“I don’t think he is going to make it” I told my sister and grandmother as I came back to the table at the restaurant after just getting off the phone with the hospital. I was referring to a 6 week old yellow Labrador puppy that had a severe case of aspiration pneumonia resulting from his megaesophagus. The breeders had elected to euthanize but our staff asked if they would sign him over to the hospital and we would treat him with the money from our Puppy Fund. Since I had a soft spot for Labradors I was the doctor on the case. To my surprise the next morning he was still with us, and day by day he improved. For the next two months he stayed in the hospital under the care of staff members, he still had his difficult moments as when most puppies exponentially grow from three to four months of age he actually lost a pound. But his elevated feedings and slow transition from gruel to kibble proved beneficial as his weight caught up to him. It came time to find him a home and being a veterinarian for over half a year and still no pet to come home to it was time for me to take on the responsibility. A staff member had already named him Beau, I don’t like common pet names, but I also don’t like changing a pets name as well. So I added a ston at the end, Beauston sounded a lot like Boston and being a big baseball fan I still had the fresh memory of the Red Sox’s 3-0 odd shattering comeback against the Yankees in my mind. I thought the allegory so appropriate that his middle name was Red Sock.
Spring time rolled around and I was determined to have a dog for once that actually walked well on the leash and one I could take for runs. Beauston was doing great on the leash and finally one day it was warm enough for us to kick it up a notch and run. For the first half mile he was doing great, he kept right up with me and did not have to pull me to the nearest fire hydrant to relieve himself. Then he began to lag a bit which I thought was fine since he was still a young dog. Then our run turned to a halt and when I turned around I saw something that I had never seen before. Beauston was doing his best to keep up but he could barely walk, the way his humerus was separately from his scapula it looked like his arms were made of silly putty. I could only watch for a few more steps before I picked him up and carried him home the rest of the way. I was concerned but also embarrassed for here I am the veterinarian and I do not have a clue as to what is going on with my dog. After a night of rest he appeared fine, but after any amount of significant exercise the same liquidity to his muscles would return. I would describe what I saw to every veterinarian I knew but everyone was just as baffled as I was. I finally came across a doctor who suggested muscular dystrophy and after reading about the condition I had my diagnosis (confirmed on a muscle biopsy).
I realized that Beauston would never be able to go on runs with me and I would have to keep his activity under confinement when we were visiting or vacationing in more remote areas where he did not have the confinement of a fence. After a learning curve the first year we did not have too many bouts. He became instant best buddies with George, a dog my girlfriend now wife rescued just months earlier. For a few years things seemed to stabilize for Beau and I wondered if he might live a long life after all. Then when we were in the hospital after our son Nolan was born my sister called to tell me there was diarrhea all over the basement. The diarrhea did not improve and after taking biopsies found that he had inflammatory bowel disease. A diet change and some antibiotics helped but then in the last year his regurgitation worsened. But then the regurgitation turned into what I would describe as vomiting spells. He developed a primary GI motility disorder, a prokinetic would work for a month or two but the frequency worsened. In the last few months it was an exception when he would go all night without getting sick. Then he began to lose a few pounds, which turned into ten and then twenty plus. He was becoming a shell of himself but he still loved doing the things that Labradors love, eating, getting pet and fetching. A stomach tube was placed to see if bypassing the enlarged esophagus would help but it didn’t. Then one morning he would not eat his prescription diet, so I offered his old prescription diet that he usually devoured and he just looked away. It is that sudden moment that all pet owners dread, coming to terms that your pet’s quality of life has passed.
If Darwin had his say Beauston would never had made it past the first few weeks of life when a sick little puppy came into the hospital. But Beau had that tangible that is hard to measure and for science to explain, he had the will to live. He loved everyone and was always happy to be petted or if not to be in someone’s face asking to be. I would apologize to some for my dog not recognizing personal space, but would always follow with the excuse, “he was not suppose to live too long so I never invested in training classes.” He was a great dog, a very special one. When he could barely walk, or would have a regurgitation/vomiting spell, he was always still happy, still wagging his tail and ready to fetch another ball. He did not know he was special, he was just Beauston. He came with many challenges, as one with a megaesophagus does. Despite all the paper towel and cleaning agents and waking up in the middle of the night to clean up a mess I would do it all again. Six years is not a long life for a dog, but I have to remind myself that it is longer than I thought he would have made it when he was just a sick little puppy. My family gave him a good home, but Beauston taught us a most impressive lesson, the gift of living despite it all.
Dr_Larsen, 3 years ago | Flag
Andy, I hadn't heard about Beauston. I'm sorry for yours and Erin's loss. I'm sure George misses his buddy, too. Seems like it was just yesterday you were asking me to neuter him for you. (You didn't want him to think that "Dad" had done it). Your compassion and
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consummate care is what gave him those glorious 6 years! His memory will live on with your family and ours. Eric
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