Helping Those in Need During a Pandemic: Assistance Dog Indie Rae

Bethany F. suffers from a condition called psychogenic non-epileptic seizures; this condition is a result of severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and causes real seizures that were debilitating to Bethany. In the fall of 2017, these seizures were happening so frequently that they impaired Bethany’s ability to work outside the home. At the time, Bethany was having a seizure every other day, and recovery from each episode was difficult. 

Bethany decided to adopt a puppy to keep her company during her days at home. In October 2017, she adopted a wiggly, 2.5-month-old puppy named Indie Rae. Indie Rae was a Hurricane Harvey puppy who had been evacuated from her Houston shelter along with a littermate. Even as a young pup, Bethany said that Indie Rae showed a loving, nurturing temperament. Her littermate brother had suffered from a severe bacterial infection that eventually caused him to go blind. Throughout their time in shelter and foster, Indie Rae never left his side. 

But it wasn’t until Bethany brought Indie Rae home that she realized just how special her new puppy was. Within a couple days of adopting Indie Rae, Bethany suffered a seizure that caused her to collapse on the living room floor while she was alone with the puppy. Indie Rae immediately ran into another room to get help and then came back to Bethany, lying next to her and licking her hands and face until she came out of her seizure. This was a turning point for Bethany. Until that time, she had not known it was possible for her to come out of her seizures; she had thought she just had to wait them out until they were done. Indie Rae’s intuitive response not only helped Bethany come out of her seizures more quickly but also made her recovery easier, which in turn helped prevent future episodes. As Indie Rae grew, she continued to respond to Bethany’s symptoms, alerting her when an episode was coming on and herding her to a bed or chair so she could rest safely. Through Indie’s help, Bethany was able to learn more about her condition and what caused her seizures and start to take control of her life again. In conjunction with therapy and medication, Bethany and Indie Rae have been so successful at managing her condition that Bethany has had only four seizures in the last year and has been able to work as a preschool teacher for more than a year. 

When the COVID-19 shutdowns began in mid-March, Bethany made the decision to switch to part-time teaching her class remotely rather than going on voluntary layoff. During her time at home, she noticed that Indie’s gait was off but wasn’t sure if anything was wrong until one night when she tried to give Indie a bath. Usually docile, Indie pulled away every time Bethany tried to touch her back left leg. The next day, a visit to the veterinarian confirmed that Indie Rae had a CCL tear and would require surgery. Further examination showed that Indie Rae had actually torn both CCLs and would need two TPLO surgeries. Indie’s veterinarian, Dr. Cheryl York of Bluebonnet Animal Hospital in Austin, consulted with surgical specialist Dr. Kelly Might of Mobile Veterinary Specialist, and they determined that a bilateral TPLO would be the best course for Indie Rae. 

Although Bethany was committed to giving her special pup the best care possible, her financial situation was extremely difficult. After several months of part-time work, she was officially furloughed at the end of June. While she was filing for unemployment, paying for her own medical needs without insurance and keeping up with her other responsibilities made paying for an expensive surgery for Indie Rae out of reach. Knowing how special Indie Rae is to Bethany, Dr. York suggested they reach out to TVMF to apply for a Rusk Veterinary Assistance Grant. Upon review of her application, the TVMF Grants Committee decided to award Bethany and Indie Rae a grant from the disaster grants fund, since Bethany’s income loss was directly related to COVID-19. Bethany and Dr. York were thrilled to hear this news, and Indie’s surgery was scheduled with Dr. Might in mid-July.

According to Bethany, Indie Rae has been a trooper throughout this process—from diagnosis to surgery—but recovery has not been easy. Just nine days after her surgery, Indie started limping. Further examination and X-rays revealed that the hardware in her left hind leg had failed. Dr. Might performed a second surgery to repair the hardware in that leg, and Indie is back on the mend. In fact, Bethany says Indie is so happy and full of energy that they are having to work hard to keep her calm as she recovers. Bethany is extremely thankful for the assistance she has received for her special pup. 

“She’s worth it,” Bethany said. “She’s so nurturing, so loving and so strong. She’s an incredible pup. I’m the luckiest ever to be her mama.”