It’s now been almost six months since Lola came to join our family. It feels like no time at all, and an eternity all in one! I say this because her story has been far from simple, far above & beyond the typical issues that can arise when adopting a rescue dog.
I’ll try to keep the saga as brief as possible, but this has been a journey to say the least, one that I’m happy to say we are finally rounding the corner on! Some of this I briefly touched on in my introduction post, but now that I have had time to process and we’re through the worst of it, I wanted to take more time to really delve into her story.
One of the first steps when Lola arrived with us was to have her checked out by a vet. This is all paid for by the rescue group, as well as any medical issues that arise in the first three weeks, before her adoption is finalized. This turned out to be our saving grace, as we had no idea what we were in for. Her first vet appointment went well. She was underweight, had some skin issues, and her teeth were a mess, but overall the vet thought she seemed fairly healthy.
We did mention to the vet that she had some vaginal bleeding, and it was proposed that perhaps she hadn’t been spayed in China after all. But it turns out that she was, so we were a bit perplexed as to why she’d be bleeding. When she had been with us for about a week, it all fell apart. We woke up to her barking wildly at 3am – she had never made a peep before! She was pacing frantically in the kitchen, and we never did figure out what set her off. We calmed her down, went back to bed and woke up to a complete mess: literally and figuratively.
She had gotten severe diarrhea sometime in the night, and was curled in a ball unable to stand or walk. She seemed miserable, refused to eat and we immediately whisked her to the emergency vet recommended by the rescue. She still could not walk and Jacob had to carry her in. Once there, she was diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament in her knee. We were in shock, and yet very familiar with the injury, as Nemo had just had both of these repaired last year. By looking at X-rays and her scar tissue, the vet theorized that she had torn it some time ago, but because she was confined to a kennel, the injury had “healed” by building scar tissue around it. When she came to us and was able to move around freely, the ligament was re-torn. It must have happened when she jumped up and was running around in the kitchen, or maybe she slipped and fell? The vet thought pain had caused the diarrhea and loss of appetite, and it took several weeks to get her stomach back on track.
Meanwhile, she continued to bleed and the vet thought it may have been a “botched spay,” which they have seen in dogs from China before. So, she went in for surgery to correct it. They found nothing wrong with her spay, and she continued to bleed. Finally, after almost two months of tests and ultrasounds, they found a mass. Our hearts sunk as we immediately assumed the worst: our new baby that we planned to love for years to come had cancer, and we would have mere months with her. We scheduled surgery to remove the mass and waited anxiously for the biopsy results, to see if our worst fears would be confirmed.
Amazingly, it was NOT a malignant tumor. It was a cancerous tumor caused by a sexually transmitted disease in dogs. It is not very common in the States, which is why it took so long for the vets to diagnose. It’s not surprising that she suffered from this because we know that she was a breeding dog. While the tumor itself is cancerous, it does not spread to other areas of the body, and 99% of the cancerous cells were removed with the extraction of the tumor. She was prescribed four rounds of “chemo-lite” as we called it. The medicine was not very strong, and it was mainly as a precaution to make sure the 1% of remaining cells were killed off and her tumor would not return.
Immediately after her tumor was removed, the bleeding stopped and she began to improve. She had learned to live with the knee injury, and was actually moving around really well! But we knew that we wanted her to have the best quality of life possible, and that meant moving forward with her knee surgery. Once chemo was completed, she had the ligament repaired and is now just started daily walks again, a month after surgery. Her X-rays look great, her leg is healing well and she is loving be able to walk around again. We still need to ease her back into activity: no running, jumping or playing yet. but we know that once these restrictions are lifted, she will be able to truly live the life she deserves.
Right after surgery – showing off her “chicken wing” and snuggling with her favorite hippo toy.
I remember when they found the mass, the representative from the rescue called to talk about options. She said she understood if it was too much and we could surrender Lola back to the rescue; they would handle her care and put us back on the list to find another dog. While I can appreciate the offer now, at the time I was quite offended that she would assume we wanted to give up – it never even crossed our minds (I’m pretty sure my actual words to Jacob were: “They can take her over my dead body!”). Our sweet girl has been through so much already, and she had finally started to see this as her home and see us as her family. We knew we couldn’t abandon her. If it had been cancer, we would have loved her for however long we had. Our dogs are family, and we will never give up on them.
But somehow, by an amazing twist of luck, our girl is now almost 100% healthy and ready to begin her life all over again. Her health issues and the added difficulties of coronavirus have made for a rough start. She has not been socialized, exercised or trained the way we would have preferred. She has some separation anxiety that has evolved from us being home with her 24/7, and she has picked up some bad habits without being able to socialize with other dogs and people.
But we will get her through this, and as she assimilates more into our family we just love her more and more. If we sit on the floor, she will come to us and just push her head into our chest, almost like she’s hugging us. She loves to look at (bark at) birds, and is a master at building a toy pile on her bed – much to the dismay of the other pups, who plan regular rescue missions to retrieve their stolen toys. There have been no more arguments between Lola and Dani, and they are all starting to act like a true pack now – which may be our undoing, ha!
We are so blessed with you, Lola buggy.