Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Free" to a Good Home

I don't know if I mentioned or not recently that I accidentally adopted a third dog. Much like our second dog, Ruby was "unplanned." How, you ask?

The usual way.

Well, I was biking home from work when I saw her. She was on the curb, bouncing in and out of the gutter, entertaining herself in the way that puppies do. Andrew and I had been talking; our conversation came to a screeching halt along with our bikes when we spotted her.  I crouched to call her. "Hey! Hey! Hey! C'mere!" I cooed. She bounded over, her gait uneven with enthusiasm. Her tail wagged with delight and she squirmed when I touched her, unable to contain her glee. I looked around but the area was quiet.  Where was the owner? Adams Boulevard was busy and this particular dog did not seem very smart. After all, she'd literally been in the gutter when I called her to me. So with a shrug, I picked up the dog, put her in the basket on the handlebars, and biked home. It's probably worth mentioning, at this point, that the dog was smaller than most dogs. Smaller than most cats. Less than 5 pounds, she fit easily into my bicycle's basket; when we biked past the school, a wave of "awwwws!" followed us.


We wouldn't have taken her if she hadn't been so small and literally in the street. We have a strict non-intervention policy with most strays. The exceptions are the ones who clearly, desperately need intervention. Our last project, Wobbles, was a blind cat with ataxia and an enormous mass on his neck. For weeks we'd syringed food and water and medicine into him. He hadn't made it, but he'd been comfortable at the end, which is all we could have asked for, really. Anyway, this dog didn't appear sick, or injured. Just small. So small that a bird of prey could have eaten her; so small that no car would have ever seen her. Seeing something so unbelievably tiny in the street pulled at our heartstrings. We shouldn't have intervened... but of course we did. What kind of dog is she? Hard to say. Her teeth were clean and she was obviously a girl. She had the domed head and huge, gelatinous eyes of a chihuahua, but the scruffiness of a terrier. Her skin was freckled like a Chinese Crested. Her demeanor was that of the average puppy.

Banana for scale.

We did what we were supposed to. We made up fliers (in English and the most broken Spanish ever) ("ENTRADA PERRITO!  MUY CHICA!"), checked her for a chip, cold-called people on CraigsList who posted lost dog ads that sounded like her. But nothing came up. We went from "just finding the owners" to "fostering" her.

And then there were three.

We never actually posted any ads to find her a home, though.  Not without shots, we said. She needed all of them, of course. Distemper. Rabies. Bordatella. In the first week, we began noticing small, white, writhing worms in her feces. Tapeworm. We treated it; a fecal test revealed she also had giardia. We treated that too. The first visit was $217, the next was $300, and the one after that was $237.  After a certain point, we were forced to admit we were keeping her.

Say it with me, now: AWWWW.

The oldest dog had a birthday less than a week after Ruby came to us.  We'd named her Ruby so that we could stop calling her "Tiny Dog," which was giving Carlisle a complex. So it was Seamus's birthday, and we made a cake. She ate a slice, too. She went comatose immediately afterward; her entire body was limp, her eyes rolled back in her head, her mouth dripping drool the colour and consistency of the frosting. At first it was funny, then frightening. She threw up the cake in a huge wad that looked largely unchanged from when it had initially entered her body.  Then she bounced back immediately, and we agreed not to feed the puppy cake. A 4-lb. dog could not be expected to digest a generous slice of frosted cake, anyway.

We take cake really seriously in this household.

December rolled in and we agreed to have a small Christmas.

I had to limit myself to one onesie.

I'm not really very good at doing a "small" Christmas.
But more about Christmas in my next post.

The dog's bills were adding up and we didn't want to over-spend.  It was shortly after the third round of vaccinations (after hundreds of dollars on shots ad de-worming) that I asked for a blood test. There was no reason for it. I just had a feeling. An intuitive gut feeling. Her fecals were clean; her worms had gone the way of the cake and she was for all intents and purposes a healthy little dog. She'd picked up housetraining like a pro and already learned "sit." Her baby teeth had fallen out and we were discussing when to get her spayed. But there seemed to me that something was just off.   Maybe it was the cake incident that gave me cause for concern.  Or maybe it was that her movements were awkward, even for a puppy, and she often became lethargic, more than one would expect, even considering the amount of cake we occasionally fed her. The blood test, purely optional, purely voluntary, came back with bad results. Her liver enzymes were elevated. We paid for the blood test, and then we had a bile acid test. Her total serum bile acids were above 100; she was diagnosed with a liver shunt.

Warning: physiology lecture ahead.  Yay science!

What is a liver shunt? In utero, as a baby, your blood circulates with your mother's (by way of the placenta), and you have no need to use your own liver. So there's a large blood vessel (the shunt) that bypasses it. After you're born, the shunt deteriorates and your blood is re-routed through your liver for detoxification. In Ruby's case, the shunt had never gone away; very little of her blood was passing through the liver for detoxification. The result was a slow build-up of poison that would, if left untreated, eventually kill her. But not before taking its toll on her neurological system. The answer seemed clear. She needed surgery. Clamping off the shunt would fix her for life; 95% of dogs respond well to the surgery and live the rest of their lives normally. The surgery was quoted to me at $4800 - $5200. That did not include a pre-diagnostic scan to locate the shunt. Another $1,500. How on earth could I be expected to afford it? With four other pets, one already chronically ill and on medication three times a day, I saw no way. But not treating it seemed cruel, and she was part of the family. She was only a baby with her whole life ahead of her. There didn't seem to be any other option.

Behold the two most expensive fucking dogs on the planet.

With a sigh, I called the credit company and got my limit raised. I began other calling veterinary surgeons to see if I could locate a cheaper surgeon. I could not. The vet called me the next day. She'd felt awful about the situation, and talked to the hospital. They agreed to do all the work on the dog for a capped figure: $5,000. This would include pre-diagnostic scans, post-operative care, anesthesia, spaying, and anything else that needed done while they were in there. We arranged to have the surgery. The dog was blissfully unaware of her situation. She'd hit the dog jackpot. She'd achieved the dream of every orphan: she'd been adopted by someone who literally fed her cake until she was ill.  She went to surgery on Friday and came home Sunday.  As I type this, she's frolicking through the house, bandage flapping around her stomach.  Yet another thing in this world that's just too big for her.

"Free to a good home" my ass.

"Good, good... let the cute flow through you."

"Good, good... I can feel your pity.  She is defenseless.  Take your credit card.  Charge it will all your unexpected veterinary bills, and your journey toward being a crazy, destitute dog lady will be complete."

No comments:

Post a Comment