Sophie’s second day at our house was a scary time for all of us. I knew we were in big trouble when our new puppy couldn’t keep down any food and a thick green fluid started to drip from her nose. An immediate call was made to our veterinarian.
I don’t remember exactly which tests the vet performed during his exam, but I know he said Sophie had a high fever and that he suspected she had Distemper. He also said she was highly contagious. Working at a quick pace, the veterinarian prescribed an antibiotic, told me to call if Sophie got worse and shuffled us out of the clinic as fast as possible.
Looking back I really don’t believe he thought he would see Sophie again, alive that is. As we were leaving two techs came into our exam room with mops and disinfectants and began to swab down the room, stripping it of my baby’s contagious germs.
Once at home we isolated Sophie, which wasn’t too hard because she was so exhausted. During the next two days she took her pills like a champ, tried to drink some water and tried to hold down bits of food. By day three she refused to do any of those things. I called the veterinary clinic and explained to the vet tech how Sophie had deteriorated. I was told to come in immediately.
I’ll never forget the expression on the veterinarian’s face when he saw me sitting on the upholstered bench in his waiting room with Sophie in my arms. His face puffed up and turned bright red. Holding back his anger he said, “I told you she is highly contagious.”
We walked out of the clinic.
Later that day we found ourselves in the safe hands of Dr. Laura Hokett DVM. Dr. Hokett was gentle with Sophie and with me. She had a separate entrance at her clinic for pets with contagious diseases and she wasn’t outraged when our exam room had to be sterilized after the visit. She didn’t give up on Sophie either. Although it took several attempts, we finally found the right combination of medications that stopped the virus and its complications and ultimately saved my dog. We got to know Dr. Hokett very well during the 4 weeks that it took for Sophie to recover. In fact, Dr. Hokett became our trusted veterinarian for many years until she retired and moved away from Las Vegas.
Many dogs that survive the initial Distemper virus go onto endure a secondary stage that includes neurological symptoms. Some of these include head shaking, slobbering, balance problems and rhythmic contractions of muscles.
I mention this because Sophie showed some signs of minor neurological damage. During her entire life her head shook, sometimes worse than others. At one point the tremor was strong enough that a pet sitter called me because she thought Sophie was having a stroke. Unfortunately even our wonderful veterinarian never made an exact diagnosis of what caused the shaking.
Ultimately no one will ever know whether this early illness served as a precursor to Sophie’s later paralysis. In all reality, it probably did not. Her condition progressed more like a disease called Degenerative Myelopathy, but that story is for a later time.
I also want to point out that our experience adopting a sick dog from a shelter never deterred my family from saving a homeless pet. All of the seven dogs and five cats we have raised have either come from an animal rescue group, municipal animal shelter or were wandering on the street. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And finally please bear with me, I promise to get to the lessons my family learned from our paralyzed dog. I just thought you might like to know Sophie’s story first.
Please follow our story on Sophie’s Facebook page and for the heroes who are taking care of a disabled, sick or injured pet, we hope you will share your story with us.