Paralyzed after almost drowning, beloved family dog refuses to give up

OKLAHOMA CITY – Dr. Stephen McCullough will never forget the sight of his 10-year-old pit bull, Shock, lying motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool.

“I immediately jumped in and scooped him up, but he was completely lifeless,” said McCullough.  “I thought we had lost him.”

Shock (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)

Shock (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)

It took several days of emergency care, a delicate spinal surgery and weeks of intense physical therapy, but thanks to the skilled physicians at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Shock finally regained the use of his legs and can happily snuggle on the couch with his family again.

“It’s one of the most amazing cases I’ve been involved with,” said  Dr. Benjamin Spall, the BluePearl veterinarian who performed Shock’s surgery and oversaw his care. “It’s always really rewarding when you can help a dog walk again.”

Shock’s journey began in late October, when he wandered outside as McCullough, an orthodontist, and his wife, Laura, were preparing to grill steaks. When McCullough went outside to turn on the grill, he saw Shock at the bottom of the pool. After rescuing the unresponsive dog, McCullough performed CPR and Shock began breathing again.

Still dripping wet, McCullough and his wife rushed the dog to BluePearl, where emergency clinicians stabilized him. But now Shock had another problem: He had lost the use of his legs. Spall said it’s likely Shock’s fall into the pool was the either the result of, or caused an injury that created compression in his spinal cord.

As a specialty and emergency veterinary hospital, BluePearl  has clinicians with the expertise necessary to provide comprehensive care for complex injuries. The

Shock undergoing physical therapy at BluePearl (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)

Shock undergoing physical therapy at BluePearl (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)

hospital also has advanced equipment, including an MRI, which was used to diagnose Shock.

Spall and Dr. Brent Newcomb, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, operated on Shock to remove disc material that had ruptured in his spinal cord. The surgery was a success, but the dog wasn’t out of the woods yet.  Shock remained at BluePearl for two weeks as doctors performed physical therapy, including balancing the dog on an exercise ball, bicycling his legs and helping him stand with a harness in hopes of stimulating his muscle memory.

The McCulloughs continued the therapy after taking Shock home. And then one day, McCullough sensed the time was right. He removed Shock’s harness and called to his dog.

“He walked out the door,” McCullough said. “He was a little wobbly but he got there. We took a video and sent it to everyone we knew.”

Today, Shock still can’t jump the way he used to, but he’s otherwise the sweet, lovable dog the McCulloughs adopted 9 years ago after their son, who was attending the University of Oklahoma at the time, noticed the stray puppy hanging around his gym – Shock! Sports Center.

“He’s the sweetest dog we’ve ever had,” McCullough said. “He’s come so much further than I ever thought would be possible. It’s really amazing.”

Shock (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)

Shock (photo courtesy of Stephen McCullough)