Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Four-legged hero, two-legged heroine

Nemoudra, I'd call them, if they were a celebrity couple. That canine is one tough cookie, and that girl, his guardian angel. I came to know of him a month and a half ago through her post on FB. He looked liked the most fragile thing ever. This girl has dedicated herself to nursing him to health.

It began with her coming across him and thinking: well, that's a malnourished puppy... let's get him dewormed and give him food and nutrients. After a few days, seeing no signs of improvement, she took him to a vet. The first diagnosis was that he has pneumonia. They also used radiograms to find out why his abdomen was abnormally large. A radiocontrast agent showed something akin to a cloth or a plastic in his abdomen. At least, that's what the vet thought it was. However, he continued to eat and poop, which made it difficult to believe that there really was anything blocking his digestive system at all. He spent two weeks cooped up in an empty flat, because the vet recommended isolation. She visited him four times a day, spending an hour each cleaning, feeding, and entertaining him. When it got too much, she decided to look for a second opinion.

That's when I got the chance to meet this strong-willed boy. We took him to another vet who diagnosed his condition as being asthmatic. The pneumonia, if there was any, had passed and there was no need to keep him in isolation. In fact, he would feel more and more miserable without any company. However, he was so malnourished and possibly infected by other things, that there could be other ailments, which we could consider addressing after his respiration was normalized. The vet could not form a strong opinion based on the radiogram. He allayed our fears, and recommended a medicine to be administered through a nebulizer. Being wary of steroids, she gave the medication a try, but noticing his discomfort and the trouble that the medication caused her family members, she decided against forcing it on him. Instead, they relied on Homeopathic and Ayurvedic remedies and Reiki from some generous souls, which worked quite well for a while.

A week passed by, and he was still quite unstable. Off she went to the next vet for another opinion. He cited Ascites, and gave him a Lasix shot to drain the excess fluid. He suggested a follow-up with the tablet format of the drug, which did not work. We brought him in again the next day, he was given another shot, and the fluid was drained out via urine again. However, they did not collect the fluid directly from the abdomen and send it for analysis, citing that a puncture to the abdomen might create further complications. After taking a look at the radiogram and showing us a radiogram of another healthy dog, the vet explained that there was no possibility of any object being stuck in the abdominal cavity. Only certain organs were differently visible due to the radiocontrast agent. What he did diagnose, was much worse--the diaphragm was broken and all his abdominal organs were being pushed up into the thoracic cavity! We were a tad relieved, though, because it finally seemed like a plausible explanation for his breathing difficulty. The vet also mentioned that his liver and spleen might have suffered the most due to malnutrition combined with the infections that he might have picked up. But his many problems needed to be tackled one after the other, the first being the ascitic fluid, for which he recommended 3 Lasix shots a day for a week! There was no way he would have survived that assault of diuretics. She was barely able to keep him hydrated, because he wouldn't drink water, and all the liquids had to be passed into his system as part of his meals--the only thing he consumed, and which was getting increasingly difficult for him. What we did appreciate was the vet's recommendation of feeding him at an inclination--he shouldn't bend low to eat, and should be kept upright for as long as possible after the meal so that gravity would work to push the food down into the stomach instead of further compressing his lungs.

A week later, when he was slightly better but not good enough to be considered as 'recuperating', we considered taking him to a couple of other vets. We had 3 very different opinions so far, and any more perspectives (we thought) might only help. Fortunately or unfortunately, we couldn't manage to take him to any vet that weekend. He probably only needed rest and respite from any strong medication. She persisted, spent hours looking after him, holding him when he was wheezing, gasping for breath, collapsing with the effort, but determined to see it through. He spent many sleepless nights and she stayed up with him, literally watching over him like an angel. Her mother mothered him too, and I think it was their love and compassion that helped him survive.

I was afraid that at least one of the vets would simply say: put him down, he's not going to survive for too long anyway. It did happen, and there was a point when I almost believed him, that this little buddy would survive, but would lead a painful life, and it might be best to end his misery sooner rather than later. The problem with that line of thought was that it was weak. And that is where this awesome lady showed her strength of conviction. She simply focused her energy on letting him be. Helping when he needed it, monitoring his symptoms, and intervening when necessary, and NEVER giving a second thought to the option of putting him down.

We met him yesterday after she invited us several times--to come watch him as he went about being a puppy--jumping, playing, being mischievous, which he couldn't do earlier, because he was busy fighting for every breath! I had to pick my proverbial jaw off the floor when I saw him: he was barking, excited to see me... he ran down the stairs, wanting to jump on the neighborhood dog, not wanting to be restrained by the leash, as if nothing was ever wrong with him! In the 2 weeks that I didn't see him, he lost a bit of his tail--his last vertebra simply dropped off--dead. His teeth, however, lightened up--went from yellow to a normal off-white, and he gained some weight. Anyone else seeing him would notice the bony frame, the stick-like legs, the frayed ears, and think... boy that's one sick dog! But I've had the fortune to know the spirit that defines him. And I can only bow to that spirit. And to the girl who believed in that spirit more than anyone else did, and gave him a chance.

It has been a tough couple of months, but it finally seems like he going to pull through. So dear Mudra and Nemo, here's my 'hats off' to you two!