A 2-year-old boxer mix named Caine has to drink water through a feeding tube now but his family calls him "a trouper"

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated January 12, 2010 06:35 PM

When Caine, an adorable 2-year-old boxer/Rhodesian ridgeback mix, lost his tongue in a paper shredder on New Year’s Day, emergency veterinarians suggested possible euthanasia. But less than two weeks after his painful mishap, the Chicago-area dog is not only surviving, but also thriving with the help of a feeding tube and some very loving family members.

“He is doing amazingly well,” his regular vet, Dr. Patrick King of the Chicago Heights Animal Hospital, tells PEOPLEPets.com. “His owners are working around the clock to make sure he gets what he needs. … In a situation like this, everyone needs to be motivated and they definitely are, Caine too.”

Caine’s drama began just hours into the new year at his family’s home in Park Forest, Ill. Pat Taylor was watching Caine for her daughter, Ashley Taylor, who was away for the holiday, when she heard him sniffing around the kitchen, a rather common occurrence for this curious dog. Then Pat heard the shredder go on, possibly because Caine spotted a piece of kibble that had somehow fallen on it.

“She heard him yell. Not just whimper or cry, but yell,” Ashley tells PEOPLEPets.com. “She immediately ran over and pulled the shredder’s cord out of the wall and his tongue was hanging about three inches on the other side of the shredder!”

Though Caine was able to step away from the machine on his own, Pat quickly realized that he had bitten through his tongue, and was bleeding profusely. Panicked, she shuttled him into the car to an emergency veterinarian’s office. Once there, the staff suggested putting the dog down, but Pat refused and instead had the base of his tongue stitched up to stop the bleeding.

Ashley returned home the next day, and together she and Pat took Caine to a specialist, who also suggested putting Caine down – or inserting a feeding tube into his stomach.

“The vet there was also not optimistic about him,” Ashley says. “She said he’d never eat with his mouth again and he was in grave to guarded condition and would most likely rely on a feeding tube for rest of his life.”

Undeterred, Ashley and her mom had the tube inserted on Jan. 2. Now, less that two weeks after the procedure, Caine only relies on the tube for water, and wears a T-shirt to cover the insertion point.

What’s the secret to the dog’s success? It appears to be little meatballs that Ashley and other family members and friends make for Caine out of wet Science Diet dog food, which they feed to him three times a day. “We make the meatballs and play a game with him,” explains Ashley. “We’ll say, ‘Are you ready?’ Then he tilts his head back, we throw the meatball in and then he moves his head forward to swallow. He figured that out. He’s a trouper.” (And smart, too!)

Re-learning how to drink water without a tongue has proved a bit trickier. Ashley and her mom are trying different techniques, including using an oral syringe and a introducing a fountain that circulates water in a hose-like contraption. Ultimately, Dr. King says the goal is to remove the feeding tube permanently.

“(Caine) was different at first but he’s getting back to normal now,” says Ashley, a teacher who’s been tracking his progress on a blog, www.cainescause.blogspot.com, and collecting donations to help pay for his care. “Other than the tube bothering him occasionally, he’s himself, just a little more tired. He’s started walking on me while I sleep again, which kind of bothered me before but now I sort of love it!”