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L.A. native creates family with pack of rescue pups

July 11, 2018

L.A. native creates family with pack of rescue pups

Los Angeles native Eric Carr didn’t have the easiest childhood.

His mother was a teenager when she had Eric and his biological father left when he was 4. While his mom remarried a couple times, her husbands weren’t great father figures. He was abused physically and emotionally. There was never any money.

By the time he was 17, he was sleeping under the stairs at a friend’s house.

He knows first-hand about getting a rough start in life. And that’s part of the reason he’s taken to rescuing dogs.

Some of his most profound memories of childhood are centered on dogs his family had taken in. There was Tipper, a German Shepherd his parents brought home when Eric was around 3 years old.

“We had a bond … then one day he was gone,” Eric says.

His parents gave away the dog with no explanation. Though he was young at the time, Eric recalls feeling an enormous sense of loss. Tipper had been part of his family, it just didn’t feel right that all the sudden he was no longer there.

“I was worried about him. I thought he was lost on the streets somewhere.”

There were other dogs, too. When he was older- around 12 or 13- his mom and stepfather got a labrador named Cisco. Again, Eric formed a connection with the dog. A few years later, the dog got sick. He stopped eating and went blind. His mom refused to take her to the vet - she didn’t even take Eric to the doctors when he was young.

Eric said it was is his parents didn’t recognize the dog as a life. But Eric did. He said Cisco would come find him and they’d lay down together. Then one day, he stopped by his mom’s- he no longer lived at home by then- and his mom told him the dog hadn’t made it.

Comforting Cisco during his last days changed something in Eric. He recognized the bond humans and dogs can have. How dogs might come and go throughout a human’s life, but that from a dog’s perspective, a human is their whole life.

“We mean everything to them,” Eric says. “We’re their whole world.”

He lived in apartments for more than 20 years, but he knew as soon as he could afford a house, he’d rescue dogs.

Today, Eric owns his own real estate investment and property management company, he speaks three languages and teaches martial arts (he studied under a former student of Bruce Lee).

And he’s finally realized his dream of helping out the animals who made such an impact on his childhood. In addition to rescuing several dogs, he makes sure to donate 10 percent of his gross income to animal shelters. He cooks real food for his rescues-  three dobermans named Sascha, Mr. T and Kali and a pit bull mix named Apple that he co-parents with a friend in the area. He wakes up at 4 a.m. each day to ensure they get plenty of time for exercise and he goes to bed at night with all his fur babies tucked in beside him.

“It’s like the Brady Bunch,” he says. “I love them more than anything.”

***

Here’s where Eric’s lifelong love of dogs intersects with Animal Ortho Care’s mission to help animals regain their mobility.

Back when she was just 6 months old, Sascha broke her toe on a chain link fence. Eric took her to a vet his neighbor had been seeing for decades.

The vet took a look at Sascha’s toe, wrapped it up and sent her home. The next day, Eric noticed that Sascha seemed mopey and withdrawn- not her usual happy self. He took her back to the vet who told him the dog was probably just in pain. He gave Eric some medication for her and sent them home again. The following day, Sascha was hot and lethargic. She couldn’t stand up. Again, Eric took her to the vet. He examined her and concluded that the dog might be suffering from a hormonal condition called Addison’s Disease. He gave the dog an insulin IV and kept her for three nights.

When test results came back negative for Addison’s, Eric decided to take Sascha to a specialist. He ended up at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital, where the doctor unwrapped her injured foot and found she had a massive infection. There were open sores. The toenails had fallen out of her toes, and her toes themselves were turning black and starting to fall off. She’d also developed antibiotic-resistant MRSA. The vet put the dog on a broad-spectrum antibiotic, but was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to save her leg.

Eric didn’t feel right about the prospect of Sascha losing her leg.

During the episode, he’d taken her to a well-known Taoist master for acupuncture- a man who’d offered him meaningful insight on his own life. The man told him while working on Sascha that Eric and the dog had shared a connection in a past life. And that taking her leg would destroy her life.

He knew he couldn’t do that to the dog he’d rescued from a puppy mill and  bottle fed since she was just a pot-bellied puppy.

He began calling friends for vet recommendations, eventually finding Dr. Rick Garcia of Claws & Paws Mobile Vet, who thought he might be able to help the dog out, but needed to see her right away. Eric ended up driving the 40 miles to Dr. Garcia’s (in L.A. traffic no less) every day for five months. In the end, Sascha lost her toes, but was able to keep her leg. After seven months, she was walking again.

While she has no pads, Sascha has built up a callous on her injured foot. For the past several years, she’d been getting by, mobility wise- but in the last year or so she’d started having issues with inflammation. She began limping - especially after playing hard with Callie, who’s just a puppy. Dr. Garcia was concerned Sascha might develop early arthritis in her leg.

Eric found Neo-Paws, a company in Canada that made a shoe that could protect Sascha’s foot well, but he still had to limit her play to reduce the inflammation.

His vet had heard of a company based in Colorado that made orthotic devices for animals. Eric reached out, hoping to find a solution for Sascha’s foot. His vet took a cast of Sascha’s leg, they sent it to the company and eventually the company sent them a brace. Only, the device was bulky and oversized. Sascha’s foot slid around in it and there was no way she’d ever be able to run in it.  

Eric sent the orthotic back for adjustments, but it still didn’t fit right. He asked for more adjustments, but the company wanted additional payment to do more work on the device. Since it wasn’t working for his dog, Eric asked for a partial refund. The company refused and stopped communicating with him.

Eric decided he would just continue limiting how hard Sascha played and they’d make do with the dog shoes he’d gotten for her.

Still, it pained him that Sascha- who was just 4 years old and super athletic- couldn’t run the way she used to.

He came across a video on YouTube featuring Derrick Campana, CO, and his work with Animal Ortho Care. Because of his previous experience working with an animal orthotist, Eric was wary about reaching out to Derrick, but eventually last August, he sent him a note asking if he might be able to help Sascha.

Derrick asked for pictures of Sascha’s foot and told Eric he thought they could collaborate on a device that would suit her needs. Still, Eric stalled. For months, he peppered Animal Ortho Care with questions about their products and the process for fabricating them. Office manager Jenn Reitz and Derrick talked him through the process, always happy to clarify anything he asked.

Finally, back in February, Eric decided to give Animal Ortho Care a chance. He was so worried about ensuring Sascha was getting a brace that fit properly that he wanted to take her to Animal Ortho Care’s Sterling, Va. office himself- either by registering her as a service animal and flying with her or renting an RV and taking a cross-country roadtrip with his canine crew. Derrick and Jenn reassured him they’d be able to work with a cast of her foot that his vet took.

By March he had her new custom carpal brace in hand.

The first time she wore it, Sascha was a bit tentative, and Eric noticed her foot sliding back and up. He reached out to Derrick who knew right away how to fix the problem. So he sent the brace back, it was shaved down a bit and shipped back to California. The entire process took three days and didn’t cost Eric anything extra. He said the brace itself cost half as much as the one he’d bought from the other company.

Eric has since ordered a second brace to keep as a backup.

Again, Eric fit it on Sascha. The device fit perfectly. The dog took off running only hesitating a little. The second time he put it on her, she ran even more.

The entire Brady Bunch has benefitted from the devices, he said. Before, he’d take the dogs out to play but would have to bring them back inside after a half hour or so, fearful that Sascha would hurt herself. Now she can run an hour and a half and still be ready for more.

“This brace has changed her life,” Eric says. “She hasn’t run like this since before the injury.”

Today, Sascha wears her brace a few hours a day- when she’s really active. The only time he’s ever observed her fussing with it is after she’s worn it for a while. She licks at it and he’ll loosen it a bit, which seems to help. The device has made her stronger.

As far as additional treatment goes, Eric says Sascha wears a soft dog shoe for walks, takes turmeric for inflammation and glucosamine for her joints. He says these minor interventions as well as eating food he’s prepared has kept Sascha happy and active.

For other animal lovers considering adopting a pet with special needs, Eric says, prepare to have your life lengthened.

“There’s no greater reward than seeing a dog make progress and seeing them happy,” he adds. “When [Sascha] was six months old and everyone was telling me she’d never walk again. Never give up,” Eric says.

He’s already making plans for a road to the East Coast with his crew. On the itinerary: A stop by Animal Ortho Care’s office to shake hands with Derrick and his team.