Many will give thanks for the blessings in their lives this Thanksgiving. For one family and a generous troop of Girl Scouts, their thankfulness will include the health of a horse named Denali and the "miracle workers" in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) at Virginia Tech.
Nearly every Girl Scout in Troop #5110, past or present, in Summers County, W.V., has ridden and loves Denali, the nine-year old Arabian gelding owned by Troop Leader Gayle Rancer, her husband Mark Rosenberg, and their daughters Sydney and Layla.
In the year since he joined the Rancer-Rosenberg family, Denali has quickly become an integral part of Gayle’s life. The horse has also become a favorite of Gayle’s Girl Scout troop, so when early on the morning of September 12 Gayle and her family found Denali on his back with his feet up in extreme pain, they wasted no time calling their local veterinarian, Dr. Faye Gooding of Tri-County Veterinary Services.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Denali’s condition only worsened. He kept collapsing, his heart rate continued to slow, and his pain became unmanageable. The family was soon faced with a very hard decision concerning Denali’s future and well-being: should they consider putting him down and ending his misery? Or should they seek additional treatment in the hope he would be able to make a full recovery?
“The clock was ticking,” said Gayle. “Denali was facing a life or death situation.” After consultation with Dr. Gooding, they decided to attempt treatment. They loaded Denali into his horse trailer and raced towards the VMRCVM in Blacksburg.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted by an emergency equine team that included Dr. Dale Rigg, Dr. Linda Dahlgren, Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, Dr. Erik Noschka, and D.V.M. students Ashley Davis and Janie Dotson. Gayle would later dub the team “miracle workers” for the incredible care and expertise they demonstrated with Denali.
The team immediately took Denali for exploratory surgery where he was diagnosed with “right dorsal displacement of pelvic flexure and 16 feet of devitalized jejunum due to strangulating lupoma.” In other words, his small intestines were wrapped around a large, fatty tumor. Sixteen feet of his small intestines were dead and would have to be removed along with the tumor. This was a very serious surgery and there was no guarantee Denali would survive; however, it was his only chance.
With no time to spare, Denali was rushed into surgery while Gayle and Mark waited and hoped. Remarkably, Denali came through the surgery even better than expected and as the days passed, his recovery amazed even his doctors. He even earned the nickname “Wonder Boy” from Dr. Rigg. Five days after his surgery, Denali was strong enough to return to his family and the girls of Troop #5110 in West Virginia.
“Our family is thrilled beyond belief to have him home, and extremely proud of his stamina,” said Gayle. "His miraculous surgery has given us a grateful, appreciative and very happy horse. His surgery was major, and his recovery has required a lot of quality time with him. Our Thanksgiving gift will be watching him enjoy his freedom when we release our horse back into his pasture. We love this guy so much!"
The girls of Troop #5110 are also happy to have Denali back with them. To show their appreciation to the VMRCVM for the care Denali received, the troop has donated a portion of the proceeds from their cookie sales to the college to help offset the remaining balance of “Running Together,” the beautiful, bronze statue depicting a girl leading her horse with her dog keeping pace that greets visitors at the VMRCVM’s Blacksburg campus.
“We are delighted by the contribution made by Girl Scout Troop #5110. It shows a great amount of initiative, compassion and caring. Their character and generosity set a good example for all of us,” said Amanda Dymacek, assistant director of development for the college. “What a wonderful way to say ‘thank-you’.”