she was in such a critical condition, you can’t even put that into words,” she said. “It was a very comforting experience at a time when we were not at all comfortable.”

Sable also received follow-up care at another animal hospital, to try to prevent the cancer found in Sable’s spleen from spreading.

Bander said he thinks the Marshalls themselves deserve a lot of credit for doing all they could for Sable.  “It was really a life-or-death decision and they chose to do everything they possibly could to save Sable’s life. And it has paid off.”