MANCHESTER - Two hours into the surgical procedure, the doctor was closing the first incision with fine sutures and the patient was doing fine.
One down, three to go.
Molly, a border collie whose four legs were broken when she was struck by a plow in the city last week, underwent more than eight hours of surgery on Saturday at the Center for Advanced Veterinary Care.
The dog's plight has galvanized the support of animal lovers across New Hampshire and beyond. Donations are pouring in to care for Molly and pets like her.
And the effort to heal her and return her to her owner, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, has renewed many folks' faith in human kindness this Christmas season.
Dr. Lori Gordon operated on Molly as AVC vet tech Merideth Tompkins kept a close watch on the dog's vital signs. With Molly anesthetized, Gordon worked quickly to implant metal plates and screws in the dog's limbs and repair the damage to ligament and bone.
Last evening, Molly was out of surgery and out of danger, although most of her fur had to be shaved for the procedure. "She's going to need a Christmas sweater," Gordon said with a smile.
Molly will remain at the clinic for some time for follow-up care and physical therapy, so she likely won't be home for Christmas. But she's getting plenty of love from staff and strangers alike who've been touched by her story.
A big stuffed bear sat outside the operating room Saturday.
A dog named Sophie had delivered the present for her fellow border collie.
"Sophie actually carried the bear in and brought it behind the desk to the receptionist," said Jamie DeKraai, hospital director.
Someone sent a copy of the prayer of St. Francis, patron saint of animals. An animal clinic in Salisbury, Mass., sent a box of colorful bandages.
A group of friends signed a card with well wishes. "All will be right soon! You are in good hands!" wrote Peter . "Get well soon Molly. Get home to dad," Amy said.
Dr. Deborah Kelloway, owner of AVC, said she understands critics who question whether all the love and money focused on one small dog could be better spent. But she said, "I think animals bring out the best in people."
Molly was in tough shape when her devastated owner brought her to the clinic after the accident, Kelloway said. "Her legs were twisted and bones were poking out of her skin."
But Molly was wagging her tail.
Her master told the clinic staff that Molly "was his life," Kelloway said, but he couldn't afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to save her.
Then someone noticed the man's car had a veteran license plate. And saving Molly became as much about the human as about the dog. "This guy needs this dog back," Kelloway said.
So when X-rays showed Molly's back was not broken along with her legs, she said, they knew they had to try to save the plucky pup. And they were able to do so through All Better Pets, a nonprofit program she started at the clinic last year.
A licensed shelter, All Better Pets takes in animals who have been abandoned by owners who can't - or won't - pay for their care. In some cases, when an owner brings an ailing pet to be euthanized, Kelloway suggests surrendering the animal instead to ABP.
Often, once an animal is treated and recovers, the owner changes his mind about keeping it, she said.
If not, All Better Pets finds an adoptive home; they've already placed more than 200 animals in new homes.
But Kelloway was beginning to despair; she's spent $100,000 from her own pocket caring for abandoned pets.
And her dream of matching shelter animals that need foster homes with recovering substance abusers was growing dim.
Until Molly, that is. Now word of what All Better Pets is trying to do has spread, and support is growing.
It all feels like a bit of a "miracle," Kelloway said, in this season when such things happen. "This dog has done more for this shelter than we could ever do for Molly," she said.
There's still a long road ahead for Molly. But it'll be made smoother by Handicapped Pets of Amherst.
When company President Mark Robinson heard about Molly, Kelloway said, he "contacted us immediately," offering to donate a canine "wheelchair" for the young dog to use until she's back on her own four feet.