The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 29, 2011

Family thankful for attention by MU vet school

JOPLIN, Mo. — Daniel Leatherman is worried that Sugar is getting spoiled.

Sugar, his family’s 10-year-old cocker spaniel-chow mix, is a bit of a celebrity now.

“When I brought her home from the veterinary hospital, she was used to the fancy canned and wet dog foods, and all I had was Kibbles ’n Bits,” he said. “So she looked at me as if to say, ‘I don’t know if you know this it or not, but I’m famous.’”

MU Veterinary Team Helps Dog Paralyzed in Tornado Walk Again from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

Sugar actually belongs to Leatherman’s parents, Steve and Debbie Leatherman. The night of the May 22 tornado, the Leathermans, who both teach at Joplin High School, had just returned to their home in the Iron Gates neighborhood in western Joplin from the school’s graduation ceremonies when they saw the approaching storm.

“We have a storm room, and when we heard the thing coming, we ran down to the basement, and Sugar came with us,” Steve Leatherman said.

The couple stopped briefly in the basement to check the storm coverage on television and decided that they needed to get to the storm room immediately.

“Sugar must have sensed our panic because she bolted upstairs and probably crawled under a bed,” Steve Leatherman said. “My wife started to go after her, and I said, ‘We don’t have time.’”

After the storm passed, the Leathermans, with help from neighbors, crawled out of their storm room and found that their house had been destroyed.

“We had no idea where Sugar was,” Steve Leatherman said. “I was afraid I would have to spend the next few days digging through rubble hoping to find her so I could bury her.”

Daniel Leatherman, who is a student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, drove down Monday, May 23, to help his parents.

“Monday was not a good day,” Daniel Leatherman said. “There were a lot of tears that day. But when we heard that there was a possibility that Sugar was at the Humane Society, and then, on Tuesday, when we found her in the kennel with an IV on her and all gloomy, and then to see her perk up when she saw us, was a very happy emotion.”

The Leathermans were told that Sugar was found in a ditch, unable to move her back legs. The people at the Humane Society said Sugar needed more medical attention than they could provide. In fact, in the aftermath of the storm, they said Sugar needed more medical attention than could be provided in Joplin.

Daniel Leatherman, a biochemistry major at MU, knows the reputation of the university’s veterinary school. He said it took him less than 10 seconds to decide what to do.

“I’ll just run her up there (to MU) and take her to the vet hospital,” he said.

He said he called the MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and spoke with a surgical technician.

“After I told her the situation, she said to ‘put her in the car, bring her up here and don’t worry about a thing, and we’ll take care of her,’” Daniel Leatherman said.

Radiographs and an MRI showed that Sugar suffered a traumatic disk rupture. The swelling of the disk was putting pressure on her spine, and that was causing her paralysis.

Doctors at the hospital performed surgery to relive the pressure on Sugar’s spine. Two days later, they started the dog on a physical therapy regimen. Daniel Leatherman said Sugar, who is staying with him in Columbia, now can stand and walk on her own, but she will need more therapy to regain full mobility.

“I know it’s hard to read emotions in a dog, but when I brought her home from the hospital, she just kind of laid around looking mopey with her head down,” Daniel Leatherman said. “It was like she was asking, ‘What happened to me?’ She was just down in the dumps.”

Now, he said, Sugar is back to her old self. She’s playful, vocal and getting stronger every day. In a way, he said, she is not unlike a lot of people who survived the tornado.

“At first, she had that look of shock like we all did,” he sad. “We didn’t know how to make sense of the whole thing. A lot of us were in the initial stages of shock and disbelief, but now we’re just putting one foot in front of the other.”

The university student, who has fielded calls from media outlets across the country, said the family feels a bit guilty telling the Sugar story when so many other people lost so much in the tornado.

“But if (Sugar’s story) puts a smile on somebody’s face, then, by God, it’s served its purpose,” he said.

There is one thing missing in the happy story of Sugar. The Leathermans have no idea who found Sugar and took her to the Humane Society. They would like to meet the good Samaritan who likely saved their dog’s life.

“I know this is just one story about a poor little animal,” said Daniel Leatherman. “But it’s really representational about what’s been going on in Joplin. Someone we didn’t know took the time and effort to see a dog on its last lifeline and reach out. Their actions kept our family intact.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Carthage prepares for Marian Days

    The 37th annual Marian Days celebration will start in two weeks, and planning is well under way for the event that will bring tens of thousands of Catholics of Vietnamese descent to Carthage.

    July 23, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: It’s not Mayberry, but Carthage is close

    When I was a kid, I wanted to live in Mayberry. In a way, I suppose I still want to live in Mayberry, the fictional town featured in the classic Andy Griffith show of the 1960s.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Miami council waives fees for barbecue event

    The Miami City Council voted Tuesday to waive $3,750 in usage fees for Miami Elks Lodge No. 1320 for an upcoming barbecue championship at the Miami Fairgrounds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Joplin couple indicted in child porn case

    A federal grand jury indicted a Joplin couple Wednesday for alleged sexual exploitation of a second child in addition to a girl who was the subject of a preceding indictment of the husband for allegedly producing and distributing child pornography.

    July 23, 2014

  • Galena council rescinds landfill decisions

    The Galena City Council voted Wednesday to rescind decisions it made two weeks ago regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 23, 2014

  • Missouri attorney general defends his support of Amendment 1

    With a large cornfield behind him and campaign signs all around, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster appeared Wednesday at the David Collard farm to tout Amendment 1, an Aug. 5 ballot measure that would make the “right to farm” part of the state constitution.

    July 23, 2014

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • Pseudoephedrine sales in Pittsburg to require prescription

    Starting Friday, those who purchase pseudoephedrine and related products in Pittsburg will need a prescription to do so.

    July 22, 2014

  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read


Have you ever served as a volunteer for your state's conservation department?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter