The following is copied from my book about Ray – “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” (Click book cover image in right column for more information).
To set the context: We had recently adopted Ray, and his first medical examination produced a positive test result for heartworm. Heartworm is terminal if not treated and, for a number of reasons, the treatment itself can be fatal. He had to be kept as calm as possible throughout the complete treatment period of six months.
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Later that month Ray had his first deep muscle injection after he had been sedated, and watching that rather large needle being pushed through the muscle in his lower back was quite disturbing. I could well imagine that he was going to be rather sore later, but I was not prepared for the outcome. When we got him home, he went to his crate to settle down but clearly couldn’t. He got himself up with obvious difficulty and, making it clear that he was in pain, moved around to settle down again but, again, clearly he was not comfortable. It was very sad to watch our beloved Ray try various positions in order to get comfortable, with none of them offering much relief, and this was the pattern for the next few hours until we had to leave him in order to get some sleep ourselves.
It was terrible listening to him as he tried to get comfortable. I had never heard a dog sob before, but I shall not forget it. The following day he was moving around better and we both agreed that for the next two injections, we would request a pain killer for him.
It had also been recommended that he be put on Prednisone in order to reduce inflammation caused by the heartworms during the treatment process, however, we must be prepared for a common side effect: the need to pee much more frequently! The vet was quite correct as, every hour or so, we would hear the bell on the back door! It certainly became invaluable as one of us would hear it and stumble out of bed. Where did we put his leash? Where’s the pen and paper so we can record the time and whatever he did so that whichever one of us woke up to take him outside would know the history of his earlier visits and therefore know what to expect! We each have many memories of stumbling around the garden, and then standing around while Ray proceeded to pee, throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning. It did, however, give us a whole new perspective on our garden! I often wondered if anybody in our neighbourhood was speculating on our behaviour given that our outside lights came on regularly for two to three minutes at a time throughout the night!
You can probably imagine the atmosphere, after the treatment started, as we tried to keep Ray’s life as stress free as we could and yet maintain something close to his prior lifestyle. He had already made it clear that he loved to visit OMHS to see a number of people there that were clearly important to him, but we had to curtail those visits as he would get too excited when he saw them. At the first sighting of another dog when on a walk, we would immediately make a detour so as to avoid any possible interaction. Similarly, groups of people, children, individuals with sticks, canes, skateboarders … were all prime stress candidates for Ray and were therefore avoided wherever possible. Then of course there were rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife which Ray would love to chase given an opportunity. It was our intention to prevent those opportunities from presenting themselves, which of course we could not always do, however, with Ray being so food motivated, it was not too difficult to distract him! Ray survived those first two weeks and so Carol and I settled down into a daily routine of protecting him as best we could which, of course, was going to be the pattern of our lives for the next few months.
The rest of the treatment program still had a high risk of a serious and perhaps a fatal outcome, so we really could not ease off on our efforts to keep him calm and as relaxed as possible. On the positive side, while we did not exercise him aggressively during these times, we did take him for short, slow-paced walks which Ray took full advantage of to exercise his nose! We were also able to work his brain quite hard by teaching him some simple commands so by the end of his treatment program in late August, he had quite the inventory of tricks, which would be happily demonstrated upon request, and with encouragement that tasted really good.
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The read the full story, you will need a copy of the book … which is available in eBook, paperback and hard cover formats.