Friday, July 15, 2011

The big dog miracle

A couple years ago we were told to prepare for losing our big dog, Heyoka. He had something wrong in his throat. We never really knew what was, but it was serious and made every breath a bit of a struggle for Heyoka. Until February 2011 he stayed a happy if somewhat sedate dog. We got used to his noisy breathing, to the snoring and the gasps.

Then he took a turn for the worse. He started using every muscle to breathe, he was struggling and we feared the time had come to let him go. We took him to our vet who wasn't ready to give up yet. She took some x-rays, did some tests and thought the big dog might have a chance, but that chance was beyond the scope of her general practice clinic. Heyoka needed a specialist.
So we found a specialist, loaded the big dog into the van and made the 15 hour drive to Anchorage, Alaska!
If nothing else, it's a beautiful drive.  The Yukon side of the highway is in rough shape, but the scenery is spectacular.  
The night before his appointment we took Heyoka for a walk along Anchorage's wonderful trail system.  About three blocks was exhausting for him!
The next day we took Heyoka to see Dr. Nelson Priddy at Veterinary Specialist of Alaska.  After a very complete exam, he thought he could help Heyoka.  He made us no promises except that Heyoka would be no worse off.  He prepared us for the worst...that his throat could not be fixed; that it was cancer growing in there and that the first hot day of summer would send Heyoka into a respitory crisis if there was no solution.  Heyoka could not breathe well enough to control his body temperature anymore.  He would overheat easily and we would loose him.  Heyoka was booked for surgery the next day.

Several hours after dropping him off at the clinic, we got the best news possible...Heyoka's throat issues were fixable. He had larengyal paralysis.  His larynx simply did not move and no matter what he couldn't get enough air.  The lumps and bumps in his throat were the result of long term irritation, not cancer, not going to kill him.
One side of Heyoka's larnyx was tied back. This means he can breathe with ease, but he's also at high risk of aspiration pneumonia for the rest of his life.  We know what to look for and will get him to our local vet ASAP if he shows any of them.  Other than that and barring a disaster, Heyoka should live a normal lifespan!!!!
This is Heyoka 7 weeks post-surgery! He's practically a puppy again!  He runs, he plays, he is absolutely silent when he breathes, even his panting is quieter than a normal breath was pre-surgery! For weeks after the surgery, we got up during the night, just to make sure he was really breathing.  We had become so used to the noise that it was hard to believe he was alive and that quiet!!!

 He is one happy dog! He comes with me on long walks and slow jogs. It's much easier to have energy when you're getting enough air!

We hope to never need Dr. Priddy's help again, but we would not hesitate to head back to Anchorage with another fur-kid!   Our only regret is that we didn't find him sooner!   

Heyoka means Clown in Cree. It suits him and we are forever grateful to have our big clown back!