Several of you have asked me to keep you updated on Fred (our third puppy). I took him to the vet this morning because he is coughing. The pneumonia is a symptom of distemper. We didn't know that. We thought the coughing was just the kennel cough that could last 7-21 days. Anyway, I took Fred in because distemper is highly contagious and often deadly. In fact, we read that 50 years ago this stuff would wipe out all the dogs in a city. We've learned a lot about distemper.
Some things we learned that have actually made us feel a bit better:
---Ginger was sick when we got her. She never was very social. She wouldn't play with the other dogs or us. She wouldn't wrestle with toys. Robert left an action figure right beside her, and she never touched it. When we would try to pet her, she would walk away. All of those are symptoms of distemper that has affected the brain. Distemper can affect any system in the body, and one of the reasons we missed it with Tristan and Ginger is because it affected them differently. Ginger was affected neurologically. She was still eating and drinking yesterday, and other than the cough and being anti-social, seemed well. We mentioned it to the vet two days after we got her, and he felt it was just being sick from the kennel cough. In short, there was no way to know, and there was no treatment. We did the most humane thing possible. We gave her a loving home and then we let her go as gently as possible. According to the vet, that is all we could do. Amazing to think she was already too sick for us to help the day we brought her home, but those things happen.
---As for Tristan, again, we had no way of knowing. It attacked his kidneys and digestive tract, and by the time you notice the problem, it is beyond treating. Some of you heard me talk about the first day we brought him home when we thought we would have to take him back because he was eating the couch, terrorizing the kids, and acting uncontrollably. The vet thinks that might have been neurological, but it might have been an excited puppy. Hard to say. In any case, the dogs already had distemper when we got them. We just had no way of knowing, and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. They were already beyond treament. In some ways that is sad. In other ways, it is freeing.
---I went today to get a refund for Tristan and Ginger, and despite the 10 day limit, they were very kinds and gave us the refund. On the way in, we read a big sign that said the puppy room was closed and would not reopen for a few days. The man who helped us pick the puppies asked what had happened, and I told him. He shook his head. I asked why the puppy room was closed, and he said, "Distemper. We lost five puppies in the kennel because of it, so we have to sanitize everything." Yep, that sort of says it all.
As for FRED, he does have distemper, BUT he is eating. He has no fever. He drinks water. He is playful. He chews on anything you will let him have. He is loving and affectionate. He has GAINED weight. (Tristan went from 15 to 10 pounds, and Ginger went from 7 to 5 pounds. This is like you losing a third of your weight in 10 days. Imagine 50 pounds in 10 days. Yeah, they were sick.) He has a cough, but otherwise, he shows no sign of illness, so the vet is very optimistic that he will live through this. On the other side of this are questions. In short, whether there will be long term affects or not is "a coin toss", his words. He said the two main long term complications are neurological with either completely passive social behavior or aggressive behavior. How aggressive?, some of us ask. Well, a huge majority of the animals sent to be tested for rabies comes back distemper. I think that says enough. The other possibility is the equivalent of "failure to thrive" in dogs. They never get really sick, but they never get well. They are prone to respiratory things. He said, "They never get sick enough to justify putting them down, but they never really get well either." Again, he has no way of saying if these things will happen or not. They are things he wanted us to be aware of. In summary, he feels really good about Fred. He says he feels we have every reason to be optimistic. We have a humidifier in the sunroom with him to keep his breathing easier and to minimize swelling in his bronchial area, and he likes to eat our shoes.
So that is our update. Fred still needs prayer, and so do we. I cannot tell you what a wild blow this has been to us. It has been stunning emotionally.
Our son, though, true to his magnificent sensibilities adds a different perspective that keeps us smiling. He asked me if I thought God would leave the bones when the puppies died. I assured him that, yes, the bones would be there. He got all excited and asked, "Do you think we can fossilize them and have our friends over for an archeology dig like they do at the DinoDig?" Uh, no, son, I don't think that is good. I love Robert. He makes me smile and laugh when I need it.
God is so good!