Honey with her sick dog Orchid

So many of you, dear readers, have sent me heartfelt messages on Facebook wishing Orchid, our pooch, a speedy recovery. I thank you for your caring words. It has so far been a long journey caring for a sick dog.

Our pooch Orchid is a thirty-seven pound bundle of love and joy. We no longer devour Godiva chocolates because Orchid provides us with non-stop sweet licks. We don’t take blood pressure medication because Orchid is a calming blood pressure pill. Orchid is my writing partner and more valuable to my husband and me than anything we own. She is our cheerer upper and our daily dose of vitamin C on the darkest rainy days. I have had many pets but none as delicious as my darling, Orchid Good.

So you can imagine how devastated we were when we realized she was ill.

We said to one another: “We will do everything in our power to cure her.” And we did just that.

A little background on Orchid Good

Ten years ago Orchid Good, a soft coated Wheaten Terrier, entered our lives. She was seven weeks old.  As she matured, her loveliness and inner beauty became larger than life. Our brood of children and grandchildren adore her, our friends like her and even strangers stop us to ask her breed and if we would allow them to pet her. She meets and greets everyone as we stroll down the streets of my beautiful Chicago or go to the neighborhood park on a lazy summer afternoon. Walking to our gate in airports takes us at least ten minutes longer because the overly friendly Orchid stops along the way to visit with strangers. She just has to greet everyone she meets. Dog lovers stop to admire her and children are not afraid to pet her. She loves the attention. She is a little ham. She is a charmer. Everyone should be as sweet as Orchid.

Orchid is ours together. I have my children. Shelly has his children and we have “our Orchid.”

I take her to the beauty shop. My husband takes her to the barber. Orchid travels with us. She goes shopping with me and to the car wash with Shelly. She loves lox and bagel and brie cheese. We guard her and she guards us. We are a trio of camaraderie.

Everyone is surprised by her name and wants to know why we choose Orchid.

That’s an easy answer. For those of you who are unaware, my children grew up on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii. Honolulu is our home.  All of our pets had and have Hawaiian names. There is Kona, Hanalei, Mahalo, Plumeria, Kahala, Orchid and more.

Caring for a sick dog

As I mentioned, Orchid is loaded with personality and loves life to the fullest.

I noticed on February 2, the day after she was given a required three-year rabies shot, Orchid was acting strange. I mentioned this to my husband. She began limping on a back leg and I took her to the vet. The first thing is the weigh-in. She lost two pounds. I was alarmed because she has maintained the same, 42 pounds, for years. The vet was not concerned about her weight loss or her limp saying, “She ‘probably’ has arthritis.” He recommended a pill for pain and told me the shot had nothing to do with her problem. He wanted to run a liver and kidney blood test before prescribing his preferred drug.

The test came back: Orchid’s kidneys were fine but her two liver enzymes were high. He was not alarmed although I was! The vet prescribed a vitamin for her liver and told me to come back in one month.

During that time, Orchid stopped greeting us at the door, stopped eating, slept all day and did not want to go for walks. She was totally disinterested in everything. I took her to another vet. He said, “You are going to a very good vet. I worked with him. I would do exactly what he prescribed.”

I brought Orchid home. I started cooking for her. Boiled chicken with rice. No reaction. New dog foods. No reaction. She did not want her water so I fed her ice cubes out of my hand every hour on the hour. I stir fried lean beef, boiled the dark meat of chicken (because she turned her nose up at white meat) and I stir fried lean ground beef. She began to eat sparingly out of my hand.

Back to her doctor. She lost two more pounds.  Liver level blood test re-run. Her enzymes had not come down. The doctor wanted x-rays and I agreed. They came back normal. No masses.

I decided not to return to that doctor, instead going to a third doctor. Orchid weighed in. She lost another pound. I was beside myself.

The new vet thought she might have hepatitis. This vet was not overly concerned about her weight loss because she was not eating or walking and muscle weighs more than fat. She wanted to do an ultrasound of her liver. It shows more than an x-ray. We did the test.

The result: The radiologist report said she may have a slow growing cancer.

Orchid knew something was wrong. We could tell as she looked up at us for help.

The vet said she was still optimistic. She felt that Orchid had hepatitis or too much metal (copper) in her liver and decided to put her on an antibiotic. She recommended a liver biopsy upon our return to Palm Springs. We were leaving for home, Chicago, in two days.

A few days after I started the antibiotic Orchid began to eat my cooked food, first out of my hand. She would not touch dog food. She continued licking ice cubes but slowly began drinking water.

I said to my ultimate concierge, “I know the antibiotic is working.”

So, we left Palm Springs with Orchid as planned. We were going home for Passover, my mother’s 96th birthday celebration and, in between, a five day trip to New York. My husband, Sheldon Good, was giving a welcome speech at an International Real Estate meeting at the United Nations. They were having a Day at the UN followed by a black tie affair.

We were feeling somewhat relieved but still very concerned because we had no definitive answers. Maybe she has cancer. Maybe she does not. Maybe she has hepatitis. Maybe she does not. Maybe it is copper. Maybe it wasn’t. I knew one thing: If she had cancer it was slow growing.

In the meantime, dear readers, I was cooking up a storm for Orchid, I was having new dog foods delivered to our apartment, in the sky, by my ‘main man,’ my dog food expert. I was administering pills three times a day, not easy when you have a very smart dog who knows how to spit them out. I watched Orchid’s every move.

On the Saturday before we were to leave for New York, my husband and I decided we could not, in good conscience, leave Orchid without our Chicago vet’s OK. In our minds, leaving Orchid for five days was a big deal. So, I made an appointment.

When I arrived at the vets, I handed copies of Orchid’s records including all pictures from her ultrasound. After examining, Orchid, the vet said we could travel. Leaving her for five days would not be the end of the world.

The vet and I decided Orchid would have a liver biopsy upon our return from New York. The vet took a blood profile. She said she would send me the results by email on Monday, the day we left for New York.

Monday morning around 11 a.m. our plane touched down at La Guardia. I turned on my phone and went to my inbox. An email from the vet. It was not good. Orchid’s liver enzymes had almost doubled.  My husband and I looked at each other and he said,  “We are going to do a turn around and fly home to Orchid. She needs us.”  We were in and out of New York in less than 24 hours.

The next day we began Orchid’s ordeal. We were sent to specialists.

The new doctors, a team, said we need another ultrasound even though I brought all of Orchid’s records.

Orchid had an ultrasound and a cat scan. She did not have cancer. The first ultrasound was read wrong. We were beyond overjoyed.

The doctors told us something was causing her liver levels to continue climbing, so we consented to a liver biopsy. It was major surgery.

We brought her home at 5 p.m. the day of her surgery. My husband said, “You are a Jewish mother and Florence Nightingale wrapped into one.”

He was right, dear readers. I nursed her. I called the hospital at least five times in the next 48 hours with questions. I set the alarm every few hours during the night so I could give her ice cubes to lick out of my hand. I did not want her to dehydrate. Don’t ask what I did for our darling pooch. And I knew she knew. I could tell.

The diagnosis:  Orchid has inflammation of the liver caused by copper (metal). Hepatitis in a dog is not A.B or C. It means inflammation. The copper in her liver could be caused by drinking water from copper pipes and it is found in some breeds’ DNA.

It has been two weeks today since Orchid’s biopsy. We are still waiting for more sophisticated slides to determine how Orchid should be treated. She will have to be on certain meds and a certain type of diet. We will have all of our answers next week.

As of now, I am still giving her the antibiotic, liver vitamins and a third pill to ward off the pain in her back leg. Nine pills a day for my pooch who is too smart for her own good. I have tried every trick to fake her out… to no avail! And so, I have to stick the pills down her little throat, kissing her and telling her I love her as I open her mouth. As I’ve mentioned caring for a sick dog is not easy!

There have been some bright spots. I finally found a dog food she loves. And, I no longer have to feed her ice cubes as she is drinking bottled water. She stopped losing weight, five pounds in all and has stabilized, gaining two ounces in the last two weeks. She is peppier but not back to her old self. The antibiotic took care of something going on and now we will try and conquer her remaining issues.

For all my dear readers who are doggie lovers, I know you can relate. Our pooches cannot talk. They are totally dependent on us. It is our obligation to give them our all and caring for a sick dog can be a real challenge. But we owe it to them because when they are well, they give us unconditional love, joy and comfort.

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring…it was peace.” – Milan Jundera.

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