A service dog in training, lost and surviving for two months in the frigid Colorado mountains, had her leg rescued by a reality TV veterinarian. Despite multiple other vets recommending amputation, Dr. Jeffrey Young, renowned from Animal Planet’s “Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet,” along with his wife Dr. Petra Mickova, treated Nova Riley, a year-and-a-half old Bernese Mountain Dog. Owner Robynne Simons-Sealy initially took Nova to a low-cost clinic without realizing it was Dr. Young’s workplace. Upon discovering Planned Pethood International in Conifer, Colo. was Dr. Young’s facility, Simons-Sealy expressed relief and trust in Nova’s care, recalling a positive experience with Dr. Young treating a different dog of hers decades earlier.
Last month, Nova, who suffered a “shattered” leg during her time alone in the wild, was joyously reunited with her owner, Simons-Sealy, a married mother of four residing in Conifer. Simons-Sealy, who copes with disabilities from a rare vascular disease, had been training Nova as a service animal.
Having consulted with multiple veterinarians, Simons-Sealy faced significant pressure to amputate Nova’s leg, with cost estimates ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 for a leg-saving attempt. However, her optimism soared when the clinic called, expressing their commitment to preserving Nova’s leg—an announcement that left Simons-Sealy “ecstatic.”
Dr. Young, speaking to The Post, shared his determination to give Nova’s limb-saving efforts his best shot, emphasizing that, in his view, Nova’s case was a “pretty simple fix,” and he never would have recommended amputation.
Following a recent surgery, Nova now sports six pins and two bars in her leg, mirroring the six pins and a plate in Simons-Sealy’s right leg. The owner humorously noted the newfound resemblance between her four-legged companion and herself, stating, “It’s funny that we now ‘match.'”
Young, whose show concluded its eight-season run in 2020, attributed the success of Nova’s procedure to his wife and affirmed the resilience of the partially external leg fixture, describing it as “bombproof.”
“The dog walked on the leg the next day,” Young reported. “Would it make sense to cut the leg off when it’s walking on it? I mean, the dog is running on it now. I’d prefer it not to be, but it jumps. There is nothing wrong with it. But it’ll heal.”
Simons-Sealy incurred approximately $4,000 in total expenses for her dog’s medical care, covering the initial emergency room visit and the subsequent surgery. Young expressed concern about the common occurrence of dogs losing limbs due to financial constraints.
“I think for a lot of vets, it’s about the money,” he stated. “We can fix this broken leg for $5,000 to $10,000. [Or] we can cut the leg off for $1,000 or $2,000.”
Despite the successful treatment, Simons-Sealy is uncertain if Nova can resume her duties as a service animal. Nova has exhibited difficulty following commands and increased anxiety since her return, leaving Simons-Sealy both thrilled to have her back and devastated at the prospect of losing her chance at a service dog.
Living with Takayasu arteritis, a rare disease causing inflammation of major arteries and potentially resulting in an undetectable pulse, Simons-Sealy does not qualify for publicly funded service animals due to the rarity of her condition.
Living on meager disability payments, Simons-Sealy faces the challenge of being unable to afford professional training for her furry companion. Determined, she sought assistance to train Nova herself.
Explaining the necessity of a service dog, she said, “The problem of blood flow to my brain can make me dizzy. A dog would help me stay upright or get help when I fall.” Her condition induces seizures resembling mini-strokes, and two days after Nova got spooked and slipped out of her harness, Simons-Sealy experienced one of these episodes, initiating Nova’s two-month absence.
During Nova’s disappearance, Simons-Sealy tirelessly searched for two days, leading to stress and fatigue that triggered a seizure. Recounting the incident, she shared, “I sat in my car, the phone fell out of my hand, and I couldn’t move. That’s why I need a service dog.”
Stuck in her car until someone noticed her, Simons-Sealy ended up hospitalized after the health episode. Then, about two months later, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, two hikers discovered Nova “at the very top of a mountain, hiding under some trees,” according to Simons-Sealy.