Family Skips Christmas to Save Dog's Life
Family Skips Christmas to Save Dog's Life
Faithful Pet Injured After Being Hit by Truck
NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (Dec. 16) - Josie was in bad shape by the time the veterinarians at the University of Minnesota saw her: broken back, dislocated hip, internal injuries. Surgery would be expensive, they told the dog's owner. Death would be much cheaper.
''It was a pretty easy choice, and I know people who don't have pets don't understand this. But Josie is like one of my four children,'' said Stella Twedt. ''If my daughter had been hit by a car, I'd do anything to save her, to give her a normal life.''
"She gave us so much love. Now, it's our turn."
So Twedt, 36, borrowed $3,000 from her father and raided her Christmas savings. The surgeries began last week to repair the damage left behind by the bumper of a speeding pickup truck.
There's no money left to fly Twedt's 15-year-old daughter, Britney, who lives with her father in Arizona, to Minnesota for Christmas. There won't be presents under the tree for Twedt's two children who live with her: Brandon, 14, and Kirsten, 5.
Britney understood. ''She said, 'Mom, I understand. Do what you have to do,' '' Twedt said. Brandon had the same attitude. Kirsten struggled a bit, but came around. They understood what Outlaw Josie Wales meant to the family.
''Christmas is Josie this year,'' Twedt said as she held her left arm, paralyzed by a stroke in 2001. ''Josie has been an angel. ... She sat with me on the porch for months, and we watched the world go by. I just can't let her go.''
Twedt had lived an adventurous life before the stroke. She had traveled as a child in a military family. As an adult, she became a gunsmith. She had three children and two divorces before marrying Doug Twedt five months before the stroke.
On May 20, 2001, she had just returned from taking Josie for an afternoon walk when the stroke struck. ''There were times I honestly lost the will to live. But my family, my friends and my dog ... they kept me going,'' she said.
The dog had joined the family years earlier, after her second divorce. She thought a dog would be a good for her daughter, who was an infant at the time.
''There was a lot of change going on and I just thought that Josie could be a companion, a friend that Kirsten really needed,'' she said.
The 60-pound Australian cattle dog and daughter hit it off immediately. Kirsten could do anything to Josie - pull her tail, use her as a pillow - and the dog never batted an eye.
''The bond between those two, wow, I can't even begin to tell you how deep it was,'' Stella Twedt said.
On Dec. 5, with friend Cindy Dull in town to baby-sit Brandon and Kirsten, Twedt left for a short getaway with Doug. Dull got the kids to school. When she returned to the Twedt house, she brought the garbage cans into the garage.
Suddenly, Dull heard a yelp. Josie was flying through the air while a white pickup truck sped off. ''I grabbed some blankets, picked the dog up, put her in the car and headed to the vet,'' Dull said.
Only later did Dull - with the help of Brandon - realize the pickup must have swerved onto the grass to strike the dog. The Twedts have pictures of the tire tracks in the grass. The family has decided someone intentionally hit their dog.
''Who would do something like that?'' Doug Twedt asked. ''I mean at first I figured the dog ran onto the street and I can live with that, I mean that happens. But this ... this is just cruel and senseless.''
By the time the Twedts returned to North Mankato on Dec. 7, their dog was in excruciating pain.
Veterinarians in Mankato suggested the Twedts take Josie to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. The veterinarians there gave Stella Twedt options: put the dog down, let it live as a cripple, or perform surgery. Twedt took the latter.
The vets performed two surgeries - one on Dec. 8, the other on Dec. 10 - and in between, Stella Twedt, her kids and Dull drove through a snowstorm to see their dog.
''Five hours up, almost three back for 45 minutes with the dog,'' Twedt said. ''Kind of goofy, but worth it.''
Josie arrived home in North Mankato on Dec. 11. A bed was waiting for her. Brandon tested it the night before, sleeping through the night to make sure it was comfortable.
The family is angry that the person who hit their dog hasn't been caught, but they are happy to have Josie home for the holidays.
''When we got her, she probably had no idea what she was going to go through, but she's handled everything up to now,'' Stella Twedt said. ''She gave us so much love.
''Now, it's our turn.''