dog rescue, euthanasia, foster dogs, fostering, oph, parvo, puppies

The Lessons of Parvo

I’m not sure where to begin to write about this odyssey that began two weeks ago today and is still not over. I’ll try not to ramble, but I’m running on fumes after having spent the night in the puppy pen. I did catch a few hours sleep with puppies nestled against me (or Beethoven sprawled across my neck!).

I didn’t know a lot about parvo before this began—probably what most dog rescue people know. It’s a highly contagious virus that can be lethal, especially to unvaccinated puppies. But now I know so much more.

Parvo is complicated and unpredictable. When they say it is a rollercoaster, they mean it. There have been abrupt turns, long seemingly unendless climbs, the brief rush of good followed by hope squashed before it’s even seen the light of day.

We’ve lost four of our eight puppies now and as I write this, I am waiting to hear how Benji’s night went at the hospital in Virginia.

For those of you, who like I was at the start of this, are relatively uneducated about parvo, let me share some of what I have learned.

Unvaccinated puppies are always at risk everywhere.

An unvaccinated puppy is any puppy who isn’t two weeks past having had all THREE of their vaccines. Having one does not protect you –these puppies had one vaccine and broke with parvo the day before their booster shot was due. Once rescued, they had not been taken to places with unvaccinated dogs. Every effort was made to protect them each step of their journey here. They appeared incredibly healthy and happy right up to the moment when they weren’t.

If you have a puppy, until two weeks after that third shot your puppy is in grave danger at all times – and you should never forget that. Do you really know your friend’s dog has been vaccinated this year? Are you absolutely sure the relative coming to visit with their dog has had that dog vaccinated regularly? Are you willing to risk your puppy’s life because you want to take him for a hike on a popular trail where other dog’s you know nothing about have traveled?

Now that I’ve seen parvo up close and the ungodly devastation it unleashes, my parting words for any adopter will be much scarier.

And as a footnote, it’s not just puppies. While I was waiting for word on my puppies at Blue Ridge Animal Hospital, OPH was dealing with another parvo case. This one involved a one year old dog who arrived off transport three days ago with symptoms and eventually had to be humanely euthanized. If my puppies’ experience hasn’t illustrated—parvo kills.

Vaccinate your dogs.

Every. Year. Do not put off that vet appointment or grumble about the cost. The cost of treating parvo and possibly losing your dog completely eclipses the $40 you might have to spend to take your dog to the vet and have him vaccinated. DAPP, a yearly vaccine (after a series of three vaccines for puppies) inoculates your dog against Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvo. It’s not optional, it’s critical. It is lifesaving.

Parvo is unpredictable and aggressive. When the puppies first came down with parvo, everything I read and everything I was told was that if they survived the first three or four days, their prognosis was good.  A week was the normal length of time for parvo.

We are two weeks today from the first symptom with Hooch, who was euthanized five days after he broke with parvo when it was clearly killing him. Toto was euthanized six days after his first symptom. He’d been to the hospital once and came home, seemed to be recovering before crashing and never recovering.

Despite every effort to bleach, clean, protect, the rest followed – Lassie, Beethoven, Winn-Dixie, Enzo, Otis, and then Benji. Everyone went to the hospital and after a night or two was released, only to relapse and end up back in the hospital despite our round the clock care, sub-Q fluids, medications for nausea, and antibiotics. No one could keep anything down and not long after that we learned that on top of parvo, they had coccidia, a nasty parasite relatively common in puppies that attacks the intestines and causes diarrhea.

With Lassie and Beethoven hospitalized and critical, news that Toto would likely have to be euthanized, and the other four here with me failing fast, I reached my lowest point. In fact, I messaged our director and said I wanted to have a call with her and the medical coordinator and talk about euthanizing them all. I was watching the puppies in my care suffer so terribly, tortured by the pain in their guts, unable to keep anything down – painkillers, antibiotics, probiotics, nausea meds, food, even water. I couldn’t bear it.

That day I drove my four puppies to a hospital in Virginia to be treated. Mason-Dixon, the hospital nearby where Lassie and Beethoven were, was not open during the weekdays, but had continued to treat our puppies thanks to vets and techs who volunteered to come in and care for them. We couldn’t ask them to take on the other four.

I left my puppies at the ER and cried the entire nearly two hour drive home. I had so many questions but most of them came down to why? Why these sweet pups? Why was it not following the ‘normal’ parvo pattern? Why was I so unprepared for this? Why had these puppies been put in this situation? Why had they been abandoned in a dog pound when they were so vulnerable? Why haven’t we figured out how to treat parvo effectively after so many years?

The other questions I think about as I don’t sleep at night are– Is it crazy to spend twenty, even thirty thousand dollars to save a few puppies? How do you justify that? How many other dogs could we save with that money? And–What if they all die anyway?

Except for that drive home from Virginia, I’ve managed to mostly push my emotions aside. Every time they threaten, I carefully place them neatly in a box to the side of my mind, and close the lid. I know that when this is all said and done, I will need to open that box and work my way through them. But for now, there is no time for tears. Right now I need to help the remaining puppies in my care—nursing them back to health and getting them safely home to their adopters.

And I need to help this rescue raise the money to cover these medical bills so they can continue to save animals moving forward; so they can justify the expense; and so they won’t be afraid to go all-out the next time there are dogs in crisis or puppies being ravaged by this evil disease.

And when we are on the other side of this, I need to continue the work we started with Who Will Let the Dogs Out and fight for change so that there are not dog pounds filled with unwanted puppies who are unprotected not just from parvo, but from the apathy of humankind.

Spending all this money to save a puppy? Maybe it’s crazy, but maybe it’s also a testament to the value we place on a life—even the tiniest in our midst. Maybe working this hard and sacrificing so much makes us more human. At least the kind of human I want to be.

If you’d like to read the whole story, you can find it on our fundraiser on Facebook and I’ve also pasted it at the end of this blog.

Meanwhile, if you can help, please donate, comment, share, tell somebody. Here are two ways to help:

Visit the fundraiser on Facebook, donate and/or share it.

Donate directly to the rescue. (please write ‘for Movie Mutts medical bills’ in the notes)

Thanks for reading!


For information on me, my writing, and books, visit where you can also find more information on my recently released book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020), and my upcoming novel, Blind Turn.

If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link to our brand new podcast!

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. It’s available anywhere books are sold.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at

Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact:

Help Save Hooch /Help the Movie Mutts

I started this fundraiser thinking we were just trying to help OPH save Hooch, not even knowing that he had parvo, as his first test was negative. It started out as the Help Save Hooch Fundraiser but is now the Help the Movie Mutts Fundraiser, and still active on Facebook with updates daily until it closes on December 12. Here are the entries to date in their entirety.


You people are amazing! Thank you so much. Latest on Hooch’s condition: although he tested negative for parvo, his blood work is consistent with parvo so they are treating it as such. His white blood cell count is in the basement. He’ll be there definitely overnight and likely much longer. We’re hoping for some news later tonight after meds have a chance to work, but parvo is a rollercoaster so hang on tight. I will update when I know more.


Just brought ToTo to the ER. Same symptoms as Hooch. Hooch is holding his own but his blood sugar tanked last night and they treated it and are hoping it doesn’t happen again. He will be here another night and I’m waiting to find out if they will admit ToTo. I raised the goal for this fundraiser to 4K but it will likely go higher, especially if more puppies break with parvo. Thank you to everyone for your donations, your support, and most especially your prayers.

Friday evening update:

First, the good news- ToTo is doing well. He just escaped his icu tub! He’s even drinking on his own and seems to like his gruel. We are going to move him to the step down unit (a crate set up in my office with the kittens, where he can share their space heater).

Now the not good news:

I am currently at the ER with Lassie. She began losing energy late this afternoon and then would not eat dinner. I think we caught this one really early so I’m hopeful that she won’t need to be admitted and I’ll be bringing her home to the icu tub tonight.

Now the bad news:

Hooch is really struggling. He’s not able to eat and is feeling really horrible. They are treating him very aggressively and the tech I spoke with was hopeful and assured me that they are doing everything they can. They took ToTo in to see him when he was here this morning and he thumped his tail and touched noses with him.

I mentioned to the receptionist that I hoped she wouldn’t get to meet the other five puppies and she said, ‘This is parvo, there’s a pretty good chance I will.’

Please continue your prayers and thank you to everyone who has donated to our mounting medical bill.


Sunday morning update:

This is a very hard update to give you.

Last night the rescue had to make the painful decision to euthanize Hooch. He was in too much pain and losing blood with no hope for recovery. I was able to hold him as they released him from his suffering.

This is heartbreaking but it is the reality of rescue. That said, it shouldn’t be this way. Our country needs to fix this. I wish I had some kind of good news to give you to counter this, but right now it’s in short supply.

ToTo was admitted to the hospital early this morning. He is struggling and literally disappearing before my eyes. He is such a sweet boy with a happy spirit that I hope will get him thru this.

I took Enzo, Winn-Dixie, Benji, and Otis over to the ER a few hours ago to be evaluated as none were eating and all were sluggish. Enzo and Winn-Dixie had high parvo numbers and have been admitted. I will return to get Benji and Otis this afternoon after they are treated.

At home, Lassie and Beethoven are holding steady – not worse but not better.

OPH has authorized the hospital to try several expensive measures if they seem warranted to save their lives. I’m so very grateful to be part of an organization willing to do what many rescues cannot. I’ve upped the fundraiser goal in an attempt to help offset those expenses, but the cost will undoubtedly be higher.

These pups and the people treating them at the hospital can use your prayers.


Monday morning update:

Everyone says that parvo is a roller coaster, and it certainly feels like one.

Yesterday afternoon, Otis and Benji were released from the hospital and came home to join Lassie and Beethoven in the puppy room. They were lethargic, but seemed happy to be here.

The tech who brought them out to me said that Winn-Dixie and Enzo were doing well too, but they wouldn’t eat and they had high numbers so that was why they stayed. She also told me that Toto was really struggling and that we would likely have to make a decision about him in the evening.

At home, we gave fluids to Lassie and Beethoven, plus pain meds, and another medicine to help protect their intestinal tract (where the parvo attacks). By evening though, Lassie was struggling. She couldn’t keep anything down and, despite the fluids we gave, seemed dehydrated. She was anxious and wandering the pen aimlessly, with such a look of confusion on her face. I held her for long periods, but ultimately we decided to take her back to the hospital where they admitted her.

Thankfully, ToTo was still holding his own, and we were not forced to make a hard decision – please keep praying for him if you are a prayer. He is in very, very bad shape and the next 12 hours will be critical.

This morning, Otis, Benji, and Beethoven were in good spirits – lots of tail wags at the site of me. Beethoven is in the worst shape, but that makes sense as the pattern seems to be that they get worse in the order they broke with parvo. Hoping with meds and fluids that we can keep him out of the hospital today.

At the hospital Winn-Dixie and Enzo are doing great – apparently ‘bouncing off the walls’, so I will pick them up around noon. Lassie and Toto were still holding their own.

But, as if the news isn’t bad enough for these puppies, the hospital discovered that they have coccidia (a parasite that is relatively common in puppies but a tough one to get rid of that causes diarrhea). All of the puppies have been treated now.

I just wish they could catch a break. I desperately don’t want to lose another.

THANK YOU for your prayers and to everyone who has donated via this fundraiser and directly to OPH. I’ve long since stopped worrying about how much this is costing – and am just fighting hard to save these pups, but knowing that money is coming in to help with the astronomical costs makes me teary-grateful every time I check. You’re the best.


Tuesday Morning Update:

We are holding steady – no great improvements, but thankfully no great nosedives either.

Enzo and Winn-Dixie came home yesterday. They had been doing great at the hospital. They arrived full of energy and slowly deflated. IV fluids make quite a difference. Like the others, they vomit up most anything I put in, so it is a minute by minute battle to get the meds they need into them.

Caring for them is a logistical challenge as they are on multiple meds (antibiotics, pain meds, gastro meds, nausea meds) that have to be given at certain intervals with certain restrictions, plus I’m syringe feeding everyone since no one is voluntarily putting anything in their mouths—except water! Which is a great victory. Winn-Dixie, Enzo, and Benji are drinking on their own. The others will get fluids again today.

Timing out who can get what, when, plus holding them for ten minutes after each med (because most of them won’t vomit if they don’t move after I give their meds), is challenging my exhausted mind, but we are getting through and sometimes I think those minutes holding each puppy are healing for me as much as them.

Lassie and Toto are still at the emergency vet’s even though they are technically closed during the day. Big shout out to Mason Dixon Emergency Animal Shelter (can’t seem to make that link live, but I’ll post in the comments) for going above and beyond to help us save these babies. This morning reports said that they are also holding steady there.

We are still in need of your prayers (and your donations if you can spare them) as we are far from out of the woods. I’m so grateful for the massive prayer net I know is encircling these pups, and the kind words and good wishes you have been sending to me. For now, I’m fine. I’m dealing with the situation in front of me and keeping emotions in a separate box I’ll take out at some later date when this is over.

These puppies are incredibly strong and I am so hopeful that we will find the other side of this together and they will go to forever homes where they will be cherished even more because of this journey, and have long, happy, loved lives.


Wednesday update:

Things are incredibly grim. I am so desperate to help these pups, but very little is doing any good and they all continue to go downhill.

Lassie and ToTo were not improving at all at the hospital, and their white blood cell counts were plummeting so a plasma treatment was done overnight. There are signs that this may be helping, today will tell.

Beethoven was admitted to the hospital late last night and he will get a plasma treatment today.

I am currently at Blue Ridge vet in Purcellville, VA with Winn-Dixie, Otis, Enzo, and Benji. They are all struggling and in need of hospitalization.

To be honest, I am losing hope. It is so hard to watch them suffer, and I am beginning to wonder what is the most humane thing to do here.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support and donations- maybe the only thing that makes this bearable is knowing how much love and support is being sent to these pups.

We are doing all we can but this is beginning to feel as if it is out of our hands.


Thursday update:

We lost Toto last night.

Toto was the happiest little pup – that tail never stopped wagging. I really thought after we brought him home from the first visit to the hospital and he climbed out of my ICU bathtub, that he was going to make it. I am simply beyond heartbroken. He deserved better and would have been the BEST dog for some lucky family.

Lassie is much the same, but her white blood cell count has gone up, so that’s a good sign that her body is starting to fight the virus. She will get another plasma treatment today and hopefully, that will give her more strength to fight on.

Beethoven responded well to his plasma treatment yesterday, and while still critical he was getting up and wagging his tail today – a happy spot in my very sad morning.

I have not yet gotten a report on the pups in the hospital in Virginia. I will update again after I do, but wanted to let you know how things are going.

Our bills keep rising with every plasma treatment, but those treatments might be the key to saving their lives, and I am so, so grateful that I foster for a rescue willing to do whatever it takes to save these precious puppies. If you can help at all, please do. It’s impossible to put a price on a life, but right now I would do anything and pay anything to save these babies.

More later.

Here is the link to the video of Toto in my ICU tub last Saturday:

Thursday evening update:

The four pups at Blue Ridge hospital are not doing well. They are getting a second plasma treatment but the next 12-24 hours will be critical.

The news from Mason Dixon hospital is a little better. Lassie’s spirits are up and she is smelling food (not eating it, but interested), although she is still passing blood.

Beethoven is holding his own- not worse, but not better.

This is obviously an incredibly wicked strain of Parvo and what we need now is a miracle.

I did want to share something I learned today- Mason Dixon hospital is not open during the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday(they are open for emergencies overnight), but they took care of our pups around the clock this week. The reason they were able to do that is because their vets and techs volunteered their time to come in to help try to save our pups.

Money to help pay the mounting bills is still coming in and hundreds of people have offered up prayers and positive energy and virtual love.

So many people are pulling for these pups and while this is an awful, tragic situation it is also a beautiful example of the generosity of humankind.

Thank you. I hope tomorrow I can bring you better news.


Friday Morning Update:

And finally…some good news!

Lassie is eating on her own, no blood in her stools, and her white blood cell count is nearly normal! There is even a rumor she could come home as soon as tonight.

I cannot tell you the relief my heart feels at this news. I was up again and again in the night, certain I heard my phone ring, so sure it would be our medical coordinator telling me that Lassie was gone.

You see, the puppies have died (so far) in the order in which they got sick. First Hooch, then Toto, which meant that Lassie was next and when there was no good news from the hospital yesterday, I was terrified for Lassie.

And if Lassie died, my mind was already reeling towards the end for all of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed so hard and so steadily- it has become like breathing.

But Lassie is up and eating and I’m ready to hang on to hope.

Beethoven, who is also hospitalized nearby is holding steady. His white blood cell count is creeping up. They are giving him tubal feedings today. Bottomline- he is not worse.

And I just got the report on the puppies in the Virginia hospital. Otis, my favorite (I’ve been guarding that secret all this time!) is also eating! Enzo and Benji are ‘hanging in there.’ Winn-Dixie is still failing, so they are adding an additional med to her regime, and contemplating other options, although they are running out of them.

I’m so grateful to all of you for praying and caring and cheering us on – it is making a difference. As are your donations.

Laurie, the director of the rescue, told me this morning that this is the most expensive vet bill the rescue has ever incurred in ten years of operation. We are currently at 20K and it will continue to go up by the thousands every day that the puppies are hospitalized.

I know we could talk about what that money could do elsewhere within the rescue. I’ve thought a lot about it. I know that we can’t save every dog, but how do we give up on puppies who have suffered so much already? If there is any chance that they can survive, then Laurie said we will continue to fight for them. I am awed by this woman, her leadership, and her heart.

I don’t want this rescue to handicap OPH or prevent it from saving other lives. So, I would be incredibly grateful if you could share this fundraiser far and wide. If everyone gives just a little, then maybe we can save the remaining puppies.

And if you are uncomfortable giving via Facebook, you can always donate directly to the rescue (and indicate it is for the ‘Movie Mutts’ in the notes) at

Thank you



Saturday morning update:

I keep postponing writing this because I wanted good news to share. When people say parvo is a roller coaster, they are not kidding. Nick pointed out when I mentioned this that I hate roller coasters. I do. Even more so now.

This morning Lassie is once again throwing up. Beethoven’s white blood cell count is nearly normal, but he is depressed and not doing well. We’ve made the decision to bring them both home at the end of their next 24 hours (we pay for their stays in 24 hour increments), so as to not continue to rack up bills, but also because it’s possible that being home and getting constant attention will help them find the motivation to fight this.

For me, getting them home, no matter which way this goes, gives me the chance to be certain they know they are loved and cherished. You can bet that if these puppies pull through this, their adopters will be dealing with incredibly spoiled puppies.

The news from Blue Ridge was not a whole lot better, with the exception of Otis who continues to improve — eating kibble this morning, and even barking! He will move to Randy and Annette’s, another OPH foster family who have experience with parvo and live close to the hospital down there in case there is a relapse.

Enzo and Benji are about the same, which I am going to take as good news. This particular strain of parvo is a marathon not a sprint. If they aren’t getting worse, to my mind, they are fighting.

Winn-Dixie is in pretty bad shape; the rescue and the hospital are contemplating if anything else can be done.

That’s where things stand. I so desperately wish I had good news for you. Please continue to pray and please continue to share this fundraiser. If we can raise a good portion of the money needed to cover this vet bill, it makes it easier for the rescue to continue to fight. I know this is an agonizing decision for leadership –they don’t want to give up on these puppies, but they also respect that a lot of people have invested their emotions and their money and there is a limit to how much we can ask for.

Thank you for your support, your understanding, and your continued prayers.

I will try to update later to let you know how the day plays out.


Early Sunday morning update:

All the puppies remain hospitalized.

Otis is ready to go home but Blue Ridge was slammed and unable to get him ready in time for his foster to pick him up, so they kept him another night and he will go home this morning. He is good for his siblings who are still struggling. Winn-Dixie is having the hardest time and I’ve been expecting a dreaded call regarding her.

Up here, Lassie and Beethoven also remain at the hospital but should be released today. Lassie has been on dextrose to keep her blood sugar up and they needed to get her off that first. Beethoven needed to be taken off a feeding tube. I want to believe these things weren’t done because the hospital was so busy and not because they weren’t ready.

It’s been decided that they need to leave together, so if they aren’t both ready today, we’ll have to evaluate that. The techs tell us that when one is removed to be treated, the other becomes seriously distressed.

So this is no real news but I wanted to catch you up. Hopefully, later this morning I will have real news.

My puppy room is ready. I have the space heater going, their favorite toys set out, and a cozy bed in place. Physically, we are ready, but it’s much harder to prepare emotionally. I brought too many puppies home from the hospital in the last week only to have them relapse, struggle, and go back. All I can do is the best I can do, that’s been my mantra thru this. As soon as the puppies are ready I will go get them.

It has been 12 days since this started and feels like much longer. This is not the ordinary course of parvo- like so much else this year, this was unexpected and unprecedented. It’s hard not to feel under seige. Thank you for the love and hope and generosity you have been showering on us- it makes this bearable.

Sunday afternoon update:

Ready for some good news? I’ve got some.

Otis (pictured) is home with Annette and Randy recovering. Annette reports that he is doing great, wanted to meet the big dogs, had a snack, and is now resting. Sigh. A balm to my soul.

Benji is doing well at Blue Ridge and we hope he will join Otis in 24-48 hours if he continues to do well.

Lassie has been off the dextrose since last night and is maintaining her sugars. She’s doing great and ‘bouncing all over and pulled out her own catheter’. Her white blood cell count is normal. She is eating on her own and keeping it down.

Beethoven is also bouncing back. He removed his feeding tube himself (as well as his catheter), is eating solid food, and his white blood cell count is normal.

They are putting both Lassie and Beethoven on oral meds today and watching them, but if all goes well, they will come home tonight!

That is all the wonderful news, but I have very sad news too.

Winn-Dixie has developed aspiration pneumonia on top of the parvo. She is suffering terribly and we will need to make a decision very soon. It’s only fair to her. It just about kills me to be so far away from her. I wish I could see her and explain, but I know she is in good hands.

Enzo is the same – not worse, but not better. He is holding on. I’m still hopeful that he will fight this, but I also know the reality of this vicious disease.

I’ve brought all of these puppies home from the hospital at one point in the last 12 days, only to have to take them back, so it is hard to trust this. I will be holding my breath.

Please continue to pray for these pups and for the leadership at OPH to make these hard choices and for the veterinarians and techs who are caring for these babies.

I cannot thank you enough for your ongoing support – it is carrying me through. And I’m super grateful also to Annette and Randy for welcoming Otis and keeping him safe so he can recover.

It is a bittersweet day, but maybe, just maybe, we are reaching the end of this battle.


Monday morning update (part one):

Ian and I picked up Lassie and Beethoven this morning. They look pretty rough, but seem happy to be here. They’re incredibly skinny and tire easily, but full of kisses and happy to be snuggled.

They will need lots of care — fluids twice daily, multiple meds, careful feedings, and lots of clean up, as the diarrhea persists.

But…they are here and they are healing. I’ve been in this spot before – bringing home puppies that were ‘better’ only to rush them back to the hospital a day or two later, so I will be holding my breath, and basically living in the puppy room for a while.

I’m so grateful to Dr. Longbottom and the staff at Mason Dixon Animal Emergency Hospital. They have worked so hard and invested so much in our pups, doing everything they can to keep our costs down, while giving the pups the best care possible. Southern York County is so lucky they decided to open up shop here.

It is a good morning, but I know we have a long way to go.

I’ve gotten reports from Otis’ foster that he had the zoomies this morning and last night they sent an adorable video of Otis playing with their cat (who is bigger than him!) He’s in excellent capable hands, and doing great.

I will update you on the pups at Blue Ridge in VA, as soon as I know how things stand down there.

Thanks for your persistent love and support. So many people are pulling for these pups and we are beyond grateful for your support.


Monday afternoon update:

This is an update I do not want to write. It has been such a bittersweet day. So much joy this morning with Lassie and Beethoven’s return home mixed with immense sadness at the news that overnight Winn-Dixie was euthanized.

In the end, she was in too much pain and her prognosis was just so bad. Parvo weakens the immune system and there was no way Winny could beat pneumonia on top of parvo. I am grateful that we ended her pain but so unbearably sad that she suffered so much. I’m also grateful that these decisions are not mine to make.

This afternoon, the rescue also made the decision to euthanize Enzo. He had developed ulcers in his mouth and his recent bloodwork indicated that he had likely developed them internally as well. The only hope was another blood transfusion (his third) but it was impossible to even put in a line. It was time to end his suffering.

During this experience, I have developed a new awareness of what Laurie, our director, and Tracy, our medical coordinator, go through leading OPH. There is so much pressure to make impossible decisions weighing so many pieces — the animals, the medical resources, the fosters, the volunteers, the adopters, the board, and the financial cost. I’ve told Tracy multiple times, “I would not want your job in a million years.”

I know they always put the animals first in every decision, but our resources are limited. They’ve taken a huge risk financially by trying to save these puppies. The cost will likely reach 30K. Is it worth it? Will we save them?

I know it is worth it because I am looking at these beautiful puppies in my mudroom and I know the great joy they will bring to this world. More than that, trying to save them says that we value life – every life.

I still don’t know the answer to the question of will we save them. I am still riding this parvo rollercoaster, and watching every move these puppies make.

Benji remains hospitalized but is doing well. We hope he will be able to go home to Randy and Annette’s tonight and join his brother Otis in that fun dog house where they know too well the tragedy of parvo. And where they will undoubtedly tell you that yes, it is worth it.

Thank you for all your support. Please continue to share this story, not only to help us raise money to pay the rescue’s staggering vet bill, but also to educate everyone on the dangers of parvo.

If you are uncomfortable donating via Facebook, you can also donate directly to the rescue (designate ‘for Movie Mutts medical bills’ in your notes):



11 thoughts on “The Lessons of Parvo”

  1. I am so so sorry. I have seen this before. A few years ago a family member had a darling puppy and I was so worried about parvo, which is endemic in the area we lived in then. It’s in the soil, in the grass and all over. I gave her enough money to take him in and get him vaccinated. She spent the money on something else. I was just sick about it. A few weeks later she told me her friend who had one of the pups from the same litter was at vet’s with parvo. I just knew the little pup of my family member was going down soon. Sure enough, she contacted me two days later begging for the vet money to try to save him. The vet wanted $800 cash up front to even admit the puppy. (And that was 25 years ago.) It was a very hard decision but I said no. I knew saving that puppy was unlikely, he would suffer a lot and probably die anyway and I would be left without funds for grocery money and mortgage and it wasn’t even my dog! I still mourn that cute little fellow. And no, he did not make it. She gave him up to a rescue associated with the vet who tried to save him over three days but in the end euthanized him.

    Parvo is beyond terrible. I suspect your puppies were even worse off because of the coccidia which is a battle all in itself. Even without coccidia statistically speaking you would have lost two or three pups no matter what you did. With the coccidia, well I just shudder. At least you don’t have to live with the guilt of maybe, if I had done more, if I paid out that $800++ money, if I had been meaner and bossier and took the puppy in myself instead of giving her money, if, if, if. I still think about that poor little guy who was one of the cutest pups I’ve ever known.

    When I got my sweet puppy three years ago, she had already had one shot. We kept her in isolation for the next nine weeks until she had two more shots and we breathed a sigh of relief when that second week after the third shot passed. Parvo is a demon. Parvo is a nightmare.

    You deserve much praise for saving as many puppies as you did.

    Again I am so very sorry about this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your story – parvo is indeed a demon. I think you made the only choice you could make back then in regards to your friend’s puppy. it is such an expensive and too often, losing, fight. All we can do is keep educating people, and making an example of taking care of our puppies well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience with us through this post and the posts from the Facebook page that you copied and pasted into this post too. I’ve been wondering how the puppies are doing, so glad you updated us today. I like how you’ve named one of them Beethoven; my late dad had a dog with that name (he liked naming his dogs after classical music composers as he liked classical music as I also do), and my step-brother and his now ex-wife had a dog named Otis back in the early nineties. So, just as you shared your favorite puppy out of this current litter, I guess my two favorites are Otis and Beethoven. Sorry to hear that you lost half of this litter during this long battle, but I’m glad that all of the puppies are being well cared for. How nice of the Virginian animal hospital’s doctors and techs to volunteer their time helping this litter and both vet offices trying to keep costs down. Sounds like they’re all for the rescue and care of rescued animals. Keep us posted on how things go this next week. Can people also donate money towards the puppies’ vet bills to OPH via snail mail? If so, could you share OPH’s mailing address? All the best as you continue to fight this Parvo battle.


    1. Thanks Ana, and thanks for asking about snail mail donations – here’s that info (and anyone donating should indicate in a note that it is for the ‘movie mutts medical bills’:

      To make a gift by check, please make your check payable to Operation Paws for Homes and mail to

      Operation Paws for Homes
      P.O. Box 35606
      N. Chesterfield, VA 23235


      1. This was the last post in which you shared updates from the Movie Mutt’s fundraiser page. And yes, in keeping with my earlier comment on your more recent post about the puppies, it was from the afternoon of December seventh. As my twelfth grade English teacher liked to say, and a saying I like to apply to my life to this day, if you make a claim, back it up.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. With every paragraph, another tear falls and my heart twists into an unbearable aching. I’m so very sorry Cara. These sweet babies didn’t deserve this and I so wish I could magically make this horrible nightmare disappear. Please know you and the remaining puppies are receiving all possible healing energy I can muster. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so sorry! Parvo in puppies is so awful, as those sweet little babes don’t deserve to suffer from anything, much less such a nasty and often deadly disease. And it’s so heartbreaking to have to witness it. Thank you for all you have done for them. I sent you my small donation, which I know is just a drop in the bucket. I hope you get more drops.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m currently holding my 1.9pd parvo chihuahua Gizmo he was on the hospital a week and is recovering I didn’t even have time to get his shots(came from the kennel). I wanted to know if your pups were wobbly when they came home he seems sad. He is licking us and wags his tail. We are keeping him warm and hydrated he is eating and taking vitamins. Poop is getting back to normal


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