Jim and I had been out of town for about a week when we got a call from Cintya, the pet sitter, telling us that Jasper had just fallen off of the ramp and wasn’t getting up. She was in tears and sounded somewhat hysterical. We had talked everyday prior to this and usually several times a day. She had previously mentioned that Jasper hadn’t eaten dinner one night but she thought it was because he was being picky. He was probably running a temperature and was losing his appetite — as you’ll soon see.
Cintya went on to tell me that she thought that bone was protruding from Jasper’s skin on his leg, as he lay on the ground. Luckily for everyone this was on a Sunday and Cintya’s boyfriend was with her which meant that she had transportation (I had been very clear that I wanted to hire someone with their own vehicle not their boyfriend’s or husband’s vehicle. so this is a whole other story — or rather one of many untruths that Cintya told me.) I told Cintya that it was urgent that she and her boyfriend be very careful and get Jasper into the car and to Cottonwood Animal Hospital. She’d been to Cottonwood with me several times as part of getting her trained and used to the way we do things here.
While they were driving over to Cottonwood Cintya began to realize that Jasper had maggots crawling all over his body which made her even more hysterical. She couldn’t understand why he had maggots on him and how she could miss this because they were all over him (pretty much her words). As a consequence of her hysteria she couldn’t remember how to get to Cottonwood Animal Hospital. To give you an idea of how hysterical she must have been…there’s one turn only between my house and Cottonwood. That one turn is at the end of my block and after that all you have to do is drive straight until you see their sign.
When the vets at Cottonwood examined Jasper they found that he had several large lesions crawling with maggots. Each lesion had to be cleaned out which apparently took a lot more effort than they had expected on first examining him. The lesion on the side of his body ran from the top of his shoulder down his side almost to his belly…a fairly large opening. I remember the vet trying to describe it to me by phone while we were in Florida. I couldn’t understand it really because I couldn’t imagine how such a large opening/lesion had come to be there. He was admitted to Cottonwood Animal Hospital and stayed there until we came home from Florida which was about two 1/2 weeks later. Jasper not only this large lesion on his side, a temperature, high white blood cell count, but also a hole (another lesion) in the elbow of his left front leg that was large enough and deep enough that you could see the bone inside. He had a second hole/lesion on his rear left heel that was smaller.
My gosh! How could he have developed all this stuff in the first week to week and 1/2 that we were gone? To this day I’m not sure. The things I can imagine are awful…almost too awful for me to think about. But I do, because I left him with this pet sitter and I need to understand what went wrong. What went wrong with Cintya and her obvious lack of care for the dogs — I’ll never really know. I’d been training her for several months before leaving. The vets let me know that it would take 4 to 5 days to have the massive number of maggots hatch under Jasper’s skin. Somehow he’d developed a lesion (possibly a large bite?) on his side in which flies were landing and laying eggs.
Before we arrived home we got reports from our vets that just standing up to walk would cause Jasper to turn blue. He really couldn’t stand or walk in this condition. I didn’t understand what this came from – neither did the vets. We all finally agreed to have an ultrasound done on Jasper to see if something was going on in his lungs that would account for his condition or if something was going on in his heart that would account for his turning cyonotic (blue) so readily.
When I left home Jasper was doing just fine – no lesions – no maggots – no turning blue. He’d pant when he moved, needed water to be readily available because it was hard for him to get up and take a drink…so when he did…I wanted the water to be there and plentiful. He was on a good diet and eating well. He was the most fragile dog in the house but I wouldn’t have called him fragile…he was doing well given the state in which he arrived at Sheltie Rescue. An obese senior has to be watched and supported. I had talked to Cintya about this more than once…a lot of good that did. I made such a bad choice.
The results of the ultrasound were actually quite positive but that left us with no explanation for what was going on with Jasper. The question on everyone’s mind was, given he couldn’t even stand and walk, should we be letting him go. I just couldn’t see giving the go ahead for a euthanasia without first seeing Jasper myself. The turnaround was just too dramatic for me to believe that he was really ready to leave us. Jasper was the neglected, obese, abandoned senior and I wanted to give him a new lease on life…a healthier, happier life. So Jasper stayed at Cottonwood.
While Jasper was at Cottonwood an oversized Sheltie about 7 years old was turned over to Sheltie Rescue. Julene Mathews was good enough to get him and keep him at her home. This was how I found out that Cintya didn’t have a car of her own. I had asked Cintya to go over to the Humane Society to pick up this boy who’s name was Smokey. During several phone calls it became apparent that there was some problem with Cintya getting him. When I pinned her down I discovered for the first time that she didn’t have a vehicle of her own. That her boyfriend/husband had the car and she was at our home without transportation. When I confronted her about the fact that a requirement of this job was to have your own car and that I had made this clear to her from the start, she did the only thing she could do, apologize. But this was bad and was a huge lie because I had discussed this with her before we even started training her.
Back to Smokey…after he was in Julene’s home a few days she noticed him coughing. Julene had a puppy and she was terrified that Smokey might have kennel cough (a likely possibility). She took Smokey into Cottonwood Animal Hospital where they treated him for the most likely thing — kennel cough. Smokey went back to Julene’s but was isolated from the puppy. We discussed the incubation time for kennel cough (Bordatella) and agreed we’d just have to see how her puppy was a week later. As the days went by Julene noticed that Smokey was eating less and less until he wasn’t eating at all. She was very worried about having him near her puppy even though they were separated from each other. We found a great foster home for Smokey and Julene moved him there and made sure that Smokey’s new foster Dad had all the medication and information to take care of him. Smokey’s foster Dad called me the next day to say that Smokey didn’t sleep all night because he was coughing and he seemed to be coughing blood. We had Smokey’s foster Dad take him into Cottonwood Animal Hospital where Smokey’s condition continued to deteriorate despite IV antibiotics. Tests were done with no clear results.
With both Smokey and Jasper on oxygen, the vets at Cottonwood were actively collaborating on both cases. This is one of the best aspects of Cottonwood Animal Hospital…they have a collegial approach and call upon each other when a case is difficult or unclear. I’m not sure how many vets are at Cottonwood but easily ten vets, probably more, and that’s just during the day. The night vets are a different group. Which reminds me that because Jasper was brought into Cottonwood on Sunday he was on ER rates which are much higher than day rates. I’m not sure if Smokey’s foster Dad got Smokey to Cottonwood in time to have ER or day rates.
Prior to our leaving town we had all of our Sheltie Rescue expenses under control. I was paying SRU’s bills out of SRU funds and it felt really good. We were close to operating in the black! With the huge amount of care that Jasper needed, followed by the effort made to save Smokey, our bill at Cottonwood Animal Hospital skyrocketed. I couldn’t believe it. This was followed by a 22 teeth extraction for Trevor…but that’s another blog further on that will come soon.
Despite their best efforts, Smokey passed away at Cottonwood. We chose to have him stay there until we got home and could pick him up. It was very sad even though we hadn’t even met him. He had been turned over to the Humane Society by a family that had too many dogs and had to give up some of them. HS had turned him over to us. We think, but aren’t sure of course, that he had a respiratory problem that he was born with but which doesn’t manifest itself until later in life. I don’t remember the name…Julene googled around and found it and it just sounded so much like what was going on with Smokey that she told me about it. I really wanted to know about this disease and really wanted to understand what had happened to Smokey. I was very distressed that Smokey had gone to HS, then Julene’s, then to a foster Dad, and then died at Cottonwood. He hadn’t had a soft shoulder, someone who cared about him, someone to cheer him on or reassure him – he hadn’t had a familiar face of someone he knew he could count on for a hug, loves, a heart-to-heart. I felt that this was a huge failure on our part. We hadn’t been vigilant enough to notice that more than a simple kennel cough was going on. Possibly the kennel cough triggered the respiratory condition to develop into something else? Now, he waited for us in a freezer. I have a photo of him frozen. You can see the reddish tint around his muzzle from the blood he coughed up. Some of you may think this photo is ghoulish. To me, Smokey looks like a sweet boy that I’m very sorry I didn’t get to know. We may have lost him no matter how prepared we were for him but it’s still a sad loss.
Because Jasper was turning blue so easily and needed to be on oxygen they couldn’t sedate him to stitch up his lesions. So all his lesions were left open. Twice a day a tech would put neosporin on his wounds to prevent them from becoming infected.
When we arrived home Cintya picked us up at the airport which we really appreciated. On the way home Cintya told me about several things that had broken some of which she attempted to fix or replace. I had left her with the phone number of our handy-person and instructions to call him if anything needed fixing. She hadn’t called him. Among the things that had happened was that a whole cushion of a leather couch had been chewed up. That was upsetting but I’d wait to see what was going on when we got home.
When we walked in the door I noticed that the 8 week old puppy she’d picked up from the street was running around loose…I’d told her to crate him because he was going to cause problems, if not. As we walked into the family room I stopped because I couldn’t see a single place I could step without stepping on dog poop. I looked into the kitchen where the parquet floors were swimming in something wet…all wet. Some of the parquet was buckling. We always keep the wood floor covered to provide traction for the older dogs…where were the floor coverings? Every cleaning instrument was in the room…a vacuum, mop, dusters, broom…but it didn’t look like anything had been used. The drapes on the sliding glass door were hanging from one hook instead of all three hooks and the drapes were all over the place. Dog poop was all over the dog’s food room too — on the carpet. Because the several layers of plastic covering that I cover the carpet with in that room had all been pulled up and thrown away for reasons I’ll never know — I do remember the BS story Cintya told me but I know it has no relation to whatever actually happened. Jim and I were both in a state of shock.
I knew that I had to see Jasper and had to get him home but that I couldn’t bring him into the house with this filth all over the floor. Jim and I were exhausted from waking up at some awful hour like 4:00am on the East coast to catch an early flight from Florida to Utah. But the adrenaline flowing through me must have been the power behind what I accomplished that afternoon and evening. I didn’t mention that our bedroom floor was also covered in dog poop and Cintya’s belongings were everywhere in the house. As I cleaned I also collected up her items for her.
I’d gotten Cintya out of the house as quickly as I could because I was so upset and in shock. A short while later I’d called her to come back and help me clean the mess up. She couldn’t, which really was just as well because actually, I never wanted to see her again. What I wanted was to fix the house in order to get Cintya and this whole ordeal, that apparently encompassed Jasper and the house, behind me. I briefly thought about photos because there was definitely a small claims court case here but I rejected that almost immediately — it would mean that this whole nightmare would be extended as well as my contact with Cintya.
Among the things that broke besides the drapery rod hooks were:
- One of the paddles of the ceiling fan was broken off. The hardware has to be replaced on all four paddles to maintain balance.
- She broke the hose in the bathroom for cleaning dogs in the dog bathtub…she did replace that but I can’t figure how that could be broken.
- The thick heavy pitcher part of a blender she dropped and broke. She found a replacement and had it sent to me. That was good.
- There’s a large place in the parquet where you can see where this blender landed on the floor in addition to buckled parquet from the water on the floor
- The couch cushion was chewed up but not by Jodie who she blamed but by two dogs we asked her to keep away from the couch and possibly her puppy too.
- The postman complained that the mailbox was so full he could hardly get the last day’s mail in it.
- The backyard…well, if the floors in the house were covered in dog poop you can imagine what the yard looked like
- A calphalon pot was ruined
- The garbage was never put out of the house – in fact there were straws, napkins, and assorted other paper items in our bed
As far as I can tell she didn’t follow any of my directions with regard to the dogs and I’m probably lucky that others weren’t harmed by her “care”. One thing that every dog owner dreads are neighbors that are unhappy with you because of your dogs. We’ve lived here for over 10 maybe 15 years with not a single complaint from a neighbor. At 7:30am one morning a neighbor came to the front door to complain to Cintya about our dogs… I could go on but more important that dwelling on the nightmare Cintya created for us is that we were able to bring Jasper home the day after we got home, having cleaned up all the floors and started on repairing other things.
In this photo you can see the almost closed up lesion on Jasper’s side. When we brought him home I could put my fingers inside the hole that was here. This is two weeks later. It was healing very well and was almost closed up. At the bottom of this photo you can see the top of the hole in his elbow where bone was visible depending upon the position of his leg and the ligament inside there. To heal, we needed to make sure that pressure wasn’t put on these lesions. We set Jasper up in our family room on a 4 or 5 inch thick memory foam bed with a cover on it. Over that we put one of my favorite dog care items which is a washable puppy pad. We also used a lot of disposable ones until I found and received the washable type.
Jasper hadn’t eaten at Cottonwood at all. When we went to see him our first day home we could see how depressed he was. When I brought him home he wouldn’t eat no matter what I tried to feed him. I began syringe feeding him and kept that up for two weeks quite a few times a day.
The first few days that Jasper was home Jim had to carry him outside and back inside to go potty. It was rough. Jim was going to be leaving on a business trip shortly so we really hoped we could bring Jasper around so he could walk himself at least part of the way. The first day or two that he was home we saw how, while he was going potty or just afterward, while he struggled to stand, he would turn blue and basically melt to the ground. Jim would pick him up and bring him inside and onto his pad. Then I would clean off his wounds and re-apply the neosporin. Just before Jim was going to leave town, Jasper began standing up and letting us know when he wanted to go outside! I couldn’t believe it. It was wonderful. Not only that, he would stand up and move himself, without my even noticing, to somewhere near me…not that I was out of the room. I stayed by his side all during this time sleeping on the couch in the family room not more than a couple of feet from where Jasper slept. If he felt alone and depressed while at the vet’s he was going to have the reassurance of my presence as much as possible, 24×7.
We had to use an Elizabethan collar to keep him from licking his wounds especially the hole in his elbow. I found a clear one online at a vet catalog site and ordered it. I wasn’t sure how much of a difference it would make for Jasper but I thought I’d try it. Jasper MUCH preferred this clear collar to the more traditional ones.
Each day Jasper seemed to become more mobile so that when Jim got home from his business trip he marveled at the improvement in Jasper. No more turning blue outside. Initially Jasper would go potty just after getting off the dog ramp we use. Now, he was roaming away from the ramp to go potty. He was looking for his familiar water bowl outside and even inside. But Jasper still wasn’t eating on his own and I continued to syringe feed him.
Every so often I would offer some tasty piece of something to Jasper to see if he could be tempted to eat…chicken, steak, cheese, anything? One evening he ate something I gave him. I don’t even remember what it was I just remember thinking, we must be turning the corner…we must be making some real progress. I thought…we ARE going to get him back and see his coat grow back and watch him be his beautiful self again. The next night Jasper had a very bad night. It seemed as though there might be fluid in his lungs and no matter how he lay down he couldn’t get comfortable and he kept coughing.
The next morning I was worrying about Jasper and wasn’t sure what to do. The one thing I thought may have had an impact is that we’d finished one of his antibiotics a few days earlier. The vets didn’t want to extend the use of the antibiotic. He was still on another antibiotic for awhile longer. Jasper indicated by standing up that he wanted to go out to go potty. I could see that he wasn’t as strong as he’d been but he walked himself outside and went potty. I saw him turn blue and start to lay down. Somehow I scooped him up and got him onto the ramp and then into the house and on his pad. I screamed for Jim…I thought Jasper was dying…he seemed to be choking. Jim came in and I told him I thought Jasper was dying. Jim tried to clear his throat as he’d actually done about a week ago and we’d gotten past an event similar to this before. This time, it didn’t seem to clear. We tried holding him upside down and doing some chest compressions. I called Cottonwood to see if there was anything else we could do…but no. We watched Jasper choke for another moment and then he was gone.
I talked with the vets at Cottonwood. They told me that they were surprised that Jasper lived as long as he did…though I still think that we might have brought him around had something unknown not gotten in the way. We discussed what happened to him — fluid in the lungs. But I also talked to them about the fact that Jasper was debarked. He had one of the softest debarks I’ve ever heard. One of our vets, Dr. Cox, told me that he’s done more surgeries to fix debarks than he’s done debarks. He told me he always tries to talk clients out of debarking because of the likelihood of complications down the line. He felt that it was possible that Jasper’s debark may have complicated matters and may have been involved in some way. We noticed that even with syringe feedings that were liquid, Jasper would have difficulty swallowing. This is what made me wonder about the debark and the possibility of scar tissue. Dr. Cox mentioned that the scar tissue can cause sort of spider web scarring that can obstruct the trachea.