Dog starts new year on three paws and a cup of kindness
Many New Year's Eve revelers who sang the familiar "Auld Lang Syne" to usher out the old year probably gave little thought to the verse, "We'll take a cup of kindness yet."
But for Leonard (Lenny) Fogg and his beloved dog, Muki, those words took on new meaning. After a difficult year clouded by Mr. Fogg's long bouts of illness and Muki's lingering injuries from a car accident, 2009 ended on a high note for them, thanks to a generous, caring group of Islanders.
"I just recently had one of the nicest things ever done for me in my life, and I have to thank these people," Mr. Fogg said in a phone message left at The Times over the New Year holiday.
On December 7, Muki, a Bichon Frise, underwent surgical amputation of his right front leg by veterinarian Steven Atwood of Animal Health Care Associates. Although Mr. Fogg, who is a retired disabled veteran, explained beforehand that he couldn't afford to pay a big bill all at once, Dr. Atwood offered to work something out and discount the cost.
In the meantime, Dr. Atwood mentioned Muki's plight to Janet Norton of Edgartown, a long-time client who had offered to contribute financially in special situations where pet owners were unable to afford the full cost of veterinary treatments.
"She came and saw the little dog, and she just fell in love with him," Dr. Atwood recalled. "She said, 'I'll pay the whole bill. I don't want Mr. Fogg to pay a thing.' We discounted our bill anyway, and she covered it."
Ms. Norton described her contribution to Muki's care as a Christmas present to herself.
"Between everybody in Dr. Atwood's office and myself, we managed to come through with the money to help Mr. Fogg, and everybody feels so good about it," she said. "I was just delighted to be part of it."
In addition to Ms. Norton's generosity, Dr. Atwood and veterinary technicians Jennifer Jordon, Jennifer Hanna, Kirsten Davey, and Rebecca Mayhew cared for Muki for about three weeks after his surgery while Mr. Fogg recovered at home after hospitalization. Receptionist Tara Larsen helped, too, with scheduling and reassurance.
"When I went to pick Muki up and offered to give Dr. Atwood money, he said no, Ms. Norton paid for the whole thing, and I'm not charging you for the kennel bill," Mr. Fogg said. "It was close to $2,000 worth of medical care that was just given to me. How do you thank people for something like that? I kept asking, what can I say or do?"
Although he didn't have money to buy gifts for Ms. Norton and the veterinary staff, along with his heartfelt thanks Mr. Fogg gave them gold charms he had left from his late wife Karen's store, M.V. Gold.
The story of Muki's ordeal began on December 2, 2008. Since Mr. Fogg lives on a quiet Edgartown street with only three houses, he let Muki and his other dog, Maui, a five-and-a-half-year-old Bouvier des Flandres, out to romp in the front yard. A short time later, Mr. Fogg's son Benjamin was devastated when he drove up and accidentally hit Muki as the little dog ran out into the street to greet his car.
Dr. Atwood described Muki's injury as a brachial plexus avulsion, in which major nerves under the arm were torn from their attachments, leaving him with no control or use of his foreleg.
Although Dr. Atwood recommended surgery, he went along with Mr. Fogg's request to postpone it for awhile, to see if the leg might regain some function.
Over the next several months, as Mr. Fogg tended to Muki's injured leg, he battled health problems of his own, including a staph infection that kept him bedridden for 10 weeks. In addition to diabetes, Mr. Fogg copes with many health issues that stem from exposure to Agent Orange when he worked as a U.S. Air Force aircraft mechanic on planes that sprayed it in Vietnam.
Unfortunately, despite Mr. Fogg's best efforts, Muki's leg did not improve. Despite Mr. Fogg's care in keeping it bandaged, Muki often ripped the wrappings off when outside and came in with the deadened, useless limb battered and bruised.
"Sometimes we get lucky and nerves will regenerate to a certain extent, to the point where an animal can once again use the leg in a limited fashion, but in Muki's case, time was not able to heal the extensive damage to his nerves," Dr. Atwood said. "The leg became an impediment and a frustration to him, and he kept getting infections."
By December 2009, Mr. Fogg agreed the surgery should be done as soon as possible. However, he worried that since he had just gotten out of the hospital, he might not be able to handle Muki's post-surgical care.
Dr. Atwood assured Mr. Fogg that he and his staff would work everything out, and the four technicians took turns caring for Muki in their homes at night until he recovered enough to stay in the animal hospital's kennel.
"If we could have done this for anybody, Lenny deserves it," Ms. Hanna said. "He's a very nice man, and he has a wonderful little dog. It was our pleasure. We enjoyed it."
"We really like Lenny and his dog, and we were so glad to do it, since he's having such a hard time," Dr. Atwood added. "Emotionally, this little dog is very important to him."
Both of Mr. Fogg's dogs are a key part of his life, Dr. Atwood said, especially considering that Maui saved his life in February 2007. Mr. Fogg had a dizzy spell while walking Maui along a dock near the Navigator Restaurant and accidentally fell into the freezing waters of Edgartown Harbor. Maui stood by the dock and barked, attracting the attention of Peter Robb of Edgartown, who pulled Mr. Fogg from the water. ("Best friend's bark summons aid," Times, Feb. 1, 2007.)
Ms. Norton's role in helping Muki ties in with her long history of helping animals on the Vineyard. In the 1980s, she worked with AnnaBell (A'Bell) Washburn on a campaign to rebuild the Island's MSPCA facility and to establish the Pet Adoption and Welfare Service (PAWS).
An animal lover all her life, Ms. Norton makes donations to many animal organizations. Seeing Muki getting around fine on three legs after his surgery provided her with a personal connection and satisfaction beyond just writing a check, she said.
Mr. Fogg said he finds Muki's recovery "unbelievable." "He runs, he hops; you'd think he was born that way," he marveled.
Dr. Atwood agreed. "He's moving around a lot better than when he had that leg, because it wasn't functional and it was in his way," he said. "It's interesting, because in time when his fur grows back, you'll probably have to look twice. It's amazing how dogs like this compensate."
Although time will fade the evidence of Muki's ordeal, Mr. Fogg will never forget those whose kindness and generosity made that possible.
"I'm 66 years old, and no one has ever done anything like this," he said. "I'll go to my grave appreciating this."