Let me preface this post by saying it is humiliating to admit the huge mistake we made. Please be gentle in your comments. We are all grieving here. But, if I can save one other family the pain we have been through, then the humiliation will be worth it.
Last week, I shared with all of you the awesome news that we had adopted a new puppy. You can read that, and see pictures of him, RIGHT HERE.
We got Red on Thursday. I posted the article on Friday. By Sunday night, he was dead.
Red was super hyper and appeared perfectly healthy. He was eating like a champ, drinking, playing, making the most adorable noises, and wrestling with our dogs. We had a vet appointment set up for him on Monday morning. But, from the looks of him, and his behavior, we had no reason to believe anything was amiss.
On Friday night, he ate another big bowl of dog food. We figured he was trying to fatten himself up. On Saturday morning, he seemed okay…until he vomited. We assumed that he’d over-eaten or that he was trying to get used to dog food (instead of dumpster diving in the neighbors’ trash). Then, Brian took him outside on a leash and he had horrible diarrhea. Brian commented that it had the worst smell he’d ever experienced (that would be an important sign later).
It was still very early (6:30 a.m.) and I had to leave for the weekend with Mason. He was registered for driving classes on Saturday and Sunday and the place was over an hour away so we’d reserved a hotel room to avoid needing to get up that early two days in a row.
We patted all the dogs goodbye, bid Brian good luck with our growing brood of fur babies, and hit the road. Later, Brian reported that Red was not eating or drinking. I figured he just needed to give his tummy a rest.
By Sunday morning, he got up when Brian took him out to go potty but he did not want to. By the time Mason and I got home on Sunday night, Red was doing very, very poorly. He actually came to the door when we came in, and followed me to the bedroom with his tail wagging. He then went right back to the sofa. Brian had set him up with a comfy bed and fluffy blankets.
I put my stuff down and walked over to check on him. He was noticeably thinner but he hadn’t been wanting to eat. I offered him canned food, cheese, cream cheese, and water. He wouldn’t touch any of it.
Brian and I decided he needed to go to the emergency vet in Chattanooga. Brian said he’d take him since I’d been gone all weekend. I walked him outside but Brian had to pick him up to put him in the back seat of the truck. He just laid down but his tail was still wagging. I petted him and told him it would be okay. I figured they’d check him out, give him some medicine, and send him back home. I was dead wrong.
Brian had called beforehand, and explained Red’s symptoms. When he arrived, they took him right to a room. Brian got nervous when the vet poked her head in, and said they needed to “suit up” before seeing Red. Based on the symptoms, the vet suspected Parvo. Brian called me with an update. We were both so thankful that our dogs, Tank and Moon, were fully vaccinated. They weren’t due for their boosters until August. We hung up and I kept thinking they were just going to give him some meds and send him home.
Brian was sitting in that room watching Red deteriorate instantly before his eyes. In the end, he was just sitting there with his nose against the wall. The vet came in with the bad news. He tested positive for Parvo. Brian called me. We had two choices: 1. Have Red admitted for treatment, where he would be isolated, and given an IV, a feeding tube, and pain meds. They did not know how long the treatment would take and, the worst part was that the vet said Red would probably die anyway. Parvo can kill extremely quickly. 2. Have him put to sleep. Brian called me again. We were both crying. We knew we could not be selfish. The vet told Brian we made the right decision. Brian held Red while he went to the Rainbow Bridge. He said Red was looking him right in the eyes when he passed. The vet then gently took Red to wrap him up, and send him home for burial. (I later thought it was odd that they don’t require dogs with Parvo to be cremated…)
Back home, Mason and I were crying. Max (age 20), who had only met Red that day, was noticeably concerned about me. He’d never seen me cry like that. He kept trying to comfort me. He was being so sweet! I was feeling HORRIBLE guilt because I’d let Brian take Red to the vet by himself. I should have gone with him to be with him for that ordeal!!
It was after dark and Max and Mason went to the garage for the pickaxe, shovels, and a spotlight. We picked a beautiful spot in the woods and they went to work. The Georgia soil covers very hard clay. Digging a hole here with just a shovel does not work. The boys did a great job, and they were already finished when Brian arrived back home. He lowered Red gently into his peaceful grave, under the waving pine trees, and the boys covered him up. And, they put cinderblocks on top of the grave to keep other critters from digging it up.
We all sat up on the porch, crying off and on, and thinking that at least after a month of homelessness, Red finally had a real family in the end, if only for four days.
And, here’s where things get even worse…
Brian wanted to take both of our dogs into the vet (walk-in basis) on Monday morning to have them tested. While the Parvo vaccine is extremely effective, nothing is guaranteed. Both of the dogs were active and happy, eating and drinking, etc., but we were, admittedly, freaking out after researching Parvo. Brian had to wait three hours to be seen.
At one point, Brian took the dogs out to potty. And, that’s when it happened. Tank had diarrhea. BAD!! Tank and Moon are fully vaccinated. We had even pulled the paperwork from the vet out of our permanent filing box to double and triple check. But, we knew his explosive diarrhea was not a coincidence.
Brian finally got into a room. The vet knew what was going on, but did not “suit up.” They ran the test. Moon was negative. Tank was positive. I thought they would hospitalize him but the vet felt sure he’d make a full recovery if we could stop the diarrhea and potential vomiting. Plus, Tank had some protection from the vaccine, and might not get as sick as unvaccinated dogs.
Parvo itself does not kill dogs. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and the dog dies from dehydration. She gave us anti-diarrheal meds for both dogs, and pro-biotics. They also both got an antibiotic shot in the butt to prevent secondary infections from the virus.
Except for the diarrhea, Tank seemed fine that day. However, the next morning, he refused to drink. We were about to haul him back to the vet when I had an idea. I mixed a cup of water with 2 tablespoons of canned food, and stirred it all up. It looked disgusting but Tank chowed down on it! We then researched how much water a dog needs each day. Tank is just shy of 90 lbs. so he needs 9 cups of water each day. I whipped open my spreadsheet, and then researched how much water is in canned food. Each can of wet dog food is approximately 75% water. I looked at the ounces, looked at my spreadsheet, scratched my head, and gave up. We’d just make sure he got the water/wet food concoction every 2 hours during the day. The water from the wet dog food would be a bonus. And, of course, he’d be getting only wet dog food for breakfast and dinner. No dry kibble. Oh! We also put ice in a plate and he plays with it, and gets more fluids that way as well.
That was Monday. Today (Thursday), Tank is energetic. Not a spaz like normal but he’s definitely up and about, and in a good mood. He hasn’t pooped since Monday because of the anti-diarrhea meds. We stopped giving him those today so that Tank can…empty his Tank. We’ll then start them back up again.
Moon has not shown any symptoms. Her vaccine worked. Tank’s did not.
The lesson we learned, that I want to share with all of you, is this. If you want to take in a stray, take him or her to the vet for tests before you bring him/her into your yard or your home. Common sense, right? Unfortunately, when we met Red, we fell so in love with him, and felt so sorry for him, that our common sense walked out the door.
Parvo is one of the smallest viruses on Earth. Symptoms are loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea with a “noxious” smell and that has blood in it (we didn’t see blood in Red’s but the vet confirmed it did from the stool sample), lethargy, a fever (or low body temperature), and abdominal pain (I poked and prodded Red right before Brian took him in and he didn’t indicate he had any pain). Parvo attacks the gastrointestinal tracts of dogs and they can die of septic shock very quickly.
Parvo survives heat and extreme cold. It can be found anywhere and everywhere. Carpet, furniture, bottoms of your shoes, you driveway, your car’s tires – literally everywhere. Even if we sanitized the house over and over, we wouldn’t get it all. And, it’s all over the yard, too. Since Red caught it roaming in the neighborhood, it’s probably being carried by the coyotes, foxes, and raccoons here.
In essence, we’re fighting a losing battle. For now, all we can do is pray that Tank will be okay, and that Moon won’t get sick.
I’m going to close now but I also wanted to share that the mailman arrived yesterday, and he made me cry. He delivered this:
UPDATE: Tank just drank out of the water bowl by himself for the first time this week, and he just brought me his favorite toy!!! He is doing SO much better than we expected!!!!
DON’T FORGET! The Summer, 2022 24-Hour Short Story Contest is THIS SATURDAY!!
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Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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Don’t always keep up with the updates you send out but this morning my eye was caught by the words puppy and death. So sorry for your loss. You and your family have been through a very tough week. I applaud you for trying to change the life of a lost and homeless pup since there seem to be so many roaming around. Your intentions were right and no one could have foreseen the sad outcome. My tears join yours since I’ve put down two of our dogs over the years and that was after having a good life. Prayers for Tank and Moon to remain healthy and for you and your family to find peace in this tragedy.
I had tears in my eyes reading this! Poor, sweet Red. I’m so grateful he had love and a peaceful passing in his final days rather than the agony he would have endured alone.
Glad Moon is okay and Tank is feeling better.
Hugs on your loss and many thanks for being the good people you are.
I am so sorry, Angela, Brian and all. I’ve cried buckets of tears over pets who died or had to be put to sleep. Yes, don’t dwell on mistakes, think of the happiness you all gave Red in his final days. I’m so glad Tank responded to treatment and he and Moon are okay. May they continue to be for a long time.
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I’m sorry you lost Red so quickly. Tell Brian I know how it feels to have a pet put to sleep and I sympathize. As someone else said, at least you made Red happy for the last part of his life.
My heart goes out to you!!!
Dear Angela and Brian, We’ve shared our home and our hearts with a dog pack ranging in size from 1 to 12–although losing each one seems horrible, the joy and other gifts a dog brings to our lives are worth the pain. We will never be without dogs. A few years ago, we lost three in 18 months–thank goodness we had two puppies whose fur we could cry into. You might find a modicum of comfort in R8dyard Kipling.s poem, “The Power of the Dog” (no relation to the recent movie of the same name). All our fur kids are cremated, as we will be, and our wills state that our ashes and those of our dogs shall be sprinkled together with wildflower seeds in a lovely grove high on the mountain above our town overlooking the valley below. ~Suzanne
Angela… I would have done the exact same thing! In fact, in my lifetime I have probably taken in 20 strays and never went to the vet first. May God bless and heal your broken hearts! I totally get it. Totally. Thank you for your transparency and don’t let guilt destroy peace. Praying for Tank and Moon!!!
I am so very sorry for your loss. Some of the best lessons are learned from our worst nightmares!
Oh, Ang — My heart goes out to you and Brian and Mason and Max and pups.
What a heartache. But, YOU DID GOOD! You followed your heart when Red stumbled into your yard and lives. I would have done the same. The fact that risks ultimately accompanied him, well . . . that’s life when you live with love in the forefront! Hang in there, all of you. Such a tough situation, all around.
I am so, so sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t think anyone considers Parvo when rescuing a stray dog. You gave Red a beautiful gift of love during his final days. Just imagine how sad it would have been for him to be out there sick and alone. Oh and how sad to receive the tag from the post man. I have cried more over dogs than people. They really do take over your heart. I think Red will always be looking over you repaying your unconditional love.