I have written about the piggy puppies before, but I feel that Oscar deserves his own story. For those who haven’t read it, long ago, back in 2012, in the early days of Harleys Haven, we rescued a litter of very sad sick puppies whom we called our piggy puppies. These puppies came out of the shelter down in Philly, and were surrendered due to severe skin disease. They have the most severe cases of mange that I have ever seen, and we actually almost lost one of the sisters due to sepsis! They had no fur, and their skin was so thickened and infected that they were painful to the touch. We spent a long couple of months rehabbing them with lots of medicated baths, antibiotics, and medications to treat the mites that led to their severe skin disease.
Throughout those first couple of months in the rescue, Oscar and two of his siblings lived with me. As his fur grew in, he had the most adorable fawn colored coat, and the mushiest, wrinkly face! It was easy to fall in love with him, despite the fact that he could be saucy, especially with other dogs lol. As he grew and got stronger, he became this beautiful beefcake, that was fiercely loyal to the people that he knew and loved. One of our volunteers, Doreen, had gotten to know them all as they grew and fell in love with his wrinkly face, and ended up deciding to adopt him.
For many years, he lived happily with her and her other dogs, though his skin disease never truly went away. I think his skin had a lot of scarring from the severity of their mange, so he had pretty significant allergies that we struggled with for most of his life. We found a balance with them with medications though and he did well, until about two years ago when he got really sick with vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. After a series of tests and some short hospitalizations, we figured out that he had Addison’s disease. Addison's disease Is a hormonal condition in which the body is not producing enough steroid. It can be tricky to diagnose as it can present in many different ways, but luckily for Oscar, we figured it out pretty quickly and were able to get him started on the proper medications! This meant that for the rest of his life, he had to come in every 28 days for a long-acting steroid injection, and had to live most of his life on and off of low doses of steroid orally too. He actually managed quite well with this, and did great for a few more years!
One of my favorite things about Oscar, is how he was definitely the type of dog that had an inner circle. When he was home with Doreen, and strangers would come over, he was definitely territorial and fiercely loyal, and would defend her even when she clearly didn’t need defending. (Their opinions on this situation often differed). He was not very friendly to those he didn't know, and definitely needed a warm up period! But the thing is, since he lived with me for so long, and associated with me with so much good, this friendly association extended to every single member of staff at Pennridge Animal Hospital. Even if they had never met him before, every time he came in, he was just so happy that he welcomed love and attention from every person. If you met the same person out on the street, or at his house he would definitely have growled at them and very possibly have tried to bite them. (Just a little, lol)
We fell into a routine of me seeing him once a month, which I loved! He always had butt waggles and a happy pitty smile for me, and it was so nice to see his skin get better, and for him to maintain with the Addison’s. Unfortunately, time marches on, and about 9 months ago Doreen brought him in urgently when his belly was very distended and he wasn’t doing well. After a series of more tests, we unfortunately determined that he had dilated cardiomyopathy, or a type of heart disease that causes severe heart enlargement, and often leads to fluid buildup in the abdomen or the chest. We started him immediately on heart medications, and drained a lot of the fluid out of his abdomen for comfort! We scheduled a cardiology consult to confirm the diagnosis, which unfortunately she did. The thing that’s rough about DCM, is that it’s an aggressive and progressive type of heart disease. Even with the best medications and treatments, the best we can do is slow it down, and getting this diagnosis typically confirms for us that we don’t have as much time left with our furry friend as we would like. This is the heart disease that gained some momentum in the past year or two, because it can be related to feeding grain-free foods. If it is related to feeding grain-free foods, it will often improve when you switch them off of the grain-free food and on to a food with grains, and start them on medications. Unfortunately, in Oscar’s case, he was eating food with grains, and it did not respond as if it was one that was related to a grain-free food.
We managed my buddy for the last 9 months, with several times where we drained fluid out of his abdomen, rechecks with the cardiologist, and adjusting his medications. About 2 weeks ago it came to a head where we both knew that it was time. He stopped eating, and even though he gave me tiny butt waggles the day we decided to say goodbye, Doreen and I both knew that Oscar was just not Oscar anymore, and it wouldn't be fair to him to ask him to keep trying.
This was a rough one for me personally. Not only did I raise him for the first part of his life, but I have been very involved in his entire life throughout his series of medical problems. Don’t get me wrong, Oscar was definitely a lemon! But he was a lovable, adorable lemon, and is definitely a dog that I will never forget. I’m so thankful that Doreen opened her heart to him, and continued to use us for vet care so I got to follow him through his whole life. Oscar buddy - I will never forget you. I’m so glad you are at peace now and running free, biting all the mailman you can get your teeth on, and fiercely protecting your people. J Rest in peace my handsome man!