Monday, August 8, 2011

P.S. Nina's Not a German Shepherd

At my clinic, Jarrettsville Vet Center, do a lot of work with rescues.

It comes from my roots in pursuing veterinary medicine and my deep belief that you should use your talents and abilities to pay it forward. I strongly believe that we are all responsible for the world in which we live in. The more you contribute the better all our lives will collectively all be. I rarely look inward, it makes you jealous, bitter, and defeats any productive purpose. It's not about what I take with me, for me, it’s about what I leave behind.  So if I can help I jump in.

Very early on in the ownership of JVC I was approached by the former owner, the beloved, Dr. Wilson, and asked if I was interested in meeting with a German Shepherd Rescue volunteer? 

I remember him muttering something to the effect of “the smell of new meat”. I was sure that he was referring to me, and the rescue was the predator in his inaudible euphemism. 

I was excited about the opportunity to join forces with a rescue group. I thought it would be a marriage of the best of both worlds. I could help pets who really needed me, feel like I was giving back, and at the end of the day I didn't have to look for a home for them. After all, I had already come to a resolve that this job isn't about the money. 

I met with a few of the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue volunteers later that week.

Now that I recall that first meeting I remember Dr. Wilson also passing on a few other pointers to me. He said such things as; “You know German Shepherds can be aggressive, you might want to think about whether the staff can handle them?” and, “You know you are opening the hospital up to disease if they come from a shelter,” and lastly “Why wouldn't you pick a breed like labs?”. 

Well, I thought, I guess because Lab Rescue didn't come to me? And, besides, I grew up with a great sweet protective German Shepherd, and I am not afraid of German Shepherds. (Ahh, ignorance is bliss).
A few days after our meeting, (which really consisted of nothing more than a handshake, and introduction, a tour of the facilities, and some quick jots of prices), the first German Shepherd arrived at JVC. Actually the first two dogs arrived at JVC. One qualified as a German Shepherd, the other was clearly using the definition very, very loosely. 

This second dog is the point of this blog.  That second dog was a Rottweiler. Albeit, a mangey, hairless, scabby, emaciated Rottie. She was found in the same home as the GS, in Puerto Rico, and by the grace of the goodness of the saviors who found her, given a companion departing plane ticket. Her name was Nina. 

Now lets go and review our geography; JVC is in Northern MD. Maryland is far, like really far, away from Peurto Rico. About 2000 miles far. (I didn't put it in the navigator, this is a guess. But you get the point). I don’t really understand how they landed at our facility? But, there they were. Our first rescues. 

I was shocked and appalled when I saw them.
I am always amazed at how resilient and forgiving a dog is. They will lift their head and wag to greet you, even at the precipice of doom, despair, and death.  She was the poster child for the t.v. info-mercials about animal cruelty and neglect that I still can't sit through. Actually all of those mangey, hairless, crusty dogs almost always have the same problem. You, (yes, you), can diagnose them on sight. Feed them, apply flea and tick control, treat for superficial mange, (aka scabies), skin scrape for Demodex, look at the poop, and control the itch without destroying the gut. Remember, that a dog that is fragile on the outside is also fragile on the inside, (but now I am giving away part of the story).  

We started our treatment plan. It included multiple medicated baths per week, oral antibiotics, oral gastro-protectants, ear cleanings, and a high quality recovery diet. 

Everyone got really attached to Nina quickly. Being a veterinary care provider for many of us is a maternal calling that evolves and takes over the most primitive part of our brain. It is soo deeply seeded in human beings that it can convince us to make irrational decisions. The DVM inside of me placed her odds on survival at less than 50%, but the staff was rooting for her and I was afraid to publicly admit my defeatist odds.
One of the reasons I believe that the rescue groups are an important part of our JVC family is that we get to spend long periods of time with these rescued pets. It reminds us on a daily basis that every animal is an individual.  It keeps us from putting up a justifiable, all too common defensive mechanism that becomes a shielding emotional shell and just seeing them as a “thing”. I don’t ever want any staff member to see our patients as just a 'dog', 'cat', etc. Should you ever  become the patient confined to a hospital bed at the mercy of being cared for by someone else, you will want to feel like an individual. A unique complex person who matters. 

About 1 week into Ninas treatment and stay with us, she became very depressed. Her belly was very tender and she was reluctant to eat. If you could coax her into eating she vomited it all back a short time later. 

"Crap," I thought, "here it is, the consequence of having hit her hard with all of the medications she needed to fight all the disease she was carrying." 

I took an x-ray and my fears were confirmed. She had fluid in her abdomen! 

I looked around at my staff. They were now crying and cuddling with her on the floor. I told them that I had to open her up to see why she had fluid in a place it didn't belong. I knew that she probably had perforated something organ somewhere. 

They asked me what I was hoping they wouldn't. “Will she live?” 

I was honest and told them that "I didn't know?" 

I knew she had been just barely holding on since she had arrived. I knew that if I didn't open her up she would be dead by morning. Within a few minutes she was under general anesthesia belly up on the surgery table and I was gloved, gowned and taking deep breaths. Under that gloved, gowned green shroud I whispered that "I wanted to be doing this in another  zip code." I didn't want all of those teary eyes watching me,,, as if I wasn't worried enough? So much for building bonds with the animals, now I have to feel responsible for breaking hearts too?  

I made a ventral mid-line incision into her abdomen. In the laymen’s terms we call it a stem to stern incision. Or, medically, from xyphoid to pelvis. It is essentially the longest abdominal incision that one can make so that you can really get your hands in there and inspect everything completely. The leak can be a pinpoint and there is a lot of stuff in the belly to root through. Ever try to find a hole in a tire? How about a hole, in a hole, in the dark, while your patient is rhythmically heaving up and down as they breathe?

When I opened up her belly the first thing that I saw was free floating ingesta, (or her stomach food and juices). We suctioned out the fluid and started our tedious inspection of her internal contents. 

Sure enough the stomach had a large perforation in it by the pylorus (bottom of the stomach). A few layers of suture and the hole was closed. I moved on to check the rest of her abdomen. Everything else looked remarkably good. She was doing well through the anesthesia and the inquiring heads stopped poking in with worried tear stained faces. She was almost out of the woods and the clinic was returning to its normal busy day hum. 

Like every veterinary hospital the staff has its own internal public announcement system. The surgical technicians are very good at keeping the news wires flashing, which I much prefer that they provide than me. I need to concentrate when I am in surgery. It is the only time I am not talking and multi-tasking.
Nina made it through surgery and she recovered quickly. We had to taper her medications back significantly. Which let her remaining scabies residents have a little fiesta again. We whacked them hard a month later when her body had healed enough to go back on her mite killing meds. She stayed with us at the clinic for about 6 months. It took her scarred over taxed body that long to recover. Needless to say over that time she became an integral consistent part of our team. Many of our clients got to witness her recovery first hand. She was a fixture behind the receptionists area. When it came time to place her in foster care one of our receptionists applied to adopt her. She had nursed her, cared for her, walked her and hugged her through 6 months of treatment, recovery and care, and she was attached. We all were.
Nina lived for 5 more years and thrived. She was loved every day. She reminded all of us that life is full of miracles.
I want to thank MAGSR for bringing Nina home from Puerto Rico even though she was obviously not a German Shepherd. They brought her to us, paid for 6 months of care and then let her go home with the person who loves her most in the world. Amazing things happen everyday,  and sometimes they happen right under our roof.

Nina in the early days of recovery:

At the clinic keeping a dog recovering from surgery company.

Nina at her new home;

Nina and her mom.

Nina smiling a big Thanks!

If you would Like more information on the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue 

If you would like to learn more about Jarrettsville Vet 

If you have any pet related questions you can find a whole bunch of helpful people to answer them at Pawbly, or follow me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


  1. YAY for Nina! What a cutie she is. Thanks for saving her life!!!

  2. Love. 😘😘😘