My Story

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  • McGee (Winter 2014) Lynette B

    Tami Mares-Ziehmn (’14 DVM) with McGee

    Baby McGee the Collie puppy was born August 7, 2013 with his sister Ziva by C-section. His mother died seven and a half hours later from internal bleeding. She was Kingsmark Unforgettable: the last of her line. She nursed them to her last breath, leaving both alive but alone to be hand cared for as neonates. Another volunteer Collie bitch, Auntie Izzy, (Owain Heirlair Espania) helped to cuddle, clean and nuzzle these two babies between tube feedings.

    But as soon as the 10 day danger point passed and tube feeding was winding down a bit, it became apparent that little McGee had some kind of "snooter": problem. He would sneeze and cough a little, just like when you laugh with a mouthful of milk. Out the nose it would come. He also had trouble transitioning to solid foods and remained on the tube feeding for 6 weeks. But being a bright, beautiful and highly adaptive little guy who desperately wanted to live, he taught himself how to drink like a bird does and eat while swallowing, instead of inhaling.

    By the seventh week we were able to finally see the problem: a cleft in his soft (the back) palate which would allow food to go through his sinus cavity and out his nose. Nothing else has been found wrong with him and research plus his birth circumstances have proven that this is not a genetic problem but one he acquired in the womb, as his placement was next to the already dead puppy blocking the birth canal. It is a relatively rare condition in Collies and one that I have never encountered in 35 years.

    In the 9th week we discovered that a new fissure or cleft had begun to form at the hard palate (the one up front). As he grows and his muzzle lengthens the cleft on the hard palate expands. Since the palate is the only barrier between his mouth and nostrils, he is at enormous risk of all kinds of infections and aspiration pneumonia. Of course death would be the likely result. I couldn't let that happen after so many weeks of hand care.

    The search and campaign then began for a worthy veterinary teaching hospital to take this battle on. The campaign for donations was simultaneously begun via Facebook, Fundrazr, Twitter, YouTube and anywhere else on the web. And then came our heroes: Washington State University. With help from their Good Samaritan fund and the $1200 in collected donations, I chose WSU. They seemed to care the most AND it is the location of Dr. Katrina Mealey and the MDR1 research. That was important as McGee is a Collie and has since tested out a minus/minus: just about as bad as you can get in terms of drug reactions.

    McGee and I drove from the extreme SW of Colorado to Pullman, Washington. He was a great little traveler and it took 3 days journey. He saw his surgeons for a work-up on November 10, 2013 and was in surgery for 5.5 hours the next day. Dr. Tami Mares-Ziehmn, his resident 4th year vet student was the main contact and kept me posted all day. Dr's. Bonnie Campbell and Katie Kennedy were the surgeons. If I knew the names of the rest of the full team I would thank them personally. I was able to see him late that evening. He had a feeding tube inserted through his neck to his stomach and I began making high calorie "soup" to be injected as his sole source of water and food. The surgery was done on Wednesday and by Friday afternoon he was able to come back to the motel in his E-collar and muzzle. He's a puppy and it was imperative that he had nothing in his mouth for six weeks. We left for Colorado on Monday morning and beat the winter storm following us by two hours.

    On December 11 we went to his regular vet and she checked the progress of the mouth surgery. It was good but Christmas was the "magic day". Then he could come out of the e-collar and muzzle. His local vet, Dr. Susan Grabbe, removed the feeding tube at this exam and McGee was able to start eating very soft foods and drinking water. He still had to remain segregated from his sister and the other dogs and wear the cage muzzle for safety.

    As of today, McGee has nearly caught up with his sister Ziva. His palate surgery seems to have healed properly and he eats hard and soft foods. I use Fromms as the base kibble and we grind our own raw meats, fish and veggies to add in to the moistened base. He is getting his strength back and can even give Ziva a hard time. The only negative part of this story so far is that because McGee is a double MDR1 mutation, adjustments have had to be tried and made in order to battle a rather mysterious bug that appears to be an influenza attacking only the immune-compromised.

    Heirlair Collies, myself and McGee cannot ever express our gratitude to the loving care and expertise of Washington State University. And, should it be necessary for McGee to have further surgery or any other of my Collies to have treatment for a serious illness, as hard as the drive is, I will happily go that 1000 miles one way again. We owe a tremendous thank you to Collie lovers and animal lovers throughout the world as well. Their donations helped to heal McGee. Since I have a limited income because I suffer from MS, the Good Samaritan program of WSU is also very much responsible for financial assistance. They granted us $1000 and we didn't need to use it all on his surgery. So over $300 is back in the Good Sam fund, courtesy of McGee, for the next person and pet in need.

    Please, always do your research when your pet requires extraordinary surgery and care. Choose by who gets back to you and how; and whether or not they can exhibit some empathy for the problem. If that voice on the other end of the phone line sounds cold and disaffected, LOOK TO WSU. They were just like talking to family. Interest and compassion were given so warmly and freely by WSU.

    Heirlair Collies
    Leslie T.

  • Taz (January 2, 2009 - June 28, 2013) Gail M

    There are so many stories about Taz, I could write a book. I made a right turn in a parking lot, rather than my usual left turn, and there was a man with puppies. I intended to drive past, but my truck turned into a parking space. I left with a six-week-old bundle of fur who became my best friend. While a puppy, he loved chasing leaves, and he would watch planes and birds in the sky. However, he did not like helicopters, and when he would hear one he would run to me and hide behind my legs. He was a natural at hide and seek; without training he worked grids until he found an item I had hidden. Taz was a quick learner. He obtained his STAR puppy certification, and later his Canine Good Citizen certification. We had fun with agility. He never met a stranger, whether human or animal. He woke me each day with a wake up lick, a nose nuzzle, and a wildly wagging tail.

    Taz CollageOn October 3, 2012, I was scheduled to travel to San Diego to attend a conference. Earlier that day I found a lump on Taz's right leg, and I decided I could not leave until I had it checked. I took Taz to a 24/7 vet clinic, and the vet who examined him thought it was a fluid-filled cyst which, when aspirated, would go down. While attempting to aspirate the cyst, the vet said, "I didn't expect this," and I knew it was not going to be good news. He managed to aspirate enough cells to make a slide, and after viewing the slide, he told me the mass needed to be excised. I cancelled my trip, and the next morning took Taz to his regular vet, Dr. Ron Williams at Palmer Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Williams excised the mass and sent it to WSU for evaluation. The pathology report stated the mass was a highgrade soft tissue sarcoma. Dr. Williams consulted with Dr. Janean Fidel at WSU, and after talking with Dr. Williams, I made the decision to take Taz to WSU for evaluation and radiation therapy.

    I would like to thank the wonderful people at Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, who treated and cared for Taz during his radiation treatment in November - December 2012. Dr. Rebekah Lewis and her team were outstanding. Because I live in Alaska, I had to leave Taz at the hospital so I could return to work. The daily phone calls reassuring me that Taz was doing well brought comfort and smiles as the students told me the stories of their time with Taz, who made certain they got their daily exercise by playing ball with him. When I returned to get Taz, I heard stories of his greeting the people treating him with a wiggle and wag, even the person who took him each day for his radiation treatment.

    Unfortunately, two months after returning from WSU, I found a second mass on Taz’s right leg, which resulted in amputation of his leg. Taz recovered quickly from the surgery, and resumed his life with gusto. He chased squirrels through the woods, jumped over logs, played ball, and retained his living each day to the fullest attitude.

    Sadly, Taz died unexpectedly in my arms the morning of June 28, 2013. The necropsy revealed a mass the size of a small hen’s egg in the left ventricle of his heart, which was diagnosed as a sarcoma. Taz was brave throughout his battle, never growling or snapping at anyone, always greeting people with a smile and wagging tail. He taught me that no matter what life throws my way, I should joyously greet each day with a smile and with excited anticipation of what the day will bring.

    Thanks to Palmer Veterinary Clinic, and especially to Pat, the receptionist who met me at the clinic before it opened on June 28, which was her day off. She was with me when Taz died, she sat on the floor with me, cried with me, and stayed with me until I finally left. The doctors and staff at Palmer Veterinary Clinic are very special to me and my furry friends. Taz was a happy, playful, loving, and very determined dog to make lemonade out of lemons. I was blessed to have him, though our time together was too short.


Washington State University