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2017-08-11 / Pets

Madison meets Bitsy: Two peas in a pod

By Kirsten Reichel
HTF Staff Writer

Paige and Matt Bisbee, owners of Black Beaver Creek Farm & Kennel in Gheen, MN, where they breed dachshunds (doxies), found themselves in a bit of a dilemma several months ago. One of the puppies in a new litter arrived with only a partial front paw. It was the first time they had experienced such an incident in the 13 years they have been professionally breeding doxies.

The arrival of Bitsy, as she was later named, presented a conundrum in that they were unsure of what to do with her. The option of putting her down was not even on the table, but they knew that it was not ethical to offer her as a breeder given the obvious genetic characteristic. They decided to wait to see how she would develop, then explore some options.

As Bitsy grew, she thrived, and managed well given her disability. Not only did she grow physically, she developed a sweet, giving personality. Paige said, “It was almost as though she could tell what people were thinking. She listened to and had an uncanny awareness of people.” It became apparent that Bitsy was a special dog in many ways and needed a special person to be her companion. Thus started the search for that person.

Bitsy was born with a missing front paw. Photos submitted. Bitsy was born with a missing front paw. Photos submitted. Paige said, “After thinking about it for awhile, I decided to seek out a young person who was also dealing with a disability, particularly an amputee who could relate to Bitsy on that level. My thought was that they could be supportive of each other with their shared physical differences. Since doxies have the potential of living to 20 years old, I wanted a younger owner for her so they could essentially grow up together. It was also important that the new companion be old enough to care for Bitsy too so I was looking for someone in the 12 – 14 year old range. I wanted to find a child that needed Bitsy.”

Madison and Bitsy meet for the first time at Minnehaha Falls. Madison and Bitsy meet for the first time at Minnehaha Falls. This quest proved to be a bit more difficult than originally thought but Paige was determined to find the right person for Bitsy. She started by calling Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Representatives there were not sure what avenue to recommend to Paige, so she pushed forward on her own.

Her next contact was with the Hanger Clinic in Hibbing. Hanger Clinic specializes in orthotic and prosthetic services and has more than 800 patient care clinics nationwide. Page said, “The ladies at the Hibbing clinic were so helpful and were great about getting the word out on what I was trying to accomplish.”

The big break for Paige, however, was in finding out about the Amputee Coalition of America. The coalition has a page on Facebook and, with that source, she was able to make a connection with a family from Tennessee whose daughter is an amputee; Paige had found Madison. As all involved have said, “It was just meant to be.”

Madison Sowards has been an amputee since just after her first birthday when the lower portion of her left leg was amputated. This was as a result of complications from neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disease that she was born with. Her mother Tammy said, “Not everyone who has NF has it affect them in this way. Madison was one in about 10,000 who have NF symptoms that require amputation.”

Madison has had five surgeries or “revisions” on her leg over the years, the most recent being just this past February. These surgeries are necessary to stabilize the remaining leg bones which still continue to grow. Madison is 15 years old and will be entering the tenth grade this year. Her goal is to become a prosthetist to help others with the challenges she has had to face as an amputee.

With much back and forth communication between the Bisbee and Sowards family, it was decided that Bitsy and Madison belonged together, so steps were taken to make that happen. Paige wanted to be certain that Bitsy was strong enough and ready to leave the nest. She also wanted her to be up-to-date on all her vaccinations and was cleared to make the move by her veterinarian. When Bitsy was about 12 weeks old, they decided that she was ready to make the trip to Tennessee.

On Saturday, July 29, Madison and Tammy flew to Minneapolis to meet Bitsy and Paige in person for the first time. All were surprised by Madison’s sister, Victoria, who had flown in unexpectedly from Maryland to take part in meeting Bitsy.

Paige drove to Minneapolis on Sunday and, along with her son Nicholas, they met the Sowards at Minnehaha Park. Nicholas, who lives in the Twin Cities area, had scouted around for a dog friendly location and the park offered that along with a beautiful back drop of the Minnehaha Falls. Having never met in person, they were all relying on identifying each other from the pictures they had shared on Facebook.

Paige said, “When meeting them it was like being united with people you have known forever. Madison and Bitsy bonded right away. We all hung out as long as we could until Tammy and Madison had to catch their flight back to Tennessee.”

While the meeting of the families and Bitsy was special, what made it more so was the reaction that passersby had to this emotional event. Paige said, “People are just drawn to Bitsy so many came over to pet her. When they heard the story of how we all worked to connect Madison and Bitsy together, there were tears all around.”

Madison toted Bitsy on the plane in a soft-sided crate but was able to hold her on her lap during the flight. Tammy said, “As a result of NF, Madison has a tumor in her neck that causes her to be anxious. She had some difficulties with anxiety on the flight to Minneapolis, but having Bitsy sit on her lap on the flight home calmed her anxiety and her focus was on her new friend.” All did well on the two hour flight back to Tennessee where Bitsy was welcomed into her new home.

“Bitsy has just fit right in here,” Tammy said. “We’ve only had her a week but it feels like so much longer.” This is the first dog for this family and they are learning all about the challenges of having a puppy in the house.

Tammy said, “We’re working on potty training and Bitsy is doing a great job. We’re getting a lot of advice from family members but it’s definitely a learning curve for us.” She added, “We told ourselves that we weren’t going to spoil her but she’s already sleeping on Madison’s bed. She’s too small to jump up so we pick her up to put her on the bed – guess the ‘no spoiling’ rule went right out the window!” As to the bond that Madison and Bitsy have formed, Tammy said, “They are inseparable. Bitsy looks around the house until she finds Madison and I can see how Madison has changed just in the short time we have had Bitsy. They are two peas in a pod!”

Bitsy continues to draw people in. Tammy said that they attended a car show recently and brought Bitsy with them. “Here are all these guys checking out the cars, and then they’d spot Bitsy. They’d come over to pet her and hear the story on how Madison and Bitsy got together and there wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch. Bitsy does not meet a stranger.”

“This whole experience has been such a positive experience for all of us.” Tammy adds. “The gift the Bisbees have given has already made such an impact on our lives.”

Bitsy was a gift to Madison from the Bisbees, not only in their quest to find the right fit for two that needed each other, but for all involved in the process of making it happen. The families are still in touch and probably will be for a long time.

Paige said, “It’s not unusual for us to have continued communication from the families who have puppies from the litters we have had, but this is an unusual situation. I think of it as both Bitsy and Madison needed someone and they got each other.”

In addition to doxies, the Bisbees also breed komondors, which are large herding dogs. Pictures and information on their breeds can be found on their Facebook page at Black Beaver Creek Farm & Kennel.

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