by Lee Juslin
One fateful morning Josie, a foster parent of Westie Central Rescue, opened her email as usual, but this time it proved to be an action that was to change her life.
As Josie read the frantic email from a woman whose neighbors had a Westie that the woman felt was in desperate need of rescue, Josie wondered how she could help since the woman contacting her was not the owner. Josie hesitated because she couldn’t just snatch someone’s dog. However, when she talked to the woman and heard the very sad story of this Westie, she began to think of ways she could help this poor dog.
According to the woman, her neighbors had purchased the Westie in a pet store when he was two months old. They kept the dog outside in their yard with no vet visits and now, at eight years old, he had a number of obvious health issues and looked very sad and uncomfortable.
At one point, the neighbor simply couldn’t stand to see the little Westie suffering, and, with the uncaring owners’ permission, took him to her vet. The vet was shocked at the ear infections that had sealed his ears shut, plus skin and eye problems as well as a strong odor. He treated the dog as best he could, recommended a better quality food, and sent the woman off with antibiotics and a recommendation for regular medicated baths to treat his very sore and raw skin. The kind hearted neighbor had paid three thousand dollars for the vet treatment.
Sadly, the owners refused to follow up with the antibiotics, better quality food, or medicated baths. They continued to keep the Westie outside, and he continued to suffer from multiple health problems. It was obvious the little dog was miserable.
Josie and the neighbor woman agreed that something had to be done. Knowing that animal neglect was a felony, Josie approached the vet for help. The neighbor got permission to take the dog back to the vet, and Josie offered to pay through her rescue, Westie Central Rescue. This time, the vet agreed the dog could not be returned to the owners. He explained to Josie and the neighbor that the dog was in terrible pain. He told them to imagine awful ear pain coupled with the worst tooth ache one could imagine to describe the dog’s pain.
Fortunately, the vet was able to persuade the owners to officially release the dog to Westie Central Rescue, and Josie took him home. The vet contributed food and medicated shampoo for his skin problems as well as some other items to help him.
Fifteen thousand dollars later, with multiple vet visits including specialty vets, Zeus, as Josie named him, was doing better. A visit to a veterinary ear specialist followed by ear surgery had relieved his ear problems. Medicated baths and antibiotics were used to fight his skin problems.
After six months in rescue, Josie and Zeus had grown very close, and Josie was ready to make him what rescue folks call: a Foster Failure and adopt him. He had become very loving, following Josie about, and sleeping on the bed with her at night. The only big problem was his skin. It did not seem to be responding to the medications and regular medicated baths which were standard procedures for itchy, inflamed skin. The dermatology vet scheduled Zeus for a Punch Biopsy which is a somewhat experimental treatment developed in Japan.
Punch Biopsies are used as diagnostic tools for humans and animals. It is done by inserting a small tube-like tool into a pigmented or inflammatory lesion. A sharp tool, usually four to six millimeters, is then used to pull out some skin from below the surface. Punch Biopsies are considered the primary method for diagnosing suspicious looking thickened skin areas. The vet hoped the procedure would give some answers as to why Zeus’ raw, sore skin was not responding to the usual treatments of antibiotics and medicated baths.
The night before the procedure, Zeus woke Josie up. He was struggling with shallow breathing and oozing skin. Josie rushed him to the emergency vet, but, at that point, it was clear Zeus was dying. Josie and the vet agreed the best thing for Zeus was to stop his suffering and send him over the Rainbow Bridge.
As it turned out, Zeus had Cutaneous Lymphoma, a rare and difficult disease to diagnose and one that is, if not caught early, usually fatal. Because Cutaneous Lymphoma is the rarest of Lymphoma forms accounting for less than ten percent of lymphoma in dogs, there are, as yet, no standard treatment protocols. If the original lesion is not removed, the disease spreads to the lymph nodes and then to major organs. Unfortunately, the early neglect Zeus suffered was deemed to be the cause of the disease which was now well advanced and untreatable.
That sad evening, Josie held him in her arms. Zeus looked up at Josie, gave her a kiss, let out a big sigh, and was gone.
Westie Central Rescue is, like most rescues, run by volunteers. It is dependent on donations. If you would like to help Westie Central Rescue so they can continue to rescue and help suffering dogs like Zeus, visit them on Facebook.
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