‘I just caved immediately:’ Vet adopts dog from Prince Albert SPCA with rare genetic condition

Ariel Schlag and her husband welcomed Wallace (right) into their family after she performed his surgery, which revealed that the eight-month-old dog had a rare condition called malignant hyperthermia. -- Prince Albert SPCA/Facebook

Dr. Ariel Schlag has performed hundreds of animal surgeries – No dog, though, has impacted her like one from the Prince Albert SPCA.

“I’ve been a vet for seven years now and he is maybe one of only a very small handful of cases that has touched me in this way, and it’s hard to explain why or how,” she said.

“I just caved immediately. I just thought he’s got to come home.”

At the end of May, Wallace was brought into the SPCA with troubles walking on one of his back legs, likely from being hit by a car.

After seeing a local vet, the roughly eight-month-old dog went to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon for hip surgery.

Wallace’s x-ray shows his back right femur completely out of his hip socket. — Prince Albert SPCA/Facebook

“We just made this connection. When I looked at him, I thought there are dogs that are very sweet and then there are dogs that are almost like this angel that I saw,” said Schlag.

The surgery didn’t go to plan. 

Staff found out that Wallace had a rare genetic condition called malignant hyperthermia. This caused his body temperature to rapidly rise in response to the anesthesia.

They cut the surgery short and worked to cool him down. Schlag said he responded well to Dantrolene, the medication used to treat his condition.

The potentially fatal reaction also caused Wallace to temporarily lose his eyesight.

“It was hard to even go home that night from the hospital,” said Schlag. “I cried. I was up all night.”

She didn’t know whether or not the dog would be able function at the same mental capacity or if he’d ever see again.

“Even if he were blind his whole life, I felt like I want to care for him. I want to be there because he saw me before he went to sleep. Maybe he doesn’t see me anymore, but he can hear me, he can feel that I’m there.”

Schlag knew moving forward that Wallace would need special care. Not only did he need specific medical attention, he needed to go through physical rehabiliation.

“I just knew that this was going to be a lot for someone, but not for me,” she said.

Wallace never returned to the SPCA. Schlag adopted him right away.

He’s now settled into his new home with her other dog, 10-year-old Lefty. Schlag said Wallace is bringing out the puppy again in her older dog with his high energy and playfulness, but also respects when Lefty just wants to nap.

Wallace, now often called Wally, has settled into his new home with Schlag’s other dog, Lefty. — Ariel Schlag/Submitted

Over the weekend, Wallace was able to jump up on the bed, something he couldn’t previously do with his weak hip.

“This little boy is honestly the sweetest dog ever and has such a will in him and has a lot of opportunity ahead of him,” said Ashlee Bober, manager of the Prince Albert SPCA.

“It’s quite incredible and rare to see this kind of situation happen with the reaction that he had when he was under.”

Bober thanked those who donated to Wallace’s cause. After sharing his story on Facebook, donations started to stream in, adding up to around $4,000.

The initial surgery cost over $2,000. The rest of the funds will go towards Wallace’s second surgery to finish fixing his hip and to neuter him.

“It’s quite an expensive process to go through, but one that with the community gathering together and supporting us and supporting Wallace, something that we’ve been able to do for this guy is give him a second chance,” said Bober.

“Whether they donated 25 cents or they donated more, every penny goes towards Wallace.”

Schlag will also be performing Wallace’s second surgery at the beginning of August. 

Although she didn’t show up to work that day thinking she was going to adopt a dog, Schlag is grateful that she jumped on the opportunity to welcome him into her family.

“For some reason, just that one thing about him really, I don’t know why, it just changed me,” she said.

“Wally is like this shining beacon of energy and hope.”

Wallace will have a second surgery next month with a special team of anesthesiologists. — Ariel Schlag/Submitted