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Our Journey with Chevy - by Andrea Haas

My husband and I were on our honeymoon, strolling downtown in Eureka Springs, AR, when I spotted the cutest little floppy-eared puppy on a billboard advertising for the local Humane Society. Being a dog lover all my life, I told my husband that we HAD to go check out this puppy and see about adopting him if he was still available. He agreed, so off to the Humane Society we went.

There in the fenced in area in front of the Humane Society was our puppy. He looked just as happy to see us as we were to see him and he was the only dog there that came and greeted us. It was like fate. My previous dog had passed away just a couple months prior and until this point I felt I wasn't ready to get another dog yet, but something about seeing that dog changed my mind instantly.  We both immediately fell in love and adopted the puppy named Snuggles, which we later changed to a more fitting name: Chevy.

Chevy instantly became the center of our world, sleeping between us in our bed every night and going literally everywhere with us. He is, and always has been, the sweetest, funniest, most protective and well behaved dog with the biggest personality I guarantee you will ever see. As great as all of those qualities are, he is also the most accident-prone dog we have ever had. 

Over the years, he has been mauled by a whitetail buck in the face (requiring surgery), had a copperhead bite to his cheek, a snapping turtle bite to the nose, a huge thorn removed from in between his toes, a cut artery in his leg, a ripped off toenail, a broken toe, and the list goes on. But none of those were as bad as what happened in April of 2016. 

It was a gorgeous Spring afternoon and I decided after work to check my trail cameras on our hunting property. This is something that Chevy always does with me. He runs alongside me on the 4-wheeler or truck as I check my cameras throughout the property. Once it was time to go Chevy tried to jump in the truck but didn't make it all the way and let out a yelp. This was unlike Chevy. I picked him up and put him in the truck and again he let out a yelp. I checked him over for injuries but couldn't see anything visibly wrong with him, so we headed back to the house.

The whole way home he just seemed so pouty and wasn't acting like himself. That behavior continued throughout the evening and eventually it got even worse. His back legs quit working, his pupils were fully dilated and he was just staring into space. I had no idea what was wrong, but I checked his gums and they were white as snow. I called our vet who thankfully has after hour emergency services and he asked that I bring him in right away.

When we arrived at the vet he immediately gave him a Vitamin K injection, took some vitals and some x-rays. The x-rays showed a large mass in his abdomen that the vet said looked like a big hematoma caused from internal bleeding. Rat poisoning was suspected as the culprit and we weren't sure if he was even going to make it through the night. The vet continued more treatment but stated he would eventually be heading home that night before returning in the morning.

The hours following were some of the worst of my life and of course I got no sleep that night. How could I without knowing if Chevy would even be alive when I woke up the next day? That morning the vet called me and reported that Chevy was alive and was stable for the moment but was in very critical condition. They were to continue treating him throughout the day and call me later with an update. Again, the hours to follow were some of the worst of my life.

That afternoon the vet called with the news that I had been fearing: that Chevy was just not getting any better and would have to be euthanized. The vet said he would be there in about an hour so my husband and I went and sat with Chevy until then. I honestly feel that something about us being there with him helped perk him up a little, so we made the decision to just give it some more time, and thank God we did. That evening we got a call from the vet saying that Chevy had finally perked up and for the first time since this incident he felt that Chevy may actually pull through.

Chevy did pull through, BUT, there were still some unexpected complications that followed over the next few months. His back legs had become extremely weak since that night, for unknown reasons, and the left one was almost useless. When walking, his back toes would curl under, causing him to walk on his knuckles. I put booties on his feet to help prevent sores but they were inevitable. Every day I carried him outside to use the bathroom, and carried him back inside. The muscle in his legs were just wasting away and he had lost about 8 pounds. 

He had also been given 30 days’ worth of Vitamin K to take and had a follow up vet appointment the day after the last dose. His checkup came back good, but that next evening Chevy was brought into the vet after hours with the same symptoms as his initial incident. This happened 2 more times as well over the next couple of months and we were really starting to lose hope. 

Chevy had some more x-rays and a CT scan but nothing could be seen on these so we were referred to the state veterinary university in July to see if they could find out what was going on. Their equipment is state of the art and they were able to find a small mass on Chevy's spleen that they determined would have to be removed. They were unsure at the time whether or not the mass was cancer but they said there was a good chance that it could be a Hemangiosarcoma, a common cancer that causes dog's spleens to rupture. Luckily the results showed it was a hematoma, which is benign, and was thought to be caused by the rat poison causing Chevy's spleen to rupture.

To our surprise, immediately following Chevy's splenectomy his back legs started working again. They were no longer curling under and he was able to walk on them. Their theory was that the internal bleeding must have bled into certain cavities within his abdomen, affecting the surrounding nerves, but we still don't know for sure. After a couple months of rehab - a.k.a. taking Chevy to the lake and wading him in chest deep water and eventually letting him run around once he was strong enough - Chevy's legs returned to almost normal. 

Throughout the course of this we did some research to find out if there were any supplements or vitamins we could give him that would help with nerve damage and found that Vitamin B complex is supposed to help for that. We found some specifically for dogs and have been giving them to him ever since. I do feel that it has helped Chevy regain the use of his left leg that was the most affected. After surgery, he was able to walk on the leg again, but it didn't have quite as much mobility. For example, when trying to scratch behind his ears, he couldn't use that leg to do that for a long time. I really feel the use of the Vitamin B complex helped heal some of that damage, as he can now use that leg to scratch just as well as he can his other one.

My advice for other dog owners is this: Don't wait for your dog’s health to decline or until they have an accident like Chevy did (which hopefully they don't) before putting them on vitamins and supplements. Do your research now and start them on something that best suits their needs so they can be as healthy as possible from a young age. (Of course, always consult with your vet before doing so.) Chevy was never unhealthy by any means. He was in great health – solid, muscular and “like a rock”, living up to his name. We always took great care of him, fed him well and exercised him regularly. It's because of this that I feel he was strong enough to pull through. But, all of this has made me realize the importance of keeping your pets as healthy as possible throughout their entire life, not just at an older age.  

Chevy will be 10 next month and I am doing everything I can to keep him as healthy as possible. He continues to be on the Vitamin B Complex. We also switched his daily senior vitamin to a joint support vitamin and have also added Salmon oil to his daily supplements, which is great for skin and coat, immunity and heart health. We switched his brand of food as well to something with simpler, healthier ingredients and far less fillers. 

Unfortunately, Chevy had a Spindle Cell Sarcoma (a soft tissue caner) removed from his right back leg about a month ago. Pathology results showed it was a low-grade tumor that most likely will not return, so that is great news. He recovered well from the surgery, but as Chevy's luck would have it, he now has another tumor on a different leg which the vet said looks like Plasma Cell Sarcoma, another type of soft tissue cancer, and it’s in a spot that is harder to remove tumors. We have a follow up appointment this week to make a plan from there. Other than this, Chevy seems to be doing great. 

As we move forward with his treatment I hope that it's as painless as possible for him and doesn't lead to anything that would cause him any more pain or suffering. Chevy has changed our life for the better, as well as the lives of anyone else that he has met. The memories we have with Chevy will always be cherished and we’ll never have another dog that will be able to take his place. One day I know that we’ll have to let him go, and I am dreading that day. Until then we will do our best to care for him, keep him as healthy as possible and enjoy spending what time we have left with him.

- Andrea Haas

@andihaas | @huntressview

 

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