Written by Alice Munley
Where has 2016 gone? It’s hard to believe the holidays are upon us already. For us, the year started with the arrival of our Paw Pals Assistance Dog (PPAD) puppy-in-training, that little white fluff ball, Cam’O. It’s hard to remember those early days when he was so tiny and so fluffy. We’ve watched him grow and mature and gracefully accept many new adventures over these past months. It’s been both exciting and challenging, and a whole lot of fun. But isn’t that the way it is with all new little pups?
After many adventures and training about the rules of life as a Paw Pals service dog, life for Cam’O’s journey took an abrupt detour in the early part of October. A very unexpected and altogether new challenge surfaced without warning. It certainly was nothing Paw Pals, or we, could have ever expected with a nine-month-old healthy and robust pup, full of endless energy, and a personality of pure happiness and loving excitement.
Rather suddenly, Cam’O was overcome by an unknown affliction that struck him without warning. By then, Cam’O was nearly 50 lbs. and beginning to look more and more like the handsome adult dog he would be in maturity. Cam’O’s issues began one day when we noticed him walking weirdly. The next day he had trouble standing up long enough to eat or relieve himself outside. It was easy enough for him to lie down to eat, but a far different story when he needed to relieve outside. The inability to stand or walk increased each day. Several visits to our wonderful local vet along with multiple tests and X-rays produced no answers, just more questions. After consultation and support from the director of Paw Pals Assistance Dogs, it was decided that Cam’O needed a referral to a specialist. All indications suggested that his issue was neurological in nature, and we needed to seek an examination from a specialist as soon as possible.
By now, time was of the essence. Cam’O could not walk more than a few steps without collapsing straight down to the floor. His trips outside to relieve were becoming increasingly difficult, as I had to carry him out and back. Most times he was able to stand long enough to relieve himself outside, but not always. Poor fellow would try desperately to stand strong while relieving but most times he would start relieving and then collapse again. His 50 lbs. became increasingly difficult for me to carry. Thankfully we were enjoying unseasonably warm and beautiful weather so there were times when he could just lay down on the grass to relax and enjoy the warm sun.
Under the direction of PPAD and the guidance of our local veterinarian, we sought out a neurology specialist. We found that specialist at the VRCC emergency clinic in Denver. It was now the end of the week, but we were able to secure an appointment for the coming Monday. By then, Cam’O couldn’t stand for more than a couple minutes at a time and was not able to take more than one or two steps without collapsing. Throughout that week, we continued to make visits to our local vet for more exams by both vets. Cam’O remained in fairly good spirits and accepted us carrying him when needed. He especially welcomed close cuddle time with us so we could soothe him with multiple gentle strokes to assure him everything was going to be okay. As much as he loved his canine house buddies, he did not seek out playtime with them, but instead he chose to cuddle close with them, too.
To help keep his spirits up during that week, we took Cam’O for rides in the car, as it was natural for him to lay quietly on the back seat, secure in his seat belt while enjoying time with us on a drive. He has always liked to take drives, even though he mostly just sleeps until we arrive at our destination. Then he’ll peek his head up to see where our drive has taken us. Sometimes it’s nothing more exciting than the gas station. To Cam’O, it’s not about where we’re going, but just about a chance to ride in the car.
Upon our arrival in Denver that Monday for Cam’O’s first visit with the neurologist, all the staff warmly welcomed us. Cam’O seemed to sense the calm and warm atmosphere that greeted him. He was a great patient. It was determined at that visit that there were several tests to conduct, as an initial examination did not answer the big questions: What was the problem, and how did it come about? The neurologist determined that Cam’O would need to be hospitalized so that they could observe him 24 hours per day, as well as give him more tests and examinations in an attempt to determine what caused this young pup to lose his ability to walk. It was tough having to leave him at the hospital and drive those 125 miles home without him. However we knew this was best for him and we wanted to discover the answers in order to direct his path to recovery.
Cam’O’s time at the hospital grew into nine full days. It seemed like forever. We were able to visit him twice. By the first visit, he was on intravenous medication and was again able to stand and walk again. That was very exciting to see. He could not go home until the results of all the tests had been confirmed and he was able to take his medicine in pill form and no longer by I.V. On his release date they could not give us a definitive diagnosis, as all tests came back negative. Basically, his problem lies with the fact that the message from his nerves was not connecting with the muscles, as they should normally do in order for him to walk. The medicine he was given provides the means for that nerve-muscle connection to work again. When we arrived at the hospital to bring Cam’O home, we found he had a little more baggage. The staff at the hospital dressed him in a colorful scarf, gave him a soft and cuddly little elephant dog toy, a special mix for dog biscuits, and a bag of medications.
To make a donation to help defray Cam’O’s hospital and veterinary expenses, please visit the Cam’O Go Fund Me page set up by Paw Pals Assistance Dogs.
Cam’O was quite excited to walk out the doors of the hospital and climb once again into our car, slip into his seat-belt, and settle down for a nice comfy ride home. Needless to say, he was more than delighted to see his four-legged buddies at home. Yes, Cam’O was a little weak and a little slower than usual, but his spirits were invigorated at the chance to be home with his family. He continues to be monitored by the neurologist, who also regulates his medicine as needed. As happens with many medicines, there can be side effects. The side effects Cam’O experienced from the medicine were not the most pleasant, as he struggled off and on with diarrhea. Thankfully we were able to get that issue under control.
Cam’O continued with his daily medicine as we watched his marked improvement with each passing week. He lost some weight in the hospital, but didn’t show any loss of appetite. In order to help him gain back some weight, we increased the number of feedings a day. Cam’O has been delighted with that decision. To him, it’s like a Thanksgiving feast with each meal and he’s enjoying each and every meal towards that goal.
In the early days after his hospital stay, we found Cam’O slept more than usual and rarely wanted to interact with his canine buddies, but it wasn’t long before he was running around like the old Cam’O and doing great. The next advancement appeared when he wanted to mix it up and have some playtime. Of course, that sort of play was very limited for several weeks.
Going forward, Cam’O remains in the PPAD puppy raising program and has improved enough to return to his normal socializing routine at school, stores, church, restaurants, all types of stores, and visits to family and friends. He also attends his puppy classes with his fellow PPAD puppies in training. All signs of returning to normal health are present, but he continues with his medicine. Our hope, and that of his neurologist, is that Cam’O will fully recover from this affliction and continue along the path to become a great service dog for someone very special.
Currently Cam’O is doing the rounds of Christmas concerts. Loud drums, crashing cymbals, and the sounds of a soft flute seem to lull him into a sound and restful sleep throughout the concerts. The joy for him comes at the end of the concert when he is allowed an opportunity to greet some of the concert patrons, especially the young children.
If you would like to make a donation to help in defraying some of Cam’O’s hospital and veterinary expenses, please visit the Cam’O Go Fund Me page set up by Paw Pals Assistance Dogs at: https://www.gofundme.com/camo-sdit-medical-assistance-2u3ytq4.
Thank you, and Cam’O wishes you a merry Christmas and very happy holiday season.