Feyzullah is eleven years old. For many years, he was the “big man on campus”, popular with students, including some who say his warm personality helped them overcome their fear of dogs.
He was a leader among canines until tragedy struck at the end of December 2015, when he was accidentally hit by a car and his spinal cord snapped.
What stands out about Feyzo is the blessings that surround his misfortune.
The owner of the car that hit him is a compassionate, responsible person, who cared to help. Feyzo received emergency medical treatment and underwent surgery which was successful, but ineffective. He could move the front half of his body, but his hind legs were paralysed and without regular exercise, muscle atrophy was inevitable. He lost control of his bladder.
A special wheelchair was ordered from the United States, but he was never able to adjust to it. His MRI and other test results led to a grim prognosis: No one believed that Feyzo would ever walk again -- except for Defne, who never gives up on a dog.
A special enclosure was altered for Feyzo's recovery that protects him from the weather, as well as other dogs, but allows him to lie out in the fresh air and be part of what goes on at the sanctuary. First-time visitors might look at him and think he is poor and sad, but when you get to know him and the staff, it is clear that this is a very thoughtful arrangement for his well-being.
Defne obtained a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement that caused visible improvement. Then she noticed that when his paws were massaged, he began to display reflex responses in his hind legs. When Defne showed this to veterinarian Mehmet Gürol Arslan, he agreed to take Feyzo into his physical therapy program.
Arslan studied and practiced in Turkey, Canada, the US, Japan and Tibet to acquire a combination of western & eastern healing techniques with remarkable results. Some people would describe what he does as miraculous, but there is science and years of study and hard work firmly behind it. He has a gift for restoring animals that have suffered severe trauma injuries, including broken backs and necks. You can see some before, during and after treatment videos of his patients: https://www.facebook.com/mehmet.g.arslan.5.
At the first appointment, Feyzo showed no muscular or neurological response in his back legs. Arslan was concerned about the muscle atrophy and corrected the height and angle of Feyzo's wheelchair. Defne & Ahmet began a daily exercise regime, including making Feyzo do laps, walking up and down, to get those muscles working again. Feyzo did not enjoy this after months of inactivity, but the exercise did him good!
Acupuncture with silver needles bridged severed pathways and we saw this clearly demonstrated on the third visit to the clinic. When the needles were in place, Feyzo was able to wag his tail for the first time since the accident.
After the needles were removed, on the way home in the car, Feyzo was able to wag, if we touched his tail.
Back at the sanctuary, in between appointments, if we pinched the tip of his tail, he could wag it.
Arslan explained that ozone therapy involves using a "scorching gas" to stimulate cell rejuvenation and production of synovial fluid in cartilage. Used incorrectly, ozone can be dangerous, so the practitioner must be well trained and you can examine a number of certificates from international ozone medical societies on the wall of Arslan's clinic.
Therapeutic ultrasound (not to be confused with diagnostic ultrasound which allows you to look inside the body) delivers deep heat to soft tissue in the body. Arslan said that this increases circulation to the tendons, muscles and ligaments and helps restore elasticity.
Electromagnetic therapy is used today to treat a number of neurological conditions as well as physical and sports injuries.
Arslan says it does this by delivering low level impulses to stimulate and rejuvenate cells.
In the early sessions, Feyzo was surprised by the warm, tingling sensation in his legs, but in later sessions, he often slept through the treatment.
Boğaziçi University provided a school van for driving Feyzo to and from physical therapy. Ahmet loaded him into the vehicle and Mehmet Bey drove Feyzo, Defne and BU Paws volunteers to physical therapy three or four days a week for sixteen sessions.
Whatever your opinion of these treatments, or what some consider to be "altetrnative" medicine, the owners of Arslan's patients have witnessed the transformation of paraplegic animals into functioning beings in 12-16 sessions. As the weeks passed, Feyzo's muscles strengthened, he began to resist with his hind legs during massage. When his tail is pinched now, his thighs and hips tremble and he tries to rise up on all fours....but doesn't quite get there.
"He is ready to walk. At the beginning, I couldn't get a response from the muscles or neurological system, but now I touch him just lightly and he responds. He's ready. He is not ready to walk again only in his mind. Maybe he is afraid to walk. Maybe he's afraid of being hit by a car. I don't know what he is thinking, but he's waiting for something. He has to decide to walk again."
Defne, Ahmet and volunteers discussed what could motivate Fezullah and decided on plans of action.
Plan A: A beautiful female.
Defne, Ahmet & Zuhal took Feyzo to the other end of the sanctuary to visit Belka, a beautiful, pleasant white dog. Feyzo twitched and shivered when he was close to her, but did not stand up on his back legs.
Plan B: Return to former territory.
Before he was hit by the car, Feyzo was the alpha male in a group of dogs on South Campus. Maybe seeing his friends on his old stomping ground would be the motivation he needed. Ahmet carried him through the woods to the heart of campus. Students came over to fuss over him, just like old times. When his dog pack arrived on the scene, they came rushing towards Feyzo. We thought the moment of truth had arrived...
When they reached Feyzo, he rose on his front legs and growled with such authority that they hit the submissive position. Regardless of his physical condition, he is still the alpha male, but he did not try to use his hind legs. He enjoyed his evening socializing on campus, but it was not enough to make him forget himself and rise.
Plan C: The swimming pool.
Thanks to a donation from Çavlan Arsoy-Recoma Composite, BU Paws has a dog swimming pool! Perhaps the ease of weightlessness, combined with the instinct to keep ones's head above water, would motivate Feyzo to use those back legs. It did not. He paddled up a storm with his front legs, but let the back legs float.