The very early days of Pennridge were challenging in so many ways. Working out of just one room, with half hearted heat in the winter, and only one computer and one phone, was definitely an experience. For those who missed that fine time period, the main entrance to the hospital was the tiny door on the left of the building that now enters into an office area. Back then, it was a small, non-insulated porch, that then led into the living room (as we affectionately called it). It was a 70s themed room with dark wood paneling, a built-in bench, and a large stone fireplace. We completed the look with an examination table that was left by Dr Slick, an old brown couch, and a tiny desk to work on. If more than one client was there at a time, it always got super awkward as to where someone would wait – there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy or space back then!
As tough as it was, it was still a fun and busy time, and we took on difficult cases despite our limitations. Harley’s Haven was up and running at full speed, and was often taking on litters of puppies from both local and out of state shelters. In December of 2014, we stumbled upon a litter of four babies who would become our Dr Seuss puppies, who desperately needed our help. They were surrendered to the Philadelphia shelter because they were sick and their owners could not afford their care. It is sadly one of the most common reasons that dogs are surrendered to the shelter, and often the medical conditions are treatable or preventable if people just had the means. All four of the puppies were underweight, and having vomiting and diarrhea – the classic signs for parvo virus. The shelter tested them, and sure enough they were positive, so they went out in an urgent email for a rescue to take them ASAP, otherwise they would be put to sleep. It sounds callous, but with how contagious this virus is, the shelter can’t afford to have dogs or puppies there who could potentially spread it to so many other dogs in their care, so the choices are very limited – move them out as soon as possible, or they would have to be put to sleep.
Our volunteers rallied and got the puppies to Pennridge so Jen and I could start their care. All FOUR of these puppies were in bad shape. We didn’t have a full hospital yet, since it was still under construction, so in order to isolate them we had to move crates and create a space in that delightful little porch off of the living room. This meant 4 crates, 4 fluid pumps, 4 sets of antibiotics, nausea medications, and heat support. It also meant that we took turns taking them home overnight and creating makeshift isolation spaces in laundry rooms and closets – this is definitely what all big hospitals do too, very professional! Thank goodness we had amazing techs like Kira and Michelle who could get catheters in these little guys. Placing a catheter in a 5 lb dehydrated and sick puppy is not an easy feat – so we are so thankful for the support of amazing technicians at our practice, from the very beginning! The puppies started to turn some corners after a few days of treatment, except for the smallest – the Lorax. The Lorax was just not doing well – he wouldn’t eat, was becoming weaker and weaker, and continued to vomit despite our best efforts. It was going on 4 days of treatment with no improvement and we were starting to worry we were going to lose him. We pulled a hail Mary and added a stronger antibiotic, that is typically not used in young puppies, and a human anti-viral drug that there was some research suggesting it may help. We figured it was worth it, since it was that or give up…and as Kira likes to say, “Saving lives is what we do here.”
Wouldn’t you know it, that after another 24 hours the Lorax started to perk up. Then he started to wag his tail. Then he started to drink water, and finally started to eat. All four of these tiny babies made a miraculous recovery, much to our great relief. Losing puppies to something that was completely preventable is such a tough loss, and we always fight with all of our might to prevent it but the odds are not in our favor with parvo virus. Statistically, it is said that about 50% of puppies will not make it who are infected. I am proud to say that our stats at PRAH/HH are MUCH much better than that, but over the years we have lost a few despite doing all that we could.
Parvo is one of the vaccines that is considered core, and is a part of the distemper combination vaccine that we emphasize in puppies, and recommend boostering in adults every 3 years. This vaccine is super safe, inexpensive, and crazy effective. If you take nothing else from this story – please, please vaccinate your dogs. Watching a puppy fade away and being helpless to save them, from something that could have been prevented is horrible and heartbreaking. Thankfully, that was not the case with our babies and Dr Seuss, Horton, Cindy Lou Who, and The Lorax were all adopted into loving homes, and have never looked back!