Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A look at how far we've come.

Ollie the day we brought him home.
   At this time one year ago, we had just discovered that Ollie had a liver shunt. We were going through more testing and consultations with the surgeon and his staff to schedule his surgery. It was one of the most difficult things that my heart has ever had to go through. Sleepless nights, constant emergency vet visits and an unbelievable amount of stress.
   Most of that time is a blur to me. I remember when I would be at work and get home, I wouldn't even be able to tell you what I did that day because my mind was so far off filled with thoughts about Ollie and what might be wrong with him. It was a long road to get the correct diagnosis, but eventually it was figured out and we were on the path to recovery.
   I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm remembering little things that he used to do when he was sick, and the way he used to act. One thing that sticks out to me is Ollie LOVED his medicine! We really lucked out with that.. He would hear the alarm that was set to remind us that it was medicine time and go nuts! Running in circles, barking, jumping and basically telling us to hurry up. His favorite was the lactulose, which from what I hear tastes like sugar. His other favorite was an antibiotic that was beef flavored. Even after he was off of his prescriptions, he would go to the fridge and look at us like, "Is it time yet?".
Ollie before surgery, 6 months old, 4.5 pounds
   I am still amazed at the effect the medications had on him. He was still very sick, underweight and lethargic, but he would actually run and play a little bit here and there. I can very clearly remember the emotional overload I had the first time he wagged his tail! Before his medications, his tail was always down and uncurled.. After his medications he would wag his tail at least once a day. It may not seem like a lot, but it was a very great thing to see. The best thing about this awesome, little pug is that even though he was going through so much, he always seemed to have high spirits.
   Ollie only weighed about 4.5 pounds when he was 6 months old. His liver shunt was very large, and he wasn't able to keep any normal dog food down. It would overwhelm his body, and he would end up vomiting. We tried a few different prescription diets, and eventually ended up sticking with Hills L/D formula. That food is a very bland, basic food for liver health in dogs. It basically looked like a bunch of white rice cooked with chicken broth, and the smell wasn't that great. But, like any other pug, Ollie loved to eat! He was on a strict diet, and wasn't allowed to eat very large portions, but at least he could keep this food down a little better than any of the other kinds we had tried.
Biggie teaching Ollie "the look".
   When he was ill, he would lay on my chest for hours. One of his other favorite spots was to climb up to my shoulders and lay on the back of my neck, under my hair. I would take him to work with me almost on his bad days so I could keep an eye on him. This also helped in case anything happened because the vets office is only about five minutes down the street. Even though he was incredibly tired and not very responsive, he loved the attention that my co-workers and customers gave to him.
   I got approved for enough credit to schedule his procedure on February 14th, 2011 and Ollie's surgery was scheduled for March 3rd, 2011. It was both terrifying and exciting! His surgery would have been sooner, but the surgeon had to be out of town for a few weeks. The wait for those couple of weeks felt like torture. There was mixed emotions because I knew this is what I wanted to do for him, no question about that. The scariest part was that I knew all of the risks involved. He was so tiny. Even though he had put on a little bit of weight before surgery (Which was another reason for a little bit longer of a wait) he was still so little. I was concerned that he might not be able to go through so much.
Ollie and I on the morning of his surgery.
   We still needed to do a couple more tests before the actual surgery. He had another ultrasound done, and two more CT scans. He wasn't allowed to eat for 12 hours before the tests, and he was NOT Happy about that! Even though we had tried so hard to keep Ollie away from everything, let's face it, deep down he was still a crazy, little, black pug. We went in to discuss the results of his CT scan, and they asked us if he had eaten anything. We thought we had done pretty good at keeping him away from everything, but apparently this little dare devil had found a way to get past our barricades and to the cat box! In the CT scan you could see all the little bits of kitty litter going through his digestive tract! We all got a pretty good laugh out of that.. Just like a pug, huh? You wont feed me, I'll feed myself!
   The day before his surgery we had one last consultation. We discussed the cellophane band that would go around the portal vein, and what was to be expected with recovery. He would have to be in ICU for 3 days post-op to watch for seizures or any signs of organ failure. They asked us if we wanted to leave him over night before surgery since we had to have him there by 7am, and it was one town over. Of course I chose to bring my little boy home, though.
Biggie and Ollie before the surgery.
   Dropping him off at the college was much harder than I had anticipated. Handing him over, even though I knew he was in good hands, was one of the most emotional things I've ever had to do. He wasn't in a good place the morning of surgery. We were asked to not give him his medications that morning, and he seemed to be right back where he started. Lethargic, unresponsive, tired and sick. I held it together until I got back to my car. Luckily, my boss was very understanding through this whole process and I was able to take the day to myself.
   The college (OSU) was very great about calling me to let me know how he was holding up, and keeping me informed on what they were doing. They also gave me permission to call any time I felt I needed an update. The surgery took a couple of hours, and I got a call saying that he had made it through, was in recovery and doing well. I finally had felt some relief!
   Ollie was under 24 hour watch for 3 days. They told me I could come visit him after one day, but ultimately I decided that it would be best to let him rest. The last time he had a surgery I ended up taking him home with me. I couldn't leave him there, and he clung to me when I went to put him back in the kennel. I didn't want to upset him or excite him, so he stayed for 3 days, and the vet assistant called about 3 times a day with updates. He was busy charming the staff and students, his appetite was normal and he made didn't have any problems. I was there first thing in the morning to pick him up!
Ollie the day he came home!
   Healing was very difficult. He had stitches going all the way down from his rib cage to his back legs. He was mostly confined to his kennel. This may sound sad, but the kennel could fit a mastiff. Lots of room and pillows in there, so he didn't seem to mind so much. He was back to the normal schedule; medicine, food, water, pain killers, poop then sleep. We only had a couple of scares during healing time.
   The first scare was when I went to give him his pain killers. This was the only medication that he definitely DID NOT enjoy. We got the first one down, and within minutes his mouth started foaming and he was drooling uncontrollably. I called the emergency line and told them what was happened. I think this is the closest I have ever been to a heart attack! Apparently this is somewhat common with the pain killer. The taste is incredibly bitter, and this was just a typical side effect. Good to know!
   The next scare would typically happen about 30 minutes after a meal. Ollie would bloat up to almost twice his size. The first time I noticed this was on March 12th. I remember this because it was the morning of my grandmother's birthday. We were all set to go to the coast for the night when I went to go give Biggie and Ollie their goodbye kisses. Ollie looked like a pug balloon. His stomach was huge and hard as a rock. Naturally, I panicked and called the emergency vet again. The biggest concern going through my head was that his stitches wouldn't hold up.
   Once we got to the vet, the examined him and told me it was distension, just a build up of extra fluids. They assured us that his stitches would be fine, to just keep an eye on him. Even though I was hesitant, I went to the coast with my mom and grandmother for the night, calling and texting my boyfriend almost constantly to check up on my boys.

 Ollie one month before and after surgery.

   After six weeks we started to ween him off of his medications and mix normal food in with his prescriptions. The improvement that he has shown is astounding. It's really hard for me to explain the condition he was in before. I feel like no matter how much I type, it will never fully show his progress or how he was in those first 2 months. Seeing Ollie now, you would never know he had any issues as a puppy.
Ollie making a mess!
   Biggie was stressed and a little bit depressed through the entire thing, but he was and continues to be an awesome big brother. They love to run and play together, and Ollie loves to be the typically annoying younger sibling. They are total opposites. Biggie is a cuddly sweetheart, and Ollie is outspoken, loud and crazy!

   With this year behind us, we are looking forward to many more adventures with Biggie and Ollie! They are both happy, healthy and hyper as ever! Even though it was incredibly difficult, emotionally trying and physically draining.. I am happy with our decisions. If given the option to go back knowing what I know now, I still would agree to adopt Ollie and I would do it all over again. No amount of money means more to me than the unconditional love and happiness that I get every day from these crazy boys!

Ollie and Biggie racing

    Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read this! I know it's a very long post, but I have had a lot of time to think about this and there have been several people interested in what he has gone through. With the one year mark right around the corner, it's time to for me to sit back for a second and count my blessings. I feel very lucky to have them in my life!



  1. Wow! I know a few Pugs with Liver Shunt. Many people don't do the surgery for one reason or another. It is so wonderful that he responded to the surgery well!!!

    1. I am so thrilled that he did well! I can't imagine my life without him. Ollie's case was really severe. I didn't even think about passing up on the surgery because there were nights I didn't think he would pull through. My mind just went straight to working out the finances! haha. We are very lucky to have him with us :) Thank you for reading!

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    This was an incredible story- with a happy ending, and were so happy.
    We know all about that unconditional love!

    1. Thank you for reading! Ollie is my walking miracle.

      Yes! A kind of love that is hard to put into words. They are just so great!


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