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Champ – gone too soon….

I have mixed feelings writing about my boy, Champ…but I feel like though his story has a sad ending in some ways, it also deserves to be told because he was such a special boy.

Champ came into our rescue back in the spring of 2019, and at the time we named him Trout. He was a happy and wiggly guy – we pulled him from the city shelter, ACCT, down in Philly and he was estimated to be about a year old at the time. He was always such a happy guy, but could be a bit reactive with other dogs, especially depending on the other dog’s personality. Though he was amazing with people, other dogs tended to depend on the dog.

Unfortunately, there was a very tragic accident in his foster home that led to him and one of the other pups in the home getting into a pretty severe fight. It was truly an accident, and everyone involved was shaken up and scarred from the severity of the fight. We rushed them both into an emergency hospital for some supportive care, and Champ came to us the next day. This poor guy was so beat up – the wounds were most focused around his left front leg, and in his armpit on that side. We loaded him up on pain medications and antibiotics and supportive care, and I took him home for the weekend. He was so sad those first few days – really painful and really struggling. But he was a trooper and was so sweet with me even when I knew he was really painful and struggling. He always had the kindest soul.

Thankfully, he slowly improved and started to feel better and better, and his guardian angel, Kim, and her husband Karl, swooped in and offered to foster him. They were the perfect foster since they didn’t have any other dogs or pets, and had some great dog experience and a medical background. What started as ‘just a foster home’ turned into a deep connection for all of them, as they helped to nurse him back to health. His recovery was really rough….his leg really struggled to heal, and kept getting better and worse with horrible secondary infections and nerve damage to his leg. After several weeks of being in and out of the hospital, and on and off different medications and antibiotics, we made the difficult decision to amputate his leg. The infection was really severe, and there was some permanent nerve damage, so we got to the point where we had to accept the fact that his leg was not going to get better.

He came through the surgery well and recovered, and adjusted to being a tri-pod beautifully. With being his nurse through it all, Kim and Karl feel deeply in love, and knew he had to stay. Kim likes to say that everything happens for a reason, and he was meant to be with them – so they adopted him and never looked back.

This is where I wish I could say that he went on to live a very happy life, and lived for many many years with them…but unfortunately, life can be so cruel sometimes. Champ struggled with eating things he shouldn’t, and ended up needing an emergency foreign body surgery in early 2020. Again, he did great and recovered beautifully from it, and his parents made some adjustments with his toys to prevent him from doing it again! Fast-forward to this past fall…he presented again with symptoms of an obstruction, so back to surgery we went. Unfortunately what we found was not a foreign body (which was a relief to them as they were SO careful with him and toys!), but instead a ton of adhesions and fusions all throughout his abdominal cavity that had caused abnormal twisting and placement of his intestines that acted like a foreign body, causing an obstruction despite there not being anything physically in his intestines. We broke them all down and I had a difficult conversation with Kim. I don’t know why his body did this – was it inflammatory because of his history of the severe wounds and infection that affected his immune system? Was it related to his previous foreign body surgery? Or some combination of the two? My biggest fear was that it would happen again – and given that there was really no way to prevent the body from forming scar tissue and adhesions again, it was a very big fear.

Now, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Just a few short weeks ago, Kim called me tearfully that it was happening again. Despite our best efforts and trials of some medications to try to prevent it, he was vomiting and not feeling good again, presenting exactly as he had twice before. We took some x-rays to confirm it, and he was, in fact, obstructed again. Kim and I had a heart to heart about it, and both cried, knowing that despite everything – this was a problem that was going to keep happening, and was not something we could fix. As difficult of a decision as it was, we chose to let him go. Kim said to me, ‘I love him so much, that I can’t see him suffering any more. And I promised him last time that I would never put him through this again.’ The love that she had (and has) for Champ was palpable – and the decision to let him go was very hard, but was also made out of love and respect for him, so he didn’t have to suffer. Especially when it was something we both knew we could not fix, and would keep happening.

That day, we fed him snacks, and gave him lots of love and kisses, and sent him across the rainbow bridge. I so wish he was still here, and that his too short life had a better ending. BUT – I also think in some ways it had the best ending. Yes, it was too short, and yes it is so heart-breaking that we could not fix him, but he knew unconditional love in a home that was the PERFECT home for him. He knew love, and was surrounded by it until his final breath. I am so glad that Champ came into our rescue, and though his road was rocky, I’m also really glad it led him to Kim. Not every story has the happy ending we want, but sometimes it’s ok to still celebrate the happiness that was a part of the story. Rest in peace you handsome devil, until we meet again.

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