This is the story of the unfailing fighting spirit of a little 1.2 kg puppy with the heart of a lion.
I have not been blogging for the last, nearly two months, due to the arrival of a new member of our family. To start the story at the beginning …..........
Tammy is our little Maltese Cross child who is now 15 and getting very old. She is not in need of that much company any more. She just waits every day for her highlight walk and sleeps the rest of the time. She slept right through the recent burglary we had. She was on the bed when they came in and took my bag from next to the bed! I knew then that a new and more alert dog was needed as another warning system.
I phoned all the shelters but there seemed to be very few puppies around. Probably not the season with winter on our doorstep. Eventually I found a rescued litter at Animal Welfare. I went rushing out to see them, taking Tammy with to see if they were compatible. They had three beautiful little white Maltese puppies and a funny little brown dog. I have no idea whether he was from the same litter or not? I wanted another female so I had the choice of the two little white ones. I liked the one with the rusty ears, she just seemed to have more personality.
They brought her through to the office where I could see her on her own, play a bit and introduce her to Tammy. There was an instant connection; on both sides I think. This tiny ball of fluff even ran and fetched a ball I threw for her and brought it right back to me. “Very intelligent,” I thought! All the ladies in the office were absolutely amazed.
Tammy totally ignored the puppy. I felt sure that she would come around later. Next step was an inspection of my property by the Animal Welfare to see if it was puppy friendly. No uncovered pools, gates that she could get through or drain pipes that she could get into and out of the property. I went home to puppy proof our property.
The inspector came the following day and I must say that I was very impressed. He was very strict and examined every little nook and cranny. Quite a character he was. He told me outright that his first love was animals and their welfare. He has seen more than his fair share of cruelty and did not have much time for humans. After piling up more rocks at the base of one wall where the builders next door were due to put in a pipe, he finally gave the thumbs up approval of the property and said that he would notify the office and I would be able to collect my puppy in a day or two.
On the Thursday I received a phone call that she was ready for collection. She had apparently had a temperature in the morning but was now fine. I have never heard of a temperature from too much playing, but that is what I was told! I was so excited and immediately went rushing out to get there before they closed for lunch. The previous day I had stocked up on chewing goodies and puppy food.
She looked too beautiful for words. All fluffy and clean after a much needed bath! I did all the paper work, paid and signed on the dotted line. To keep her safe while I drove I had brought a box with a towel and blanket in it. On the way home she cried a lot and then there were the most awful retching noises and the smell was too terrible! Nothing I could do about it so I just drove as fast as I could hoping there were not too many speed cameras around!
I got her home and there was sick everywhere. Welcome to motherhood! I cleaned it all up and got her as presentable as possible and proceeded to let her explore her new home. She was rather quiet but I put this down to the strange environment and missing her brothers and sister. At walk time I bundled her up warmly and carried her. Until she had her second inoculation she was not allowed to walk outside our property.
We proceeded to take Tammy for her usual perambulation. On the way back the puppy was sick again. This time I was prepared and held her away from me. When we got back I phoned Animal Welfare. We all thought that maybe it was car sickness and carrying her on the walk was also a form of motion sickness. That night I put her in the kitchen with a “Happy Hugger” and paper on the floor.
I didn't get much sleep that night. She cried an awful lot but I put it down to being lonely and stayed with her, holding her every time, trying to get her back to sleep. The next day she was very lethargic and slept most of the time. This was not the lively little puppy I had chosen. By the afternoon she had diarrhoea as well. She was not a happy chappy.
I phoned the Animal Welfare and was told to immediately take her to the Vet who saw to all their animals. I later discovered that he is also an Honorary Member and Vice Chairman of the Society. This was on Friday. By the time I got her through to his surgery in Pinelands she was just lying limply in my arms and I was a very worried new Mum.
The vet was a lovely very caring Scott, who was furious that Animal Welfare had let her out after she had a temperature. By this stage her temperature was very high and the vet said that he would have to keep her in Hospital until they knew what was going on. He subsequently had the whole litter transferred to his surgery as they all had the same problem.
So, after only one night my little puppy was in Hospital and I went home in tears. On the Sunday the vet phoned to tell me that she seemed fine and I could collect her. I had wanted at least a few days with her before I had to go back to work but this was not to be. When we collected her she was sitting in the vets pocket looking very content indeed! This gave me the idea of putting her into my jacket and taking her to work with me. I OK'd it with my boss and it actually worked very well indeed. She slept a lot.
The nights did not get any easier. After falling asleep on a blanket on the kitchen floor I decided that we needed a new plan. I was just too old for this! We landed up putting a towel between our pillows and letting her sleep there. I am a very light sleeper and that way I would know when she needed to go out for a wee. It worked very well as I put her into her bed next to my bed after the last pyjama walk of the night.
Along the way she acquired the name Gypsy, which suits her well. The chances are good that her farther was a travelling man and her dark, sometimes mournful eyes make Gypsy quite descriptive!
House training went well but unfortunately the runny tummy persisted. I had to feed her on chicken and rice and egg but it didn't seem to help. After a week or so there was blood in her stools and the Dr. said that he wanted to get a sample tested. There had been a very bad outbreak of Parvo Virus in the Somerset West/Strand area and he was worried.
The test came back with the verdict of “e.coli infection” He said that the new strain of Parvo would actually not show up as there was as yet no test for it. There were only two drugs that this strain of e.coli was not resistant to, one of which she could not have until a year old. The other drug was only available in Injection form.
“Easy,” says the Dr., “I will show you how!”
I had never in my life ever expected to have to give an injection and now I had to inject this tiny little puppy! I never even played Doctors and nurses! Horror, but I had no option. It didn't look too difficult but I think it is the whole psychological hurdle of sticking a needle into a living creature. It's a bit overwhelming – and, to add to it, they cry!
I left Pinelands with five hypodermic needles, ready loaded, and my heart sitting in the pit of my stomach!
Well, I managed the injections. There was not a lot of liquid in them and it went well. I had to just keep telling myself that it was for her benefit and it had to be done!
Sadly there was no change. We went from normal stools to pouring and back again. By this time she was very skinny indeed. On one of my trips through to the Dr he wanted to hospitalise her again but I asked him if I could not keep her home rather as she was now house trained and would be happier. Thank heavens he agreed. He gave her her injection for the day but increased the dosage and gave me a further three injections with the increased dose. Now she cried every time. The first time I got such a fright that I had to give it to her twice! Very traumatic.
The following night I chickened out and I took her across the road to a Doctor neighbour who was a bit horrified as she said she had never given an injection to an animal. She actually gave a brilliant injection, thank you Justine! Gypsy didn't even cry! She told me that the main thing was to carry through even if the patient reacted. This helped me a lot the next night when I had to do the necessary.
The second stool sample took another five days to process and unfortunately the e.coli was still there. Another course of injections with the increased dosage was prescribed! This time I was armed with a tube of food supplement (Malt flavour) and powder to put into her water to balance the flora in her tummy. Thank heavens for the food supplement as I was now feeding her by hand! She was a little skeleton of a puppy. It was awful to see but she was not yet beaten.
One Thursday night she kept me awake all night coughing. She sounded like a baby with croup! So it was back to the Dr., who checked her out and said that she had Tonsillitis! I never knew that dogs had tonsils! He gave her an injection and I went home armed with cough mixture. Surely nothing more could possibly go wrong!
Finally, after the first month had gone by, the tummy cleared up and I phoned the surgery to find out if it was now OK to take her through to get her second inoculation and to sign up for puppy classes. They said yes, fine. She was only three days late according to the paperwork I received from Animal Welfare. I planned to take her the next day. Alas that was not to be....
At about 5:30 that evening her left leg started to twitch and she started to cry. I phoned the surgery again at 6:30 but the Secretary said that I would have to contact the Dr. on his emergency cell as he had left for the evening. I hate to worry people out of hours and so waited. I tried to be the proverbial optimist, maybe it would get better? By 8:30 it was worse.
My husband said that maybe with all the problems, I was just getting paranoid! I eventually listened to my gut and plucked up the courage and phoned. The poor Doctor said “Oh dear, sounds like 'Distemper'”.
Always listen to your gut feelings, they seldom lie. How I cried. He said that there was nothing we could do as it was a virus. Keep her warm and bring her through to the surgery in the morning for him to assess. Haven't we all heard that one before! What a night. She cried almost constantly.
By the next morning she had lost the use of her left front leg. I was a bit of a basket case by the time I saw the Dr. He confirmed his original diagnosis and gave her an injection of something that he said would slow down the spread of the disease. We would have to now sit it out and see how things progressed. Keep her warm. The virus attacks nerve endings and the damage would remain for the rest of the animals life. Not too encouraging.
To live with the disease the dog has to learn to sleep with the twitching. This sounds easier than it actually is. Every time she curled up to sleep the twitching would wake her up with a jolt making her cry. Eventually she just lay and cried as she was so tired but just could not get to sleep. It was at this stage that we thought it would be better to be in her bed on the floor as she threw herself around a lot at night and I think we also disturbed her. She was going out through a small low level window to have a wee at night quite happily now anyway. In the evening, on Dr.'s orders, I gave her Valium, which stopped working after the first two nights. We then had to start with the phenol-baritone which the Dr. called “Lethal”; a bit scary but we had no option.
Life has become an emotional roller coaster ride. She goes from crying piteously for hours to playing happily for an hour or two. The disease has now spread. Sometimes her whole body goes up and down in a bowing motion and she often falls over. She sometimes manages to sleep for a while and then plays happily afterwards.
She is eating like a wolf and is now round and rolly poly like one would expect a puppy to be. She is the sweetest little thing and still has just so much spunk! She steals socks off the clotheshorse and chews on books if left within her reach. She has her favourite toy and loves her Ostrich chewer. She tries to take Tammy's biscuits because she knows that Tammy can't see too well and will take a while to find out that it is gone!
I Googled Distemper but there is actually very little on how to live with the neurological effects that the animal may be left with. It seems that not all cases advance to the neurological stage and many animals die before that. The virus may also advance to fits. Distemper is also not found in first world countries. Africa is unfortunately still full of it and those initial inoculations that a puppy must have are vitally important. Sadly Gypsy was just too sick to have her second one.
In 2005 my Dad spent 6 weeks in Hospital dying from post operative MRSA and various other new mutations thereof. He had a 'living will' but at the time one thought he may just pull through. Not one family member even considered 'pulling the plug' even though I knew he was not going to make it. With an animal one can choose euthanasia. This does not in fact make it any easier. If anything it makes it more difficult as one is left with guilt. How can we play God and make the decision that life is not worth living? When things are looking bad then that is admittedly the option. Then, the next day, things go better and she is roaring around the garden, even occasionally using her lame leg, then you just cannot even begin to consider euthanasia as an option. What is quality of life? Being able to go for a walk? Eating good food and having a cuddle? Greetings after being at work all morning? Two or three hours out of 24 being 'happy'?
Gypsy is still fighting. I have a feeling that the virus is still active and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. All I know is that we love her and this whole episode has emotionally torn us apart. It is an awful disease. Tomorrow we will visit Dr Mac again for his verdict on the latest problems. Thank you for being the most wonderfully compassionate and supportive Doctor. We could not have gone this far without your support.