A Saint Bernard puppy aptly named Willow clearly does not understand the finer points of fetch. Whilst going about her usual important puppy business, Willow somehow managed to swallow a fourteen-inch-long stick, though it looks more like a branch if you ask me.
Owner Marissa McKittrick began to notice the puppy would yelp when she ate, prompting her to visit several veterinary clinics to reveal the problem. No one had any idea what caused her so much pain.
Best Friends Animal Hospital’s Dr. DJ Smith said:
We actually said ‘It would be great if there was just something in there I could just grab and pull it out and make her kid a lot better.’
Willow had endured multiple tests, x-rays, and various medications to no avail, and the pup was losing weight fast. At this stage, proper nutrients and weight gain is critical for the growth of such a young, large breed dog, and Willow was continuously regurgitating her food.
A nearby clinic in the pair’s town of Billings, Montana teamed up with Dr. Smith to try one last thing: they used an endoscope (a long tube-like structure with a light attached) to peer down Willow’s throat. It was there that they discovered the stick lodged in her esophagus.
“When they said a stick, I was thinking, like, a twig,” McKittrick said, and we can’t blame her for her wishful thinking. For comparison, KRTV explains that the stick was more than half Willow’s body length.
It took vets about twenty minutes to wiggle the stick free (Willow put safely under for the procedure). Dr. Darleen Miller of the Animal Clinic of Billings says, “It was wild, crazy, shocking. I have never seen anything quite like this.” Dr. Smith later explained:
It wasn’t a broom stick, it had all these little branches that came off. Every time you tried to back it out it would catch a little bit on the mucosa of the esophagus and the back of the mouth.
They estimate it will take weeks to months of healing for the affected tissues, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering Willow much.
She is back to eating normally and enjoying puppyhood once again. Unfortunately, the combined vet bills cost upwards of $5,000—you can donate to help cover some of these costs at Willow’s GoFundMe page.
See more of Willow’s story here.