Dog’s best friend

One companion’s persistence and friendship saved another’s life
Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yellowstone Newspapers photo by Stephen Kalb-Koenigsfeld

Alex (left) and Alexie pose for a picture at Petal Pushers Florist & Vintage Antiques, just days after Alex got out of surgery. Alex was rescued by his owners, but kept alive by his companion, Charlie, a six-month-old Great Pyrenees.

Many people say dog is man’s best friend. But for eight-month-old Labordoodle Alex, dog can be dog’s best friend, too.

That’s because Charlie, a six-month-old Great Pyrenees, stayed by Alex’s side for three days – day and night – bringing him bones, keeping him company and fending off strangers as Alex was snared in barbed wire and tubing off a cliff along the Yellowstone River.

After reports of a “big, white, fluffy dog barking and trying to attack people” east of town, Tamela Saltas figured that had to be her dog.

“So we went down there, couldn’t see them, couldn’t see them, and my husband said, ‘I’m going to go a little further,’ and looked down over this cliff,” Saltas said. “And sure enough, over the edge of this cliff was my fuzzy white dog.”

Initially, the Saltases only saw Charlie. And despite his best efforts, Charlie was unsuccessful – at first – in alerting his owners to where Alex was.

“He was in some sort of tubing and had barbed wire around him,” Tamela said of Alex. “He was all tangled and a mess. He had by him all these bones from a deer or something. And then he had teeth marks by his collar.”

Tamela’s husband, George, carried Alex up the cliff side and back into the truck to reunite the pair of dogs with Alexie, the Saltas’ daughter. They were remodeling their fence in town when the two dogs went for a little stroll April

11. When they didn’t return that night, there was an onset of uneasiness.

Both are pure-bred dogs and Tamela figured someone had seen them out and about, picked them up and took off with them. After day two and day three went by, they started to assume the worst.

Alex is Alexie’s therapy dog, and the whole family was more than thrilled to have both the dogs back.

However, the journey wasn’t over for Alex and the Saltas’ battle to save him.

While his collar was snagged on the barbed wire and tubing, Charlie worked to chew off Alex’s collar. In the failing effort, Charlie bit Alex a few times and he developed a toxic and aggressive bacteria under his fur and skin.

It was unnoticeable until Alexie spoke up enough about it and Tamela took Alex to a vet.

“When I first saw it, there was a pretty large area of necrotic skin,” said Kirk Johnston, the veterinarian at All Creatures Veterinary Service who worked on Alex. “We had some really toxic bacteria in there that was undermining the skin.”

Johnston worked on Alex for a few days, monitoring him and making sure the antibiotics were doing the trick before sewing him back up after removing the rotting skin. Johnston said it was tricky, finding the right amount of time to stitch him back up without there being any more aggressive bacteria still underneath.

“We removed a five-inch-by-three-inch area of skin on the back of the neck that was just necrotic,” Johnston said. “By doing that, we were able to get underneath, clean underneath and hopefully stop whatever aggressive bacteria was growing.”

Nearly two weeks after their adventure, Charlie and Alex are back home, both doing well. Alexie said Charlie likes to really play rough with Alex, but also shows signs of restraint, recognizing Alex isn’t quite back to full strength yet.

Alex has been under close supervision at Petal Pushers Florist & Vintage Antiques, where he shyly greets customers with a harrowing, but heartwarming story.

“At first, my mom said he was probably gone forever. But when he came back I was so, so, so happy to see him again,” Alexie said, petting Alex and giving him a latching hug.

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