Heidi and Herc

My wife and I have a story to tell. When I met my wife she had, and still has, a Yorkie. I grew up with dogs and wanted to adopt one of my own. We went on the local humane society’s web site and found the cutest looking German Shepherd mix. She was listed on the web site as between 4 and 6 years old and weighing 45 pounds. We don’t know what she was mixed with but what ever it was we were in love. We went to meet her and instantly knew that we were meant to adopt her, and she adopted us in return.

On March 6, 2004 we adopted that sweet little girl, she was sick right off the bat. Within a week of adopting her she was diagnosed with a severe case of kennel cough. I was out of town on a trip, I am an airline pilot, and my girl friend (now my wife) took her to the vet. Her breathing was very labored and she was not doing well. Our vet started giving her intravenous fluids and antibiotics. She made a good recovery, but, then told us that she was no where near the 4-6 year range the humane society told us, she was closer to ten years old. We didn’t care, we loved her.

Her next hurdle was a dental problem, she had four teeth that had been cracked in half. They were the long blade shaped teeth at the back of her mouth. They think that she was on her own for a very long time and she injured them while she was a stray.

We had a great first year, she loved going on walks with her new brother (the Yorkie named Hercules) and the two of us. We would walk along a converted rail line here in the Pittsburgh area called the Montour Trail.

A brief aside, while on one of these walks when I was again out of town she defended her little brother. Herc, as we call him had gotten into trouble. This was not unusual, he would go off into the tall grass next to the trail and on this day, he got bitten by something. We don’t know what it was but we do know that his big sister came to his rescue. She went into the tall grass and came out with the critter in her mouth. She wasn’t hurting it, she was just holding the poor thing in her mouth. My wife went over and tried to get her to drop the critter, in her attempt to do this my wife was bitten. Heidi dropped the animal and it scurried off, none the worse for wear. Meanwhile, my wife had to go and get rabies shots.

Just after that year mark we took Heidi into the vet’s office for her yearly appointment. We have a great vet, her name is Dr. Christine Mulliken. She remarked that Heidi seemed to have very dilute urine. She did some tests and it turned out that Heidi had renal failure. Not only that but due to the renal failure she had very high blood pressure. Dr. Mulliken told us that the blood pressure and the renal failure were tied together. That if we were lucky we would lower the blood pressure and the kidneys would recover. We were not that lucky. If she had complete renal failure we would only have another year with her. We treated both problems.

The blood pressure was the easy one, just a bit of medication and she was set. The renal failure was the hard one. We had to give sweet Heidi a liter of fluids daily, subcutaneously. This meant that twice a day we would have to stick her with a needle and put half a liter of fluids into her back, just in front of her shoulders. We were very fortunate that my wife worked at a hospital at the time and we were getting the fluids for a dollar a bag, the vet’s office was charging twenty times that.

For about six months things were going well, she maintained a great energy level and then she “crashed.” We ended up at the vets office pumping fluids into her and she snapped back. Things went well again for a few months. Then on Christmas she fell ill again. In the back of our minds we knew that the year clock was ticking, but, we could not give up on her yet. We upped the amount of fluids that she was getting and that helped her. She was now getting 1.5 liters twice a day, some days that went better than others. Three bags of fluid were a small price to pay to get her back on her paws. Then on the morning of our wedding, February 25, 2006 she crashed. We rushed her over to the vet’s office and they took her right in, we were known by all of the vet techs and vets by this point. Before the wedding we were both a wreck, as soon as the wedding was over we were both over at the vet’s in all of our garb. They did say that it was the first time that they had a wedding party in the building.

A week later we had to make the hardest decision of our lives. With both of us in the room, along with family and close friends, we gathered around her and whispered in her ear how much we loved her and we petted her as she went to sleep.

Her passing was a call to action for us. My wife and I now volunteer at the local Beaver County Humane Society. We have adopted three more dogs and one cat from the shelter. Thank you again for all that you do for animal shelters. We have read Rescuing Sprite and feel as though we have lived our own version of the same story.

This didn’t start out to be quite so long. We really loved that girl and miss her more every day.

– Keith from Aliquippa, PA