INDIANAPOLIS — Raga was born with six legs, an extra colon and four testicles. And an extra penis that had to come off.
While veterinary literature shows a few similar cases, most dogs like this are stillborn or die very young.
Anita Horne, hospital manager at VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center in Indiana, first saw the rescued German Shepherd puppy last fall.
“He probably shouldn’t be alive, he was such a mess,” Horne said.
But she convinced the hospital’s technician supervisor, Gina Elliott, to foster him for a night, a few at the most, for what most people assumed would be a short life.
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One of Raga’s penises appeared to function correctly, but his body was sending fecal matter to the other one, causing him to be hospitalized on heavy duty antibiotics to knock down an infection.
But he kept playing, kept running around, his extra legs flopping behind him, so hospital folks drew up a plan with two of the hospital’s surgeons.
Dr. Jae Tobias, a veterinarian, is midway through her three-year surgical residency and is two surgeries in on Raga, alongside colleague and veterinary surgeon Dr. Nicolas Vecchio.
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Tobias said the puppy had an extra bladder, ureter, colon, pelvis, penis, four testicles, and two extra legs that were partly joined. A December surgery took out the extra limbs and pelvis.
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In February came the delicate process of removing the bulk of the abnormal internal organs, including the extra penis, and associated urinary tract. A future procedure will go after the two last testicles that are buried in his abdomen.
“Even when you’re in a place where it’s like, ‘I’ve never seen this before,’ you just practice the skills that you’ve learned and you follow the rules of surgery and then get through it,” Tobias said.
But now, Raga, variously called Papaya, Carlos and Ripley, after Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, is a healthy dog of about seven months.
Four years ago, Elliott lost Bella, her beloved 16-year-old German wirehaired pointer. She wasn’t quite ready for another dog but amid the surgeries she and Raga bonded, so he’s moved from being fostered to being adopted.
“I never really thought of myself as a German Shepherd kind of owner, but he was the one that needed me. So here we are,” she said.
“Now I’m a German Shepherd kind of gal.”