Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Goodbye, Charlie.

This week has been a miserable, stressful, no good, f*#k fest; with each new day equally as nightmarish as the last.  If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

It began about a week and half ago, Friday.  Father's day was on the horizon and I was reeling over what to get Ryan from Grace.  When I'm not taming a toddler, refolding laundry for the eighth time, or working, I'm moonlighting as G's personal shopper. 

So, I sat there asking myself "What does Ryan like?".  I nailed it down to three things.  Guitars, musical gear, and beagles.  Having scant knowledge of the first two, I began to peruse Petfinder. (Mistake #1).

Meet Simba (who would soon be renamed Charlie) and brought to join our crazy little family.

Charlie was a rescue from a high kill shelter in Kentucky, who was saved by a couple of great women out of Roseville.  Him and his sister (Nala, naturally) where 9 weeks old and looking for a family.  He was clearly part beagle, and totally chill.  The instant we meet him, he just fit.  Grace ran up to him like the insane little girl she can sometimes be, and he fell over on his side and took in her rambunctious petting and rambling.  We knew right then that Charlie was ours.  Like I said, it just fit.  

So, we take Charlie home the following day and then promptly to the vet for an proper puppy exam.  The vet said he looked great and had a great demeanor, and with a light antibiotic for a touch of kennel cough, we we off. Charlie was coming home and we were thrilled.

Fast forward to late Tuesday night.  Grace wakes up complaining of a tummy ache and has a low grade fever.  We don't really think much of it because she is acting totally normal otherwise and having no other symptoms.  With a dose of tylenol and an exorbitant amount of cuddles, she was back in bed and resting.

The following day, the fever broke and stayed away.  She carried on as normal and so did we.  Throughout the day Grace would complain of a tummy ache for a minute or two and then get back to her business. Within the day came diarrhea and I started to get a bit concerned. 

The presentation was bizarre.  She wasn't tired or whiney, and she appeared to be hungry and thirsty as usual.  We decided to give  it a day and call the pediatrician if symptoms didn't improve by the following morning.

As luck would have it, she only got worse.  More pain and more poops.  We visited the doctor and with a quick exam we were told it was probably just viral.  No need to worry.  I insisted that they test her poop (which fortunately wasn't in short supply), just to be sure that the puppy hadn't passed something to Grace.  Poop was taken to be sampled, but presumed to be nothing.

Late that evening things got even worse.  I'll limit you the details, but blood was involved, and Ryan and I totally freaked.  Early that morning we were off to the ER.  I was a wreck, clearly assuming the absolute worst and naturally blaming myself.  What the hell was I thinking getting a puppy? This was my fault.

Test results came back pretty quick and they diagnosed Grace with Campylobacter, a bacterial infection in her intestines.  They assured me that the bacteria was self-limiting and typically didn't require treatment.   I would spend the next two days doing nonstop research, scouring every article I could find on children and this bug.  Turns out it is fairly common, but can be pretty nasty and have some serious (although rare) complications.  Campylobacter is found on almost 50% of grocery store poultry, in the stool of tons of animals, and can be carried by dogs and cats,  puppies in particular. 

Almost miraculously, Grace seemed almost 100% by Sunday.  She was such a trooper.  We followed up at the pediatrician on Monday for no other purpose that to watch her scratch her head and read us an article from Web Md.  Turns out she'd never really heard of this and was pretty surprised too.  She was suspicious of the puppy and suggested treatment to insure there would be no reinfection.  She again told us it was self-limiting but to watch for a slowly ascending paralysis over the next two weeks.  Evidentially Guillain–Barré syndrome has been linked to Campylobacter infections.  It's rare, but really scary.  

So today, some tough decisions had to be made about Charlie.  I spent today arguing with vets who also seemed to have little knowledge of this bacteria, insistant that my puppy be treated with an antibiotic to insure that the bug is killed if he has it.  They went on and on about antibiotic resistance and lack of symptoms and I went on and on about my sick toddler and my concern of reinfection, to no avail.   They said that it would be over  $200 just to test if he had the germ, and then even if he did have it they wouldn't treat him for lack of symptoms. If there is one thing that we don't have a lot of, its extra cash, so coughing up that kind of loot with no promise of him being clear - wasn't an option.  The germ can remain in the stool of an infected animal for months and months, sometimes longer.  The germ is passed fairly easily and for anyone who has a toddler - the prospect of keeping a toddlers fingers out of their mouth is virtually impossible.  I just can't see myself spending every day wondering if Grace is getting reinfected from Charlie.  It's just too hard.  I'm sure that makes me a bad person or a lazy, irresponsible pet owner - but Grace's health comes first and now I just need to play catchup and remedy the situation. 

Feeling totally heartbroken and helpless, I called the rescue folks and told them we would be forced to return Charlie.  

I had the best of intention when looking for a dog.  We don't spend a lot of money on ourselves or treat ourselves to much of anything.  We live a pretty meager lifestyle and I was hoping that bringing a little pup into the family would bring us a little bit of excitement and really add to our little family.  The unforeseen expenses and health problems aside, Charlie is an absolutely amazing little fella.   But now, I have a sick kid, who is fortunately on the mend, and a man who is totally heartbroken.  Ryan is much more the animal lover than I am and I feel absolutely terrible for getting him attached to the dog.

I spent a fair amount of the drive to Roseville crying and blaming myself as I watched Charlie sleeping soundly on the back seat.  Grace seemed totally unaware and we thought that was best.  The rescue people where really bummed for us and didn't want to see us part with Charlie.  The rescue woman was  kind enough to offer to pay for the test to see if in fact he is carrying the bacteria and then pending the results, hold him for us.  If Charlie comes back negative, we'll bring him home, and if it is positive - they will find another family to take him.  
I'm sitting here with a toddler up at 11pm, listening to Patsy Cline radio and praying she doesn't ask where Charlie is.  I feel absolutely terrible.  I just hope things work out for the best, one way or the other.  

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