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Foster father, disabled dog forge bond
Personable pup is persevering
rescue 2 Matt JD
Matt Pickett has taken in several foster dogs, including Cheyenne. - photo by Jim Dean

How to help

An account for Cheyenne’s surgery has been set up on PayPal.com. To donate, sign into your account, click ‘send money’ and type in Cheyenne_Pickett@yahoo.com as the e-mail address. Direct any questions to Matt Pickett through Cheyenne’s e-mail address.


Cheyenne comes to adoption days at the Petsmart in Cumming every other week, though it’s unlikely she’ll find a new home.

Matt Pickett, foster dad of the dog, said several people will come toward her cooing but are taken aback when she sits up and they see her paws.

“I’ll probably tell the story 100 times on a Saturday,” Pickett said.

The tops of Cheyenne’s paws rest on the floor and her front feet turn inward, leaving her unable to walk. Rather, she does somewhat of a crawl to get around.

Though born healthy, Pickett said Cheyenne’s imperfect paws result from complications veterinarians have said are likely from malnutrition or a bout with parvo just after birth.

Cheyenne is just one of many dogs who have benefitted from the generosity of Pickett and area foster pet parents.

Pickett, who is also president of the Cocker Spaniel Rescue of Georgia, estimates he’s spent about $15,000 of his own money in the three years he’s been fostering.

His first dog, a cocker spaniel named Linzy, has been with him for 13 years and watches the others flow through the home as Pickett finds permanent places for them.

Pickett became involved in rescue when he met someone who was looking for a foster home for some golden retriever puppies.

He switched his focus to cocker spaniels after learning there was more need for fostering the breed he had grown to love.

Cheyenne is thought to be part cocker spaniel, part Catahoula, though no one knows for sure.

An orthopedic surgeon has estimated it would cost about $3,500 for a corrective surgery that could improve Cheyenne’s quality of life and maybe enable her to walk, Pickett said.

In the tight economic times, neither he nor his rescue operation can afford it.

Pickett said he has battled many types of worms and other dog diseases over the years, but the litter Cheyenne came from seemed to have experienced some of the worst.

An animal control shelter in Murray County contacted him in January after the group had been found abandoned in a field. He agreed to hold onto them for a week while transportation was lined up to take them up North, where space was available.

Pickett names all his foster dogs according to the “hurricane system,” so mom Ariel and puppies Bella, Cheyenne, Dillinger, Edward and Feisty (later renamed Marty) came home with him seemingly healthy.

Less than a week later, he began to notice they seemed sick.

Since dogs need a health certificate to travel across state lines, these would not be able to be certified. Pickett knew they had come under his foster care.

His veterinarian told him the dogs had parvo and parasites and were given a 50/50 shot of survival.

“Let’s at least try for a day or two and if they get better we’’ll continue, and if not, we’ll put them down,” Pickett recalled telling the vet.

As most of the dogs improved, Cheyenne and one of her brothers required a blood transfusion.

Pickett’s partner in rescue, Victoria Garner, said the procedure either helps or kills the dog. Despite the mounting expenses, they took the chance.

“He has a heart of gold,” Garner said of Pickett. “The reason why he doesn’t give up is because if there’s a chance, he’s going to take it. He’s going to bet on the dog.”

All six survived, something she called a “miracle.” But five days after the procedure, Cheyenne was immobile.

Tests for several types of deficiencies and neurological disorders have turned up nothing.

“She is smart, very smart,” Garner said. “She’s a wonderful little dog. She’s very protective, very friendly, very outgoing. She just can’t walk.”

Pickett and Garner agreed that Cheyenne’s positive attitude has kept them trying.

“She’s still a very happy dog. She’s still active. She’s still playful,” Pickett said. “You can’t really tell that it bothers her, which in a lot of ways makes this a lot easier.”

Cheyenne’s back legs, with the muscles atrophied from lack of use, drag behind her as she moves.

To keep her muscles working as best they can, Pickett drops her off at physical therapy four times a week on his way to work.

Emily Jackson, a veterinary technician at Loving Touch Animal Wellness and Fitness Center, said the dog’s typical regimen consists of swimming in an underwater treadmill and stretching.

There are also strengthening exercises and other types of physical therapy.

“When Cheyenne first came in she couldn’t really move around at all, was carried place to place, and could only swim for five minutes max,” Jackson said. “She has really blossomed into a feisty gal.

“She can swim for 10 to 15 minutes and can scoot herself all around with speed.”

Cheyenne also wears splints eight hours a day, which Jackson said has strengthened her wrists to near normal.

While she doesn’t have the strength to walk, Jackson said Cheyenne is able to climb into a lap, make her way to her food bowl and maneuver short distances.

She’s also become a friendly face for everyone at the center, Jackson said.

“Clients will ask about her progress ... and love to come and give her a biscuit and pet her,” she said. “She really is a mascot at our office and really loved.”

In fact, the splints that Cheyenne wears came courtesy of donations from clinic clients, Pickett said.

He hasn’t decided whether Cheyenne has become a permanent part of the family, but Pickett said she’s grown “very attached” to him.

While watching her in his lap, it’s pretty obvious those feelings are mutual.