When Your Favorite Wiggle Butt Stops Wiggling

6 11 2015

1476456_747662498649710_2163420837714130041_nTHE LOVES OF MY LIFE

Six years ago, my life changed forever. That’s when I first met my soulmate. Then I met her dog, Chopper. In Bethany’s version of that first month, she swears that it was Chopper’s irresistible smile that truly won me over, and pulled me into their lives forever. When I met Chopper, I met my new favorite running buddy, and his ‘starshine’ is so powerful, he can melt away a stressful day within minutes, simply by staring into your eyes and soothing your soul with his calm energy.

10356269_726301054119188_2310589868191265995_nChopper is without a doubt the best dog I have ever known. Unlike the German Shepards I grew up with, Chopper’s love and loyalty are always abundantly evident. He cherishes his mommas, and makes us feel truly appreciated every single day. When I say the word “walk,” he twists his big ole head sharply to the side, as if to say, “WAIT… did she say… WALK???” and proceeds to break into what can only be described as a happy dance. His metronome (aka ‘tail’) starts suddenly swishing even faster, and the momentum transfers down his body, wiggling his entire rear end so vigorously, he ends up being spun in a circle with excitement. It takes all his might to keep his head and shoulders moving slow enough for me to put on his harness so we can walk out the door.

11221407_974894399259851_716772470717304567_nAt the end of the day, Chopper loves nothing more than to curl up with his mommas in what we call a “puppy puddle.” Being the gentleman that he is, he walks up to the full futon that is our designated pet bed, and- EVERY night- he gently puts one paw up on the edge of the bed, pawing at the bed once or twice while he stares at his momma, as if asking permission to board. “YES, Chopper!” I say, exasperated that he insists on asking EVERY time. And if we get up to go to the other room, when we come back, he will ask for permission again. Once he climbs up, he spends a minute assessing the wide open spaces, then curls up tightly between my knees, trying to maximize the amount of surface area being touched. Chopper loves to be the little spoon.

OUR WORST NIGHTMARE

Six days ago, my life changed unexpectedly. After brightening my life for 6 years, I noticed a new mole on his tummy this fall. It was dark red and oily looking, and misshapen like a flea-scaled leaning tower of Pisa. I took a picture with my phone and texted it to my cousin Carrie, a veterinarian back home in Michigan. Based on her concern, we scheduled Chopper for minor surgery to get it removed with our local vet, just to be safe.

11096521_835494013199891_7971622828084417338_nThe surgery was uneventful, and Chopper came home completely unphased. We had to force him to not play with his sister, because he felt like he was just fine. Only 5 days after surgery, just as he finished his course of antibiotics and pain meds, our brave rescue dog became very suddenly ill. He seemed low energy, and he wouldn’t eat. His ears, normally perky, were tucked back, and his metronome stopped wagging. We were concerned, and thought that maybe he was in pain, and needed more pain meds. Bethany called the vet and described his behavior, and they agreed to refill his prescription.

On Tuesday morning I let the dogs outside, and Chopper just stood at the threshold. This was odd. I tried to kick start his appetite by pulling out his favorite treat in the whole wide world- carrots! He wouldn’t even lick it, which is when I got concerned. I told Bethany about this, and then left for work. I called at lunch to check in, Bethany was even more concerned. Chopper’s eyes looked yellow, she said, and his gums and tongue had been drained of their color. She called the vet back and asked to bring Chopper in. Our vet agreed, and did a blood test immediately, which showed very concerning results. His red blood cell counts were at 46% before surgery, and had dropped to 12%, which is extremely low.

With little hesitation, Chopper’s doctor told Bethany to take him to the 24 hour animal hospital for immediate treatment. We believe he has “Auto-Immune Hemolytic Anemia” or AIHA. Basically, something has triggered a response where his body has begun attacking itself, killing off the red blood cells, and without a blood transfusion, his organs were starving for oxygen, and he would die. AIHA can be triggered by any number of things, like the stress of surgery, or antibiotics. He was rushed to the emergency room at Indy Vet to receive a blood transfusion and more detailed blood testing.

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The first two days were terrifying. We were spending thousands of dollars on emergency care for our dog, without really even knowing what his chance for survival is. Bethany was so distraught that she couldn’t sleep, and every morning I woke up to find that she had driven back to the hospital to be with our dog. I’ve had to put pets down before, and I am capable of making a logical decision, especially when it comes to quality of life for a pet. But this is CHOPPER. He’s such a sweet boy, and so full of life! I was sick to my stomach at the thought of putting him down at age 8. “I’m just not ready to let him go,” I told Bethany. It made me even sicker to think that we might spend $3,000 only to find out that he could never recover.

Chopper has been in the hospital since Tuesday, November 3rd, and has received 3 blood transfusions so far. After the first transfusion, his count went up to 19%,  but then dropped again. The second one went up and stayed at 18%. If he doesn’t start reproducing blood cells on his own, there is no hope. But each blood transfusion buys him time, as the immunosuppressant drugs take effect and his body relearns how to react.  

COPING WITH TRAUMA

Each night, Bethany and I cry together. I wake up with swollen eyelids and puffy pouches beneath my eyes, looking like a victim of some sort. We’ve been hit with several other unexpected major expenses this month already, and the stress and fear of how much this may cost was making us even sicker. Instead of working on making money, we are simply gushing at the seams with expensive bills. Our credit card bill will be around $9,000 this month, I’m afraid. If it was just one major expense at a time, or spread out over the year, we could survive okay, but all at once like this is just overwhelming, especially on top of the emotional stress of Chopper’s serious condition. We finally had to talk about when we would have to give up and ‘pull the plug.’ $5,000, we agreed, was the most we could stomach spending trying to save his life. Each day, we ask what our bill is up to, and hope for better test results so we can get our little guy back home.

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Friends all around the world have read about Chopper’s struggle to survive, and love and prayers have been pouring in for him to recover. Last night, our friend Amy went to visit Chopper in the hospital with Bethany, and she did some energy work on him while we awaited the latest test results. Bethany called me, for the 8th time that day, to share the latest news. “Twenty-two percent!! We are up to 22%!!!!” she gushed over the phone. I broke down with a sigh of relief and happy tears, for a change. We still need to get him up to 30% before he can come home, but, for the first time since this all started, I finally feel like it’s no longer “if” Chopper gets through this, but “when.”

6687967_1446809357.6267_updatesCHOPPER’S ROAD TO RECOVERY

There’s still a long way to go. Chopper is receiving excellent care at Indy Vet, and we are incredibly grateful for all the support we’ve received. We aren’t sure how many more days he may need to be there before he’s able to come home, but apparently it can take 3-7 days for his body to recover from this kind of red blood cell loss. Multiple friends kept suggesting on facebook posts that we should start a GoFundMe account, which we politely declined for several days. It felt weird to ask our friends for money, we both agreed. But as our hospital stay continued to grow, and we realized the daunting cost of extended hospital care, we decided that we should reconsider. If we could raise enough money to keep him in the hospital just one more day, that’s one more day he has to get better. For the first time in several days, the thought of having some financial relief finally helped me to feel like we can get through this. Chopper can get through this.

We specifically didn’t want some of our friends to donate, because I know that those with the least often give the most, and we didn’t want our burden to cause hardships for anyone else. It’s hard to accept help, but I know now that we made the right decision. In less than 24 hours, our friends have amazed me with their generosity. We have raised almost enough donations for Chopper to stay for 2 more days of treatment, which lifts my spirits, knowing that our community is rallying behind this little guy to keep him alive! People who have never even met Chopper have opened their hearts to help him, and it makes me so proud. Chopper’s love and light shine so brightly, that even strangers have shared their support. It is truly in the spirit of Chopper that we can all share more love in the world.

Today, Chopper’s energy is much higher. He ate for the first time in 4 days, his ears are perky, and his wiggle butt is wagging the metronome again. When we visit him, he is confused about why he can’t come home, but until his blood test results show enough improvement, he must remain at Indy Vet. I am filled with hope, and cannot express my gratitude for all our friends, family, and community! Our goal is to get him home this weekend, but only time will tell.

His adopted sister, Zaha, is getting tested today to become a doggie blood donor. We realize now just how critical this is, and are very happy to help give back. It’s terrifying to think about how differently this week would have been if not for the generous donations from other dogs. Three blood transfusions, to date, have been needed for Chopper’s life to be saved, and as an avid blood donor myself, I don’t know why I never thought about doing this before now.

We are hoping to get the test results Friday to determine if he has the pit bull disease, “Babesia.” After his blood cell counts recover, Chopper will be on medications for the next 6 months, with monthly blood tests to monitor his condition. Babesia can cause complications that could require us to choose a different course of treatment, due to bad reactions with some drugs. As the doctor put it, “We would need more expensive and harder to find drugs if he does have Babesia.” Recovery is possible, and two-thirds of dogs do recover from this. We hope to have Chopper’s smile in our lives for at least another 4-6 years!! He’s the best big brother a pup could ever wish for!
If you want to get more updates, you can read them on our GoFundMe page. Please send your positive energy and prayers to Chopper as we get our favorite little guy healthy again, however long that takes!

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One response

6 11 2015
Twilight Bark UK

Sending so many positive vibes to you from us. Come on Chopper, you can do it!!!

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