26 min read

Theodore, the Pit Bull who won't give up. Part I.

<p>By: Cassie Costantino</p>

My fiancé, Zack and I, rescue dogs on a personal level. We get them veterinary care, spay or neutered, vaccines, and any other care they made need. I am also a dog trainer, so I try to teach them the basics before finding them loving homes. We are dog lovers, especially, Pit Bulls!

On, January 16, 2016, I was looking at our local Craigslist. I keep an eye on it for dogs that need some help. There aren't as many post for dogs compared to just a couple of years ago, but there are still a few. On this day there was a 2 day old post for a 5 year old male Pit Bull, and to make a long story short we ended up with him.

He was emaciated, with old wounds from at least one dog fight on his face, head, neck and front legs. He was a bit nervous, trembling but was very loving. He would lean on you. His eyes, so soulful, and if he could only talk to tell me what he has been through. He ate treats freely from our hands and just look like he needed a friend.

As a couple of days past, he wasn't eating as well as I would like, but he was in a new place, new people. He was playful, and even gave us kisses. I had an appointment with our vet but they couldn't get us in for a week and a half. Then on Thursday Jan 21st, he crashed all of a sudden and hard. I called Zack in a panic I knew something internally was terribly wrong. We rushed him to the local ER.

At the local ER, they didn't even think he would make it through the night. They had no answers for us. They didn't know if it was a foreign body, or anything. As we drove back there I had convinced myself we were going there to say our good byes. Theodore came around the corner, and there was something in his eyes that said he wasn't ready to give up. The only options the ER vet gave us was euthanasia or bring him to Cornell. Zack and I looked at each other, and I said "Pack him up he is going to Cornell." The vet was shocked, she said do you realize the cost? (And we did. We have a personal dog we brought there when he slipped a disc.) We were told, Theodore might not make the 3 hour car ride, but why not try? Theodore clearly wanted to.

He made the ride all the way to Cornell on a wing and a prayer with my fiancé. I had to stay home to take care of the rest of the dogs. Now it is Friday morning. They tested his blood, his levels were so low, so very low, they didn't know how he was even alive. His prognosis wasn't good. Three hours later, somehow he was stabalized and they found what they believed to be the problem. Theodore had a perforation in his small intestine. He was septic. They said he a good chance to make it through surgery, but he was still critical, they gave him 60% chance. We decided to go through with it. They said if he made it through he would have to be there at least five or six days, so I told Zack to come home, and pray.

I worried all day, so did Zack. This poor dog, what had happen to him? Theodore is exactly what a Pit Bull should be. Even though he apparently has never seen kindness, he loves all humans, he holds not one grudge. Somehow he trusted, Zack and I. It was there in his eyes, he trusted us and was asking for help. When the phone rang, we both jumped. That sinking feeling came within the pit of my stomach, is he...alive? The glorious news, he made through surgery, it was like lead weights being lifted, but the next puzzled us. The surgeon wanted to know if he was given, aspirin, or ibuprofen or something. Inside his small intestine there was an ulcer, an ulcer that was so bad it burned straight through causing the perforation. He did not have a foreign body. They made sure to check his whole abdominal cavity. They were sure it was caused by something fed to him over a long period of time, with little if any food, apparent by his body condition. We of course have no idea what his past owner gave him. Now the next question, will he recover?

Over that weekend our updates came every morning and every night. The concern at that point was he wouldn't eat. They had him on a feeding tube, and when they fed him he would regurgitate some. They had him on four different medications for nausea, but they were still optimistic. They asked again about what he could of been given. And I had to ask, could it be gunpowder? Yes that is right they feed dogs gunpowder to make them "mean". The thought behind it is they are in so much pain the dog will lash out and bite anything. The vet student I was speaking with, had never heard of such a thing. She was appauled. I, knowing the area where he came from, knew it could be a possiblity. I had to explain the urban area and its track record of dog fighting. Dog fighting is not just in the south. It is right here in the Capital District of New York. It is not organized, like what you think of when you talk about Michael Vick. People just find dogs and fight them until they die, then they find a new one. They fight them in someone's basement, or even in the back of a park, or they throw two dogs in a trunk and drive around. They place small bets, and even the winner doesn't always live. There is no way they would seek vet care. The winner, if injured enough could be dumped to die somewhere or left to suffer in a crate. The vet student was from the Ithaca area and had never seen dog fighting other than in text books or on TV. She confided in me that she and a couple of the other staff members felt like Theodore was hit. It was the way you went to touch his face and he would wince and blink his eyes, unsure if you are going to swing.

Monday came exciting news, they removed the drain from his stomach. They felt they had removed most of the septic fluid that had drained into there from the perforation. And he had stopped regurgitating. They were going to try solid food the next day. Then the bad news, his kidneys weren't recovering. He was leaking protein and his calcium levels were low. They were going to follow up with further testing the next day.

Tuesday morning Theodore was eating! We had discussions about possibly bringing him home on Wednesday. Then in the afternoon those further test came back, more bad news, his kidneys are possibly damaged permanently. The felt like there was a chance he could have Protein Leaking Neropothy. There is no cure, just meds to extend time. The vet and I talked, I explained this wasn't my first rescue and I promised that I wouldn't let him be in pain. I told her about our 50 acres, the trails, the pond(not that we are swimming in January) and the peace and quiet the property has. We agreed, and felt sending him home to feel love, kindness, and hugs and kisses was the best thing. His condition was considered gaurded at this point. If his kidneys don't heal and start to work correctly then he would die. But he was eating, so we made arrangements to pick him up the next day on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Zack set off at 12:30pm to pick up our boy! I was so excited to see him, and kiss him, and to call him a good boy. My excitement was soon crushed. At 2pm I was called by the vet, Theodore had taken a sudden turn for the worse. He had thrown up all of his food and meds from that morning, and now his belly was filled with fluid. It was his kidneys. Zack was still an hour and a half away. I told the vet I needed to talk to him and call her back. I spoke with Zack, and we decided to still bring him home. I called the vet back and let her know, I had our vet on standby as well as a local vet that does on call at home euthanasia. When Zack got there, Theodore was even worse, he called me, and asked what to do. There was something inside of me that wanted him home, I fought with it, worried I was being selfish, but we followed my gut. The vets urged him to euthanize him right there, but I wanted him home. It was the fact, this dog had never felt love of a true dog owner and we felt he deserved that. The vets agreed to give anti-nausea, and pain medication before sending him home. They didn't send him home with any medication because he was given 0% chance. They even said he might not make the three hour ride home. He couldn't even walk. He was brought out to the van on a stretcher. The staff was in tears, they had heard his story, and become fond of the soft, gentle boy. On a wing and a prayer Zack and Theodore set off for home.

Zack kept in touch the whole ride. I prepared for his arrival. I wouldn't let myself think any other way than he was coming home, alive. I started a fire in the fireplace, and moved one of our big dog beds close to it. What dog wouldn't love to lay by the warm fire? I set up our living room for a long night. Somehow those angels carried him home. At 8:30pm, in the driveway I met our van. Zack rolled down the window and said "Baby, check him, we can go to the ER vet right now." I said "Just open the door". He said "Baby if you want to bring him in, you will have to carry him, he can't walk." I said "Just open the door." As the side door opened, there was my boy, laying on a blanket. I yelled his name as loud and as high pitch as I could. Theodore picked up his head and looked at me. I tap the floor of the van "Come on, let's go, you are home, come on" Theodore stood up and walked out of the van. I brought him for a short walk around the yard. I could hear Zack from the van, "Baby, I'm telling you he wouldn't walk at Cornell."

I guided Theodore into the house, and showed him the bed and warm fire. He was so nauseated, he was drooling. I wiped his mouth. I had to lay on the floor to convince him to lay down. I prayed for him, I prayed to St. Francis and St. Jude. Maybe just maybe, he needed to be home with his Mom, me. I cuddled with him, and just kept telling him he was a good boy, and I cried. How could someone treat an animal like this? It is something I will never understand. The next couple of hours were filled with tears, and emotions. From sadness to anger. I kept checking his heart and respiratory rates. We kept petting him, and kissing him, and telling him how much of a good boy he is. He started to snuggle into the bed, he finally felt safe, and loved.

At midnight, he got up, yes that is right he got up, and wanted to go out. I went out with him. He relieved himself, and then proceed to wander around. It was cold, I finally had to call him in. I wondered, is he going to be OK? Or is this is last hurrah? He came in and wandered around, sniffing, investigating. I finally got him to lay back down, and covered him back up. He was shivering from the cold. Zack and I were wondering what was going on. We were assured he definitely wouldn't make it through the night.

At 1am, Zack popped a bag of popcorn. The smell filled the downstairs. Theodore smelled it too. His head came up from the bed, nose twitching smelling the air. He got up to investigate. He was definitely looking for something to eat. I heated up some chicken broth and offered him some. He took five good laps, and went and layed back down. Apparently he wasn't ready to die. I called Cornell and had them fax his records to our vet, if he was going to continue on he need his medication.

I finally felt comfortable enough to go to sleep. Zack and I slept on the couch. I woke up every 45 minutes or so checking on him. At 7am, the sun was shinning in the window and on him. He was sitting up licking his paws, enjoying the warmth from the sun. Then he tried to lick his incision and I had to stop him. He got up and stretched. I woke up Zack, as Theodore was next to the couch looking at us. We let him out and he drank some water. He even at a dog biscuit. I called Cornell to speak with the vet that headed his case. She called us back on the way to our local vet that morning. She was delighted, he was doing OK, but she also seemed surprised.

At our local vet, he seemed puzzled that this dog, standing, wagging his tail, was on death's doorstep last night. The two vets spoke on the phone. I heard him say, "He is standing here, bright, alert, and wagging his tail." We were given his medication and told to keep doing whatever we doing. But also reminded his prognosis is gaurded.

Today is Saturday. Theodore is still with us. He is eating, mostly steak, but it is what I can get him to eat. I was told when you have kidney problems, it makes thing taste bad. So at this point we are cooking for him and spoiling him rotten. He is taking his medications, drinking, eating, and sleeping on the couch. He even played tug with me yesterday. He is happy and enjoying life at the moment. Time will only tell at this point. He has an appointment on Monday to have his blood work rechecked. We will treasure whatever time is left, satisfied that Theodore has finally felt love. His will to live is amazing. If you believe in miracles, he is definitely one. Maybe he has a guardian angel. All I know is five times we were told he wouldn't make it and he did.

This is only the first part in his story. I will continue to write and keep everyone updated on his health.

If you would like to donate to Theodore's medical bills it would greatly appreciated. So far to date we have personally spent around $9,400. Here is the link to his GoFundMe page.