Rose’s Long, Long Journey Home
May 22, 2006
Rose turned up in a southern Illinois shelter, thin and tired. Her coat was snarled and matted and she had a raw wound on her back. Before long the wound was recognized as a warble fly maggot. The worm was extracted, leaving a nasty open wound midway along her back near her spine. But things were going to get worse for Rose before they got better, because a blood test showed that she also had heartworms. The small rural shelter was crowded and short on resources, and what little time and funding the employees and volunteers had couldn’t be focused only on an older, sick dog like Rose. Her eyes were dull with exhaustion and pain, and no one would want to adopt a dog with so many problems. A decision was made to put Rose to sleep forever.
A shelter volunteer noticed that despite all she was enduring, Rose was always gentle and hopeful, wagging her tail ever so slightly whenever someone glanced her way. The volunteer made a decision to do her best to save Rose and sent out a plea for help. A kind soul in Wisconsin agreed to donate funds for Rose’s vet care, including her heartworm treatment, and a border collie rescue agreed to sponsor Rose’s foster care. She would need several weeks of peace and quiet to recover from the heartworm treatment, and thus Rose came to our house to live.
Whether she had been well-cared for and loved in her younger days, we’ll never know. Her thick black fur hadn’t been brushed in a long, long time, and the mats lay thick against her skin. Likely that’s why the warble maggot hadn’t been noticed; Rose hadn’t felt the soft touch of a hand on her back for some time. Her right ear tip is missing, probably lost to frostbite during some bitter Illinois winter.
Rose has lost feeling in both back legs and walks with her back slightly rounded and her legs tucked under. She seems to wince when her hind quarters are manipulated, maybe due to arthritis of the spine that’s compressing a nerve, or an injury to a joint or ligament. An xray might reveal the source of Rose’s discomfort. Arthritic conditions can be treated with acupuncture; an injury to a joint or ligament could require surgery.
For several weeks now, Rose has spent most of her time napping while the heartworms that had been growing in her circulatory system slowly died and disintegrated. The back wound has granulated and oozed but still has not healed over. There could be a small segment of the worm still left somewhere in the lesion, since if care isn’t taken when the worm is removed, a section of its barbed body can break off and stay lodged in deep tissue. So the lesion may have to be surgically excised. Her lungs are nearly healed from the toxic medication used to kill the heartworm infestation, and a blood sample has been taken to check for underlying systemic infection. If those values come back in normal range, we could schedule Rose’s surgery next week. If she’s strong enough to endure the extended anesthesia, xrays of her hips, spine, and knees could be taken while she’s under.
The blood test results came back with all values in normal range, so that's good news. In hopes of avoiding surgery so soon after the hw treatment, we decided to try an alternative approach first: Rose had a chiropractic adjustment and an acupuncture treatment on Monday. That evening, she was clearly feeling better: she was finally able to twist around to scratch and lick herself (perhaps that's more info that you wanted :-) and she actually rolled over on her back. She's been trotting around the yard a little when we take her out for potty breaks, and last evening she headed up the road after some joggers, so that Jim had jog along after her to bring her back home :-)
Dr. Ziegler advised that she be fed canned Wellness or Canidae for a while, to ensure that she gets good nutrition and eats well, and for the past two days, she's licked her bowl clean. She's also getting a couple of nutritional supplements to build up her immune system. Dr. Ziegler thinks the granulation around the back wound is a type of uncontrolled tissue growth and that's what's preventing its healing, rather than some foreign body in the deep tissue. She used infrared light on the wound and gave us some cream that should dissolve the granulation, and Rose has an appt for a follow-up in two weeks. If the back wound is starting to heal up, she won't need that surgery-- yay!
Rose seems to be doing better these days. Her appetite is improved, she trots happily over to her bowl when the dinner bell rings, and she’s been licking it clean for the last couple of weeks. Her energy increases by baby steps, but each little improvement is hopeful: her eyes are brighter, she gets up more easily, and she nearly always wants to go outside with us, either for a little walk or just to poke around in the yard to see what’s growing and who passed through during the night.
Last visit, Dr. Ziegler used some acupuncture around her wound, in order to stimulate blood flow for healing. That in addition to a warm compress daily and raspberry seed extract twice a day may be helping. We can’t really say it looks any better, but it doesn’t look worse, and the healing process is expected to be slow. More worrisome to me is that the fur that the shelter folks shaved when they noticed the maggot still hasn’t grown back—there’s just a little fuzz. Dr. Z says that indicates that her overall condition is so rundown that her body can’t even grow fur, let alone heal up the wound. So Rose gets mega-supplements and the best quality canned food, for maximum nutrition with every mouthful. For the amount of food she’s eating, she doesn’t seem to be putting weight on, although she hasn’t been weighed in a couple of months. We’ve also noticed that she always stands or lies down and never ever sits, so we’re wondering if a ligament in the knee could be the problem. But until the wound begins to close up, Dr. Ziegler doesn’t want to stress her with xrays, and she is definitely moving more comfortably nowadays.
Sweet Rose smiles a greeting to everyone who comes by to visit and has a happy tail wag for us every morning. She’s started to follow me around the house during the day a bit, which is a good sign, showing some interest in connecting with people rather than watching the world pass by. One of these days she may notice a squirrel, or a ball rolling by, and then we’ll know she’s turned the corner on her way back to a normal life
The summer solstice has passed and Rose is finally beginning to give up the last remnants of her heavy undercoat. She thinks her shiny new fur is quite svelte-looking and so much more comfortable. We keep thinking of how many bitter winters she must have endured to have accumulated such a thick mat of insulation. All that’s behind you now, sweet Rose—you’re an indoor doggie from here on!
Rose’s wound hasn’t really improved any, nor has her overall energy level. We’ve begun to wonder if she doesn’t move much because of chronic pain in her joints, which can be exhausting for a healthy person, let alone one who’s struggling with a wound. And while her condition is greatly improved and some fur has begun to grow back, there’s still a fair amount of bare skin around the wound. She’s put on 7 pounds, which Dr. Shirley says is enough. We just like to see Rose enjoying her food!
We’ve scheduled her surgery for this Friday. When Dr. Shirley shaved the area to examine the wound more closely and the margins were clearly visible, the soreness and puffiness around the edges is obvious. So while we hate to put Rose through the anesthesia, we think it’s the right thing to do. She also has a lipoma sort of growth on her neck near her collar that’s getting larger, so that will be removed at the same time. Our experience with our elderly Schaffer’s lipomas some years ago showed that such growths often don’t go away and eventually have to be removed, and this one is close enough to her collar to be in the way. Finally, if the excisions go smoothly and don’t stretch out her time under anesthesia too long, xrays of her hips and knees will be taken. In all the time she’s been with us, Rose has never ever sat down—she always stands or lies down flat on her side—which suggests to me that it may just hurt too much to bend those joints. We need to find out exactly what’s going on with poor Rose.
Hopefully the vets will let us bring Rose home on Friday evening so she doesn’t have to stay overnight by herself. Rose has spent too much time struggling with pain and loneliness in her life, and we want to minimize her fear and anxiety as much as possible.
Rose came through her surgery like a trooper, although a tired and hurting trooper. The surgery went smoothly, but xrays indicate Rose has severe degenerative joint disease. Radiographs of her spine, hips and knees show that her hips aren't too bad, but her knee joints are shot and she has limited range of motion, i.e., even under anesthesia her back legs can't be fully extended, either from previous ligament injury or just being foreshortened due to her positioning her legs underneath her to take pressure off her knees. She has one compressed disc and some spondylosis (see below). The vet said to watch her mobility as she recovers from this wound and the surgery, to gauge whether her energy and mobility are still compromised or whether anti-inflammatories may be called for.
"Spondylosis deformans is a condition in which bridges are formed along the ventral (bottom) parts of the vertebrae. . . . There is no spinal cord compression, but the spine is immobilized in that location. If the condition continues to spread, there may be several such bridges, “welding” a series of vertebrae into an inflexible backbone. . . .Pain may come from encirclement or pressure on nerve roots leading out from the cord to peripheral nerves, although such discomfort might be from concurrent arthritis, cauda equina syndrome, or other problems. . . . [M]uch growth of osteophytes can occur, and may be part of the reason some dogs have pain, but generally the animal does not appear to be suffering" (http://www.dogstuff.info/spondylosis_deformans_lanting.html)
Rose is doing wonderfully, much better than we might have expected so soon post-surgery. That suggests to us that whatever was in that back wound was bothering her much more than anyone suspected. She’s peppier than she’s ever been since she came to stay with us, and she’s even a bit of pest about asking for pets!
We’re going to look into a liquid form of glucosamine/chondroitin that’s been recommended to me by two friends with elderly animals, one a 26 yo horse and one a 12 yo Aussie mix. Both say the formulation is more easily assimilated by the body and works wonders for their stiff-jointed pets.
This morning we strolled out to see how the vegetables in the garden were doing after a long evening’s watering yesterday. Our female BC as usual set out in search of unwary chipmunks. She managed to rouse one, who scurried for cover behind the wood box with Jane in hot pursuit. Then the foolish critter made a break for it and hightailed it across the driveway toward Jim’s truck, right under Rose’s nose! She was transformed—her ears flew up, her eyes widened, and off she ran! It was wonderful to see the fog of months (years?) of discomfort and neglect lift from Rose’s awareness as she excitedly circled the truck, hoping for another glimpse of the furry varmint. Of course none of the “hunters” had any chance of catching the little speed demon, who quickly exited from under the far end of the truck and dove down a burrow, chuckling at the frenzy he had precipitated. We can’t wait to have Rose’s stitches removed Friday (the incisions are healing beautifully) and get her started on the glucosamine. Hopefully, it won’t become a case of coming to regret what we wished for, if Rose turns into a hellion hunter like our Jane J
The signs are subtle but unmistakable: Rose is feeling better. Her eyes are brighter, her tail waves in a bigger arc, and she increasingly seeks out attention and interaction. She wants to spend time outside by herself—not much, in this awful heat, but she’s interested in the sights and especially the smells. Sometimes she’ll put her nose up and sniff the air for a long time, and we’ve wondered what it is that she’s scenting— cows in some upwind pastureland? the distant river? And her energy is up—the other evening, while we were preoccupied trying to position a lawn sprinkler, she sneaked across the road to have a sniff of Lucy the Aussie’s mailbox. Lucy was long since retired for the night, since she’s a hard working gal who needs to be up at the crack of dawn, but Rose often gazes intently across at Lucy from our yard, as Lucy patrols her perimeter and waits for her family to get home. We called to Rose and she meandered slowly back toward us. All good signs: her investigating Lucy’s turf, her paying attention to my voice, and her willingness to head back-- for a long time, Rose didn’t seem to know where she was, or care much. It’s time to start listening for Rose’s thoughts about her forever home: We suspect she’ll be looking for a calm and quiet home, with kind folks who’ll dote on her, just her, and want to keep her company on nice, easy walks in the cool of the evening.
This past week, we took a few day’s getaway. . . well, actually, almost a week. Our wonderful dogsitter continued Rose on her glucosamine regimen, and today, our first day back after six days away, the changes in Rose are tiny but thrilling! Rose was clearly happy to see us, as were the resident hooligans, and there are other little signs that she’s feeling better. Like being able to reach around to scratch her jaw and ears with her hind paw—imagine being unable to scratch such itches for so long! After dinner, since the troops have preferred to stay inside in the air conditioning for quite some time now, we encouraged them all to head out back to check out who’d passed through, burrowed where, etc. Rose often prefers that we walk outside with her, but tonight we were wanting to get the vacation laundry underway, so we urged her out on the deck with a gentle hand on her butt. After the laundry was sorted and the first load in, we went out to the sunroom to see how everyone was doing. Simon was lounging comfortably on the deck surveying the scene, but Rose, who’s usually waiting by the door to come back in, was nowhere in sight. We walked out to look for her, hoping that she hadn’t taken my urging her outside as a cue to clamber over the fence or something. Finally, on the far side of the yard at the wood’s edge, we noticed her, ambling along following her nose on the trail of some burrowing critter . When we called to her, she glanced up but continued the scent for a while longer. She wasn’t agitated nor digging, just interested in what her nose was revealing. We were thrilled, delighted to see her so at ease, nosing along, neither anxious nor uncomfortable, just being a dog.
Another good sign was that Simon has begun to nibble on her. Simon generally loves foster visitors and inveigles them to play at every opportunity. In addition to play bows and a wildly waving tail, Simon likes to get up close and personal by nibbling foster dogs’ whiskers. We’ve never seen this behavior in any other dog, and we don’t how the doggie psychologists might interpret it, but fosters all tolerate it and none has ever objected, even those who’ve been here long enough to get their whiskers nibbled down to stubble. Simon has never nuzzled or nibbled Rose, though . . . . until this evening. As the troops crowded around me on the couch for scratches and pets, Simon evidently judged that Rose’s muzzle is now fair game and pressed his nose to her cheek, nibbling away. What might Rose be making of all this: kind attention, or the impertinence of an unmannered young gent? Finally, as I type, Rose is resting in the family room on her elbows, smiling slightly. Since Rose has been here recuperating, for four months now, she has always stood or laid flat out on her side. For the first time that we’ve seen, she’s relaxing, head up, paws stretched before her, elbows bearing her weight. Isn’t it funny how the littlest things that we don’t generally notice can speak such volumes about how a dog feels?
Yesterday we stopped to visit an elderly housebound friend who lives with a spunky little Cairn terrier and an aged, petite beagle. The dogs sniffed and greeted each other politely as my friend and I settled down to catch up on things. Then Rose spied a rawhide bone on the floor. We don’t give rawhides at our house since a scare a couple of years ago when a friend’s dog swallowed an end whole and nearly died when it lodged in her intestine. But Rose clearly recognized it as something desirable and laid down with it nestled settled between her paws. When the little terrier wandered by, we were surprised to see her lip curl a bit, but when the elderly beagle happened to glance at the rawhide Rose had claimed, we were astonished to see her snark and lunge a bit—and the old beagle was equally astonished. So Rose is feeling well enough to stand up for herself and protect a prize (although the challengers were half her size and weight J. It also suggests that that Rose’s forever home won’t have any challengers big or small. When we took our morning stroll today, everyone enjoyed the cooler temps, and the resident hooligans felt energized enough to do some chasing and wrestling, which they’ve largely left off during the oppressive heat. Rose tends to avoid them when they’re flinging themselves about so, not wanting to get knocked off her pins, we suppose. But this morning she did a few twirls on the lawn herself—sort of a little Snoopy-happy feet dance of joy.
Sept 17, 2006
Rose went home today with her new family, all the way to Detroit, Michigan. Be well, sweet Rose.
Nov. 1, 2010
Here is the latest picture of Rose for you. She got into the grass area she is not allowed into and could not figure out how to get back to the path. She is like a little Houdini when it comes to fences.
She is getting groomed tomorrow so will lose her fluffiness. She seems to be really enjoying Baxter now instead of giving him the evil eye all the time. As far as her health the tumors have seemed to all stopped from the holistic work with Betsy. Rose actually seems to be in better health than all of us now.
Hope all is well,