By Peter Fimrite
A dog who became an international cause celebre after her snout was sliced off saving two young girls in the Philippines was examined by veterinarians Thursday at UC Davis, a milestone event in a remarkable humanitarian effort to help a canine heroine.
The mixed-breed dog, named Kabang, became an unlikely star in the Philippines after she reportedly threw herself into the path of a speeding motorcycle just as it was about to hit two young girls crossing a roadway in Zamboanga City.
The lunge, by all accounts, saved the lives of the daughter and niece of Kabang’s owner, but cost the dog her snout and upper jaw, which was sheared off when she got tangled in the motorcycle’s spokes. The gruesome injury puts her in grave danger of developing an infection. At minimum, the gaping wound must be closed, a delicate procedure that is beyond the capability of veterinarians in the Philippines.
Kabang was brought to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, at UCD, where a team of veterinarians looked over her wounds.
“We are pleased with what we discovered,” said Frank Verstraete, one of the veterinary surgeons who conducted an hourlong exam Thursday that included blood and urine tests. “We are confident we can improve her condition going forward.”
Verstraete and fellow surgeon said they expect Kabang will need at least two surgeries over the next six weeks, one focusing on dental work and the other to close the gaping wound on her face.
“Contrary to some rumors in the media,” the hospital said in a statement, “there are no plans to fit Kabang with a ‘prosthetic snout’ or to replace her jaw.”
The campaign to help Kabang was spearheaded by Karen Kenngott, a longtime critical care nurse from Buffalo, N.Y., who organized a fundraising campaign that raised more than $20,000 in donations from 20 countries, enough to pay for surgery, airfare, visas, passports and a hotel stay for the dog and her handlers.
Kabang, referred to in newspapers in the Philippines as the “hero dog,” flew into Los Angeles International Airport on Monday night with Anton Lim, her local veterinarian. Her owner, Rudy Bunggal, had to stay home apparently because he could not locate a valid birth certificate and was unable to obtain a visa or passport.
Kabang’s unprecedented journey actually began nearly two years ago in a swamp near Zamboanga, when the 57-year-old Bunggal found an abandoned puppy in a paddy field. He initially kept the dog with the intention of fattening it up and feeding it to his family, a practice that is not uncommon in the Philippines, but his daughter, Dina, 11, and niece, Princess, 3, grew close to the dog, according to numerous published accounts. They named her Kabang, which means “spotty” in their native Visayan language, and the dog became very protective of the girls.
The motorcycle accident, which left Kabang literally with half a face, touched hearts across the Philippines. Kenngott heard about the dog’s plight, which prompted her to start a website, careforkabang.com, and opened Facebook and Twitter accounts. Her grassroots campaign was helped by pet lovers’ websites, many of which have considerable followings in the Bay Area.
“It is a high-profile case for us,” said Rob Warren, the spokesman for UCD’s veterinary hospital. “It is a tremendous opportunity for everybody. I see it as a win-win all around.”