The short story below tells the tail (tale) of our process of adopting our new puppy Parker. The last week is one that our family will never soon forget. A roller coaster of joys, tears, fears and medications. Even with what we have been through, we would do it all again to save our sick puppy.
For a month now we have contemplated getting a dog. Okay, for more than that time I have wanted a dog, and attempted to convince my husband Lloyd the same. For me, decisions are easy; once I set my mind to something I naturally go out and get it done. For him, decisions need to sink in and time is used in aiding action. This meaning, we met in the middle.
We both knew we would get a rescue dog that was in need of a forever home. We had adopted our cat almost seven years ago, who was found in a tree near the beach. They think she was three years old, making her about 10 today. She was micro-chipped, so when the rescue contacted her owner they figured he would be overjoyed and reunited. What they found was a man no longer interested in taking back a beautiful Russian blue cat. His loss, as we got to adopt her and named her Isabelle (Izzy for short).
For the last six years we lived in a small condo that did not allow dogs. Since moving to our new place, our complex is extremely dog friendly. It is equipped with walking paths and doggie disposal every 25 yards. Since moving in February, I have seen every type of breed imaginable. Since being around so many dogs, I guess it would be no surprise that my husband and I would become interested in getting our own.
The online search felt like looking for a house or apartment, as with online searches you put in your parameters, which come up with results. I met Lloyd before online dating, but I guess these search sites could also be compared with those. Except, you have to do all the work in seeking our your new loved one. I became an expert at spotting dog breeds just by a picture, especially making note of breeds our complex would not allow such as pit mixes. We came up with a wish list: grow to no more than 50 pounds but not less than 35 (in other words not a lap dog), a dog that we could run and hike with, and most importantly a dog that is good with cats.
Looking at this list, a little fear brood up in adding another animal into our family, number one being our cat Izzy. At first thought, we looked at young to adult dogs, with the lure that they would already be house trained and we could sense their personality. While many of the dogs had been ‘cat tested’ many times after meeting them, their size and/or personality made us concerned how Izzy would respond to such a large creature. Before we knew it, we had moved our consideration to getting a puppy. Our friends poured in with warnings of how much work they would be. However, from all the feedback I received from rescues, as well as online research, introducing a puppy to a cat and vice versa was our strongest bet. In other words, it is easier to get a dog to be okay around cats from a young age and the cat can’t be hurt by a puppy.
It didn’t take long to find a number of possibilities. I totally fell in love with a cattle dog/beagle mix named Maya, but my husband Lloyd wasn’t as sold. From this I found out his need for a ‘cool looking dog,’ which also meant he wanted a boy. It was at this point that I learned going through the process of adopting a dog was emotional. Not only the negotiation with my husband, but finding a dog that ends up getting adopted to someone else (which is really a good thing!) or reading the stories of how they were treated before or having to make quick decisions because more than one family is interested in the same dog you are. Luckily between my emotionally driven decision-making and Lloyd’s methodical minded practice, we balanced each other out.
After finding out my husband was adding to our wish list for our future dog the categories of: male & ‘looks cool’ he became more involved in looking at possible dogs online. He found one, called Bruno. He was being fostered in Lancaster, CA (about an 70 miles outside of Los Angeles) by an organization called Hands, Paws and Hearts, with a number of other litters that had been abandoned. When looking for dogs through online portals such as petfinder.com and adoptapet.com, interested adopters reach out to the rescue through an email listed on the posting.
After some back and forth between the rescue and foster, we decided to make the trek up north to visit Bruno and the other pups. There were three litters, a lab/rottweiler mix, lab/beagle mix and Bruno’s group which were border collie/lab/boxer mix that were 10 weeks old. It was fun playing with all the puppies, but by far Bruno and his siblings were in the worst shape.
Our visited to Lancaster was on Tuesday September 10th. It was only two and a half weeks earlier, on August 25th, this litter and their mother was rescued from south central Los Angeles by both rescues Hands, Paws and Hearts, as well as another rescue called START Rescue Team based in Los Angeles. A concerned citizen called in, observing the puppies and mother had been left to defend for themselves, despite being ‘owned’ by a family.
They were all seriously infected with every parasite possible, from mites, ticks, fleas and worms. One of puppies didn’t make it, dying from a deadly disease for puppies called parvo. Another littermate, who they called Lovely, needed a blood transfusion. Bruno and his sister Babette received serious doses of medications to rid their bodies of the toxins and bugs. As a result, when we met them they had lost a good amount of hair and had scabs all over their bodies.
The fosters/rescue owners stressed they were not contagious, being tested for mange and that it was the result of a lot of treatments for small puppies to experience so quickly. Bruno and Lovely were excited to meet us, but were obviously still shaken and timid. It was very hard to get a sense of their personalities.
Bruno was much more curious and came over from time to time, but became scared after I brought out my phone to take a couple of pictures. One of the fosters brought out Lovely, who because she was still weak and recovering from the blood transfusion, rested inside the house. She placed her in Lloyd’s arms, where she collapsed into the protection of his cradle. As I petted her, just licking her lips was a struggle.
We promised ourselves we would not adopt any dog without a nights sleep between first meeting and taking them home. As we left Lancaster we talked about a number of the dogs we had met in the last couple weeks, weighing the pros and cons of each. My mother taught me many things, but one tool that works in nearly all decision-making scenarios is a pro and con (or in this case ‘concerns’) list. As we made them for four dogs we were considering, Bruno had the most in the concerns pile.
We made the decision that we would need to meet him and his sisters again, and as luck would have it, they were all coming to Los Angles that weekend, on Saturday September 14th. I was in class for my doctoral program all day Friday and Saturday, so I met Lloyd at the adoption event in Studio City after class. Because the event started at 3:30pm and I couldn’t get there till at least 5pm, Lloyd would get there early to possibly make an early decision (aka claim a puppy) before our best fit got picked. By this point we had the most interest in Bruno and Lovely. We would make our decision that day and go home with a new puppy!
Within minutes of his arrival, another family arrived and began to consider Lovely. Lloyd watched as a little girl embraced the once weak pup that had received a life saving blood transfusion. Before he knew it, they were signing adoption papers. In the last hour of my class, Lloyd texted me ‘Babe, Lovely has been adopted.’ He then followed it with a picture of the little girl holding her new puppy Lovely. While I was a little sad, I also thought what a perfect fit for the both of them. There were still four puppies left at the adoption event, one being Bruno.
By the time I finally arrived (thanks to terrible LA traffic), Lloyd had been there for over an hour. It was obvious him and Bruno were having a good time. He still had hair missing and a number of scabs, but his energy level and personality were more clear. After making the long trip from Lancaster, plus playing for the last couple hours, he was tuckered out.
We sat on the house stoop where the event was being hosted and held him in our arms. He settled into Lloyd’s legs, belly exposed and head resting on my leg. Even sleeping, when we would rub his belly his legs would kick like a rabbit from the joy of affection. The decision was so easy, we signed the papers and were officially puppy parents.
Because time did not allow, we were not exactly ready with supplies. He had to bring him to Petco to pick up at least our essentials to get us through one night and day included:
-Leash & collar
-A couple toys
For only a few items, our trip inside this pet store took longer than expected. Because of his past condition, we had to carry him. Lloyd and I took turns, while the other searched for the next item. He complied, enjoying seeing new sites and receiving affection. With our items finally in hand, we loaded ourselves up and took the trip from Studio City to West Los Angeles. He was passed out the entire way.
Sunday and Monday were trial and error, figuring out his bladder and food schedule. I found myself Googling every question possible:
- “How many times do you feed a puppy?”
- “How much water should you give a puppy?”
- “How long do puppies sleep?”
- “What are the best toys for puppies?”
- “When can you start training your puppy?”
- And the list went on and on.
All the research I had done before adoption strongly encouraged rescue parents take their dogs to the vet within 48 hours of adopting. So, on Sunday I took him to our vet for a check-up and his next shot. I was horrified to find a tick, but the vet was not too concerned. While she noticed his skin and hair had some improving to do, there were no other warning signs for other health problems she could foresee. She prescribed some oatmeal shampoo, a liquid vitamin and ear cleaning solution.
That night Lloyd and I brainstormed names and gave him a bath. We were leaning to the name Parker, but decided to sleep on it. We also made the brave decision to introduce him to our cat Izzy. Overall the introduction went as good as it could have, with only a hiss and a puffed tail to report from Izzy. After that they just stared at each other. Whew!
One of the main reasons getting a dog (and especially a puppy) was realistic for us was that I mostly work from home. On average I only leave him for a couple of hours at a time. However recently I have committed to an organization called Girls on the Run and my site had practice Tuesday afternoon from 4-5:15pm. Now that length of time is not that long, but considering travel time I was gone two and ½ hours. Driving home in rush hour traffic, attempting every back street possible, I began to get a nervous feeling about how Parker was doing.
I found myself walking quickly from my car into our apartment. Especially when we are away he is kept in a large crate, inside of our decently sized bathroom. He is not locked inside the crate, but considers it a comfy home where he sleeps. Entering our house the smell was my first warning sign. I took a big breath, as both to prepare myself for a mess, but also to possibly hold my breath.
Parker had (sorry for the frankness) not just pooped, but had diarrhea all over the floor. I looked at him with horror in his crate, where he was surrounded by throw up. I ran into the kitchen to grab cleaning supplies and set my mind to cleaning. It had not yet sink in that, other than a mess, he was in a critical state and need of care.
I focused first on the floor, rubber gloves in place and rolls of paper towels and Clorox wipes. Half way through cleaning up, Parker lifted his head and began to throw up again. I cleaned him the best I could, and then moments later he threw up again. I knew this could not be right.
Three weeks earlier our cat had a bladder infection, where I found blood in her urine after coming home late from a comedy show. Concerned, Lloyd found a 24-hour vet clinic that was only a few miles from our house. We found out that for female cats, while it is of concern and needs to be taken care of quickly, is not a life threatening emergency. This is not the same for a male cat with blood. We took her in the next day and she is on the mend. Because of this, I already had programmed in the after-hours emergency vet center phone number.
The receptionist picked up and it took all of my strength to keep my voice from breaking, I reported what had just happened, his previous conditions and explored what I should do. It was 6pm and the vet would not arrive to 7pm. I would take him in then. After getting off the phone, I went back to cleaning with only moments later Parker defecating in his crate and then soon after again vomiting. I lost it. Weeping hysterically while he lay lifeless on his bed. I rang the vet again, stating I was going there now, things were getting worse. I texted my husband at work, ‘Please call Parker is very sick.’
Luckily we had just purchased a duffel bag-like animal carrier for our cat, which thankfully Parker could fit into. I scooped his weak body into the carrier and stumbled my way out to the car. The ride seemed like years away, but was only two miles from our apartment. When I got him into the emergency vet center, I opened the carrier to find Parker had gotten sick again. I pulled him into my arms as my tears dropped onto his still battered skin. The nurse soon came over to look at him, reminding me again the doctor would not be in for at least another 15 minutes. I put him back in the carrier, as I had to fill out paperwork to admit him.
The nurse vet back came over and said she could now take him. I pulled him out one last time, gazing into his eyes, filled with build-up from the last few hours of trauma. He whimpered ever so quietly as he was taken to the back. I would not see him for another two hours. The vet arrived a few minutes later and assessed Parker.
The first thing was to rule out parvo, the same disease his sister had died of only weeks before. The test results would take 15 minutes to get back, in this time I talked to Lloyd who was stuck at work. I texted a number of friends and family for prayers. One friend, Melissa Judson, quickly asked if she could help and came to my side.
Around the same time she arrived, the vet announced we could rule out parvo. Thank God. Next was to make him comfortable and get fluids back into his system. The way this center works, you need to pay for all possible services up front. Every step along the way I had to make decisions for care and was given an estimate for range of costs. He was also given a number of medications to keep him from vomiting and having diarrhea. He was administered a catheter and IV. The vet believed by getting these fluids up, in addition to the medications, she could observe him before doing blood work or an x-ray. These two items were the most expensive items on the list, but even without them, the costs skyrocketed far over a thousand.
I couldn’t fully comprehend the costs, feeling helpless on not knowing what was going on. After they made Parker comfortable, the vet notified me I could go home and would be welcome to call at any point during the night. I asked to see him and say goodbye. The doctor stayed by my side, recognizing it was taking every thread of power in me to not burst out crying. He had pushed himself to the very back of the pen, so my short stubby arms could barely reach him. I told him I loved him and that Dr. O’Neill was going to take good care of him. As I turned to leave and the gate door was closed, Parker let out a loud breathe and settled his head down.
At the least, the vet would call at 7:30am with instructions for next steps, as the Emergency vet closes at 8am and he may need to be transferred to the next-door vet care for day support. A few hours later I called like a worried mother, finding out he had gotten sick out of both end and his abdomen was very tender. She was getting closer to diagnosing him at gastrinitis, meaning a bacteria or viral infection. Because his immune system and entire body was weakened, the infection was rocking him even worse.
At 1am Lloyd got home and we called in again, finding out he was thankfully sleeping and an x-ray would not be administered unless he appeared uncomfortable. Somehow Lloyd and I got a few hours of sleep and received a call at 7am, finding out that at 2am he made a really great turn of improvement. She did however recommend that he remain under vet care and be transfer to the day vet service center next door.
After his transfer, we discussed his state with his new vet, Dr. Karen Shane. She wanted to keep him at least until 5pm, as his stools were still leaking and he just was starting to take food. More costs were added to his bill, reaching up again into the high hundreds. Lloyd and I breathed heavy the extent of vet costs, coupled with the emotions of a puppy in pain.
He would spend a total of 24 hours under vet care. At 4pm I arrived to the vet clinic where again the vet confirmed a viral or bacteria infection was the cause. A total of six medications were sent home with us and instructed when taking him out, we need to use a puppy pad in a place where we were confident not a lot of other dogs had been. He would also need to be kept from kids for at least a week or two, considering the infection, as well as the need to deworm him again.
From the beginnin I had kept a journal, which tracked feeding times, potty trips and any other observations we had made. This came in handy when he became ill, but seriously crucial considering the number of pills I needed to administer to him throughout the day. Two given twice a day for hardening the stool and decreasing nausea, one once a day for four days for vomiting, a dewormer to give now and one 14 days later, a one time flea ointment and the last medicated puppy food that was the equivalent of chicken noodle soup for dogs. I was on full-blown puppy nurse duties.
Almost immediately after getting him home on the 18th, he began to (again sorry for the graphic description) leak diarrhea. I thought for a moment about making him a home-made diaper. Also, due to the amount of fluids given through the IV, Parker was peeing (a lot) every hour. All of our previous work on potty/house training was out the window. I thought who cares, at least he is home and thank goodness I can be here with him. He slept most the evening and through the night.
The next day on September 19th, he actually had a normal bowel moment and was eating normally. We were hopeful he was on the mend. Lloyd headed out the door for work and I logged on to work on some schoolwork that I had fell behind. Around 11am I went in to visit him and my heart dropped. Both pee and vomit were found in his crate. I called the vet and said if he threw up two more times in the next day to take him in, it might just be his body adjusting. Unfortunately, just a couple of hours later after taking him out to pee, he not only threw up, but also was vomiting as he had before, without control and completely emptying his stomach. I touched his stomach and he quickly pulled away. I knew I had to take him back in.
The vet center staff knew us all by name and were totally smitten over our Parker, who despite being so sick had a great disposition to the staff and other dogs in the clinic. It was time to do an x-ray to make sure two things:
- Rule out a blockage in the digestive track or stomach
- Ensure the intestines were in all the right places and not flipping in the wrong directions.
The x-ray did not show either of these, but a large amount of inflammation and gas. This was due to the fact that he was eating fast and his body now can only handle so much at a time. Also, because of the deworming medication, his body was getting rocked by the inside out, cleaning the gunk (literally pulling out the worms from his stomach and intestines) from his body. It was a lot for a little 11-pound puppy.
He was released again back to us that same day, prescribed another medication to aid in his recovery. The bills again building up, swipe after swipe, on our credit card. Again traumatized by a frantic trip to the vet, Parker rested most of the day. At 3:45am I woke up to his whimper and decided to take him out. After relieving himself, he looked ready to walk some more and maybe even play. Typically in the middle of the night I would not do this, but considering the last few days I allowed it. What was the worst that could happen?
Like most puppies do, he got twisted under my feet. For the first time in my life I felt like a giant, taking tall steps to get out of the leash and Parkers path. Despite my best attempts, I stepped on his foot. Responding to his scream I moved quickly only to land on the same foot again. He shook, hugging the ground while screaming.
I dropped to my knees, crying. How can so many terrible things keep happening? I reached out to him as he curled and pulled further away. I propped him up on all fours to find he could not put weight on his front foot. I cringed thinking I had broken his foot. Another howl was heard when I took him into my arms, running back to our apartment. I screamed for my husband, who met me in the bathroom to look at his legs. He still was not putting a lot of pressure on the paw, but more than before. After calling the vet, they told us to keep an eye on it and if it began to swell to bring him in. He did not strain when we touched it, which was a good sign. He settled back into his bed and closed his eyes.
Lloyd and I crawled back into bed, he holding me as a sobbed until finally dozing off. After a post on Facebook about the incident, I found out that many dog owners accidentally step on their pets. I was not a bad dog mommy, as I feared.
The next day Parker threw up a couple more times, but with less force and amount as before. Both times after he got excited after eating. We began to craft a routine that would make sure smaller amounts of food with no playing after meals. The vet had instructed us to wait at least a few days to bath him after his last vet release, which was difficult because he smelled horribly.
I know the vet took care of him as best possible, but a puppy puking, peeing and pooping on himself in 24 hours was going to result in a mess. When we finally were able to bath him, my heart jumped with glee after drying him off, as he shook his entire body to rid himself of the rest of water and reached his nose up to mine to give a big lick. I looked to Lloyd, no words needed to be said. We had our Parker back, this was our puppy.
As I write this post, it has only been two days ‘in the clear’ with no throw up and solid signs of bowel movements. The dewormer is definitely working with the alien creatures slowly coming out. By this happening it has brought a new sparkle to Parker. For the first time yesterday he barked and jumped in the air. His hair is softer and the scabs are healing quickly. He still has a very aggressive appetite, literally swallowing his food. Now on walks we can stay out longer and can even build our speed up to a jog, as he gallops like an adorable 2.5-month-old puppy should be.
There are a number of people I want to thank, who without their support this last week, our sanity and care to Parker would have been impossible.
- Melissa Judson for coming to the ER and visiting at home, along with countless text messages and phone calls.
- Ashley Hall for going with me to his first vet visit and being on call 24 hours with texts and phone calls.
- My family, including my parents, brother and sister-in-law for constantly sending prayers, phone calls and messages. I swear at one point grandma (my mom) was ready to pack up her car to drive out to assume care duties.
- I also found a community of support through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Friends from Wyoming, college, classmates, higher education colleagues and fans of Lloyd’s reached out and ‘filled our buckets’ with support.
I also need to express publicly my gratefulness to the rescues, START Rescue Group and Hands, Paws & Hearts where we adopted Parker including Suzy, Lori and Vicki. Suzy and I messaged back and forth at least 100 times over the last week, with her aiding me in questions and support.
After hearing that our vet bills had reached so much, she turned around and sought out donations from donors, sending us a significant and much too generous amount to aid in our recent debt. At first Lloyd and I could not in good consciousness accept this generous gift. But after the second trip to the doctor we got over our pride and are so extremely grateful.
What I have learned over the last month about rescue organization staff is just how much they love what they do, not only rescuing animals, getting them back to health and into forever homes, but supporting the dogs for their lifetime including their owners. I am humbled with the commitment professionals like Suzy has to her work with animals and am so lucky that our Parker was saved by her, along with cared by rescue fosters Lori and Vicki.
I also must acknowledge the critical, attentive and patient care that the two vet locations offer Parker as well as Lloyd and I being new parents: Dr. Janet McNeill and Dr. Karen Shane from Marina Animal Emergency Center and Dr. Shane Vet Clinic. How blessed we are two have both these locations so close to our home in this case and any other possible future situations.
Finally, I want to include a note to and about my husband. You may have read this wondering why he was gone so much; that I had to call upon girlfriends and family for help. Going into our adoption process, we knew that I would be the primary caregiver for the puppy, since I work and mostly go to school from home. This would also mean when emergencies arose, I may be roughing it alone. The business my husband works in varies greatly and really is quite flexible, but at certain times of the year especially September-December and February-April he is very busy. As a co-creator of the hit YouTube series, Epic Rap Battles of History, in addition to his own channel called EpicLloyd, his time is stretched in writing sessions, recording, video shoots and editing. While the videos are only minutes long, the hundreds of hours that go into each video are many.
I am not making this statement as an excuse. I know he got home as soon as he was able each night, even canceling a performance and stayed home during the day as long as possible. This is his dog as much as it is mine. Parker met all of our qualifications in adopting, especially Lloyd’s in that he really is a cool looking dog. Just before I started to write this post, the boys were out playing. He is a good dog daddy. He is a good husband. His comfort to me through my emotional states this last week must be acknowledged. Just as it takes a very certain woman/wife to be flexible with his type of job/schedule, it also takes a strong man to support me while pursuing a doctorate degree. Thanks babe.
As I finish writing this post, I stepped away to check on Parker. Sprawled out on the kitchen floor, head cuddled into his bedding, tail swaying back and forth, surrounded by countless toys. Izzy standing guard at the baby gate, carefully watching him breath, like a big sister. Our home is at peace.
At any moment Parker will wake, ready to play and do all the things puppies are supposed to do. Chewing up the carpet, scratching at the door, peeing on the floor. Before these things would have challenge me, probably getting frustrated at his behavior. But now, all these things I can take. He will definitely not be without discipline and hopefully soon some obedience classes. But he will be loved, far from the streets of south central Los Angeles curled up under his weak mother. Hopefully soon forgetting the countless trips to the vet under foster care and with us as a once very sick puppy.
There are dog rescues, shelters and adoption events in every city near you. Please consider adopting a dog over buying from a breeder. Do a quick search through petfinder.com and your heart will ache as the pages go on and on of the dogs in need. Many with only days or weeks until being killed if kept at a shelter/pound. Rescue organizations save animals and place them into fosters until they are adopted, even providing them all medical care such as shots, neutering/spay and sometimes microchipping. But all these services are very expensive and once a dog is adopted, typically they will go out save another one.
Even if you aren’t a dog person or can’t have a dog where you live, you can still support animal rescue groups. They can only exist with your support. If this post spoke to you as a potential donor, I urge you to consider the two organization that helped us save Parker: START Rescue Group and Hands, Paws & Hearts. Both groups have online donation forms, for one time and ongoing support.
Thank you for reading our story. To stay tuned to his recovery, feel free to check out my instragram feed @josieahlquist, which has become overtaken with puppy pictures. We are taking not only each day, but every hour as it comes. A video like the one below tells me are almost out of the woods. It tells me he is happy and not in pain.
Parker is a fighter and while it took everything we had this last week to care for him, I have a feeling he will be giving us back much much more than we just did. There is no tally sheet; the bills are what they are. He is ours. Our puppy Parker who is now home.
To learn more about these two rescue groups, available adoptable dogs, and how you can help please check out the links below.
- Hands Paws & Hearts http://handspawshearts.rescuegroups.org/
- START Rescue: https://www.facebook.com/STARTRESCUETEAM or http://startrescue.org/
Uh oh…he’s awake! Come Parker…let’s go play!