I took yesterday off from work (my paying job that is) so I could spend the day working on MnPAW (Minnesota Partnership Animal Welfare) work. A gorgeous spring like day in March … this time last year I would never imagined I would be opening my windows to let a breeze come through … no, not here in Minnesota. My day began in its usual way, and up until noon everything seemed to be progressing as planned. Then shortly before noon I got a call from Jenny, “The pups aren’t doing well. Vicki suspects its parvo. Heidi is going to be bringing the pups to the clinic at 1:30.” Vicki is my good friend and a veterinarian who does amazing work for the abandoned, abused and neglected animals here in Minnesota. On March 10th, 4 beautiful pups arrived on transport from Leech Lake Reservation – Micco (‘chief’), Masaka (‘strong’), Muraca (‘white moon’) and Misu (‘rippling brook’). Through our efforts at Leech Lake Legacy (a collaborative effort to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation) we have placed a majority of animals at the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley. They arrived piled on top of each other in a kennel. It was Jill, Erica and Kristen’s (of Pause for Paws) first transport up to Leech Lake Reservation. They stepped up at the last minute to help us bring down to the cities 4 7 week old puppies, a 6 month old pup and 2 adult dogs. The 4 pups needed to first spend time at my friend Heidi’s home for the remainder of the quarantine period for puppies. Heidi has been a saint for the puppies up at Leech Lake Reservation and taking them into her home for the required days: a 10 day quarantine to ensure they are healthy and don’t have parvo.
|Micco and Heidi|
So off went Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu to Heidi’s home for a week. Heidi was excited to spend the next week with squiggly, squirmy, crying, poopy, peeing, barky, fat-bellied pups who would get into everything. Over the week she kept in touch with us and there were ups and downs through the week. One day we would think they were okay, then the next, they started having the dreaded parvo symptoms. We were hoping and praying it wasn’t parvo; we were hoping worms were causing them to have parvo-like symptoms. We have seen a lot of coccidia up at the Reservation. Dr. Vicki kept in touch with us throughout the week. They were put on a special bland diet and treated for coccidia. That seemed to help so we were all once again hopeful. Then yesterday things took a turn again for the worse .. Micco was not doing well. Her symptoms had gotten worse. When Heidi described the symptoms to Vicki that’s when we were told what we feared the most, it’s most likely parvo.
I met Heidi at Vicki’s clinic at 1:30 pm yesterday. We met Vicki at the back of the clinic. She was wearing yellow scrubs. Parvo is a disease I have come to despise. It is a highly contagious viral disease and because the puppies aren’t vaccinated against it they are the ones who are attacked by this virus. It’s a virus that spreads with a vengeance and won’t go away. It’s a disease that when it strikes the most innocent and helpless it rips your heart right out. It’s a disease that yes, some puppies can be treated and survive it, and 2 pups from Leech Lake Reservation last year were two of the lucky ones taken in by Act V Rescue and the rescue incurred a $6,000 bill. So here we were on a Monday afternoon with four puppies showing varying levels of parvo symptoms. We/Leech Lake Legacy have a couple hundred dollars in our emergency medical fund. We can’t afford to treat 4 puppies for parvo.
|Micco at Vicki's clinic|
Vicki checks Micco out. She has a fever. She doesn’t look good. All her symptoms point to parvo. She gives her fluids. I look at Micco and I pray for guidance. What do we do? I look at Heidi … her eyes are red, she’s holding tears back and my heart just breaks. She shares with us how she tried to the take the 4 pups out for a walk over the weekend. It was a gorgeous weekend. She had spent a lot of time out in her backyard with the pups and decided, let’s try to go for a walk. “I got 10 feet and turned around. They were playing with each other, and the leash was getting all tangled up.” She smiles as she remembers that moment.
We call Jenny outside the clinic as we try to figure out what we are going to do. We all know that we can’t treat these puppies. We don’t have $2500 to spend on each puppy. For 4 puppies that would be $10,000. We don’t have a place for them to go. Rescues and shelters won’t take parvo puppies. They can’t risk exposing other dogs to parvo.
|Misu ('rippling brook')|
Jenny asks both Heidi and me, “what do you think we should do?” We all know we need to let them go. And we all agree that as painful as it is, we have no other alternative. I’m not going to ask Vicki to euthanize the puppies. I tell Heidi I’m going to call AHS and see if they can help us out. We both get in our cars and start driving to AHS in Golden Valley. I call Lynn (AHS’ vet tech supervisor). I met Lynn 10 months ago when our efforts to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation began and our partnership with AHS was evolving. Over the 10 months we have gone through so much … laughed and cried. We have celebrated the joys of placing so many of these beautiful animals into loving homes; we have cried when we lost some to parvo.
I call Lynn on my way to AHS. As Lynn picks up her cell phone I look in my rear view mirror and see Heidi following me. My heart is breaking, for the pups, but as much for Heidi. I’m crying on the phone with Lynn as I tell her what’s going and that the puppies have parvo and will she euthanize them for us. I can feel the warmth and compassion flooding through the phone line. “I am so sorry. I am so sorry. Just come here and we will do our best to make what is so difficult a little less painful.” It’s as if I feel Lynn’s arms around me, around Heidi, around the pups. I can’t stop myself from crying as I’m driving on highway 100 heading to AHS. Looking back I realize I was not alone through this painful process. Vicki and Lynn wrapped their arms around us and without saying these words, had shown through their actions, ‘we are here for you.’
Heidi and I pull up to the intake area of AHS. We leave the pups in their kennel in her car. As I walk into the intake area there are 4 AHS staff waiting for us. It’s clear Lynn has told them to expect us. Compassion and understanding fill the room. Moments later, Lynn walks through her door. I’m doing my best to hold it together, to not break down, to not cry. Lynn doesn’t say a word, she comes up to me, arms outstretched and she hugs me tightly. The tears start falling uncontrollably. She holds onto me and squeezes me. The pain in my heart for Heidi, for the puppies comes pouring out. She continues to hold me tightly and I feel her taking some of the pain in my heart. I am angry at the injustice of all of this. I feel helpless and alone and as Lynn holds me tightly, I realize I am not alone. There’s an entire village of support for the work we are doing to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation.
Heidi and I are with Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu as they cross over the rainbow bridge. As Lynn is holding them, Melissa (the vet tech at AHS) gently inserts the needle into their tiny vein. Heidi and I stroke each puppy as they gently fall asleep. In one of the most painful, difficult moments there is love in that room. Heidi shares memories and stories, “Misu is the sassy one. She was sassy with her siblings.” As we hold Micco, Masaka and Muraca we tell them when they are up in heaven it will be their turn to sass Misu. The pups went quietly and very peacefully.
|Muraca ('white moon')|
I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking of Heidi, of the puppies, of Vicki, of Lynn, of the staff at AHS who showed so much love and compassion. I woke up this morning and I started crying again. I have come to truly hate the disease of parvo. This morning I needed to give myself time to grieve, to cry and to also celebrate the incredible bonding and relationships that have formed over the past year as so many people have come together in our shared vision to help as many animals. We celebrate the successes and happy endings, but we also share the pain of the losses.
Heidi sent me a text last night ‘ … my heart breaks a little every time an ending like this comes to be a part of the story of any of our beloved animals. Those little girls are in my heart, and hey they had a good last week.” And she ended with a reminder to me that we have so many more animals to help and that they need us to be there for them. We, along with many others, are heading up to Leech Lake Reservation later this week for the first collaborative spay/neuter clinic up at the Reservation.
Thank you Heidi for opening up your heart and your home to Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu. You gave them the best week of their lives. And thank you Vicki for always being there for us and the animals of Leech Lake Reservation. And Lynn, when my heart was breaking, thank you for being there and holding my heart together and picking up the pieces and making what was a very difficult decision, a little less painful, by reminding us … we are all in this together, and by working together we can not only help so many more animals but we will be there with love and compassion for each other as well.
Tonight when you look up in the stars, you will see four bright stars in the night skies … yes, they will be Micco (chief), Masaka (strong), Muraca (white moon) and Misu (rippling brook).