Jessi Howden and his pitbull buddy, Zeus, are proof positive that dog is man’s best friend.
And their friends are proof positive of how much that kind of connection is valued.
Howden and Zeus have been inseparable for five years. That relationship has been tested over the past two years by injury and veterinarians’ proposals for expensive surgery, but community support is making sure the friendship will endure.
Howden, 29 and originally from Port Alberni, acquired Zeus when he was five weeks old. “He’s Jessi’s world,” says family friend Rhonda Maczulat.
Although Zeus is not registered as a therapy dog, he has helped Howden battle depression. “When I lived in Kelowna, I was super depressed,” said Howden. He has a doctor’s note stating that owning and caring for Zeus is good for Howden’s health.
Howden moved back to Port Alberni three years ago and was finally able to find a job. Until a couple of years ago, he and Zeus would go hiking and camping in their spare time.
“We used to be avid hikers,” Howden said. “We would hike into the bush and set up camp, then continue on. I noticed when we hiked up to Lacy Lake he was limping.”
Then Zeus had to have surgery on his rear right knee. He hasn’t been the same since, and the long hikes had to be shortened to accommodate the dog’s health.
This past year, Zeus could barely walk at all. His health deteriorated to the point Howden thought he was going to have to have him euthanized.
Zeus needs tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery to re-construct the same knee.
The surgery is similar to that of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery in humans. It’s common with American pitbull terriers, expensive, and Zeus will have to have some recovery time.
Howden received quotes from three or four different veterinarians, ranging from about $2,000 to $5,000 for the surgery that Zeus requires. Zeus was taking veterinarian-prescribed Tramadol to manage the pain, as well as treatment such as acupuncture and laser therapy to manage the pain.
Howden’s community of friends and acquaintances has gathered around him, helping him come up with funds so he can afford to pay for Zeus’s surgery. Maczulat, who owns the home business Baker’s Dozen Catering, held a bake sale at Christmastime, and Kingsway Pub and Hotel owner Helen Poon agreed to match any funds that Maczulat raised.
“I baked and baked and baked, until I couldn’t bake anymore,” Maczulat said.
When the flour settled and all the Christmas treats were baked and distributed, Maczulat had raised $500 and Poon added another $500.
Cheryl Courtnall, a medium and friend of Maczulat’s, held a “medium night” and raised proceeds to put toward Zeus’s surgical costs.
A raffle has been set up to help Howden raise money for Zeus’s surgery. Some of the raffle prizes include $100 in gift gards from the Cypress Room at Chances RimRock, a Humboldt Broncos hockey jersey donated by a friend’s son who played with the team, and a signed Team Kazakhstan jersey from the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships in January.
Tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and are available at Cloud City Apparel, 3042 Third Ave. in Port Alberni. The draw will be made on Sunday, April 7.
A friend also started a gofundme account for Howden and Zeus at www.gofundme.com/quality-of-life-for-zeus.
Zeus underwent surgery on Monday, April 1 at RAPS Animal Hospital in Richmond, B.C.