- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sarah Fisher, 15, is committed to saving the life of her “best friend” in Great Falls.

A 2-year-old golden retriever, Lucy, was left on Sarah’s doorstep last week. The dog has a hip ailment so severe that she cannot use her hind legs.

“She has to drag herself around,” Sarah says of Lucy, who did not have a collar and is underweight. “Her back legs really don’t work.”

After taking Lucy to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter for treatment, Sarah and her family were presented with a dilemma — either euthanize the dog or pay for hip-replacement surgery, which can cost as much as $10,000.

The decision was easy, said Sarah’s mother, Cathie. “We don’t want anybody euthanizing that dog. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Still, the Fishers faced a daunting medical expense for their newfound pet. They were rescued by a volunteer group devoted to helping dogs like Lucy.

Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training (GRREAT), a nonprofit group that operates in the Baltimore-Washington area, cares for about 300 golden retrievers each year. Through private donations, the group has provided the funds for Lucy’s surgery, as it has for other goldens in dire straits.

“If surgery can be done, we’ve never not done it,” GRREAT President Kim Wiff said.

GRREAT and the Fishers have scheduled an appointment for Lucy with an orthopedic surgeon, who will evaluate whether he will be able to do the hip replacements.

Lucy’s problem is hip dysplasia, which has eroded the cartilage in the dog’s hind quarters.

Signs of hip dysplasia become evident between 6 and 10 months of age, but overt symptoms usually don’t occur until a dog has reached full maturity or is past middle age.

“It’s odd that she’s this sick as young as she is,” Mrs. Fisher said. “Her hip and knee joints are absolutely shot.”

Sarah suspects Lucy had a troubled past.

“She was probably abused,” the girl says. “She acted really scared when I [found her and] tried to give her a handful of treats. But she was open and responsive.”

Sarah says she is so attached to Lucy because her uncle, who died about a year and a half ago, had two golden retrievers she loved.

One, who resembled Lucy, had hip dysplasia and eventually was killed by a passing car.

“That incident inspired me to help this dog,” Sarah says. “I really wanted that dog, and I remembered him when I saw Lucy.”

Sarah also owns three other dogs, three horses, seven cats, a painted turtle, a raccoon and several fish.

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