What a roller coaster ride this has been. Abby came into our lives and bought us unexpected great joy. Then things took a serious turn for the worse and that brought tremendous grief and sadness. After multiple courses of various antibiotics things seemed to be looking up for our little girl but eight days ago when we woke up she was struggling to breathe. It was also odd that although she had unlimited food she had actually lost more weight. Back to the veterinary hospital for the fourth time. Since her last visit her white blood cell count had skyrocketed and an x-ray revealed that both of her lungs were almost completely full of fluid. The vet was very kind but he told us that everything he’s tried hasn’t worked and perhaps it was time to let her go. He believed she had cancer but he wasn’t certain. What are my other options? He said he could keep her in the hospital and put her on an IV to keep her hydrated, provide some nourishment, and administer some more powerful antibiotics. Okay, let’s do that. Peggy and I went to see her the next two days and she continued to get thinner and more lethargic. I needed to leave the next day with my truck and GT trailer to drive to Houston and help my son Charley move his stuff back here to Arizona. We spoke to the vet again and he told us she was not responding to the new IV drugs and that she had completely stopped eating and drinking indicating she had given up and was probably done. Again he asked me how much farther I wanted to take this. I asked him if there wasn’t a way to drain the fluid from her lungs? Perhaps if she could breathe she would start eating and drinking? He told me that’s a really tricky procedure in a dog because their heart is packed so closely to the lungs and that no doctor at his vet hospital had that capability. But somebody can do it? He told me yes that they could bring a specialist surgeon in to perform that procedure but it’s expensive. Please, I don’t want to know what anything costs, I want to know what’s possible. My last two dogs contracted Valley Fever, have you tested her for that? He said no so I asked him to do that right away and to start administering Fluconazole (the most effective treatment in dogs for Valley Fever and the drug that saved my last two dogs lives) right away. He agreed. In the course of extracting the fluid from her lungs, assuming she survives that procedure in her now weakened state, biopsy the nodules on her lungs to confirm whether or not it’s cancer. If it is cancer, then I will let her go.
I’m obviously not a vet but in my mind two things argued against it being cancer. First, she’s only about a year old and cancer in a dog that young is possible but rare. Second, it’s a million to one shot that I came across her out in the middle of nowhere and now it’s becoming clear that I was supposed to find her in order to employ the Chip Beck problem solving method to help this little dog. (I’ve always been a firm believer in throwing money at a problem) With the IV disconnected and the attachment dangling from her right front leg, we took her outside and I held her close in my lap. I don’t know how much English a dog can understand, but I talked to her. “Please don’t give up Abby, eat what you can, try and drink some water. That’ll keep you stronger while we figure this out. Peggy and I love you and all three of us need to clear this last hurdle. Please don’t give up.”
Knowing I’d be gone for the next four days I walked out of the hospital thinking I may never see Abby again. How the hell can a dog that I didn’t even know existed four weeks ago have such a powerful effect on us? When we got home I hooked up my trailer and prepared for my drive to Texas the next morning. That night Peggy picked up the collar I had made with Abby’s name and my cell phone number on it and held it in her hands. She looked at Abby’s special bed that was now empty, and she started crying. Peg said “What if we screwed everything up? What if Abby got off her chain and ran out into the desert because she was supposed to die out there? What if she knew she was dying and that was her plan and we ruined it?” NO!!! With as much certainty as I could muster I told Peggy that if Abby had stayed in the desert her fate was almost certainly to die a terrifying death in the jaws of a pack of hungry coyotes. No dog as sweet and gentle as her deserves such a fate. Even if worse comes to worst with us it will be peaceful and painless but I can virtually assure you that’s not going to happen. Fate didn’t deliver her to us only to have her die a few weeks later.
The next day the special doctor shaved Abby’s belly, knocked her out, and penetrated both of her lungs to drain them. He removed ¾ of a liter of vile yellow mucus from her lungs and took tissue samples. He said that was an incredible amount to pull out of a now 29 pound dog and that procedure definitely saved her life, at least for now. Peggy continued to visit while I was on the road. I was contacted by some Forum members and other family & friends to see how things were going and although I didn’t know, I really appreciated their well wishes.
Late in the day on Wednesday Peggy got test results. It was Valley Fever and Abby did not have cancer. Now that she could breathe Abby started eating and drinking again. Her energy level increased and a new X-Ray showed she was responding well to the Valley Fever meds. Late on Friday the IV was taken out, 4 new drugs prescribed, and Peggy brought Abby home so she was there when Charley and I got there on Friday night. She woke up and gave me a nice greeting when I walked in. With all of the madness going on in the U.S. these days here was something that had gone right. My prayers and those of my friends and family paid off. Thank you.
So, Abby is still weak and only weighs 30 lbs today but hopefully we are finally on the right track. There is an old adage that holds true here……Few things a man might acquire turn out to be more expensive than a cheap Ferrari or a free dog. Who would have thought that walk out of the desert was the easiest part of Abby’s journey to a new life?
And since Valley Fever is unknown to most people I’ll summarize what it is. An often deadly disease that only exists in Arizona. It’s a fungal infection that grows in the soil of central AZ and it attacks both people and dogs. It can be treated but not always successfully and once it gets outside the lungs the fatality rate goes up dramatically. Research on it has been limited because it only exists in a small geographic area. Fluconazole is currently the most effective treatment but it takes an extremely long time to knock it out. Abby will need to take that drug twice a day for the next year. One of my Labradors needed to take it for the rest of his life.
The first picture below is Abby sitting on my lap at the hospital before I left for Houston. The last picture is of my two girls loving each other when Abby finally got out of the hospital before I got home. All the best.
Jeez Chip, I haven't teared up like this since my high school girlfriend broke my heart! Last we spoke she was rescued, at her new home, swimming in the pool starting her new path on the good life. I had no idea the saga had continued and not for the better. I'm not a big "it was fate" kind'a guy, however everything that had to come together just perfect for that little pup to be saved in the desert that day and then survive part II is truly amazing.
PS. That's a great catch on Valley Fever. It's not just Phoenix, although it seems to be predominant there, but also here in Vegas and the Southwest in general. It's very common for it to be incorrectly diagnosed.
Wow. 5 mile walk through the desert in 100F heat, water all used up, only a helmet to keep the sun off your delicate scalp. Basically your life at risk. We don't hear a lot of true heroism stories these days. Thank you for an inspiring uplift. Well done sir.
I hope Abby continues to hang in there. I'm also hoping the previous owner gets a visit from the SPCA, Arizona Humane society, or even a State Trooper. The new house bill2671 lists animal cruelty as a class 5 felony, and comes with jail time.