Seriously hurt dog carried from woods by owner, saved by Stamford veterinary specialists
The bond between man and man's best friend is like no other. It’s obvious with 24-year-old Tolo Sutherland, of Rye, New York, and his dog, Robin. The hound-mix was supposed to be a foster but failed.
“I just fell in love with him. Yeah, he just became part of the family,” Sutherland told News 12.
That was over three years ago. These days, you’ll often find them side by side outdoors.
“He has so much energy,” Sutherland explained. “He loves fetch—just naturally. It's ingrained in his brain,” said Sutherland, adding that’s both in the water and on land.
On Nov. 15, the duo was playing fetch during a walk through Saxon Woods Park in White Plains, New York.
“And then one toss, I hear him just scream,” Sutherland recalled. “And then he slowly limps back to me, and I see he's dripping a little blood, and then he gets to me finally and just falls over. I see there's a hole in his chest."
The hole was from a stick, and that little bit of blood turned out to be a lot, according to Sutherland. He realized Robin needed help—and fast.
“I just start trying to carry him out because he wouldn't walk. And he's quite heavy. He's like 65, 70 pounds,” Sutherland told News 12.
He said they were about 30 minutes into the woods.
“My arms are not strong, and I don't think I would've been able to do it under normal circumstances,” said Sutherland. “As soon as I realized that this is really bad, I really just kept pushing myself. I was able to just pick him up through the pain and kept walking.”
A dog walker helped him carry Robin the last 500 yards, according to Sutherland, who also called his mom.
“I saw he could hardly walk. I mean, he was stumbling. He looked like a soldier in the war movies, you know? Where they carry their friends,” Gina Mikkelsen recalled. “I was so proud of him. How he could have….I would’ve broken down.”
“Robin just kept bleeding. It just never stopped. My whole body was covered in blood by the end of it,” added Sutherland.
They rushed Robin to Meadow Veterinary Hospital, right near the park, where staff bandaged and stabilized him but recognized they didn’t have the necessary resources for a potentially deadly injury. They referred the dog to Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford.
“As soon as I pulled in, like a full team came out with a stretcher. They took Robin out of the car, brought him right in,” Sutherland said.
The animal hospital is a Level I emergency and critical care facility.
“I think we all just kind of go into action mode. You just act,” explained Dr. Megan Murray, a staff criticalist at CUVS. Murray said they quickly performed an ultrasound and a CT scan, which showed bleeding around Robin’s lungs and heart, but the exact nature of the problem wasn’t clear until surgery.
Dr. Oliver Morgan, a veterinary surgeon at CUVS, discovered the stick had gone through Robin’s ribcage into his heart, causing a tear.
“I have never seen a stick penetrate the heart before,” Morgan told News 12. He successfully repaired the puncture wound, and explained it was all hands on deck for this case. “It’s rare to have the whole critical care team--the criticalists, the radiologists , the surgeons, everyone was in the room.”
“The nurses, the anesthetists—truly, it was everyone,” Murray added.
“Every nurse on the floor was working on that dog in that moment. It gives you the chills,” said Morgan.
Murray agreed, telling News 12, “I think it just speaks to how well we work together and are able to make incredible saves.”
This was clearly one of those saves. Morgan said Robin surprised doctors by how quickly he recovered, getting up and wagging his tail when his family visited the next morning. He got to go home a few days later.
“These are big wins. We feel it as much as the owners do,” Murray said with a smile.
“They were just wonderful, wonderful. They were so sweet—not just the doctors—everybody there was the best,” Mikkelsen said of CUVS.
Robin’s injury came at a time when his family was already hurting. Just two weeks prior, they’d lost their long-time German shepherd, Batman. Those wounds were still fresh.
“I’m so grateful. This whole family is,” Sutherland stated. “Within a month, he was like normal, and I’m just so happy.”