This weekend we bleached the puppy fences, the crate, and the baby gate that we used with our ‘parvo pups’ last fall one last time and finally stowed them in the attic of the garage. They’d been wiped down with bleach last fall and then left stacked in the corner of our stone porch all winter. Even though they’d been bleached once, I was still wary of them. So afraid that in a crevice or a hinge, parvo virus still lingered.
Last December after the puppies were gone, we threw out the towels and toys and yoga mats we used in the puppy room, tore out the floor, burned the stool I sat on in the pen, along with the spacer boards that kept the fences from touching the walls. We painted the walls, ceiling, and baseboards with Kilz, and then another coat of paint, repeatedly bleached the tile that was beneath the vinyl flooring, the hallway floor outside the room and the bathroom and fixtures where I washed my hands after handling the puppies.
And still I worry.
It seems so long ago now—those nightmare weeks when my beautiful puppies were struck down by parvo. We lost four of eight, despite doing all that could be done and the rescue incurring its largest vet bill ever in its more than ten-year history.
In January, Ian, Nancy, and I interviewed two of the veterinarians and a tech from Mason-Dixon Animal Hospital who handled our sick puppies. Here is a little of that interview. I asked Dr. Longbottom to explain what parvovirus is….
I’m so glad that OPH insists that we follow ‘puppy protocols.’ This means that the puppies cannot be placed on grass or any unbleachable surface until they pass the 9 day mark, the window for when they could still potentially break with parvo. That means nine days of picking up every poop and puppy pad and carrying them outside to the trash can we used only for puppies. It meant changing my shoes and washing my hands before I went in/out of the puppy room. It meant laundering the towels and toys with bleach, coming up with ways to give the puppies enrichment despite being kept in their tiny pen, and being ever mindful of everything that went in or out of the puppy pen.
These puppies had been in a foster home before coming to our house, so I pressed the puppy coordinator on the protocol this time, asking if we could skip it. She insisted no, reminding me that without being fully vaccinated they were vulnerable and could still pick it up on transport, plus it hadn’t been quite nine days out of the shelter yet. I recalled that conversation often as the nightmare progressed, her words haunting me.
I don’t know where they picked up the virus–it could have come north from any of the places they had been—the shelter, the foster home, the vet’s office, the transport, or even here in our puppy room. The more I learn about this horrifying virus, the more I realize any of those scenarios is possible. It’s a stubborn, evil virus that is nearly impossible to completely prevent. I became acutely aware of how lucky I am to have fostered nearly 200 dogs and never have encountered it until now.
Our puppies were cared for with great love both at Mason-Dixon and Blue Ridge Veterinary hospitals. When we visited Mason-Dixon for our interview, Jessy, one of the techs who worked with our puppies, told me how Tito was her favorite and that she was the one who was holding him when he was euthanized. Hearing her say that brought tears to my eyes. His death has haunted me, I worried that he died alone and it broke my heart. Hearing Jessy tell of how much she loved him, brought such relief and gratitude.
At the end of our interview Dr. Parr gave us a tour of the isolation room where all of our puppies had spent time.
Parvo is a reality of rescue. Many rescues, including OPH when it began over a decade ago, learn about the dangers the hard way. Too often, still, well-meaning, good people attempt to rescue puppies but fail to keep them safe along the way. The vets nodded knowingly as we talked about how often it happens. Puppies lives are saved from euthanasia in a shelter only to die later when they come north carrying the deadly virus or picking it up along the way. Parvo is spread by touch—everyone who handles them must take precautions like wearing/changing gloves, bleaching or throwing out anything that could potentially pass on the virus—clothing, toys, etc., but also shoes that can track the virus and hands that can inadvertently spread the virus everywhere they touch.
Here is a clip of Dr. Longbottom on how fosters and rescues can prevent parvo:
It was an odd parallel battling parvo at the same time that our world was battling covid. It reminded me how fragile we all are—how invisible forces have the power to wreck lives. For a while this winter, I was shell-shocked, certain everything was a danger. I spent so much time wondering and worrying about what I had done and not done, how we could have prevented the outcome, but then I realized that we did everything we could do, but we were up against a powerful force. I developed a mantra of, ‘all we can do is all we can do.’
And I still believe that, but we also have an obligation to learn from tragedies like this. Those beautiful puppies—Hooch, Tito, Winn-Dixie, and Enzo—cannot have died in vain. We must do better. We must work harder to not just increase veterinary access and the importance of spay/neuter, but we must also be smart and vigilant in our rescue efforts. We can’t be lazy or trust luck to get us through. We must practice the very best protocols to keep all our dogs safe. And when those protocols aren’t enough, we must be ready to bear the cost, whether it is financial or emotional.
It’s been a long, hard winter for this heart. I am so grateful that I foster for a rescue that was willing to step up in a crisis, and even more grateful for my dog-loving community who generously made it possible for them to risk so much in our fight for these puppies.
One of the readers of this blog who often offers insightful and curious comments on my posts asked that I post the entire journey of our battle to save these puppies (originally posted of the Facebook fundraiser), so you will find that at the end of this post. It’s long and heartbreaking, so I also understand if you don’t want to dip your heart into it at the moment. Still, it’s important that the story be preserved, if it can prevent even one future tragedy.
You may remember my very first post about these special puppies. They were the ‘Movie Mutts’ and were saved as part of the documentary film project I’m working on through Who Will Let the Dogs Out in partnership with Farnival Films. We are in the final stages of creating the film and preparing to enter it in film festivals. To raise the funds to finish, I created a Kickstarter campaign.
If you haven’t visited it yet, please do. And I have one more request—please share the Kickstarter with your own circles of influence. We have only until March 31 to raise the rest of the money, if we don’t, we won’t get any of it. That’s the way kickstarters work. Yes, I’m a bit anxious about reaching our goal, but I’m also certain that my dog-hearted community will once again step up and help.
Thanks for reading!
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my 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 latest novel, Blind Turn (Black Rose Writing, Jan 2021)
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 WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link to our 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com.
The following is a re-print of the updates given during our battle with parvovirus:
(note: this is copied directly from the fundraiser on Facebook, so I apologize if there seems to be a lot of mention of donations. If you are moved to donate now, please consider backing the kickstarter for the film that will feature these puppies and the heroes who fight to save lives in the dog pounds of Tennessee. The link to the Kickstarter is here.)
Help Save Hooch Fundraiser/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.
Thursday November 26:
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.
Friday November 27:
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 likely go higher, especially if more puppies break with parvo. Thank you to everyone fir 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 November 29:
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 November 30:
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 an 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 December 1:
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 December 2:
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 December 3:
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.
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 December 4:
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.
Saturday December 5:
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.
Sunday December 6:
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 underseige. 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 December 17:
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.
Tuesday, Dec 8:
I’ve put off writing this update because I had hoped to be able to tell you that all the pups were out of the hospital, but as of this moment, Benji is still at Blue Ridge. They are weaning him off his IV meds and making sure he can handle oral meds. If all goes well, hopefully, he will move to Randy and Annette’s tonight.
Otis continues to thrive with them, gaining strength and reclaiming his adorable personality.
Lassie and Beethoven are doing fairly well here. They are skeletal and still having diarrhea. They tire easily and crave my constant attention. Their appetites wax and wane, but I try to offer them small meals often – they are a lot like people recovering from starvation, so we have to take it slow and not overwhelm their fragile little systems.
They are handling their fluids really well and each comfort the other when its their turn. They are tightly bonded and usually sleep curled up together, regardless of whether one or the other is getting fluids.
Today Beethoven is brighter than he’s been and he seems to be gaining strength faster than Lassie. I would not say that either of them has ‘bounced back’ as everyone tells me parvo pups do, but they are hopefully on the path.
Last night after their midnight meds and fluids, I brought a sleeping bag into the puppy pen and slept with them for a little while – I just didn’t want them to stress out (which they often do when I leave them). They both wanted to snuggle close – Beethoven insisting on laying across my neck and Lassie beside my ear.
Miraculously, I did sleep for a few hours, maybe because I was so exhausted, or maybe because the soft sound of puppy snoring is just about the happiest sound I know lately.
Thanks for your continued support and your prayers for all of the pups – but most especially Benji. I hope to be back with good news about him soon.
Our fundraiser is inching its way towards the goal. In the end, that number will likely only cover 2/3rds of the final bill. I am so very hopeful we will reach it, not just because I know how much the rescue needs to cover this bill, but because I don’t want them to shy away from saving deserving dogs like these puppies next time.
It’s incredible how this rescue community has stepped up – a story I will tell for years to come. You are all definitely my favorite people.
Wednesday Dec 9:
Shssshhh…don’t tell anyone, but….
I think Lassie and Beethoven may have finally turned the proverbial corner! So far today, no vomiting, and we have finally produced (forgive my potty language) recognizable poops instead of puddles. I’ve never been so happy to see puppy poo in my life.
I’m hopeful that we won’t need fluids more than once today. They are eating up a storm – small, calorie-packed meals every three hours.
They are also beginning to play with toys and have a few wobbly wrestling matches and lying down face-wrestling bouts. Beethoven has been dragging beds and blankets around. I’m not sure if he’s trying to redecorate or show off. I’ll try to put a video up soon of them in action.
They are just such skinny creatures – bones poking out all over. I’m anxious to get them fat and healthy again. Both puppies have adopters who have been following along on this odyssey since the beginning. Once they take these puppies home, they plan to meet up for play dates so they can still see each other. They are incredibly bonded–like soldiers who have been to war.
Otis continues to thrive and is enjoying hanging out with the big boys (and the cat!) at Randy and Annette’s.
Benji should go to Annette and Randy’s tomorrow afternoon provided he continues to do well as they put him on oral meds and get all his tubes out, which will hopefully put an end to the climbing vet bills.
I’m afraid to say that we are almost there, but I think we are almost there! Amazing what a real night’s sleep and non-vomiting puppies can do for your outlook.
Thanks for the prayers and support – please don’t let up now. We need a few more days of healing.
Thursday, Dec 10:
A week ago we had six pups hospitalized and had just lost Toto and I was probably at my lowest point. I couldn’t imagine we could be where we are now — I was so convinced we would lose every pup. Now, a week later, I am finally ready to believe that we have saved these four beautiful puppies.
Benji was released from the hospital this afternoon and is now recuperating with his brother Otis and Annette and Randy.
Lassie and Beethoven are doing well – still tire easily, still have a lot of weight to gain, but happy and bright. They are such sweethearts. This entire litter was so people-oriented when they arrived and despite the past two weeks seem even more people-oriented now.
Annette told me that parvo-survivor dogs are ‘old souls’ and I see that even now – they have a grateful air and such a gentle, trusting nature. It is healing to be with them and I can’t wait to see Otis and Benji when we can reunite the four of them. That will be quite the dog party!
Operation Paws For Homes who risked so much to save them.
Friday Dec 11:
Everyone continues to heal. Lassie and Beethoven rest a lot (and it’s hard not to take a million pictures of them). I’m worrying but people who know more than me about parvo advise patience- every puppy bounces back at its own pace.
This fundraiser is supposed to end tomorrow but I will extend the date, partly because we still need money for their bills, and partly so I can continue to update you until they are well.
Benji and Otis are doing great with Randy and Annette. From the pictures they post, it’s clear the pups are lapping up the love and attention.
Lassie met her adopter today and of course, won her over immediately. She came bearing flowers and toys and puppy paste. Lassie and Beethoven LOVE puppy paste! (Which is good because they have yet to achieve their pre-parvo appetites).
I’m trying not to hover, but they may be getting a little spoiled and the puppy room has become my second office. I did a zoom call from there last night and it was much better than toggling between the zoom screen and the puppy cam, and no one minded the puppy fence background or the occasional puppy head popping in.
I can’t stop thanking you for the support you’ve showered on us and the rescue, so thanks again!
Sunday, Dec 13
Picked up Benji and Otis from Annette and Randy this afternoon. They are such an amazing family who have helped countless parvo survivors, plus they have a pack of dogs who seem awfully wise and patient with puppies.
At home, Lassie and Beethoven weren’t quite sure they wanted to share me or their toys but everyone is settling in now and getting rotated through watching the Eagles (stomp on the Saints). with Ian and AJ. There is a marked difference between the two sets of puppies. Beethoven and Lassie are still weak and so, so skinny (Otis lent Lassie his orange sweater). Hopefully their happy energy and enthusiastic appetites will rub off.
Wednesday, Dec 16:
Lassie and Beethoven finally ate well today, competing with Otis and Benji for their meals (instead of being bribed with puppy paste, canned food, and chicken) – 2 meals in a row! so I am hoping this is it- finally turning the corner.
Their energy is up too- Lassie was all-in on the games of tug and Beethoven was back to his old antics of finding ways to escape the puppy pen and baby gates (he had a nice runaround the living room unappreciated by grumpy Gracie).
I’m finally thinking about adopters and adoption day instead of simply surviving the days. Their personalities are back- Otis is the big man on campus, charming puppies, people, and the resident dogs (and foster kittens). Benji is back to being an all-out imp! Stirring up trouble and lavishing us with kisses. Lassie is my darling, always looking for a lap but absolutely holding her own in the tug games with the boys. Beethoven is my Houdini- testing the puppy pen fence and worming his way under the baby gate and then trotting around the house like he owns the place.
I’m so grateful to have these babies here and know these are precious days. They also make me think of Hooch, ToTo, Winn-Dixie, and Enzo, who were just as sweet and special. I’m searching for silver linings- like the number of people who know so much more now about the dangers of parvo and the importance of annual vaccines.
And maybe more importantly the vast number of people who support the work OPH does – the lives saved – canine (feline) and human.
It’s a snowy evening here and I’m thinking of introducing these precious pups to the winter wonderland tomorrow. Please be well and stay safe!
Monday, December 21:
I wanted to share a few numbers with you-
Final vet bill: $32,000
Incredible, I know, gulp.
But here is what is really incredible-
Through this fundraiser, plus direct donations to OPH designated for the medical bills, plus the calendar sales (and matching funds), plus the commissions from the portraits Joanne is doing, you have helped raise over $23,000!
I am blown away at the generosity and support for the puppies and OPH. So much is so hard this year and the parvo attack on top of everything else just seemed like too much, but this experience has restored my faith in the inherent goodness of humans- you people specifically.
I know I keep saying thank you for saving these puppies- and that’s not a reach. If the money hadn’t poured in so quickly and generously from so many people, the rescue could not have gone to the lengths it did to save these pups- they couldn’t have taken that much financial risk.
So it really was YOU who saved them- and for that I am forever grateful.