Heroic blue heeler back in the field thanks to donor support

Dwane McLaren calls his dog Jango a “firecracker.”

The three-year-old blue heeler is an expert cattle herder, and when McLaren found himself cornered by 14 angry bulls, Jango came to his rescue.

Jango outside the WCVM after his final appointment after surgery (photo by Jeanette Neufeld).

The small dog took on the bulls, and Jango didn’t stop protecting McLaren even after suffering a broken jaw.

“The bulls were 2,200 pounds — and he’s 40,” says McLaren, who hauls cattle for a living. “One [bull] decided he didn’t like me very much, and he started coming after me … [Jango] grabbed onto the back of his ankle and distracted him enough that I could get over the fence.”

McLaren says he’s amazed at Jango’s protective nature.

“For him to know to come and do that — I didn’t call him or anything. The natural instinct to help in a dog is unbelievable,” he says.

After a three-hour struggle, McLaren finally got the bulls loaded in his semi-trailer. That’s when he noticed Jango was bleeding from his mouth. Despite being injured, the dog hadn’t stopped helping his owner the entire time.

“He’s tougher than nails, this fellow,” he says of his dog.

Jango had suffered a rostral mandibular fracture, which meant the tip of his bottom jaw had broken off. His lower right canine tooth – the long pointy one at the front – also came out because the bone around his tooth had broken off.

“He was really lucky. As far as jaw fractures go, it’s the best one you can have,” says Dr. Erin Hilberry, a clinical associate in dentistry. “The easiest thing to do is to basically take off the broken piece of bone, so that’s what we did.”

The surgery was successful, but unfortunately, after the procedure Jango developed a lung infection. To ensure a full recovery, Jango had to stay two more days in the WCVM’s intensive care unit. It was a difficult day for McLaren, who showed up at the hospital and was told Jango couldn’t go home because of the infection.

“It was really hard when we came up to get him and he had to stay,” he says. “They brought him out to see me and he couldn’t come home. He was mad at me.”

While McLaren had already paid for the dental surgery, the extra costs for Jango’s extended hospital stay were too much to handle for the cattle hauler. Luckily, the WCVM’s Good Samaritan Fund (GSF) covered the cost of Jango’s extended hospital stay.

The donor supported-fund covers costs for ownerless animals, or for those pets whose owners aren’t able to fully cover the cost of their care.

“It’s a really good way we can help bridge that gap so we don’t have to sacrifice patient care because we don’t have exactly the amount of money that we need,” says Dr. Robin MacRae, a small animal internal medicine resident at the WCVM.

“It was really a relief. I didn’t know where I’d be able to scrounge up the rest of the funds,” says McLaren.

After a final check-up a week and a half after the surgery, WCVM clinicians gave Jango the all clear, and McLaren says he’s now back to his old self and working without any fear.

“We wanted to be able to get him back to his job as soon as possible. He did great,” says MacRae. “I think he’s going to have a very normal life.”

She hopes Jango’s story inspires other people to donate to the GSF, which has helped save many animals’ lives.

“I think cases like this are really great examples of where you can have a really successful outcome — you just need the ability and the time to treat an animal properly,” says MacRae.

“If people wanted to donate money so that we could treat more patients like Jango, that would be awesome because every little bit helps.