Buddy, the yellow Labrador retriever who suffered intense electrical burns at the hands of a juvenile, is healing well at the Mississippi State University Animal Health Center, his veterinarians say. The fan-favorite Labrador is finally making his way toward a healthy life after months of surgeries and around-the-clock care.
Like after like and hundreds of thousands of shares later, Buddy has become an internet sensation and has thousands of fans around the country cheering on his recuperation. The sweet dog has had dozens of articles written about him over the past few months, making 'Buddy' a household name.
In April, a source alerted Tunica Humane Society to a dog in Tate County who suffered horrific burns. A THS volunteer then found Buddy and brought him to MSU AHC after noticing the severity of his injuries.
"We are very fortunate to be close enough to Mississippi State for them to care for him," said Vice President of the THS board Tanna Easley, who also serves as director of adoptions and medical care.
Bandaged from his ears almost to the tip of his nose, Buddy could not use several of his senses, yet his caretakers said he greeted them with a wagging tail and kisses.
"He's just a typical Lab. Happy-go-lucky," said Dr. Elizabeth Swanson, his head veterinarian at MSU.
While Buddy's injuries were severe, his veterinarians said his conditions could have been worse, and Buddy is lucky to have his senses intact. The burns damaged his eyelids, but their protection potentially saved Buddy's eyesight.
According to Swanson, Buddy has had at least 10 surgeries. The first step to Buddy's recovery was removing the dead, burned skin from his face. Then, Swanson said, they assessed him to see what his most critical injury was.
One of his more intensive procedures involved stitching a codfish skin graft to Buddy's burn wounds. The codfish skin bonds with the animal's skin and eventually turns into the skin of the animal. Swanson said the codfish skin applications considerably lessened Buddy's pain and allowed his skin to heal healthily.
Dr. Melody Whitney, an assistant clinical professor at AHC, was Buddy's first residency student when he arrived on campus. During the early stages of recovery, she and Swanson were Buddy's primary team, and Whitney's responsibilities included changing Buddy's bandages every day and assisting with the codfish skin applications.
"I didn't know if he would tolerate the intensity of care … But from day one, he was always willing to eat and drink; he was wagging his tail and happy to see and interact with us," Whitney said. "And that gave me a lot of hope that he is a dog who could pull through and recover."
Whitney acknowledged Buddy's amazing recovery and said he exceeded her expectations.
In the beginning, the veterinarians had to sedate Buddy each time they changed his bandages because of his high pain levels. Slowly, they began to sedate the dog once a day, then every other day and finally, they no longer sedated him.
In August, the veterinarians fully removed Buddy's bandages, finally allowing him to have complete access to his eyesight and hearing. Swanson said the team expected Buddy to recover all his senses, so they are pleased to see his graduation into the sensory world.
"The first thing he did when he saw us was jump on us," Swanson said. "He was so excited to be able to see and make eye contact."
Swanson said Buddy's burns are almost healed besides a small spot in between his eyes that is still sensitive. However, Buddy also has heart worms and is undergoing a standard removal process that will take a couple of months. Swanson said his heart worm treatment is a sign of how well he is recovering because his burns have healed enough to allow treatments for other ailments.
Buddy will undergo some minor cosmetic surgeries after he is heart worm-negative that will improve his physical appearance. One surgery will fix his crooked eyelids that resulted from being bandaged for multiple months.
Now that Buddy's senses are fully operational, Whitney and some residency students engage his mind by playing with sensory toys and teaching him commands.
Sophie Mauldin, one of Buddy's residency students who administers his treatments, noted her favorite part of her shift is taking him on his daily long walks. She said he makes his rounds around the vet school each day and likes to greet everyone he comes across. Buddy wears a cone around his head, and Mauldin said he tends to run into people because of it.
According to Swanson, the only hesitancy Buddy shows is toward large television cameras. Swanson said the Labrador had professional headshots taken a couple of weeks ago, and Buddy did not enjoy having his photo taken with the huge, telescopic lenses. Besides being camera shy, Buddy has no problems with his human caretakers and is affectionate towards everyone he meets.
Since Buddy's recovery is in its final stages, THS has begun his adoption application process. MSU veterinarians said they hope Buddy can leave their care and enter his forever home at the end of the year. THS adoption director Easley said Buddy has a list of approved adoption applicants and a waiting list of people who have offered the sweet dog a forever home. Tunica Humane Society works tirelessly to ensure each dog will have an incredible forever home, especially those like Buddy who had a rough start to life.
The adoption director assured the public that Buddy will be in great hands no matter where his forever home will be.
"We feel 100% confident that the choice that we make will be the right home for Buddy," Easley said while listing the numerous ways she investigates potential adoptive families.
Back in April, a THS volunteer found a dog named Snoop with Buddy and said the two had bonded. Since then, Snoop and Buddy have not seen each other, but THS volunteers hope to reunite the pair in their forever home.
Easley said thanks to the shelter's generous donors, Buddy's care at the MSU Animal Health Center was completely paid for.
A true testament to a dog's loyalty, Buddy is a friend to all and especially loves his caretakers at the vet center. When asked if Buddy ever displayed hesitancy toward people, Whitney quickly answered and said no, he has always been kind and loving. Echoing Whitney's sentiments, Swanson described meeting Buddy for the first time.
"When I first met him … of course, he was heavily bandaged; he was still pretty painful. But despite that, he was giving kisses, and his tail was wagging," Swanson said.
Buddy's sweet temperament is an inspiration to his caretakers, they say, and residency student Mauldin said people could learn a lesson about forgiveness from Buddy.
"It's truly just so amazing how loving and trusting he is to everyone he meets, and I really think that Buddy's a lesson to us all," Mauldin said. "If Buddy can love and trust people after all that has happened to him, I think we can love everyone around us a little better."