WALLA WALLA - The Associated Veterinary Medical Center of Walla Walla hosted an open house Saturday that featured ponies for riding, lambs for petting, barbecued pork for eating and a very special canine guest named Tank Bond.
Tank, a shepherd/chow mix, was badly injured in early October when he was accidentally dragged by a truck. He stayed in the clinic for three months, during which time he had multiple surgeries, including a reconstruction of his left hind knee.
It is easy to see why the clinic invited Tank and his owners to join the open house. After such a long stay, the nurses and doctors who cared for Tank grew extremely fond of him.
"He is such a neat dog - good attitude, easy to work on. When we have a case like that, they become part of the place. We were sad to see him go," said Dr. Sara Campbell.
The affection is reciprocated. Tank's owner Jason Bond of Kennewick said Tank still gets excited about visiting the clinic. At the open house, Tank was running back and forth in his pen, greeting visitors with a big grin, his tongue out.
Part of the reason for having Tank on display was to provide an opportunity for the Bonds to thank the people who donated to Tank's cause. After three months of care, the family accrued enormous bills.
To cover expenses, Jason sold two horses and the Ford Bronco he was fixing up for his 15-year-old daughter, Hailey, but without the donors the Bonds would have been left with a hefty debt.
Tank's story became somewhat of a minor sensation in the world of animal news. A poster on Tank's pen thanked supporters from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Indiana, Wisconsin and Louisiana. Jason still gets messages on Facebook from strangers asking how Tank is doing.
While most visitors have expressed joy for how far Tank has come, not everyone is understanding of the Bonds' decision to put so much time and money into their dog. One woman stopped by the pen and expressed her disapproval, prompting Hailey to walk away in tears.
Later, the woman approached the pen again, asking a tearful Hailey for forgiveness. The woman took Hailey's hand as she began to cry herself, saying "It must have almost killed you that he got hurt so bad."
For the most part, Tank has fully recovered. In the pictures the clinic posted at the open house, Tank is shown in casts and bandages with large spans of exposed flesh, always with a smile on his face. Now, nearly seven months after the accident, he has minimal scarring and a slight limp, but he's the same energetic and loving dog as before.
Jason said Tank has become more playful since the accident, and now enjoys the company of their other, smaller dog, whom he previously ignored.
"He's more of a puppy than ever ... he never lost his happiness," said Jason.
The Bonds are thrilled to have their dog healthy and at home. Though Hailey admitted that a recent sighting of her would-be Bronco made her upset, she wouldn't trade anything for Tank's wellbeing.
"He's more important than any material item," she said.