A Puppy, Parvo And
Protecting Kids From Pain
As parents, we always want to protect our kids from pain.
I tried to protect them from crime – the house was burglarized while we were asleep.
I tried to protect them from getting sick – explosive diarrhea becomes a household term.
But keeping your kids safe from life — that is just naive.
For Christmas, Michael and I bought the kids a 9-week-old black labrador retriever. Her birth name was Chevron, and little did we know, she was about to earn her first stripe in her short life.
I flew to New Orleans and drove about 3 hours to a small town in eastern Louisiana. The drive reeked of “swamp gas” and the town was sparse. When I arrived, the breeder, who is registered with American Kennel Club, a world leading organization for reputable dog breeders, seemed in rush. I was whisked in and out of the trailer home in a matter of minutes. I took Chevron with me and loaded her into a dog carrier and set out for the drive to the airport.
Chevron seemed in good spirts until we arrived at the gate, when I smelled a rotten scent. It wasn’t swamp gas but instead would portend a vicious virus that would test the mettle of our family.
On the plane ride home, the smell from the dog carrier got worse. Upon further inspection, Chevron pooped all over herself. It was diarrhea – but a foul smelling diarrhea.
As I got off the plane with stinky dog, I realized we had a problem – the kids surprise Christmas present was covered in poop and they were waiting feet away in the airline baggage claim area. Luckily, DFW International Airport had a “doggie area” where you could clean off your pet and take it to the bathroom. Well I had no choice – can’t give a Christmas present to the kids covered in poop. So very quickly, I washed her down, wiped her off, and with and with poop all over my arms, hands, fingernails – and proceeded to make the delivery. Ten minutes later, Chevron – now named Addy waltzed into the arms of our 8-year-old kids. It was instant love and happiness.
The next day, something bothered me. It was the rancid smelling stool and that our larger dog Zander, just didn’t engage with our new puppy, Addy. Something was wrong. We took Addy to the vet. Once there – she was diagnosed with roundworms – which is not uncommon and sent home. But the rancid diarrhea persisted and big brother Zander still wasn’t thrilled with his new pal. I returned to the vet the next day with Addy.
As I waited with the kids in the exam room, my eyes wandered over to the wall of informational pamphlets. One in particular caught my eye. I picked it up and read it – I remember thinking, “Wow, this is horrible. Well our dog couldn’t have that problem. A minute later the vet technician comes into the room – she stated, “We looked at the stool sample you gave us from Addy — and we need to do a test for the Parvo virus.” I glanced back at the wall of pamphlets, where I just read about Parvo – 10 minutes later the test came back was positive – Addy had Parvo.
I immediately sent the kids out of the room and I just started crying. Parvo is a deadly virus with no cure. It is a virulent virus that survives cold, heat and can live in the soil for years. Puppies are vaccinated against Parvo but they are still susceptible to transmission until all of their vaccinations are administered – that ends at about 16 weeks. Remember, Addy was only 9-weeks-old when we got her from the breedor.
A few minutes later, I contacted the breeder in Louisiana. She appeared very concerned about Parvo, but not about Addy. Probably because Parvo could ruin a breeder’s business.
At first the breeder said, “It must be a false positive”, then she said “It might not be Parvo” – it might be “stress- related or a bacterial infection”. All were proven false by the veterinarian and veterinary science. But the boldest statement from the breeder was that the Parvo virus can have an incubation period of a just a few hours so I could have exposed Addy to Parvo during the transport from Louisiana to Dallas, Texas. The science doesn’t support that assertion – Parvo has an incubation period of 4 to 10 days. Whatever the case – the evidence pointed back to Parvo – the breeder pointed to a different scenario or distanced herself from fault.
That night, I felt horrible. I picked the breeder – I chose the puppy and traveled hundreds of miles for this Christmas gift for the kids – it is all ruined. A sick dog who might die, a breeder who doesn’t care about the dog.. just her bottom line and my kids, just heartbroken about this Addy.
The vet sent us home with an IV bag full of fluids, special food, a prescription for Tamiflu, anti-nausea medication, and a set of crossed fingers. For nearly a week, we were filled with false hope – Addy was so weak at one point that I had to slap her head to wake up. We gave her pedialyte with a dropper when she wouldn’t drink, held her when she couldn’t walk, and loved her when she must have felt the world was at an end. It was a full family effort to get her better.
Then a few days later a turn for the worse. Addy was getting weaker so we rushed her to the vet where they administered antibiotics, an IV for hydration and gave her a double plasma infusion.
Addy fought hard every day. The kids played with her, gave her love and affection – you could tell their tiny hearts were suffering. The breeder didn’t seem as concerned as I thought she should be about a dog sold to us with this deadly virus.
Well, it’s been 2 weeks and we are happy to report Addy appears on the mend and should be back to a healthy puppy weight soon!
I still feel horrible because I brought this potential tragedy into our house and exposed our children to what might have been a heartbreaking loss. But in the end, like Chevron – I guess the kids learned about love and healing in the face of pain — and for that – our kids each earned their own chevron – one big stripe for courage and compassion and kindness.
How do you handle life’s big lessons with your kids?