UPDATE: Hero dog Kabang to head home to the Philippines

Back in August 2012, Dogtime.com first introduced you to Kabang — the brave Shepherd mix from Zamboanga City, Philippines who, in December 2011, jumped in front of an oncoming motorbike to save two young girls and lost nearly her entire snout in the process. Since then, the hero dog has been through quite an amazing journey, one full of ups and downs, of triumphs, and setbacks.

Kabang and Anton Lim, who will take the dog to the Philippines. (Photo credit: Liz Hafalia/San Francisco Chronicle)

Kabang arrived in the U.S. in October 2012, where she was transported to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California Davis (UC Davis VMTH) for some much-needed treatment and facial surgeries.

Shortly after her arrival, it was announced that Kabang’s surgeries would need to be delayed due to the discovery of some serious conditions. Veterinarians diagnosed the small Shepherd mix with a bad case of heartworm and a transmissible venereal tumor (TVT), a vaginal tumor the size of a golf ball. But the UC Davis VMTH team quickly got to work, developing a treatment plan for both conditions that ultimately proved successful.

“Kabang’s care at the teaching hospital was a great example of the synergistic approach we have toward veterinary medicine at UC Davis,” Chief of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at the UC Davis veterinary school, Professor Frank Verstraete said in a June 3 press release. “We were able to treat all of the complications that arose with the best specialists available,” he added.

With her heartworm and cancer treatments complete in February, veterinarians were able to spay Kabang and begin prepping for her long-awaited dental and facial surgeries. She received the first of two surgeries March 5, when Dr. Verstraete and fellow veterinary surgeon Dr. Boaz Arzi extracted Kabang’s broken upper teeth and reconstructed one of her damaged eyelids.

The second and final surgery, performed March 27, was an extensive 5-hour maxillofacial procedure in which the surgeons were able to successfully close Kabang’s gaping facial wound using skin flaps brought forward from other parts of her head. Then, with the help of soft-tissue surgeon Dr. William Culp, surgeons constructed new nasal openings using stents to create nostrils, which will help snout-less Kabang breathe much easier.

“The surgery was long but went just as planned, in large part due to the collaborative nature of Kabang’s veterinary team,” Dr. Arzi said in a statement.

Though it was not possible to construct a new upper jaw and snout for Kabang, and though the hero dog will always look quite different than she did before colliding with the motorbike that fateful day, her facial wounds are now closed, her nasal passages have been rebuilt and doctors are giving her a great prognosis.

“She is still not a pretty dog,” Dr. Verstraete tells the San Francisco Chronicleof Kabang, “but she is a happy dog.”

To date, the cost of Kabang’s veterinary treatments and facial surgeries tops a whopping $27,000. Without the tireless efforts of Care for Kabang, its founder Karen Kenngott and the millions of supporters who donated funds to help Kabang get the medical attention she so desperately needed, it is likely the hero dog would have lost her life due to the severity of her injuries.

Kabang’s owner, Rudy Bunggal, wrote a short letter to Care for Kabang and the UC Davis VMTH to express his gratitude for everyone’s role in saving his dog. Care for Kabang posted the original note, dated May 22, and its English translation on their Facebook page Friday.

“I’m Rudy Bunggal and I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart Ms. Karen [Kenngott — founder of Care for Kabang], Sir Rob [Warren — communications & marketing Director at UC Davis VMTH] and all the staff and doctors at UC Davis who took care and nursed Kabang back to health. Thank you very very much,” Bunggal writes.

“Also to the donors who helped raise funds to pay for Kabang’s medical treatment…thank you too,” Kabang’s thankful owner adds.

The UC Davis veterinary staff gives major props to registered veterinary technician Dawn Gillette, who also runs the para-veterinary service facility where Kabang has stayed since her arrival in the U.S., for her integral role in the hero dog’s recovery. Gillette will never forget the spunky little dog who was determined to live and love life, despite all she’d been through.

“I’m going to miss her,” Gillette says of the extraordinary snout-less pup who has become a dear friend over the past eight months. “She is a special girl, a real character.”

After so many months away from the Philippines, Kabang is expected to finally reunite with the Bunggal family Sunday after a short layover in Manila. Veterinarian Anton Lim of the Philippines will escort Kabang on her long journey home.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that she is alive,” Dr. Lim says, thanking the veterinarians and dedicated staff at the UC Davis VMTH.

“It all happened for a reason and this opportunity is not being lost on us,” he says on behalf of himself and the entire Bunggal family. “We’re hoping to make Kabang an ambassador for responsible pet ownership.”

Sources: UC Davis VMTH, San Francisco Chronicle, Care for Kabang Facebook page