Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to the subject at hand-- sort of.

It's been a while since I wrote something here about Lymphangiectasia, but something happened this weekend which has given me pause and a reason to bring it up here once again.

A while back (a long while back) I wrote a post here entitled Lymphangiectasia is not a death sentence.  I wrote this post because I was seeing so many people coming to the canine lymphangiectasia support group in utter despair, having been all over the internet to read the gloom and doom predictions that are posted on various websites mentioning the disease.  I went through all of that myself, when we first got our diagnosis, and because there was no such thing then as a lymphangiectasia support group, I had to navigate those waters on my own.  And we were lucky.  Not all dogs will make it, but so far, we've done well.

My own experience tells me that, if you can figure out HOW to get these dogs stable, and if you don't get cocky and start feeding treats and fatty foods again, you're likely going to have a very good remission, perhaps one that will last the rest of the dog's expected life span.   I know this, not only because Louie has been in a prolonged remission, but because I'm aware of other dogs who lived many, many years and died of old age AFTER being diagnosed with lymphangiectasia.  This is what gave me the hope to soldier on, in spite of the gloom and doom I was reading everywhere.

Yesterday, one of our support group members wrote to the group to let us know she's looking for another vet.  The reason?  Her vet told her that, by keeping her dog alive, she was consigning the dog to years of misery with a painful disease.

This just broke my heart to read.  If I thought that my own dog with this disease has been miserable and in pain in the years since his remission began, I couldn't live with myself.  It's just not true; he's a happy, energetic, playful little imp who utterly owns my heart, and I fully intend to keep him around as long as I possibly can--provided he remains happy and energetic.  If and when he gets to a point at which there isn't hope, I think we'll both know it.

So it's quite sad, to me, that a veterinary professional came out and all but accused our group member of selfishly keeping her dog alive against its better interest.

Fortunately, she had us to turn to.  From my reading, I know that there's older literature out there which paints a disturbing picture, but that's not the whole story.  There's also newer research and newer ideas about treatment and prognosis but, unfortunately, this disease is so rarely considered and diagnosed that many vets don't ever have a reason to research what's new in the treatment of this disease.  Many, if not most, have never seen a case.

I don't know what I would have done if the doctors at UC Davis had given up on us.  We did get to a point at which they didn't know where to turn or what to do, but that was because they missed his protein allergies.  No one ever accused me of keeping him going just because I couldn't bear to part with him, and he was awfully, awfully sick.  Most of our friends who saw him had a hard time believing that he could recover, but recover he did.

I know he will never be cured.  He will always have to be carefully fed, and watched, and kept away from all things fatty and that long list of proteins he just can't eat.  But that's okay.

I wonder sometimes if vets don't just get so jaded by owners who don't want to spend the money to really diagnose and treat a disease like this.  Is that it?  If so, I hope some of them might take pause at our story, and our friend's story, and realize that some of us will take the time, make the effort, spend the money, and do what is needed to give these dogs the chance they need.

For us, these dogs are family.  It might just be that the owners are looking for that one glimmer of hope to know what to do.  None of us wants to create or prolong misery.  This is not about being selfish, it's about being loved by a creature that trusts you completely.  It's about giving what you can in order to be the person who deserves that trust.

I would urge anyone out there who's receiving a gloom and doom message from their vet to seek another opinion.  And, for the vets, I would urge you to recognize that some of these dogs DO have a chance, despite what you might have read in veterinary school.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do you have room in your home and heart?

Pet rescue organizations are really struggling right now.  With the downturn in the economy, many families have been forced to make difficult financial decisions, which, in the kinder scenarios, may include "rehoming" the family pet(s).  Many of these pets are now showing up in shelters, where already overburdened systems are being pushed past their limits.

This post isn't meant to take a stand one way or another on kill vs. no-kill shelters or how and why animals end up abandoned; those will be topics for another day, as there is already much written in the blogosphere on these subjects.  This post is about the simple fact that, no matter where you stand on those issues, unwanted dogs, cats and other creatures are being euthanized today, right now-- in record numbers-- because they are homeless.

Rescue groups, both breed specific and non-specific, do their best to take in as many animals as they can, but it has never been enough.  Today, many rescue groups are bulging at the seams and turning away scores of adoptable pets simply because there is no more room at the Inn.  Foster homes are full, and animals who might have had a good chance one or two years ago are now being euthanized (a polite term for killed), because rescue resources have been exhausted, stretched to the breaking point.

So what does this have to do with you?

For starters, you can take a look into your heart and see if you have room there for a foster animal.  Though rescues need help in all areas (I volunteer but cannot foster, myself), the need for foster homes for these animals is at a critical point.

The rewards of working in rescue are enormous.

Second, if you managed to find room in your heart (and home) for a foster, contact a local rescue organization and ask to apply to become a representative.  If you qualify, they will be thrilled to have your help.

All rescues are different, but typical requirements are not that hard to meet.  Usually, for breed specific rescues, they will want you to have some familiarity with the breed, and experience in caring for animals.  They will want your home to be a safe and caring environment for an animal who may be frightened or may have been abused.  They will want to know that you provide proper healthcare to your own pets, and are aware of and prepared to handle any potential behavior problems that may arise between "guest" animals and your existing pets.

If you think you can handle the above, I urge you to consider contacting a rescue group today.  Now, more than ever, you are needed.

Did I mention that the rewards are enormous?  Can you think of many things more satisfying than saving the life of an innocent animal and seeing it through to its new, loving family?

I didn't think so.