On Saturday afternoon, the little prince, Samson Muhapi, finally came home. He had been at the Tropicana Animal Hospital, on IVs and in isolation, since late Monday morning fighting the deadly puppy virus, parvo. Because I spent a good 24+ hours researching this virus online and tirelessly searching for parvo success stories, I feel compelled to add our story here to serve not only as a warning for just how serious the parvovirus is, but also to offer some hope for people in the midst of this fight searching - as I did - for some happy endings.
Let's start at the beginning... I found Samson through an ad on Craigslist. Although I had wanted to rescue a puppy from a shelter, I was having a hard time finding just the dog I wanted. I attempted to bring home several cocker spaniels from California (my girl, Liz, was even planning on meeting one for me), but many shelters only allow people in the same county to adopt their animals just in case something goes wrong and the adopter needs to return their new pet. Jenner and I both didn't feel right buying an animal from a pet store because so many of them come from puppy mills and my dog loving boyfriend convinced me not to give a small fortune to a breeder. Even though finding the new member of our family on Craigslist didn't seem ideal, I quickly realized that many people who can't keep their pets use this site to find good homes for their fur babies.
When I found the ad featuring Sammy and two of his brothers, I knew I had to meet this dog. From the moment I saw his photo, he captured my heart. I immediately texted the owner and learned that he and his wife had both of Sammy's parents, Mimi and Poppy, as pets and although they wanted to keep each of the puppies, they couldn't. They told me that he had received his first parvo shot and was healthy and playful. Last weekend, Jenner and I met with the owners, Luis and Elizabeth, and the three puppies. Luis handed me one (very, very sweet) puppy and Jenner another. Both were so adorable, I was at a complete loss. I felt like I did when I was a little girl and didn't want to hurt the feelings of any of my stuffed animals. Jenner told me that he thought the one he was holding was our guy and because he was so beautiful, I agreed. And that was that. We took Samson and a copy of his proof of parvo vaccination and headed home as a family.
Looking back, something was very wrong from the beginning. Sammy didn't have the energy I was expecting, but since I had never had a puppy before I chalked it up to him missing his dog mama and family. Although he ate that first night, he didn't eat again the entire next day. I now know that his depression was a sign of parvo and once he started having regular bouts of diarrhea, I became very worried. I called the vet that second day and he told me to come in the next morning if things hadn't improved. When we woke up the next day and Samson's stool looked (sorry) like mucus, I googled this symptom. I read that if this type of stool is accompanied by depression, lethargy and a refusal to eat or drink, it is time to immediately head to the vet. And that we did. We were very lucky to have Dr. Renee Lewis as our vet and I can't say enough good things about her here. When I hugged her right before we took Sammy home, she said, "I've talked to you more than my mom this week." You and me both, Dr. Lewis.
Six days, five nights and a whole lotta money later, Samson recovered, but I wouldn't wish this on any animal or their owner. The entire week was heartbreaking and I can honestly tell you that I was beside myself. Knowing that something was very wrong with my new baby and sensing that he needed me, I held Sammy for almost all of those first two days. This created an incredibly strong bond between the two of us and seeing this little boy suffer was almost more than I could handle. During those awful two days, Samson was no longer a pet and I was no longer his owner. Instead, he was simply a living being, just like me, in pain. My poor boyfriend had probably never seen me this upset and for six days I slept with my fingers crossed, repeatedly asked my dad to pull some strings upstairs and carried around my new puppy's beloved stuffed ducky everywhere I went (to work, to the bathroom, you name it, that duck went with me).
The survival rate for this disease isn't great, but without hospitalization, nearly 90% of infected puppies will die. What I want to get across with this post, more than anything else, is that this virus hits hard and hits fast. If your puppy is showing any of the signs I've mentioned (even if they've been vaccinated for parvo), you have to get them to the vet immediately because this virus kills quickly. I contacted the people I got Sammy from as soon as I learned his diagnosis and both remaining puppies were showing signs of the virus, as well. Unfortunately, the sweet little puppy I held that first day and considered bringing home with me died two days later.
For those of you that stumble across this post someday because your dog is fighting the parvovirus, let me tell you, there is hope. If you caught it early enough and got your pet to the hospital for 24 hour care, he or she has a good chance of beating this ugly disease. However, if you caught it early, your pup still has to progress through the virus and it will get worse before it gets better. Don't give up; your pet needs you.
As for Samson, it looks like we got our rescue dog after all. We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to save this sweet animal (with the help of Jenner's amazing mother - I can never, ever thank her enough). Luckily for him, the little puppy we brought home is very different than the puppy I left at the vet. It's been so fun to see him act like the energetic pup he was too sick to be before. He's still on antibiotics and has some recovering left to do but what I know for sure is that he's a fighter. He won't be able to be around other vaccinated adult dogs for a couple of weeks and can't be with other puppies or go to dog parks, beaches, etc. for a few months (parvo is spread through a sick dog's feces and Samson will still be contagious for a little while). Don't worry, though, we keep him busy around here with all the snuggling, kissing and playing he can take. He may just end up being the world's most spoiled dog, but I'm okay with that. We're just so happy to have him home with us. We weren't a family without our little guy.
Last, but not least, a BIG thank you to all of you who kept Sammy in your hearts. Without a doubt, the support of my loved ones helped me get through this. And, not to worry, just a small town girl is not becoming a dog blog, contrary to these last few posts. Here's hoping you find the time to give your furry friends a little extra love today. As much as they need us, I think we may just need them even more.