As cousins Dina Bunggal, 11, and Princess Diansing, 3, crossed a street in the Philippines in December 2011, a motorcycle sped toward them. Seemingly out of nowhere, Bunggal’s Shepherd mix, Kabang, jumped in front of the bike, saving the girls’ lives.
Kabang also survived her heroic act, but suffered a gruesome injury in the process: Her snout was torn off when the motorcycle struck her head-on. Remarkably, she was able to adjust — for example, she figured out how to eat by using her paws to scoop food into her mouth.
To prevent Kabang from developing a life-threatening infection, she needed reconstructive surgery so her wounds would close, and there weren’t any vets in the area with the expertise to perform such a complicated procedure.
Fortunately, veterinary surgeons Boaz Arzi and Frank Verstraete of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis, offered to reconstruct Kabang’s upper jaw using state-of-the-art equipment. Philippine Airlines donated round-trip airfare for Kabang to be flown to Northern California. The cost of her surgery, which was over $20,000, was mostly covered by donations from animal lovers around the world.
Treating Heartworm, Cancer and a Missing Snout
But before reconstruction surgery could begin, UC Davis veterinarians discovered two more serious problems: Kabang had heartworm disease as well as a malignant vaginal tumor that needed to be removed. Fortunately, both were successfully treated. A few months later Kabang was free of both heartworm and cancer, and finally ready for surgery.
The first surgery repaired her dental work. The second one, which took five hours, closed the wound on her face using skin flaps brought forward from the top and sides of her head. Her nasal openings were also reconstructed and stents were placed inside them to form nostrils.
In 2013, seven months after she’d arrived at UC Davis, Kabang was ready to return to her home in the Philippines. In the meantime, she received several awards honoring her heroism, including the Animal Hero award from the American Red Cross.
Living Happily Ever After
I wrote several stories about Kabang for i Love Dogs, and have wondered in the years since then about whatever happened to the hero dog. Kabang spent the next nine years enjoying a healthy life. When her owner, Rudy Benggal, died in 2015, she was taken in by her longtime veterinarian, Dr. Anton Lim, who had accompanied her to UC Davis in 2012 and cared for her during her stay there.
On May 17, Lim announced that the 13-year-old hero dog had died peacefully in her sleep. “I last played with her at 4 p.m. and was supposed to feed her again her dinner,” Lim told the Inquirer, adding that Kabang had never lost her voracious appetite. “I found her motionless with no external sign or prior sickness,” he said.
Kabang’s permanent resting place will be beside a statue being erected in her honor in Zamboanga City.
“Rest in peace, sweetheart,” the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine wrote on its Facebook page Monday.
Photo: Care for Kabang/Facebook