Contessa – Starkville, MS

ESRA Special Needs Springer

ESRA #2016-219 MS
Age: 2
Gender: Female
Color: Black and white

Contessa is a happy, adventurous young Springer who longs to explore the great outdoors, run and play, and chase those pesky birds and squirrels. Sadly, she suffers from congenital bilateral limb deformity in her two front paws, which severely limits her ability to do the things that most young Springers take for granted. Tessa walks on her arms without using her front paws. There is almost a six-inch difference between her front and rear heights. She has a consultation scheduled with an orthopedic specialist and will need to undergo a complicated and lengthy surgery, followed by extensive physical therapy. It won’t be quick or easy, but we are hopeful that her mobility and comfort can be improved.

Contessa exploresContessa, also known as Tessa, was turned in to a Mississippi humane society by a Good Samaritan. Because of the deformity of her two front legs, the shelter originally feared that she was the victim of abuse and that her front legs had been broken. After searching far and wide for her owners, it became clear that poor Tessa had been dumped and left to fend for herself in a remote area. We aren't sure how long Tessa had to do that or how far she was able to travel considering her handicap. Humane society officials turned her over to ESRA as the humane society knew we could help her overcome her challenges and thrive.

These days Tessa can only walk for five or ten minutes before becoming extremely fatigued and stopping to rest. But that doesn’t stop her from trying! At home, Tessa manages to leap onto the furniture to rest up for her next adventure.

Her foster mom bought Tessa a fancy stroller at a yard sale, so now this little princess rides in her chariot to aContessa xrays neighborhood lake, conserving her energy. Then she hops out and sniffs all the smells and keeps her eye on the ducks. This combined ride and walk has become her favorite part of the day. In fact, after riding in style to the big lake, she has actually tried to chase a bird. She mostly sat with her ears on high alert and her front leg pointed, but she was completely excited the whole time.

Tessa is an avid bird watcher, bug chaser, and new-smell hunter. We can’t wait to turn her loose and let her run and swim and chase! Please help us give Contessa the ability to walk, run, and play with support and positive thoughts and prayers.


UPDATE 6/1/16:


Contessa’s surgery at Mississippi State University's School of Veterinary Medicine took seven hours, but it went well and she is resting and recovering. Bone grafts were taken from the hip area and implanted in her damaged lower front paws. Although this was not the easiest scenario for her, as she will have more pain after surgery, it is better for the long-range health of those bones. Some scar tissue was also removed, but she will still have little bumps or rings of scar tissue around her wrist, which shouldn’t cause her any problems.

Her vets report that the X-rays after surgery look REALLY good! Due to all the micro-fractures near the missing joints, she will have only a one-inch difference in height between her front and rear legs. Her veterinarians were unsure how much bone would need to be cut/shaved due to the micro-fractures, but apparently the quick surgery date and the great pre-surgery care from her foster mom allowed a lesser amount to be done. In other words, hooray for ESRA for helping Tessa so fast!

Tessa has quickly become a favorite of the veterinary staff and students at Mississippi State University. She is being referred to around the clinic as "the princess." Many students stopped by to hold her and let her sleep on their laps. Her surgeon says that Tessa is the best dog she has ever met, as apparently Tessa will allow them to do anything they want while she "looks cute and wags her tail."

She is a great patient and is recovering well, but this isn’t the end of the road for Tessa. She will still need hospital care, pain management, extensive follow-up treatment, and ongoing physical therapy. Her bills are high and contributions are badly needed to pay for the surgery and aftercare. Still, after rest and rehabilitation, wonderful new adventures await this sweet little girl.


UPDATE 7/5/16:


Contessa’s new video shows great progress. Though still on restricted activity and wearing casts on her front legs, her mobility and comfort are much improved. Even better news is that her post-surgery x-rays show bone healing.


UPDATE 7/25/16: Contessa paws on ground


After eight long, hot weeks, Contessa got her casts off today! Her left leg has bone growth necessary to be called fused, which is extraordinary fast progress. She still needs more bone growth in her right leg (normal progress), but she has enough to support walking without splints. Her new X-ray shows the metal rods and screws that her veterinarians permanently placed in both front legs.

Contessa remains on restricted activities and is understandably a bit wobbly on her front legs as she adjusts to life without casts. She will get some therapy to help strengthen her muscles and tendons. Another round of X-rays will be done in a month, and then if all is well, this little girl will be medically cleared to do all those things a 2-year-old Springer is meant to do, like run, play, swim and chase birds and squirrels. x-rays


UPDATE 9/05/16:

Contessa right leg Contessa’s right ankle was more damaged than her left. After eight weeks, her left leg was fully healed and the vet team thought it would also be safe to remove her right bandage. Tessa let us know the next day that it was not ready, so we returned and the team gave her a right bandage and splint only.

Contessa also developed an infection not connected to her surgery. The infection had the potential to slow bone growth and healing, so the team has decided to wait an extra four weeks before taking another X-ray of her right leg and removing her splint. You might think it is hard to live a dog’s life with one cast, but Tessa got used to it quickly. Plus she still gets to ride in her chariot, so she's extra happy.

And some good news: Contessa's status is now Adoption Pending, meaning she has found her Forever Family. Thank you all for your support and well wishes. Keep your paws crossed for Tessa's continued healing.


UPDATE 9/16: Contessa right leg bones fusing

Contessa had X-rays yesterday. The bone in her right front leg had finally developed a full "boney callus." Although the bones are not completely fused, many of them are and the fracture lines are fading. The good news is that she has developed a callus around the light fracture lines that still exist, and this creates stability in the bone. It truly is amazing what Tessa's body has done to help itself return to "normal."

The calluses around her hairline fractures are the last step in closing the fractures and so she left yesterday splint and bandage free! Tessa has activity restrictions normally, but her doctors have kicked it up even higher. She doesn't trust her right leg/paw because the muscles and ligaments are so weak. She would prefer to function as a three-legged dog. We will use short leash walks and slow walking to insist she use her right leg. Her foster mom is keeping a watchful eye and has been instructed to go back immediately and have a splint placed again if she has any complications. Contessa will have four weeks of this more intense restriction. Then she will return for hopefully her last round of X-rays. Paws crossed!


Update 9/27:

Being a typical young Springer, Contessa tried to catch a squirrel - using her leg/paw in a form not allowed in her condition. She jumped over 6 feet! Thankfully, new X-rays showed amazingly little change in any bones. She still has her calluses too! But Contessa is back in the cast due to her favoring the leg and to protect her against her new-found ability of springing. She just isn't ready.

Another complication has been from an unrelated but persistent urinary tract infection, which could potentially be slowing down her bone growth and healing. Her doctors have cultured the infection and prescribed a different antibiotic, aimed at clearing up that condition.


UPDATE 12/13/16:

Some good news: after four weeks of restricted activity with her cast removed, Contessa's right leg is developing muscle and tendons are getting stronger. Over the next four weeks, her activity will be gradually increased to normal dog levels, and then hopefully she will be pronounced fully healed and ready to chase those pesky squirrels.





  Denis Weber  
  Wayne & Mary Gilbert In memory of the Fab 4: Remy, Mac, Jessica & Pesto

Sherry Bardack In honor of Gay and Bill Sterling

Janet & Denny Berkenpas In memory of Mandy

Diana Hilton In memory of our sweet Pepper

Carolyn Molloy In loving memory of luke & Cassie

Rosemary & Frank Kaiser  

Victoria Polce In memory of My three sweet springer babies Arco. Patrick, & Jenny

Gary & Linda Plate In memory of Molly

Rod Moore In memory of Molly

Monica Smith  

Loralyn  Perry In memory of Sashi

Kimberly Smith In memory of Cori Gilliam

Heidi Angle In memory of In memory of my dearly departed tri-colored springer Hope

Mindy Dice-shah In memory of Nina and in honor of Lottie

Rene Pizzo In honor of the wonderful veterinarians who help dogs live full lives

John And Eydie Stegall  

Cindy Schaefer-Munz In memory of Fletcher and in honor of Chauncey

Mary Guttieri In memory of Remembering Diego, in honor of Megan Nelson

Victoria Polce In memory of My three sweet springer babies Arco. Patrick, & Jenny

N Dobbs In memory of Rosie the Springer that changed our life

Grant Glanville  

James Sickle  

Rene Pizzo In honor of the wonderful veterinarians who help dogs live full lives

Mindy Dice-shah In memory of Nina

John And Eydie Stegall  

Victoria Polce In memory of My three sweet springer babies Arco. Patrick, & Jenny

Barbara Welty In honor of Miss Marina Welty

Stacey, Kenny & Madie Smith In honor of all ESRA Volunteers

Eileen Parker In loving memory of Mike Flynn

Nita Watson  

Carol Sanderson In honor of all your ESRA friends

Joyce Curtis In honor of ESRA Foster Parents

Carol Sanderson In honor of All my Atlanta ESRA friends

Nita Watson  

Stacey, Kenny, And Madie  Smith In honor of ALL ESRA VOLUNTEERS- Thank you for what each of you are able to do to keep this organization working to save these beautiful Springers

Carolyn Molloy In memory of Luke and Cassie

Eileen Parker In memory of Mike Flynn best friend of Ed Parker

Cary Branthwaite  

Anaise Theuerkauf In honor of Fiona

Catherine Sandy In memory of Herb Sandy (husband) and Fred (1st springer)

Diane Nagel  

Jeanie Taylor  

Marilyn Gorman In honor of Cookie, Daisy, & Sweetie

Katrin Owen In honor of ESRA Foster Parents!

Cathryne Slaughter In memory of Angel Maggie

Marissa Aguilar  

Barbara Braithwaite In memory of Molly O'Shaunghnessy, our sweetheart, waiting at the Bridge

Tiffany Fraioli In memory of Buster

Victoria Polce In memory of my three sweet springer babies Arco, Patrick & Jenny

Emily Pike In honor of Contessa's ESRA MS Team: Laura Jean Kerr, Rick Welch, and Amellia Hudson

Mary Viehoefer In memory of My father, Hugh T. Riley

Cathy Scheffer  

Melissa Campbell In memory of rjm

Kathleen Engberg  

Alicia Stewart In memory of my beloved, Simon

Jan Gallagher In memory of Louie