Kabang the hero dog heals, heads home

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Veterinarian Anton Lim of the Philippines plays with Kabang, whom he will escort home on Thursday. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Veterinarian Anton Lim of the Philippines plays with Kabang, whom he will escort home on Thursday. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Veterinary technician Dawn Gillette bids farewell to Kabang, the playful survivor Gillette calls "a real character," who now has a clean bill of health. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Veterinary technician Dawn Gillette bids farewell to Kabang, the playful survivor Gillette calls “a real character,” who now has a clean bill of health. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Kabang's wound was open when she arrived at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in October of 2012 . Photo: Gregory Urquiaga, UC Davis
Kabang’s wound was open when she arrived at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in October of 2012 . Photo: Gregory Urquiaga, UC DavisDavis

Veterinarians and caregivers at UC Davis bid farewell Monday to the faceless wonder dog who drew international attention after she leaped on a speeding motorcycle and saved two girls from being run over in the Philippines.

The muzzle-less mongrel named Kabang chewed treats, tossed around a squeaky toy and wagged her tail furiously after she was given a clean bill of health by specialists at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis.

The black and tan shepherd-type dog, whose face now looks more like that of a pug, seemed amazingly jolly after her eight-month ordeal, which included extensive treatment for cancer and heartworm, spaying, vaccinations and the insertion of an identity chip in her shoulder, in addition to surgery to close the grisly wound on her face.

Kabang was released to her Filipino veterinarian, Anton Lim, who will escort her back to the Philippines on Thursday.

“She is still not a pretty dog, but she is a happy dog,” said Frank Verstraete, the chief of dentistry and oral surgery at the hospital, explaining their surgical handiwork, which did not include cosmetic reconstruction of the dog’s missing upper jaw. “We opted for function and comfort as our primary goal.”

Kabang became an international sensation in December 2011 when she reportedly threw herself onto a motorcycle and stopped it from hitting her master’s daughter and niece in Zamboanga City. But the motorcycle’s spokes sheared off much of the plucky pooch’s face.

Word quickly spread throughout the Philippines about the heroics of the skinny mixed-breed known as an aspin, a kind of street dog often scorned in the Philippines, where purebreds are preferred.

Fundraising campaign

News of the “hero dog” soon spread around the world, and a grassroots fundraising campaign to get her the wound-closing surgery started after photographs of her gruesome injury began to circulate.

Kabang was brought to the veterinary hospital in October 2012 after donations from 20 countries poured in, enough to pay for airfare and treatment.

Facebook and Twitter accounts, the website careforkabang.com and pet lovers’ blogs were an integral part of the effort, and the money keeps flowing in. To date, more than $20,000 has been raised.

There has been plenty of criticism. Complaints to the hospital and on the Internet objected to the spending of so much money on a single dog when the public could be fighting war, hunger, terrorism and global warming.

Even some of the veterinarians at the hospital were conflicted when they saw the gaping, exposed tissue and nasal cavities, which extended “almost to the point of entering into the brain,” said Dr. Boaz Arzi, the surgeon.

“Some of my colleagues said, ‘This is beyond repair,’ ” and that euthanasia would be the most humane approach, Verstraete said.

How she survived in the first place “is something we asked ourselves. The amount of blood loss this dog must have sustained was tremendous, but somehow she did survive.”

Arzi said the decision to operate was made by the owner, Rudy Bunggal, who representatives say not only loves Kabang, but believes she was God-sent.

The 57-year-old native Visayan found her as a puppy in a swamp near Zamboanga. The dog and Bunggal’s daughter, Dina, 11, and niece, Princess, 3, were soon inseparable.

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