River Proves Christmas Miracles DO Happen
Exactly a week ago I wrote a blog on River, a dog saved from puppy farming with a complicated set of problems. Her future was highly uncertain as it was clear that amongst all her issues lay something neurological and most likely life threatening. Her background brings with it a host of complex behavioural problems which always make it harder to get to the root of anything with such dogs and River has been no exception. From the moment she arrived at DBARC her needs have been intensive. This video is a reminder of the damaged soul discarded by the breeding industry.
But a week is a long time in the life of a dog and what a roller coaster of a week River and her extended DBARC family have had, with Christmas thrown in the middle for good measure! Today, we not only know what the cause of River’s severe symptoms has been, but she’s undergone major, emergency surgery to fix it in one of the world’s leading animal hospitals – Fitzpatrick Referrals.
It turns out, after extensive – and expensive – investigations which included an MRI scan that River was born with a condition which affected the bones in her neck. Atlanto-axial sub-luxation causes neck pain, abnormal holding of the head position, weakness in the limbs or inability to use them. The problem in the bones has been compressing her spinal cord and could at any time have caused a catastrophic event ending in paralysis. Just take a second to imagine that happening to a dog anywhere, but then imagine it in the stark, lonely world of the puppy farm from where she came and a cold shiver runs through all of us I’m sure.
For River, the instability in the vertebrae in her neck has been a lifelong and terrible condition she’s lived with, untreated, uncared for and unnoticed in the breeding shed. It’s unimaginable how much she has suffered: the pain alone is unthinkable, let alone the fear and isolation she must have experienced, never knowing when, with just a movement her symptoms would be magnified. No wonder she held so much fear so close, whenever anyone approached. She was not only avoiding human contact which for any puppy farm dogs brings anxiety, she must have been terrified of what her body, her neck might do. Truly awful to dwell upon.
So let’s not, let’s look forward to River’s recovery, which is well underway now she’s post op, with a neck that’s been skilfully cemented, screwed and pinned together with quite a metalwork collection by her wonderfully kind vet Joanna. It helped Janet manage the profound worry of having River in surgery on Christmas Eve knowing that Joanna has herself adopted a dog from a bad breeding background; she completely understood that for River, the experience was not the same as for a loved family pet.
River has never had the stability and confidence of a caring human being to rely on until being at DBARC, so the whole thing must have been utterly bewildering for her. But if there is one advantage that dogs who survive puppy farming have, it’s a keen survival instinct, it’s what helps get them through the years of suffering. And, having had a taste of love and kindness during her time at DBARC, I’m sure this must have helped River draw from the depths of her brave little soul to fight to get through the surgery.That plus the incredible flood of well wishes and prayers that came in for River on social media. The response from so many people has been truly awe inspiring and wonderful.
At one stage, the odds Janet was given for River even surviving the surgery were scarily low. We had a good honest chat before the decision was made to go ahead with the operation, not only to talk through what River would have to undergo but to discuss the very real issue of financing such specialist treatment. Schnauzerfest fundraising this year has been phenomenal and the money for River’s treatment is there, but, and it’s a big but, we have no way of knowing what other dogs will need help in the coming year. And at what cost. Scans and surgery soon drain funds as anyone who has ever had a pet undergo any serious veterinary treatment will know.
For River, where insurance isn’t in place, the only option apart from using money raised for DBARC by an army of kind Schnauzerfest donors, was for her not to get the chance. To balance everything right and to come to a life or death decision is extremely hard. And this tough conversation was had between us. The responsibility felt enormous and brought it home to me how much we all owe people like Janet who are regularly faced with decisions like this for animals that have no family to decide on their behalf. Janet never takes spending money raised for DBARC lightly. But, equally, I would never for one second doubt a decision that she makes. Ever. She knows what she’s doing, but with River it really was a touch and go and highly charged decision.We felt so responsible not only for her life (big enough in itself), but for spending a large chunk of the money so many people have raised for Schnauzerfest and DBARC, in a complicated, highly risky operation.
But thankfully Janet’s intuition was spot on and within hours of her coming round from the op, we were cautiously optimistic that River had a good future ahead of her. She had beaten the odds and done it fantastically. Being the brave survivor she is, here she was last night, just a few days on from surgery, showing us all how much this operation has changed her life.
River is now back with her DBARC family and for the first time in her life living pain-free. She’s on cage rest for 3 weeks after which short, limited walks will start and progressively increase. Her care is intensive and although she looks great in the video, she has long road ahead of her. She’s having physiotherapy 3 times a day with Janet’s team and she’ll go for a weekly visit to the Fitzpatrick physiotherapist. Her next big test will be in 6 weeks time when she’ll have a CT scan to assess healing and progress.
She’ll also have an impressive scar to show for all she’s been through!
All of this is doable because of the great dedication of Janet and her team of staff and volunteers. Plus the unending generosity of many people who donated to Schnauzerfest during the 2017 fundraising. But even more than this, the kindness of many people over Christmas wanting to donate to River’s treatment meant that we opened the 2018 fund earlier than planned.
At the time of writing over £3000 has been donated. To date, the costs of River’s investigations and treatment stand at approximately £7000 and will increase with the essential post-operative care and scans that are needed. A scary sum of money, but for this once abused, cruelly treated dog, who will now live a good and full life, a dog who is so clearly grabbing that life with all four paws, she is worth it a million times over. This is what Schnauzerfest supporters make possible. And it’s flipping brilliant.
The 2018 Schnauzerfest Fund is open here and will stay open until November.