Tough Beginnings - September 2009 - October 17 - October 22 - October 23 - October 27 - October 29 - November 2 - November 14 - December 2 - December 4 - December 18

Note: Now that Champ is well recovered and "normal" again, I'll be posting stories and updates about him and our other dogs on the Dog Blog. Their important information, of course, will be kept current on their individual webpages.

Update: December 18th
Here are some photos of Remi and Champ playing last Friday. We're home on Winter Break, so those two pups are having a blast! (Poor Morgan, Remi's regular bud, has no one to play with now!) Anyways, Champ vs Remi is like light-weight vs heavy-weight. Only one month older than Champ, Remi is twice his weight. Although he's a a little chunky (I'll shamefully admit), he's destined to be a much bigger dog.... Already Remi is almost as tall as Jake. Surprisingly when they play, Remi is almost always the one on his back and Champ is bouncing over and ferociously tackling him. It's pretty fun to watch them.

Also, Champ made his "big screen" debut on the little screen of All Creatures Great and Small Veterinary Clinic website's homepage. What a cutie!

Game of Chase, Dec 11th. Hide and Seek, Around and Around the Tree Show down.
Champ Takes Remi Down! The fight is on! Just having fun....


Update: December 4th
Champ and his littermates are Five Months Old (as of yesterday)!

Well I was hoping to post a video of Champers chasing and pointing the birds in the park this evening, but all I had was my cell and the clarity of the "videocamera" was horrible! It would make viewers seasick to watch! I hope photos will suffice, which are also from my cell, so I apologize for the fuzziness. Albeit, these are only sight points (on robins, at that), you can see he's got a cute little point. Stacked up on all fours and both ends high. Now we just need some real birds and some real country so he can start using that nose of his! I definitely have plans on taking him afield when we get back to Eastern Oregon for Winter Break.

Dec 4th: Pointing the birdies.  He loves 'em! Dec 4th: Look at that cutie! There are a bunch of birds about 40 ft away. Dec 4th: What a great view!  He'll be a looker in the field!

Also, I added the only photo we have of him when he was really "sick." It was taken at home, during the first weekend after the accident. Then there's a photo of him during the second weekend after the accident, again at home; this was when he was making his huge improvements and started walking. In the picture, he was taking a break in the sunshine.

It's hard to believe seven weeks have gone by since the accident... six weeks since he first saw Patricia, five weeks since he started regaining his leg function, and a couple weeks since he's been running without a hitch in his step! He's finally having the opportunity to be a pup, no surgeries, crate rest, horrible accidents/recovery period.... Hooray!

Oct 16th: Champ's first weekend home and at his lowest, physically.
Oct 24th: First day of "walking" or using all four legs!


Update: December 2nd
Well, we saw Patricia once more yesterday before Champ and I head home for the holidays next week! She worked a bit more on his spine and bloodflow, but overall, he was in great shape. His gait is flawless, and she insists he's a little miracle. (Of course, I agree!)

These last few days at the park Champ has been in Heaven. He chases and points, tirelessly, as the many many robins repeatedly land. Now before you say anything, I know this isn't bird dog training and that he's just sight pointing, etc! :) The point is that this little pup shows a great love of birds, and I can imagine next Spring, he'll be doing as great as Remi in training. He's been running out over a hundred yards, with not a trip in his step, might I add. When he turns to check on me, I call him & turn around, and he catches up so as not to be left behind. Champ does tremendously well at staying focused on my whereabouts and all but ignores the other dogs and people.

At home, Champ is absolutely the spoiled pooch. He sleeps on a pillow, snuggled up to my face, and waits for me in my car while I go to class. I try to take him to the park and on a walk downtown everyday, too. He's still only weighs about 21-22 lbs, but he's filled out and looks good. He is such a cutey! Champ has got a personality plus, which I'd expect, considering his extensive history of overcoming challenges! Everybody he meets adores him, and all he wants to do is give kisses.... All in all, Champ is enjoying life again!

Update: November 14th
I can't believe a month has gone by! Champ is doing fabulously well. He's running, playing, occasionally being a bit naughty.... Just like old times. Although he'd dearly love to wrestle with his doggie family and friends, he's not allowed to yet. This week, he got his spot back on my bed; he sleeps on a pillow, snuggled up to my face. And he still thinks he's a lap dog- good thing he's not grown too big yet.... (He's on my lap as I work right now.) He is a bit "off," but time heals all.... Because we've lost a month and a half of training and socialization, I'm taking him on at least one walk a day around Corvallis or OSU campus and just working on puppy things. I can't wait until his first trip back to the field!

Here are some photos from this past weekend at home.

Nov 7th: It's Good to be Back!
Nov 7th: Soph and Champ Ganging Up on Jake
Nov 7th: Champ sharing Jake's RMB
Nov 7: Champ loves Morgan!
Nov 8: Such a sad face....
Nov 8: Champ wishes he could go outside to play with the big dogs....
Nov 8: Chelsea, Champ, and Sophie, who is just about to escape Chelsea's grasp and wrestle Champ!
Nov 8: There he goes!
Nov 8: Champ!
Nov 8: In the garden, watching Morgan.
Nov 8: Turning around to [try to]  keep up with Morgan.
Nov 8: Enjoying the run through the garden!
Nov 8: Pretty boy!
Nov 8: He's wearing his Patron St. Francesco medallion from Dave and Mary! (Thank you!)
Nov 9: Going for a walk in Corvallis, wearing his fleece blanket that Chelsea made :0)
Nov 13: Champ does fit on the ottoman!
Nov 13: Champ decided a nap sounded good.

Update: November 2nd
Champ's "trot" gait is now almost 100% normal! I took him for a quick walk on campus today, and he led the way without a hitch in his step. He attemps to run a little but isn't quite as steady.

Since moving him to his grain/gluten-free foods (various dry and canned products by Evo, Orijen, Taste of the Wild, California Natural, Merrick, and Royal Canin), his coat has gotten much softer and his body is filling out more. He's a leggy boy but no longer so ribby!

We went for another session with Patricia last Friday, and everyone there was just ecstatic about his transformation. The last time they'd seen him, we was just moving his hind legs. Also last week, we started him on a gemmotherapy of Mountain Pine, an herbal remedy that Patricia says is for healing the nervous system/spine. This week we are starting to wean him off of his pain and anti-inflammatory meds, since he doesn't need them anymore but can't stop "cold turkey."

Update: October 29th
Here are some photos I took yesterday. I've stopped trailing and supporting Champ, as he seems to do okay getting around all by himself. Now I have to find (or make) the right harness that won't put pressure on his neck or back....

October 28th October 28th


Update: October 27th

Great news! Champ is walking on his own now! I was so pleased to bring him to Dr. Thomas yesterday and show her and Bobbi him walking. They'd seen him at his best, worst, and now on his way back to that happy, bouncy pup that he is. I still usually support him under his ribcage because his front legs occasionally buckle, but he is continually improving his mobility. Yesterday, he broke out into a little trot before I had to stop him, and this morning he did a little hop into his crate. He certainly seems to be feeling better, from the way he was chewing on his crate potty pad and his rawhide this afternoon. Now I just have to watch that Champ doesn't try to do too much at once, over-achiever that he is, and fall or knock his head while he's out and about. Thank you again to all who've helped our pup and thought about or prayed for him.

Update: October 23rd

Champ has use of his front legs! When I was supporting him for his now regular BM last night, Champ was "walking" with all four legs! You can imagine how thrilled I was. I almost went and woke up my parents but figured they could probably use the sleep. :) Today, my mom got to watch him walking, so he was getting praise galore.

Update: October 22ndOctober 6th: Champ gets to sleep with me of course!

Champ is making progress! Thank you everyone for thinking and praying for us. I want to say a big THANK YOU to Dr. Thomas, Carol, and Bobby at All Creatures Great and Small for all the care they've given him; this is the most compassionate vet staff with whom we've ever had the privilege of working. I would also like to thank the caring people at South Hill PT Clinic, especially Patricia Kortekaas and Mary, as well as two of their kind-hearted patients who donated some sessions for Champ with Patricia. And of course, I would like to thank my grandparents for helping me with some finances as well. I hope he is able to make a full recovery and be a little bright source of inspiration to my grandma....

On Monday, Oct 19th, after I'd dropped Champ off at her clinic for the day so that I could go to school, Dr. Thomas called me with information about an osteopathic therapist in Eugene that has had excellent recoveries working on dogs. She said she was very gentle and could very likely be able to help, and even if it didn't, he would not be hurt at all. She'd been looking at his MRI report and noted the sublaxation in his neck; as she explained, Champ could remain in the same condition for a long time, but he would not get better if we didn't address the problem, which quite possibly was his neck, from his slip and awkward landing in the bathtub the week prior. Patricia was able to see us at three o'clock that day.

The session with Patricia was nothing like any medical treatment I've ever seen applied. It was very much "alternative medicine" to me. I had to smile, too, because it was the least expensive route we've gone with in the last week. As it would be, it was also the most effective thing we could have done. If I remember correctly from her explanation, from the fall, he'd had a concussion and spinal cord compression and some of his vertebrae were tweaked (my words). She worked on the vertebrae and bloodflow. By the end of the session, he was comfortable and relaxed (read: falling asleep), and I promptly heard the happiest sound I'd heard in a week; when I left the room to go open the car, he started barking for me! That night, I saw more hind leg movement and when I'd leave the room, I'd hear him barking/whining. He certainly felt well enough to talk again! At Patricia's recommendation, we changed his food; she'd wanted a homemade diet but I decided to go with Innova canned puppy food since I didn't even have time to cook for myself between Champ and school. He absolutely loves it, and is now able to take real bites again. (That night I was still giving him water with a syringe and he was biting the tip of it, too.) We also started icing his neck for about 10-15 minutes every few hours.

Tuesday morning, we went to a session with a bioenergy therapist at the Southhill clinic before leaving him at Dr. Thomas' again. It was a very interesting treatment, and to be honest, I don't know if was his work or the continued healing from Patricia's, but on Tuesday, he was lapping water and moving his head around better. We stopped by the co-op and picked up some "arcina montana" herbal supplement, per Patricia's suggestion, intended for inflammation. In the evening, I left the room to go fix his food, and as would now be normal, he started whining; to my surprise, though, when I returned to the room, he'd scooted himself out of his open crate to go potty! All evening I knew he needed to have a bowel movement because he wouldn't eat, and when I was just about to fall asleep, he began relentlessly whining in discomfort. So as carefully as I could, I supported his head and ribcage, and he surprised me again by standing on his hindlegs by himself and emptying the stinky contents of that belly for the first time since the previous Thursday (finally!). After that, we were both able to rest easily. (Did I mention I sleep next to him on the floor? A bit nuts, maybe, but I can hear and tend to him more easily and he was used to sleeping on my pillows before all of this.)

Come Wednesday, Champ got to spend one more morning at All Creatures before we headed to Eugene for another session with Patricia and then to Hermiston for the rest of the week. Once again he started out scrunched in a little ball of discomfort, and by the end of her work, he was stretched out and relaxed, with very calm eyes. (Of course, she measured the progress made with her own much more finely attuned means.) We made the five hour drive home to Hermiston and arrived, worn out, at eleven....

Today, although I've noticed he still has pain in his neck, which we support as well as we can at a "neutral" sort of angle, he is much more mobile! When I leave him, in addition to his little cries, he scoots around on his bed. He can actually lift his hind end with his back legs, and if I support his ribcage and neck, he can stand. Now the most incredible feat he is attempting is walking! He can manuever his hind legs quite well, and I think I've seen him move his front legs a little (or it may just be me being hopeful). He really doesn't like soiling his bed and tries to stand, and just today, he had another BM, having made his way to the back door (with my help) before he would go. He's already making me nervous about trying too much at once, like he has always done....

Again, I am very thankful to those who have helped us. Every prayer and good thought has been appreciated. There is still a long road ahead, but I at least feel like a good recovery is in sight! We are so very glad that we didn't give up on this puppy. He is an amazing little dog.

(Below from October 17th)October 6th... My handsome boy.

Champ is currently fighting for his life. He's been fighting from day one, and has already gone through so much already, with his congenital diaphragmatic hernia and two surgeries.... Although those both went well, and he was just as happy and loving a puppy possible, on Monday, October 12th, things spiraled... fast.

Champ and I had just spent the weekend at home, visiting family (dogs and people!) and getting a follow up with his vet who'd performed the last surgery. On Monday, we were back in Corvallis, and when I went to check on him after about 15-20 minutes of free time in the back yard, I found him vomitting and looking very sick. He sat on the patio, threw up two more times, and fell over, not able to stand back up. When I picked him up to rush in the house, his body was limp, and I proceeded to rush him to our Corvallis vet. After a radiograph, bloodwork, and an exam, he was treated with anti-inflammatories and antihistamines for a bee sting, as that was what his symptoms presented, albeit an extreme reaction. I took him home after two hours of IV, and he seemed to be okay, until about 10:30 that night, when he was again having trouble standing. During the night he started vomitting again, and immediately in the morning I had him back at the clinic. He stayed for the day on IV and meds, and appeared to perk up/seem a little better by the end of the day. We were hoping it was a reaction to long-term treatment on amoxycillin but worried about encephalitis or ingestion of a neurotoxin.

By Wednesday morning he'd declined to the state that he is currently in. That is, he cannot support himself by his limbs, although he still has pain response in the toes and can move them a bit. His respiratory, temperature, and circulatory appear fine, and he is drinking lots of water (usually with a syringe but sometimes tries to lap) and eating on his own (Science Diet A/D). We're giving him some Nutri-Cal, too. Bless our little Champ, he is still happy to see people and other animals, and shows his joy by wagging his tail. Sometimes he tries to sit up but can't. He is alert and aware, and he's on medications to keep him comfortable. On this day, we were looking at the possibility of distemper, botulism, or spinal injury. I was able to spend about six hours sitting with him in his quarantine kennel to keep him company; it may seem silly, but I didn't want him to feel abandoned by me. (He'd been with me practically constantly from the day he was born, and since I'd had him in Corvallis as my buddy & companion he became very attached to me. I had grown to love him very much and was working on my parents to let me keep him.) Distemper is usually fatal, and the only treatment is supportive care (keep the body strong enough to fight with nutrients, IV, necessary meds) with no cure. The prognosis for a spinal injury in his neck was variable but better than distemper. Botulism could have been treated aggressively with antibiotics.

Thursday morning came and with no improvement, we were referred to a specialist clinic in Portland for the neurologist there. After an neuro exam, bloodwork, and more radiographs with no definite conclusions, we went ahead with an MRI. The results from the MRI results were not good. He has some congenital skeletal malformations that may be related to the current issue, though why or how, could not be answered; we did not proceed with a CT scan because surgery was no longer an option anyways. I guess Champers was a "runt" in the real sense, and just didn't grow properly as a fetus. What they found to be the cause of problems was fluid from the base of his brain, almost clear down to his lower back, with the exception of two short segments of normal condition. With no injury/fracture to be found but only the bizaare, severe, fluid, the clinic did an extra MRI (with I believe a special injection) to determine the makeup of the fluid. It was not normal spinal fluid but something with much greater protein. Although a spinal tap would have given us a much better idea of what we are fighting, we opted to discontinue diagnostics. A tap had the potential of disrupting the fluid and his current state of an acceptably stable health, and the outcome is grim, whether or not we know for sure it is a bacterial or viral infected fluid; the other possibilities could be pus or blood, that latter of which in time may be absorbed by his body (that would be the best scenario). We couldn't justify the cost or risk, when the treatment and prognosis, if we continued, would likely be the same....

Whatever Champ is faced with, it is severe, there's no doubt about that, but the cause of it is full of question-marks like why now, what triggered it, how long has it been going on, etc. Was it a slip in the bathtub with an awkward landing, a chance encounter with a virus, the vaccination he just had (maybe faulty or an autoimmune reaction), his body not being able to compensate for any structural shortcomings, none of the above? And the outcome, if we tried any aggressive treatment, would be questionable. It was about 7pm that night when we were faced with the difficult decision of how to proceed. With broken hearts and many tears, over the phone, my parents and I choose to have him euthanized, on Friday, at the Corvallis clinic. My mom would drive down to say good-bye. Later, it was decided that I would take him home, instead, and be put to sleep here, so that both of my parents and Champ's mom and doggie family could spend some last moments with him.

October 6th. The Look.On the drive back to Corvallis, Thursday night, I was torn in two. It just didn't seem like it was right to give up, when Champ was still fighting. This puppy was always fighting, and so far, he has always succeeded. He's a life force. He's the Champion of our Hearts. Of course, I didn't want him to suffer for my selfishness. I told my dad that we had to consult with our home/Hermiston vets to see if there was anything we could do. It was a hard night dealing with all of this (well, it was a hard week...), but Champ made it through with no decline. Yesterday morning, Friday, we stopped in at the Corvallis clinic, so that I could get him checked out before the drive home to make sure he'd be fine and they could see him, possibily for the last time. Many heartfelt thanks to Dr. Thomas and Bobby for restoring my hope and reassuring me that Champ is comfortable enough to try to fight this awhile longer. Like they pointed out, he's eating, drinking, wagging his tail (it's heartbreaking to see this, he's such a strong, brave puppy), and Dr. Thomas was not ready to call it quits. We went over his meds for the weekend (anti-inflammatories, pain reliever for back/spinal, and some strong antibiotics that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier) and we hit the road. I felt sure that the right thing to do would be to give Champ more TLC. So long as he isn't in pain and still has that will to live, we won't give up. We were going home to get one last consult with our vets, to say good-byes in case he didn't make it, and to share a little emotional support. But at least, we weren't going home for a definite final goodbye.

One of our home vets yesterday went over his case and agrees we're on a good treatment/drug plan. He repeated what the vet in Portland had said, basically that there's no wrong choice right now. We can keep trying or not. There's nothing more we can really do. If it's a viral infection, it's got to run its course while we try to keep him strong enough, and if it's a bacterial infection, we have the antibiotics. We're going to give this boy time on meds and hope to see improvement. Last night, his big sister Morgan and mom Sophie came inside to see him, and he was so happy. He very much wanted to get up and go play. He's been laying on blankets in the family room and getting constant loves and attention. Even Levi seems concerned about him. It was great to see him lift his hind leg back and show his belly to get a good scratching from my mom (something she's known for by all our dogs).

This Saturday, he's in the same condition, with one extra good sign. I saw him move his front left leg, which previously he'd shown little ability to do. It was just a little bit, but at this point, I'll take anything. He's still eating and drinking great, temperature is normal, heartrate is strong, breathing is good (and no sign of pneumonia). Sophie came inside to see him again and you should have seen his tail wagging....

So right now, we're on the "wait and see" plan. We pray that it will not be an uphill battle and that a recovery and decent quality of life is possible. If you will please send some good thoughts his way, or include him in any prayers, our precious puppy can use all the help he can get. We very much wish to see him get through this. It may not be a full recovery, but he'll make the most of it. If ever there was a pup who wanted to live, it would be Champ. We love him very much and hope to do the best for him. -Thank you very much, Chelsea 10-17-09


The above photos are a couple weeks old, from around September 20th.

September 2009:
We moved Champ inside the house as soon as his last littermate left to spoil him. Champ is a big dog in a little package and will probably only mature to about 40 lbs. His personality is awesome. He's a happy, friendly, confident, bold, determined, attentive, intelligent, playful, sweet, socialite. He absolutely loves being with people and other dogs, and is very comfortable in public places. We've been working on basic puppy manners. Champ travels very well (short and long distance) in a carrier in the vehicle. He is crate trained and almost fully housetrained. He will sit at the door if he needs to go out, but if we're not fast enough he'll find somewhere to go.... He's gone out to the field a few times, including once when we planted quail for him, which he found and pointed on scent; he's very much into hunting, and when we first took him out with the whole litter, he was usually the one off by himself exploring. He's got plenty of prey drive and a nice high tail on point.

Tough Beginnings:
This guy did have a rough start in life, hence his name. (It had to be something like that, or Chance, or Lucky!) We thought Sophie accidently ripped open his belly above the cord when trying to sever it (which is ironic because we normally cut the cords ourselves, to minimize potential for umblicial hernias, only letting "nature take its course" a couple times with this litter, for a change, and then this happens...), so we rushed him to the vet clinic right after his was delivered. However, his surgeon said it was part of his incomplete development--his abdomen never actually closed. Anyways, it was a blessing in disguise because while they were repairing the liver, which had been cut, too, by Champ's tiny nails, they found he had a severe diaphragmatic hernia (DH) and repaired it. He was incredibly lucky to survive this surgery both because of his newborn age and size, and also because of his very high risk of infection from the abdominal cavity and liver contamination. But survive he did, proving to be a big little fighter. He was a pup that was trying things first and never giving up until he was successful. Those stunts he'd pull would have us cringing....

Anyways, the incision in the abdominal muscle that was extended to repair the DH didn't seal, so when he was 11 1/2 wks old, we took him in for another surgery to get that sutured and check out the diaphragm. They found there was still a diaphragmatic hernia so they repaired it again. We had planned for this second surgery at that older age so that he was big enough to handle the anesthetics for a thorough surgery and there was more tissue to work with. You can imagine how delicate and how little excess tissue there was to do the emergency surgery on a newborn pup who didn't weigh even a whole pound. Anyways, he'd been sentenced to crate rest for a couple weeks, and then we were restricting rough play/strenuous exercise for a few more weeks just for safe keeping. He stitches came out and he had a follow-up with the vet who performed the last surgery. The muscle seemed to be sealing well, and there's just one little infected part from an internal suture that he was on antibiotics for again (edit: 10/22/09- this appears to have reherniated from the retching after the accident but we'll worry about this later). He has also had an x-ray by a vet here in Corvallis and the diaphragm looks good too! Once repaired, there are no long-term adverse effects of having a congenital DH; I've talked to several vets, who've all said he can have a normal life, be active, and hunt. I've tried to find some research on the subject but nothing I've found really addresses long-term prognosis, presumably because once they're repaired, just as in another muscle, they're fixed. Obviously, he was never being sold as breeding quality because this could possibly be genetic (no family history that we can find, but of course, we'd never expected this... they're rare), for the above reasons, plus he's cryptorchid, with a few other minor conformational flaws present.


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