Thank you for the kind words yesterday. I’m taking today to reflect and regroup, but fortunately I have a wonderful guest post from Dr. Sarah from Friends of Humane Society de Tijuana to share with you today. It is a beautiful reminder to honor all creatures great and small. See you tomorrow.
As we traveled down into Tijuana two Sundays ago, I knew I had another long day in front of me. We were coming to see Sr. Juanito, a very humble man near the age of 90 years old who rescues street dogs and attempts to help them with his meager resources. I expected the dogs I saw with mange, with parasites, and with various infections. What I did not expect was Leia.
Leia was an approximately 1-2 year old female dog. There is no specific breed I can attach to her other than “Mexican street mutt,” but she was about 30 pounds with black and tan markings. She had been lying in a dirty shed for 4 days after being hit by a car. Several of the volunteers with Sr. Juanito reported she had not eaten during that time, and she was extremely dehydrated. Her left hip was dislocated, and she couldn’t walk.
Initially, I couldn’t find an obvious reason for her recumbency. She had intact spinal reflexes, although they seemed dulled, so I wondered whether her spinal cord in her neck had been injured during her accident. However, what was more concerning was the pus I observed coming from her vulva.
Usually this heralds a uterine infection, referred to as a pyometra. Pyometras are life-threatening if not fixed right away, and so I knew we had to do something right then if we were going to save this dog. We transported her to Dr. Veronika, who is one of our best surgeons, and we got her on intravenous fluids right away. As I observed Leia in the light, I began to realize she had pinpoint pupils and eyes that weren’t looking the same direction as each other (referred to as ‘strabismus’), and I began to piece together that she likely had a head injury.
Leia went to surgery, and strangely there was no evidence for a pyometra internally, although I suspect if we had not spayed her she would have developed one. Dr. Veronika also did a gastrotomy (entered the stomach) after feeling some hard objects inside. Thinking they were rocks, she removed them, only to be surprised to find potatoes.
By this point I was really kicking myself. Not only was it not ideal for this dehydrated, brain injured dog to be undergoing surgery, but having a gastrotomy can be a difficult recovery, and she already didn’t have a lot going for her. We were working in third world conditions with questionable sterility and anesthetics that weren’t the best for a brain-injured patient. I hadn’t come to Tijuana prepared to do surgery that day; I only thought I’d be surveying the situation at Juanito’s to figure out a plan to help.
After Leia’s surgery, we convened to discuss what we would do with her for recovery. I knew she needed to be maintained on IV fluids, but I had absolutely nowhere at my house to put her, and since I am not a veterinary practice owner, I had no clinic where I could put her either.
Nicole, who already has six rescue dogs of her own, finally relented and decided she would keep her in her garage. Bear in mind that Nicole is not a vet. She is not even a vet tech. She is an accountant, and we were asking her to nurse a dog and maintain her on IV fluids following a very serious surgery in less-than-ideal conditions.
The doctor in my brain kept telling me this dog should be euthanized. She couldn’t even walk, and we’d put her through abdominal surgery. I was having a difficult time imagining Nicole managing all the work it would take to help her recover, if she was going to recover. However, there was a small, quiet voice (i.e. the one I’m learning over the years to listen to) that told me I needed to give her a chance.
On our way back into San Diego, we stopped in Chula Vista, and I rummaged through our storage locker for supplies. I found several donated medications we would need and plenty of IV fluid bags to carry us through the next few days.
The one thing I did not take into consideration was Bill, Nicole’s boyfriend. You see, Bill is not working right now, so he has plenty of time to care for Leia. He is recovering himself, as he was just treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
I remember when Nicole first told me about his diagnosis. I was terrified for both of them as CLL carries a rather poor prognosis. But, incredibly, Bill has fought – he has fought through chemotherapy, through having his bone marrow irradiated and killed off entirely, through receiving a bone marrow transplant and being maintained on immunosuppressants. Thus far, Bill has beaten all the odds. He made the decision that he wanted to live, and so he has.
As he watched Leia struggle over the subsequent days, he recognized the look in her eyes. It was very familiar to him.
“I can see the fight in her eyes. She doesn’t want to give up; she’s not ready to go. I hold her every night and try to give her the same energy that pulled me through.”
With the help of her medications, Leia had regained her appetite by late Monday evening, and with Bill’s help she was unsteadily walking by Wednesday night. On Thursday, we went to see a neurologist, who confirmed for us that Leia was suffering from a brain injury, but because of the progress she had already made due to Nicole and Bill’s efforts, he felt her prognosis was reasonably good for return to function. Now the only hurdle we had to face was her dislocated hip. The rest would just require time.
Radiographs confirmed for us that Leia has a dorsocranial luxation of her hip. Last Friday, we replaced her hip back in its socket without surgery, but we will not know for another few days when we remove the sling whether it was successful or whether Leia will require sugery. We have an approximately 50/50 chance of success, but we shall see what happens.
Thursday, as Bill was helping me get Leia ready for her X-rays, he commented to me how he was going to have a very hard time giving her up once she was better. I looked into his eyes, and I knew.
“Bill, I think she is your dog. There is no reason why you have to give her up.”
Nicole and I had a discussion in the car ride back from Mexico on Sunday whether everything happens for a reason. I told her I’d seen so much suffering and unfair heartache in my profession that I have a difficult time subscribing to such a notion at times.
“There is always a reason. Maybe she’s here to teach you something,” said Nicole.
“No, if she’s going to teach anyone something, it’s going to be you since you’re taking her,” I said to her cheekily.
We were both wrong. She isn’t here to teach anyone anything; she is here to give Bill encouragement. As he watches her improve even over a matter of days, he sees his own struggle. Both of these souls have been engaged in a fight for their lives, and against all odds, they are both winning. They are two peas in a pod.
Perhaps everything does happen for a reason. In this case, I can only say it is very, very obvious what that reason was. These animals mirror back to us our own struggles, our own insecurities, and most of all, our own love. They remind us of what we strive to be, as well as what we are.
Leia is not out of the woods yet; her story is not over. However, she is a shining beacon of hope that tells us that even a little bit of effort and a lot of heart can carry us through even the most trying times in our lives. As I’ve watched her and Bill together, I have been truly touched by the meaning of the bond that has grown between them in just a few days’ time. It is incredible to witness, and I wish I could share it with everyone around me. Everyone should be so lucky as to experience such a friendship, and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Deb Mendez says
Wow, just wow. What a beautiful story.
What a moving and lovely story— Thank you for sharing.
My first thought was guest post = no tears today. I was wrong. What a heartwarming story! There are tears, but they are the good king. My thoughts and prayers go out to Leia and Bill (and Nicole) for health, strength and all good things in the weeks (and years) to come.
Ooops, meant good KIND, not king. 🙂
Goosebumps reading this story! thanks for sharing
Lisa W says
Thank you for sharing this marvelous story. Just…thank you. Hugs to Leia and Bill as they both continue to recover.
Oh…wow. What a beautiful story. Many thoughts and prayers to Bill and Leia as they fight through this.
regina sanchez says
I CRIED AS I READ THIS STORY WHAT A TOUCHING STORY AND THANK GOD SHES GONNA MAKE IT.MAY GOD BLESS LEIA ,BILL AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HELPED SAVED HER LIFE.SOMETIMES DOGS AND PEOPLE COME INTO UOR LIVES JUST WHEN WE NEED THEM THE MOST.THANK YOU FOR SHARING
What a wonderful story!
Goosebumps and tears here 🙂 Thank you for what you are doing, and thank you to everyone who’s helping animals like Leia.
Beautiful & touching story … I will keep Leia & Bill in my prayers for a full recovery … paths cross for a reason & these 2 souls need each other. Thank you to all who have been a part of Leia’s remarkable recovery & taking the time to care for those who are abandoned, neglected & hurting … it hurts to know the pain & suffering these 2 have endured, but LOVE is taking care of Leia & Bill & their hearts are on the mend <3 Thank you so much for sharing such an uplifting story
Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story. I think there are dogs that are sent to special people and Leia and Bill are a match up that is hard to explain, but it’s perfect. They are both blessed and I pray they continue to be.
Ok, where are the tissues? What a great story. As I am typing this the words are blurry through my tears. Animals are sooooo amazing in all they have to give and receive from us. Leia and Bill are such inspirations for us and for each other. Please update us on Leia as she continues to grow stronger and bless you for all the work you do! *hugs*
This is such a beautiful, touching story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I wish all the best for Bill and Leia.
Hi it is Nicole here and I want to thank you all for your wonderful thoughts and prayers. Our little princess has really been such a gift and has shown us that it takes a community to save all of these wonderful animals in need and in return…they save us right back!! Dr. Sarah has been putting in overtime getting the right medications and treatment for Leia, especially because we do not live very close to each other. It is not easy treating an animal over the phone and from a distance! It has been a challenging year for sure, but I would not have changed a thing:-) Thank you all …..
Until there are NONE, rescue ONE!!
William F Hoerner II says
I am Bill’s Dad. I was moved to tears by this letter. Bill has fought valiantly against ALL(acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and beaten it due to his attitude and a bone marrow transplant from his brother, Darren, who turned out to be a 100% match. Bill has been giving me daily updates on how leia is progressing. I knew from early on that he would not be able to part with her based on how he related to her struggle comparing it to his own. A wonderful life story.
Thank you so much to everyone for your thoughts & prayers. Leia is an incredibly inspiring soul, and I will never forget the words from Nicole when she was coming home from Mexico that day. She called me and said “It’s a girl!!!”, and that is how I found out Leia was coming for a visit. The rest is history ;o)
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
~ John Wooden
I am so touched by this post. Both Bill and Leia are in my thoughts for health and happiness.
Holy cow – what a wonderful story. I am so glad Bill and Leia have each other, and will be sending them both healing thoughts.
Terry Goller says
I know God has placed animals in our care for His purpose….it brings out the best in all of us. Thank you God for furry friends……