Staff Pet of the Month

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The first time I saw Sugar I had walked into work to see a little pug on her back under anesthesia in the treatment room.  I came up to her and touched her head and asked “Who is this?”  I was told she was from Buffalo Pug and Small Breed Rescue and she had just been brought to Rochester from a puppy mill in Ohio.  She was removed from the puppy mill along with several other dogs due to mistreatment.  When she came to us she was severely malnourished, underweight, and so over bred that she had suffered a vaginal prolapse.  She had already been to a humane society in another state to be “spayed” and the rescue was told that she had a uterine prolapse and that it would correct itself.  In a typical spay the uterus and ovaries are removed, what was removed from Sugar I will never know because it was originally believed that her uterus was prolapsed at the time of the spay.  Sugar’s initial prolapse surgery took three doctors trying to push her female parts (that were enlarged to about the size of a baseball) back into her little body.  Once she was stitched up it was our hope that it would eventually shrink back to it’s original size and return to normal.  We would soak her bottom in a sugar water solution to get the area to shrink, hence why the name Sugar stuck.  The first day she was hospitalized I was immediately attached to her and spoke with her foster mom shortly after.  My application to adopt her was quickly accepted and she was officially mine in January 2006.

Unfortunately as soon as her sutures were cut she prolapsed again almost immediately.  When she prolapsed again, I remember feeling hopeless and I knew that I couldn’t keep her alive if we couldn’t find a permanent fix.  Luckily, one of the doctor’s offered to try a procedure to cut away the extra tissue and reconstruct the area.  Although she had never done the surgery before she took it on and performed the entire surgery while referencing medical books.  Once the surgery was finished everything looked completely normal but we were still afraid she would have long term urinary complications.  Two weeks later her stitches were removed and everything still remained normal.  Since the day of her reconstruction surgery she has not had a single complication related to her prolapse again.

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I never thought I would form a bond with Sugar.  I remember the first time I took her outside to go potty and she just stood in the rocks outside of East Ridge with her head hanging and not understanding what she should be doing.  I remember picking her back up and bringing her inside, close to tears and saying “Guys, she hates me!”  Because of her time in the puppy mill, she had spent most of her life in a cage with very little positive human interaction.  She didn’t understand going potty outside and had no idea what to do with her new surroundings.  At that moment, seeing that pathetic look on her face, I thought we would never form a bond…boy was I wrong!

The exact opposite began to happen, she became very dependent on me at every moment and she quickly developed separation anxiety.  The first time I left her alone I had set up a nice crate for her and left for a short time.  I came home to a destroyed crate, curtains pulled through the sides of the crate, and a dog soaked in every bodily fluid imaginable.  Unfortunately, I think the excessive attention I showered her with in the beginning made her form an unhealthy bond with me.  Luckily, I have been able to bring her to work with me every day and for some reason she does not have anxiety there.  But all of her problems would seem like easy feats once we came to biggest test for both of us in January 2008.

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She had been with me for two years and although she had her issues with anxiety and skittishness, she had become a huge part of my life.  One day we were in the break room at work eating lunch (she always sat with me during my breaks) and I noticed she seemed to be having trouble seeing a cookie in my hand on one side of her face.  It was the first day I had realized she seemed to be slower to react on one side and the doctor thought I should take her to the ophthalmologist.  I got her into the ophthalmologist within one day and we could tell she was going blind quickly but no one could determine why.  Knowing that blindness does not come on that suddenly unless something is seriously wrong, I was told to get her to a neurologist.  He too couldn’t explain it and sent her for a CAT scan.  My worst fear, that the blindness was related to her brain and that I may lose her from this was becoming a greater possibility and I wasn’t ready to let her go.  Because I was a licensed technician they let me stay with her throughout the CAT scan and numerous other tests at another animal hospital, all of which came back negative.  Within one week she was only seeing some shadows and within two her sight was completely gone.  After over $1000 in different tests that eliminated her brain as the cause, I got my answer with a $40 test and another visit to the ophthalmologist.  He decided to do a retina scan and she was diagnosed with Sudden Acquired Retina Degeneration, or SARDS.  Her retinas had degenerated very quickly with no known cause.  What we did know was that there was no cure, it was permanent, and it was going to be difficult for her to adjust because of the sudden onset that gave her no time to adjust.  But once again she proved me wrong.

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Somehow she adjusted as well as anyone could expect her to.  In January 2009, I attended the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando and went to a class about her condition, SARDS. A veterinarian at Iowa State University was studying the disease and had found a cure.  I immediately got in contact with the university and was prepared to take her to Iowa for  treatment.  But all my hopes were dashed when they told me she was not a candidate.  Unfortunately, the treatment only worked on dogs who were newly diagnosed with the disease and Sugar’s retinas were already too degenerated.  Although her life has changed because of the blindness she still manages to have a mostly “normal” life. With the help of daily medication her anxiety is not as severe as it once was on a daily basis but she definitely still has her moments of stress.  Right after Christmas of 2009 she got into a candy dish while she was alone (yes, even technicians dogs get into chocolate) and came down with pancreatitis.  Luckily, once again she pulled through and is back to her normal self.  Sometimes I miss my little girl who could play with her toys or have fun with other dogs.  Before she went blind, when I would leave work at night she would run down the parking lot and her little butt would tuck underneath her and she would run so fast and seem so happy.   As selfish as it sounds,  I don’t miss those moments as much as I would miss her if she wasn’t here at all.  According to her original records she will be six years old in July 2010, I don’t know if it’s her real age but I will savor every moment I have with her and hope we have many more left.  I never expected a little pug to come into my life and form as close of a bond with me as Sugar has but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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