Casey, a 10-month-old female husky mix with an unusual medical condition, has gotten a new lease on life in the care of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and now needs a new home. Her condition is megaesophagus, which makes it impossible to eat while standing up in a normal position without vomiting.
Enter Bill Petrie, a Southampton carpenter, who, working with his daughter Anna, made the pup a customized chair that allows her not only to eat while sitting in an upright position but standing on her hind legs, which she prefers.
Sarah Alward, ARF’s veterinarian, explained the origin of the chair, which was invented by a couple, whose surname is Bailey, for their own dog. A DVD is available that shows how it can be built easily with a little handiwork.
Until the Petries built a Bailey chair for Casey, she had been using one made for another dog at the shelter with megaesophagus. That chair, however, was designed only for sitting while eating. “She tolerated the feedings in the old chair, but needed her own so that she could stand up,” Dr. Alward said. “Now, she knows that the chair means food; it is inadvertent positive reinforcement.”
Dr. Alward explained that having seen cases of megaesophagus before, she had “an index of suspicion that made Casey’s diagnosis a quick one. Because Casey would regurgitate the food whole, it was clear that it was not moving down her esophagus.” A dog with megaesophagus has an esophagus too large and without the necessary muscle tone to squeeze food down into the stomach. Touching Casey’s neck, Dr. Alward said she found that Casey’s esophagus felt like a plastic bag. An X-ray confirmed her diagnosis.
The staff at ARF raves about Casey, saying she is a loving puppy with an especially gentle temperament who has become one of their favorites. They report that she loves to run, knows basic commands, and even gets along with cats. She has no problems besides food while on four legs. Managing her eating schedule is the biggest commitment new caretakers would have to make.
Dr. Alward said it is apparent that Casey’s condition is genetic because she is healthy in every other way. She requires no medication, and can lead a normal dog’s life aside from her time in the Bailey chair. She puts herself in it excitedly at mealtime and has to stay put for 20 minutes to digest. She is not allowed free access to water, but can drink from anything available if she is held up on her hind legs.
Casey’s condition, untreated, could have caused her to develop aspiration pneumonia from frequent vomiting; Dr. Alward said she has seen dogs die that way. An adoptive family, who will strictly adhere to mealtime rules, will allow Casey to live as a fully functioning and happy dog.