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Sinkhole spill sends retriever mix to surgery

Vote for Sherlotte once a day from 11/1-11/5

Al Falco and his wife Wei brought Sherlotte, a charming yellow Lab-golden retriever mix, into their Andover, Massachusetts home for their high-school-age daughter. However, once she arrived, the couple quickly bonded with their newest family member and became inseparable. Al started taking Sherlotte for regular walks to meet the lofty activity and exercise needs a Lab-golden mix needs. One day, while on their daily stroll around the neighborhood, Al was shocked to watch Sherlotte sink into a massive sinkhole.

lab-golden retriever mix

“We were having a large utility project in our neighborhood for many weeks, it was electrical in nature,” recounts Al. “They had the excavating equipment there and they had to really dig some pretty deep, large holes. At night they would just fill it with beach sand, and they didn’t really pack it properly.”

Several days of heavy, sustained rain had undermined the structural integrity of the filled utility holes. Al was not aware that the construction sites were now littered with deep, dangerous sinkholes until Sherlotte started sliding into one.

He continues, “I was out walking her and boom! —her backside just went. She just sunk into this hole and fell through … half of her body was in and she’s kind of trying to scramble out.”

After a brief second spent trying to make sense of the situation, Al sprang into action to help Sherlotte scramble out of the dangerous hole.

“It was kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” Al remembers. “A lot of times you’re walking your dog and you’re just looking around and … you know, then suddenly my dog is yelping and scrambling to come up, and I see her hind legs kind of below ground. Your first reaction is shock and then your second reaction is, like, ‘These jerks, you know, they should have done a much better job of filling these holes in. You sit back and say, ‘What if this was a 6-year-old kid that this happened to and they broke a leg?’”

lab-golden retriever mix

Once out of the hole, Sherlotte was limping pretty seriously, and Al took her to Andover Animal Hospital. She was prescribed Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, and advised that the limp would go away in time. After a few weeks, the swelling had gone away but Sherlotte was still limping pretty badly, so Al brought her back to the animal hospital. The orthopedic surgeon ran a battery of tests and discovered just how serious the injury really was. She decided they would need to scrape torn cartilage around Sherlotte’s ankle and do a bone fusion to repair the injury.

“Despite her injuries, thank goodness Sherlotte’s experience was a result of the sand trap and not an electrical line,” said Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “We’re all so glad she’s doing well, but I must say: It’s not every day one of our pets encounters what was essentially quicksand.”

It’s been a long few months, but Sherlotte is making great progress in her recovery since the surgery thanks to the Falco family and the folks at Andover Animal Hospital.

“Andover Animal Hospital is a really good organization. It is family owned and operated for probably the last 40 years. The surgeon did all she could and doesn’t see any permanent disability for Sherlotte … [We expect] that she will be back out and chasing squirrels with gusto very soon,” says Al with a laugh.

Al lives in a very dog-friendly community and many of his neighbors recommended pet insurance after their own experiences with costly, unexpected veterinary visits. “It’s a benefit my employer offers, and it’s fairly cost effective … knowing that my Labrador retriever mix will chew on anything, I thought it’s something I probably should do.”

“That’s kind of what [pet insurance] is to me, it’s the peace of mind. I didn’t go out that day expecting my dog to fall into a hole, but she did—and I’m glad I had the insurance to help cover it.”

al falco and sherlotte

Al Falco
Nationwide pet insurance member since 2021

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