A landmark heart surgery involving a sheep in North Texas made veterinary medical history this year.
Yoda, a 15-month-old sheep at Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle, underwent an open heart surgery at Oklahoma State University for a congenital heart problem.
“His heart was 2½ times the size that it was supposed to be," Ranch Hand Rescue founder Bob Williams said.
This was the first surgery of its kind for a sheep.
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"I said we are going to go ahead and do it and there are those that would say, ‘Why would you spend that kind of money on a sheep?’" Williams said. "But he is more than a sheep."
Yoda’s successful surgery could become the basis for groundbreaking veterinary advancement.
"He'll probably save a lot of lives,” Williams said. “This will be written about in veterinary magazines and talked about in conferences and that sort of thing."
This type of attention and care for animals is nothing new for Ranch Hand Rescue. All the animals at the facility have some sort of special need.
"We have a wide variety, from blindness to cancer to the first horse ever in the world with a prosthetic leg without an amputation,” Williams explained.
The horse he referenced is Midnight, who still walks around with his prosthetic leg, often spending time with children who are preparing for prosthesis of their own.
Other accomplishments at Ranch Hand include a horse with a stem cell transplant and nanofiber technology.
"You know they call the animals the 'throw-aways,'” Williams said. “They're the ones really that nobody wants."
Williams said giving these animals a second chance has not only meant medical miracles, but has also made a huge difference in the lives of several people.
"We are the only ones in the world that use abused and neglected animals in mental health therapy for counseling for individuals,” Williams said. “We specialize in children."
The animals work as additional counsel for those needing therapeutic help. He said there is a bond between the animals and children who have dealt with traumatic life situations like sexual abuse.
"And we know that some kids will tell an animal something before they will tell an adult in a traditional office environment," Williams said.
The animals also work with adult victims of abuse and veterans struggling to overcome PTSD.
"What happens to the kids, or the women, or the veterans or whatever situation it might be that can't be helped? Where do they go?" Williams asked.
Williams hopes Ranch Hand Rescue will continue being a haven for help while giving “throw-away” animals a second chance at life with groundbreaking medical treatments many would deem too expensive.