What a start to 2013!

January 6, 2013 | 8 comments | Blog

Well, where do I start?

We left for Ireland on the 22nd December, we were going to visit Gary (Liesl’s dad) for one night and then we were to drive down to her sister and family (Jenny, Jim and their 3 boys, James, Adam and Andrew) and her mum (Heather) for Christmas and Boxing Day for our first family Christmas in years and Liesl’s first Christmas back in Ireland for 19 years.

We had Alfie (our English Pointer dog who we found on the road starving and petrified in May) and Tom (the cheeky stray that adopted US as a kitten 2 years ago when we moved to our Finca in Algorfa) booked into separate kennels and cattery because – it was so close to Christmas we couldn’t use our usual place so Liesl had booked separate accommodation for them but warned the cattery that sometimes Tom doesn’t come home for a couple of days so he might not be staying with them.

True to form, the evening before we left for Ireland, Tom didn’t turn up (its like the little sod knew that he was going to locked up for a week!). He is such an independent cat and loves being outside, he likes the fact that he can just come back when he wants, say “hello”, grab some food and go back out again to terrorise the small creatures outside!

So we left keys with friends Les and Doreen and instructions on feeding the chickens and keeping Tom’s food and water topped up for when he came back over the week that we were going to be away and we headed off to the kennels with Alfie and then off to the airport safe in the knowledge that we had done everything to make sure our animals were going to be fine.

We had a great time away in Ireland, having a family Christmas was really nice, if a little louder than expected(we are not used to 3 kids running around!), but it was nice all the same, spending time with Heather and remembering Ken (Liesl’s step father) who passed away this time last year.

Liesl in wheelchairWe returned back to Gary’s house on the 26th and would you believe that on the 27th (the day we were flying home) Liesl had really bad pain in her back and we spent the morning finding a professional to help sort her out so that she could fly – we ended up with her in a wheelchair in the airport (great way to skip the queue’s though!)

We landed back in Alicante late on the Thursday evening and found that the advantages of boarding the aircraft first due to the wheelchair were all cancelled out when disembarking – we were literally the last to leave the plane and then it took around an hour to get wheeled around and through baggage reclaim and finally out of the airport.

We arrived home and on the Friday whilst Liesl was at the physio I collected Alfie from the kennels, he was please to see me but ecstatic to see Liesl when we both went to collect her from the physio.

We had already emailed our friends to ask about Tom as we noticed when we got back the night before it looked like his food had not been touched – we got the email back we were dreading that he hadn’t been back for the entire time that we had been away!

We spent the weekend trying to find him, expecting the worst, looking around on the roads and back roads expecting to find him dead, but taking heart from the fact that we couldn’t find him laid out or squashed somewhere (finding him like that would just have been horrible). We just couldn’t find him, we even rang the people who have a holiday home near us just in case they had been back whilst we had been away and perhaps he had found his way in there in our absence – but they had not been back.

It was New Years Day when he returned! Both Liesl and I were recovering from some serious wine tasting the evening before and we heard his unique (slightly pathetic) meow. We both jumped up and ran to “his” window and could hear but not see him, so Liesl opened the front door to see him laying under the window unable to move his back legs – the poor chap had literally dragged himself home using his front legs, dragging his belly, and back legs behind him. He was as you would expect a cat to look in his condition, being away for 11 days in winter – he was a mess!

Broken HipWe rushed him to the Veterpet 24 hour hospital in Guardamar where one of the vets took him and started to work on him. The initial diagnosis, after a couple of X-rays, was that he had broken his hip (explaining why he could move his legs and tail but couldn’t put any weight on them). The vet told us to leave him with her and she would care for him until the specialist could see him the next day. I have to mention that it’s just fantastic that such a resource is available just 10 minutes down the road, finding him in such a state was horrifying, but having somewhere we could take him straight away and not having to wait until the next working day made it just a little more bearable.

Late on that day the vet rang back to say that the specialist had asked her to take some more X-rays and that they had made a mistake with the hip diagnosis and in fact he had been shot! They had found 2 pellets inside him around his chest area (you can see them in the Myleography below or here), again we still had to wait until the next day for a detailed diagnosis.

During that afternoon and evening Alfie looked poorly.  He had vomiting and diarrhoea and looked thoroughly depressed and exhausted (far from the bouncy energetic dog he usually is.  During the night, Liesl was up with him and considering taking him to the hospital as he was shivering despite being wrapped up in a blanket.  That next morning we took Alfie to our local vet, again Veterpet, but this time in our town of Almoradi. The vet there thought that he had eaten something intoxicating and gave him something to settle his stomach and told us to keep an eye on him and if he was still unable to keep anything down we were to bring him back at the end of that day.

We got him home and he just got worse.  We took him back early to the vet and she said that he must have eaten something poisonous and she took some blood samples from him  and gave us those and a letter to take with him to the hospital in Guardamar – yep the same one Tom was already in!  We went straight there and they instantly put him on a drip for a few days as he was very dehydrated.

So we returned home quite despondent at having our two pets in the hospital at the same time!

The next day we were told that it was thought that Tom had a problem with his spine, a hernia that was pushing down on his spine and causing the paralysis on his back end, he was incontinent and clearly not happy that he was not able to clean himself. We were told that he would need a special type of xray called a Myelography (covered in detail here if you are interested – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myelography).

The Myelograph was going to cost several hundred euros and if found to be what they expected then an operation would need to be done costing over 1000 euros!

This was a very difficult time because any decision based on finances over a living creature that you care about is just soooo hard – ok, we had the money, but we couldn’t spend it without consequences – we certainly didn’t have that sort of money sitting around as spare change that we could spend without having it affect us.

At the same time we were told that Alfie had Parvovirus (again for those of you that like detail – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_parvovirus) it’s a deadly virus that can kill 91% of infected animals if not treated in time.

We were devastated and also very confused as we had Alfie vaccinated by another vet when we found him – he was about 12 months old when we found him 6 months ago.  The vet said that it would take time, that we had acted quickly and also that they were starting to see animals come into the hospital that HAD been vaccinated and that perhaps there was a new strain that he had been infected by and also that there certainly was an epidemic at the moment.

As you can imagine, we returned home at our wits end, having two pets that we loved very much, both fighting for their lives in hospital!  We went to check that Alfie’s passport showed that he was vaccinated against Parvovirus (perhaps for some reason he hadn’t been – we wanted to make sure we had done everything possible to prevent his infection).

Of course, you must remember that this is all set against the background of two people that have to work, we have a business to run and are certainly not retired, we have to work in order to live here, pay bills (and now pay the mounting vets bills), so between visits to the hospital we no had appointments to keep with customers but to be honest neither of our hearts were in it.

After checking how much money we had and after a very kind offer from a friend in the UK for money (which we thanked him for but didn’t take up) we confirmed that the hospital should arrange for the specialist to perform the Myelography so that we could confirm what we were dealing with – it should give us a detailed image of what was happening. In the mean time we checked Alfie’s passport and were devastated to not be able to find vaccination for Parvovirus but all the others were there!

We went back to the original vet and asked her whether perhaps there had been a mistake and that the vaccination hadn’t been put in the passport (perhaps it was registered on her computer but she had forgotten to put write it down?). She confirmed that she had not given him the vaccination because of his age – she said that it was IMPOSSIBLE for him to get the virus at his age! Her face dropped when we explained (all in Spanish remember) that he was in hospital fighting for his life and had been tested for and confirmed as having Parvovirus. I think that it’s the fact that we had to do everything in Spanish that stopped me from blowing my top – I just didn’t have the vocabulary to express my full range of feelings to her, that’s something that I need to change! She confirmed again that he couldn’t have Parvovirus, as it was impossible or at least very rare – we asked her to ring the hospital and confirm with them whether she was right or not – she later rang back and waffled, saying that she didn’t know why he hadn’t been vaccinated, but didn’t really give an explanation and again it was difficult to understand everything especially on the phone.

We then started to get some good news – the hospital rang to say that Alfie was making great progress and we could take him home the next evening, he had responded well to the treatment and was a very strong dog and that is what had saved him – they also said that although it’s certainly essential to vaccinate, against Parvovirus, the very young and old dogs, their policy is to give the booster to all adult dogs as well – I think we will take their advice in the future! They also said that following the Myleography they had confirmed that Tom didn’t have a hernia and that the specialist thought that paralysis was due to a blood clot and bruising and that the operation was not necessary – I am so pleased that we made the decision to do the test before deciding on the operation as had we just decided on financial terms before having the test done we would have probably not proceeded – at least he has a chance now.

The vets gave him acupuncture and he had responded a little to it and showed a bit more movement in his legs. We were told that we could also take him home but needed to observe both of them.  Tom needs regular anti-inflammatory medicine and massage / physiotherapy on his legs and he would just need to be given time with a 50/50 chance of recovering the power in his back legs – we have to take him back for more acupuncture.  Alfie needs to be closely observed and given quite a few tablets and just basic, simple food, until he is totally better. He is not allowed to mix with other dogs and if we pet another dog, we must thoroughly was our hands afterwards.

So that was Friday evening (the 4th Jan) and its now Sunday, Alfie looks 100% better, and although he is still on the drugs and simple food, we think that he will be just  fine. Tom has certainly got some of his personality back as he has taken a swipe or two at Alfie but he still can’t stand on his back legs.  Liesl is doing a great impression of a certain Crimean nurse and is cleaning up after him, giving him great attention and performing physiotherapy as instructed (in addition to performing her own physiotherapy on her own Achilles tendon!)

Tom is pulling himself around the house, still with little movement on his back legs, so we will have to wait and see what happens.  We have no idea what happened to him for the 11 days he was away but we suspect that he was high up when he was shot and fell, causing the trauma.  We have no way of knowing how long he was suffering for – was he shot on the first evening and took all that time to get back or was he lost or stolen and got shot on his way back? All we know is that they are both back now and we will do everything we reasonably can to make sure that they both make a full recovery – although I have to say that if I see anyone locally with an air rifle they may need to have it surgically removed from them after I have finished with them!

More updates on Tom and Alfie here – www.cavender.co.uk/animal-update

7 Responses

  • Chris & Linda says:

    Glad to hear they’re both on the mend.

    January 6, 2013 4:44 pm
  • mary robinson says:

    Hi Richard & Liesl – So sorry to read about all your traumatic events with your animals since your reurn from Ireland. I do hope that Alfie and Tom make a full recovery soon. Also hope that Liesl makes a good recovery. from Mary Robinson

    January 6, 2013 6:28 pm
  • Celia says:

    So very pleased to hear Alfie is so much better & Tom showing signs of recovery,albeit slow. Didn´t know he´d been shot! Richard did so well to sort my computer prob out in the midst of all this – Many thanks to you both.
    Canigen 7 is the booster vaccination which includes protection against Parvovirus- worth knowing what to check for on pet passports.

    January 6, 2013 11:22 pm
  • Mark Lewis says:

    Hola Richard, my second attempt at a message.
    I remember our telephone conversation when Tom had been injured and was under investigation. It was the right decision to get the myleography done as this revealed the real problem. Of course I didn’t know then that you were subsequently going to go through another emotive decision making process with Alfie.
    I talked to Antonio at the Veterpet clinic yesterday about Tom and Alfie and he also was really sorry that you and Liesl had all this happen at once, on top if Liesl’s own injury!
    As they say in situations like this “Things Can Only Get Better”, and we all look forward to hearing when everything is back to normal and all returned to good health in the Cavender house. You should write a book!

    January 8, 2013 8:26 am
  • graham knight says:

    Hi Richard, thank you for leaving this message for us to read, we are still learning about things in Spain and it has opened our eyes again.
    Best wishes to you both and a big MEOW for Tom.

    January 11, 2013 1:56 pm
  • Jen and Andy says:

    Well guys it can only get better not sure who to feel sorry for most

    January 14, 2013 5:28 pm
  • Mark Lewis says:

    Hola Richard, coincidently Antonio the vet yesterday showed me the short video on his smart phone of Tom walking for the first time since he went missing and returned home with that terrible injury. You and Liesl, Alfie and Tom have been through hell in the last few weeks. You are all drawing strength from each other and this is so important in the recovery process for any family. Thanks for keeping us informed, have you started to write that book yet!

    February 3, 2013 10:38 pm

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