Jordan Beamer, his hunting dog Jax and dad Dr. Leland Bud Beamer pose after a successful pheasant hunt

Jordan Beamer, Jax and Dr. Leland "Bud" Beamer on Jax's first hunt back after surgery. (Photos courtesy of Jordan Beamer.) 

Jan. 19, 2022
By Jens Odegaard

The Deschutes River flows in its entirety from Little Lava Lake in the Central Oregon Cascades north to Celilo Park on the Columbia River. 

For many miles it winds its way north through rimrock canyons in the Oregon high desert. Near its midway point, it passes through Pelton Park just to the west of Madras. 

Jordan Beamer grew up near here, trailing the family bird dogs with his dad Dr. Leland “Bud” Beamer, hunting pheasants and chukars through the junipers, sagebrush and lava rock. 

These days, Beamer lives in Corvallis with his wife Jennifer Beamer and their two kids (right). Jordan is a hydrologist and a 2016 doctoral graduate from Oregon State University in water resources engineering. Jennifer is a fellow alumna, earning her doctorate in exercise and sports science in 2013, and is a clinical assistant professor at Oregon State in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. 

The couple has two dogs. Georgia’s an Australian-labradoodle puppy and Jax is a six-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer — the current Beamer bird dog.

Jax joined the family as a puppy in 2015 right after the birth of the Beamers’ first child. “I tried to work with him as much as I could, but it wasn't to the same degree since we had the new baby. Priorities shifted a little bit,” Jordan Beamer chuckled. “But we were able to train him to hunt … he has great natural abilities and a good point.” 

Early March 2021, the Beamers took the trip over the Cascades to visit Jordan’s folks. They headed out near Pelton Park. “We were on a run on an old railroad track bed and there’s rimrock cliffs along the trail,” Jordan Beamer said. 

Jax headed up on top of the rimrock scouting for birds while Jordan and Jennifer stayed down below on the trail. Jax ended up out on the end of an outcrop with the only safe exit back straight behind the way he’d come. “He was up probably 50 feet above the trail, and I called him back and instead of coming straight back, he turned down and got his feet right on the edge of it,” Beamer recalled. 

The rimrock wasn’t solid at the top, but made up of loose, ancient river rock. 

“And the rock slid out.

 “He lost his footing.

“And he just dove down.

“I saw him just, ‘boom!’ 

“Hit like a ton of bricks at the bottom,” Jordan Beamer said. 

It’s incredible what a dog can survive. 

Almost unbelievably, “He landed pretty well,” Jordan Beamer said. “If you’re a skier and you were going off a big cliff: He stuck the landing. He basically face-planted it and it was all absorbed on his front legs.” 

Jax couldn’t walk.

The Beamers packed Jax out on the trail and got him in to a local vet in Madras. “He was basically, ‘Give it a couple days and see if he’s still not able to put weight on it,’ because he knew we were coming back to Corvallis.”  

They got Jax home and gave it a few days. But there was no improvement. “We were just carrying him around, supporting him, to go anywhere. And we just felt so bad for him,” Jordan Beamer said. So they took Jax to their regular veterinarian in Corvallis, “to have him looked at,” Beamer said. “But we knew what the situation was. So we wanted them to refer us to the OSU vet school.”  

Refer they did, and Jax arrived at the Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Dr. Jennifer Warnock is an associate professor of small animal surgery and was in charge of Jax’s case. “The very first thing that popped into my head was, 'Gosh, that is a tough dog. Poor guy,'" Warnock said. "Jax had damaged both his wrists. Dogs put most of their weight on their front legs. So he was in a lot of pain, and had a lot of instability. We ended up putting him through the CT scanner, which is where most of our trauma patients end up, because it gives a really beautiful high detail, high resolution images.” 

There was serious damage. 

A brief anatomy lesson. A dog’s paw is very similar to the human hand. There’s a wrist, which is made up of three layers of joints, that connects to the metacarpal bones (the mid-section structure of the paw), and the metacarpals in turn connect to the phalanges (the fingers so to speak). On the underside of the wrist the area where the wrist joints and metacarpals connect is stabilized with small ligaments and fibrocartilage. “The collagen of those stabilizers act like the steel suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge to stabilize the leg,” Warnock said.

When Jax landed, he ruptured those structures. He also “had a bunch of bone fractures, like hitting an ice cube with a hammer – tiny pieces and joint surfaces that were smashed,” Warnock said. To fix this, “We were going to need to not only stabilize the fractures, but permanently fuse those wrist joints.” In addition to Warnock, Dr. Ming Lu, surgical resident; Dr. Sandra Allweiler, anesthesiologist (now in private practice); certified veterinary technicians Naomi Deevers and Melanie Garrett; and class of 2021 veterinary students Megan Thompson, Abigail Chadwick and Dylan Dean (all now practicing veterinarians) made up the team.   
Luckily for Jax, the damage to the wrist was limited to the lower section of the joint, which meant the team could do a partial fusion (called a partial carpal arthrodesis) rather than a full fusion. This would enable him to “return back to hunting and athletic activity,” Warnock said. 

Pre-operation images of Jax's wrists. 

To fuse and stabilize Jax’s wrists, Warnock, Lu and team removed the cartilage of the damaged joints and fused the joints with bone plates and bone grafts.  “These are not big bones and there's not a lot of real estate to put the screws in,” Warnock said. So if you don't get the screw exactly perfect, you really have one shot to get it right, then there's nothing left.” 

They got it right, and the surgical team ended up putting a T-plate in one wrist, and two smaller plates in the other. In addition to the plates, they put bone graft shavings between the joints to help everything grow together as it healed. 

The T-plate in Jax's left wrist and the two plates in Jax's right wrist. 

It was a complicated surgery that took nearly five hours. “It’s a lot of surgery all at once,” Warnock said. She credits the anesthesia team for keeping Jax comfortable. “They did something called brachial plexus blocks. So that his entire arm, on both sides, was numbed from the shoulder all the way down. And that actually really helps if you block the pain receptors before any pain even happens. It helps reduce the need for a lot of addictive drugs after surgery and helps long term pain control. Anesthesia very expertly did that. And that's also what allowed us to do both surgeries at the same time.” 

For Jax, this long-term pain control was very important. Recovering from his surgeries was a process that took nearly four months. There was no running, no jumping. “They provided a kind of suitcase backpack thing. You could hoist him up. And he had these boots, these fancy shoes he got to wear on his front feet to keep everything clean,” Jordan Beamer chuckled. “So he was walking around with these little booties on his feet. I'm sure just thinking, 'This is great.'”   

All told, Jax made 14 visits back the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine for cast removals, splint changes, checkups and other post-operative care. Joining Jax’s team for the recovery were surgery residents Drs. Bharadhwaj Ranganathan and Alex Alvarez, surgical intern Dr. Sohee Bae and rotating intern Dr. Courtney Gallant. 

Jax is now all healed up. “I feel so lucky having OSU so close and having that access … You're surrounded by world class veterinarians and that's awesome,” Jennifer Beamer said. “Talking to Dr. Warnock and then the students: ‘Wow, you guys are amazing. I can't believe you're doing this.’ It felt really special. We felt lucky.” 

In November 2021, Jax, Jordan and Dr. Bud Beamer headed out into the juniper and dry grass scrubland of central Oregon. Jax casting back and forth, then pointing and flushing out a pheasant. Then another. Then another. Seven all told. “I like bird hunting, but the reason I really enjoy it is to watch the dog work and do their thing,” Jordan Beamer said. “Jax wants to be out running around, on the search.”