“Huge Happy Hairy Harry, that’s what everyone called him at The Border Collie Trust where Vicky adopted him in May 1999.
He was brought in as a stray, approx 2-3 years old. He’d lived there for six months, unwanted because of his size.
But Vicky fell in love with him. His nickname suited him, he weighed around 30kg, he was long-coated and had a happy laid-back nature.
Some months ago, Harry retched a few times over a 4-5 week period, but otherwise he seemed OK. But one day he refused his evening meal and later he retched again.
The next day he was no better, so Vicky took him to the evening surgery. His temperature was slightly below normal, and his stomach appeared quite tender, but the vet couldn’t feel anything abnormal. Harry was given a couple of injections to help the pain and keep his fluid levels up.
She took him home, settled him down, and gradually gave him small sips of water mixed with glucose. But suddenly he stood up and vomited the lot.
It was obvious from the colour he was bleeding somewhere, and the smell was like rotting flesh. Vicky went straight back to the vet and after a long examination, the vet found an abnormal lump in his intestines. Harry was admitted straight away, put on a drip and she signed the consent form for surgery.
When the vet operated, he found a piece of sweet corn cob that was blocking Harry’s small intestine. The vet thought it could have been inside him for weeks, only causing a problem when it started to move through, blocking his intestines.
But Harry’s heart had stopped during the op, and he was given a 50/50 chance of pulling through. The vet rang twice that evening to say he was still alive, but very ill.
Harry made it through the night, and he was a bit better, but blood tests showed his liver and kidneys were struggling to rid his body of toxins from the corn cob, he’d got fluid on his lungs and they were worried he had brain damage because of his heart stopping.
When Vicky visited him, her heart sank. Harry lay motionless. She called his name, spent an hour stroking him and talking to him but there was no response.
The next day the vet said there was an improvement. Harry had lifted his head, and was licking water from a bowl. Although very weak, he managed a few mouthfuls of chicken that Vicky took him.
Eventually the vet said he could come off the drip and go home. There was nothing the vet was doing that Vicky couldn’t do at home.
He’d still made no effort to move his legs, and basically it was a last resort, hoping that being at home in familiar surroundings would encourage him.
He’d lost control of his bowels and was having to be rolled over and bathed on a regular basis. For the next two weeks, Vicky, her husband, and her daughter, took it in turns to roll him and do massage and physiotherapy on his legs.
As clean as they tried to keep him, he developed open sores on his heel and pad on one leg, which, with the dressing was restricting any movement.
Gradually there was a slight improvement. One day he stood for the first time, and two days later he managed a 2-3 minute walk outside. At last he was on the mend. His breathing was a little noisy, but with the effort he was putting into learning to walk again, it didn’t seem too abnormal.
The improvement was short lived. He was back at the vets after his breathing became noisy even when he was resting. After a ten-day course of antibiotics with no improvement, he was booked for a bronchoscopy.
Later that day, Vicky’s vet said ‘Harry’s problem is beyond my capabilities. I’m getting him an appointment at a clinic that specialises in lung problems’. He offered to drive Harry the 20 miles to the specialist and she followed in her car.
They were seen straight away but after examining Harry, this second vet also said it was out of his league, and he recommended another specialist near Luton, 100 miles down the M1.
Vicky’s vet saw the dismay on her face, and offered to drive her on the two-hour journey.
The next vet took one look at Harry and rushed him into surgery to try to ease his breathing. But 15 minutes later he returned, with bad news. …..
Part 2 tomorrow ‘cos mistress says this is too long a story for one post
You can also read the story in the July issue of Dogs Today.
The photos and text published here are with Vicky’s permission.