Personal Stories

When a Woman Loves a Dog

Sansa came into our life for a reason.

About three years ago, we were almost in-between dogs. Penny, a huge Boxer-Bullmastiff mix I’d acquired when her previous owners could no longer control her and the neighbors felt threatened and it was either me or the pound. She was a very sweet dog, but could be scary to people who weren’t “hers” and didn’t know her. Penny had to be put down as she’s likely had a stroke or seizure that made her more aggressive to the other animals in the house. She was 12, and for that size it was a pretty long life. We still had Worf, an Old English Sheepdog who was the same age as Penny. He was just like this stoner dog (as my daughter used to call him) that was really more of a threat than Penny because he wanted to “herd” everyone to make them go where he wanted them to go. I didn’t know it at the time, but Worf only had a few more months in him. Then there was (and still is) Brady. He’s an 8-9 pound Maltese (white people love them dogs) I inherited from my parents. He’s a little jerk, but we love him (well, at least tolerate him).

We had two dogs at home still (plus two cats at the time), but I knew Worf was getting older. As much as I’d tried to make Brady a “buddy” he was, and always will be, a lap dog. I wanted someone to ride in the Jeep with me. I wanted someone who’d go geocaching with me (even better if I could train them to sniff them out). I wanted someone who was as much of a pal as my first dog, a Doberman named Mookie was.

There I was standing in Petsmart, probably buying stuff for my fish tank. I was planning to go geocaching that day. Standing at the checkout, I had a strange compulsion to go to the local Humane Society and see what was there. I can’t explain how strong the feeling was or why I had it – it was just there. I fought it. I had plans to go geocaching anyway, so I finished buying what I needed and resisted the urge.

I was at the second or third geocache I’d planned on getting that day, when around the corner from it I saw a sign that said PUPPIES. What were the odds? I was resigned to the fact that I’d had that urge for a reason. I’d LOOK, just LOOK. That was it.

Could you resist that face?

There were two females in a litter of about 5 or 6 Treeing Walker Coonhounds. I’d never had a hound before. That face! I wanted a female because I’d had problems with completely housebreaking male dogs (Brady included). They had just been brought to this house near a main road. They wanted $200 each. I had $180 in my wallet. They took it, and I got Sansa. It just had a feeling it was meant to be

Our first geocaching adventure

I tried the “taking her everywhere with me” and it turns out she does not like riding in my Wrangler. Oh well. We went on a few adventures. I tried taking her on short trips closer to town. In my Wrangler she would throw up or act like she was about to (still does). In my spouse’s Chevy Silverado, she’s fine. One dream down.

She grew and had some of the hound tendencies, and not some of the others. We took her for obedience training and some of it stuck. We sent her to doggy playtime one a week or so and she got along okay with other dogs and got her energy off. At home, though, she feels the UPS man is a definite threat. Her very active puppy phase lasted about two years before she became more serene.

Like many hounds, she tended towards ear infections. We then noticed her belly getting red. Allergies. We tried certain (more expensive) foods and it helped but didn’t go away. The vet put her on Apoquel. This suppresses their immune system, kind of like the same drugs my son is on. She had a few flares, but other than a ridiculously expensive drug, not too bad for the last year or so. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to her ears and clean them.

A few weeks ago we noticed spots on her that felt kind of crusty. I googled and found information on “hot spots” dogs can get. I bought some sprays, but they were quickly getting worse, so another trip to the vet was in order. Special baths, some medication and the majority of them went away.

Then came this week.

My spouse first noticed a lump on her leg. It looked like something at the center of it, but it wasn’t a tick or anything like that. Her rear paws were bleeding a little, but we thought that happened because he’s stepped on her when he had her out for a walk. I messaged the vet, said I thought she needed her leg drained and anitbiotics. It turned out to be much more than that.

She’d had a spot on her chest that got irritated when she was wearing a barking correction collar (we only used the noise). I used to take it off at night but my spouse left it on her 24/7. It got irritated and started oozing. We took the barking collar off. Then it seemed to be irritated by her regular collar. I switched it to a harness so the area didn’t have anything scraping it.

The vet said that the spots on her neck, feet, leg, and a spot I had thought was a “hot spot” behind one ear were actually signs of a fungal infection. In 20 years in New England, she’d never seen a fungal infection here. They usually don’t see them here. We had to sedate her, and when the vet managed to take her temperature, it was 104.5°F. I thought she’d felt warm the day before but we’d been having a hot spell. I let her sleep in the air conditioning with me.

While she was sedated she drained the spot on her leg. A lot of blood and pus came out of there. She also worked on the spots on her back paws and ear. The chest area had started bleeding again when I was trying to hold her and keep her calm. The vet said all these areas were swollen and the skin was delicate due to the infections, that’s why they bled so easily. She soaked her paws in a solution as well. She took cultures of all of the spots to send out to UNH to see exactly what type of fungal infection we were dealing with, plus a blood sample. The cost of all the testing alone was $250.

I had two sets of antibiotics to give her each day. 3 pills needed to be taken twice a day, and two pills needed to be taken 3 times a day. Plus she had pain killers. Plus she has her regular medicine.

We got home and I let her in the air conditioning right away. It was a humid day. She jumped up on the bed with no issues. The night before she needed help, so her legs were feeling better already once the drainage had happened. Other than that one improvement, though, she just laid on my bed all day and that night. I watched over her. She wouldn’t eat. She went out and took a small drink, but other than that it was laying on the bed.

My spouse and I both had a good cry over this. The vet said that fungal infections can be very bad. It can get in their lungs with no way to get out. That’s usually how it gets transmitted to spots on their skin, especially if it’s spots they lick or chew (like her legs and paws). In that case the only solution can be removing the lung lobes that have the fungus in them. That sounds very costly to me, as well as thinking about quality of life issues. Hound dogs like to run and do a lot. With only one lung?

The next day she still was eating anything. Usually she takes her pills in baloney but she wasn’t going for that. She needs probiotics and I’d bought Activia yogurt. I emptied one of the capsules into the yogurt and she ate it. I tried that with the rest of the medicine and it was too concentrated. We eventually got it all in her. Later, at night, we got a second dose in her for the day with the pills just buried in the yogurt.

This morning she was acting much better. Only time will tell.

The thought of making a hard decision about her future nearly paralyzes me. At the same time I would not want to force her to live an existence where she wouldn’t be happy, just to be my companion. It doesn’t feel like it’s “her time” because she’s only 3 years old, as opposed to when I had to put down my other pets. I love this dog so much and am looking forward to doing so much with her still. We’d started planning camping trips (using the Silverado, not the Wrangler) so we can travel with her. This morning she actually ate a little bit of food, in addition to the yogurt with her medication. I’m hoping we move forward and she gets better. I’ve done hardly anything this week except lay on the bed with her, trying to make sure she’s not licking or chewing on those spots. Right now, I can’t imagine losing her.

2 replies »

  1. I’m sorry to hear of your troubles. I completely understand about it not feeling like her time. We’re still struggling from the loss of our cat a few months ago that was only two. Best wishes and I hope for a speedy recovery!