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Community steps up for longtime Salmon Arm woman with dog in need of surgery

After years of giving support, Rita Beraro on the receiving end for dog Otto
Rita Beraro holds Otto, her five-month-old French bulldog which will be undergoing surgery for a leg injury. (Taylor Schley photo)

Rita Beraro’ five-month-old French bulldog Otto is receiving needed surgery thanks to support from the community.

“Relieved” is how Beraro described herself on Friday, June 23, because of the certainty of surgery ahead, which was the only option she would consider after Otto was injured earlier in the week.

“I just thank my lucky stars he’s going to be OK,” said Beraro.

Beraro explained that on Tuesday, she was sitting in her Prius in a parking lot, waiting to meet someone to deliver something she’d purchased on Facebook Marketplace. Otto was sitting on her lap when her phone went “bing” – a message about an upcoming job she couldn’t do because she’d be working at the Storefront School.

“I thought I better notify her I won’t be available, so I take my hand off his halter and I started writing and he leaped out the window,” said Beraro. “He landed on his one leg and he just screamed. I tried to jump out and I was belted in – I put my back out… I unclipped the seatbelt, jumped out and he bit me in the face because he was so scared and in such pain, didn’t understand what was hurting him.”

Beraro immediately took Otto to a veterinary office, where she left the dog as he was being assessed.

“They put him under general anesthetic and took X-rays,” said Beraro. “I was just over at the mall and they called me and said could you come over, we need to talk to you about the X-rays. My heart just sank; I thought no, this can’t be good.

“I was quickly presented with a really awful looking break, he had busted his leg in the worst possible way… they said this is probably one of the worst breaks. It was a really big mess.”

Beraro explained her thoughts began to spiral.

“I’m a 70-year-old single woman, retired. I work part time to make ends meet. I’m always trying to save money and do the best I can and then this, this kind of unexpected thing happens, and the first thing I think about is oh, I have all these other things I’m trying to juggle and manage at this point, and helping out my son with his family, and I had just lost my dog, I just put down a dog last year at this time to cancer, and everything was just too much at the moment – I couldn’t even think straight,” she said.

While looking at Otto, anesthetized and on a table, Beraro said she was presented options.

“Surgery, which is not good, because he’ll probably get arthritis in that leg and the other one,” said Beraro. “Second option is amputation, which is cheaper. Third option is relinquish your dog, give your dog to the SPCA. And an appropriate response would be euthanasia, she said.

“I’m like, oh, what? Being presented with all of that all at once with no positives in there at all? And I just couldn’t deal with it. I was crying and shaking and looking at my dog and not knowing what to do. So they put a splint on him, and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I need to think about this.’”

This traumatizing moment was turned around by a veterinary technician who knew Beraro when she used to work full time at the Storefront School.

“She came here many years ago when I was still working here full time, and she was sort of nervous about wanting to go somewhere in the veterinarian end of things,” said Beraro. “So she became a vet tech, and she said without your encouragement I would never be here today to help you. I’m like, whoa, that was just a magical thing for her to say at that moment. And she said, ‘I am here to help you now. Just take your time, take him home, don’t rush it. We’ll splint him up so it doesn’t get any worse.’”

Words of support and monetary donations began coming in after Beraro’s son, Taylor Schyley, shared her situation on social media, and through the creation of a GoFundMe page, Please help Otto & Rita, to help cover the cost of the surgery, estimated to be $7,500 to $8,500.

“It’s kind of hard for me because I’ve been a caregiver and a helper all my life, somebody who is supporting everyone else, and I don’t feel comfortable putting that out there. Myself, I never would have done it – I would have figured out something,” said Beraro. “But money started coming in from people I knew, from people I didn’t know, and it was just very heartening to watch the community come together and care for a little guy like Otto.”

Beraro’s son told her the help she’s been receiving now also has to do with the help she’s provided others over the years in Salmon Arm.

“I think the way my son put it is, you’ve been in this community since the 197os, you’ve worked with the higher risk population at the youth centre and here at the storefront school, and people think very positive of me, and this is why they’re helping,” said Beraro. “And he also has a network of people who he has helped because he was an addictions support worker. We both have a background in supporting other people.”

Despite his injury, Otto has become adept at getting around with the splint.

“You should see him right now, he’s hilarious because he’s got this big-assed red thing on his leg and he couldn’t figure out how to even stand up – well, now he’s figured out how to stand up and now he’s figured out how to boogie around the yard and I’m supposed to keep him fairly sedate for the next week,” said Beraro.

Otto is expected to undergo surgery on Wednesday, June 28.

To the community, Beraro said she, her son and Otto “are most grateful for your care and generous acts of giving.”

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