The world is a big place when you weigh less than ten pounds. Life experiences can be intimidating for someone who has never ventured a mile from the door step of his home. However, when Obie became sick, this little Yorkie faced his illness with the courage of a lion, an animal fifty times his size. Perhaps that’s why Obie’s mom refers to him as her “tiger.”
You see, when Obie became sick, it was more than a respiratory infection or a stomach bug. Obie was diagnosed with pancreatitis, a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed, generally from eating food too rich for a canine’s digestive tract. Pancreatitis is a very common disease. The majority of dogs with this disease will recover after a short hospital stay. End of story.
This was far from the case with little Obie. He was treated for pancreatitis, he recovered, and was sent home. A month later, Obie’s pancreatitis flared-up and he was treated once again. He went home, only to return the following month, with full-blown pancreatitis again. Recheck examinations and tests revealed that Obie had recovered from each of these pancreatitic bouts. Obie was placed on a very strict, low fat diet, which his parents closely adhered to. However, Obie would fall victim to this disease again and again.
Obie’s episodes of pancreatitis were worsening as time went on. During a two-week hospital stay, Obie developed fluid in his abdominal cavity. The inflammation from his abdomen then spread to his lungs. He had to stay in a special oxygen cage. He received two plasma transfusions. I recall talking to Obie’s mom one night during his stay. She could barely bring herself to ask the question, “Do you think it’s time?”
“No, Obie’s very sick, but he’s not dying,” I replied, “Let’s give him a chance.”
That was almost two years ago. Obie took the chance given to him and recovered with flying colors! It would be almost a year before Obie would visit us again.
We joke that Obie must have missed us. This time, however, Obie was not sick with pancreatitis. Obie’s parents had brought him to our hospital because he had developed a funny head tilt. Examination revealed that he had a serious ear infection. Of course, Obie did not have a simple, run-of-the-mill ear infection. We sent him to a neurologist where an MRI revealed that the ear infection extended into Obie’s brain! Obie then underwent a surgery to remove the infected portion of his ear.
When Obie returned to us after his surgery, he was a shadow of his former self. He could not walk and his head turned sharply to one side. His parents worried, “Could a 12-year-old dog recover from this?”
For Obie Rosenberg, overcoming adversity is not a question of whether he will overcome his illness, it is a matter of when. We kept Obie with us for 3 weeks. Obie’s parents brought us his favorite chicken each day. The doctors evaluated Obie daily and tailored his treatment to reflect the progress they saw. Our staff nurses fashioned a papoose to carry him around so he would not be lonely. When Obie grew strong enough to stand, we began physical therapy.
At Obie’s last recheck visit, he was playing with one of his favorite toys. Obie is a very tough, little dog. Obie is a fighter. Obie is an inspiration to us. He teaches us a very important lesson: obstacles are a part of life. It is how we face them, that makes all the difference! From all the staff at Valley Cottage Animal Hospital, we love you, Obie!
Dr. Downing has been a general practitioner and emergency veterinarian at the Valley Cottage Animal Hospital since 2005. As a co-owner of the hospital, Dr. Downing oversees the emergency side of the practice. Dr. Jessica Downing grew up in upstate New York. She completed her veterinary education at the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University and was awarded her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. Dr. Downing’s professional interests include emergency medicine, ultrasonography and surgery.
By Jessica E. Downing, DVM