The year was 1998, and Ricky and I had rental properties in San Diego. Our tenants rescued Lola from a biker-dude who had tied her to his motorcycle and pulled her behind the bike. It is a picture too gruesome to imagine. Cheryl and Debbie fought for Lola, paid for her medical care and took her home with them. We met the girls, with Lola, at one of San Diego's dog parks.
Cheryl and Debbie already had two dogs, but Lola fit in pretty well at first. However, as she became more comfortable, Lola began to fight with one of their dogs. At first the fights were minor, but soon they became scary.
So Debbie and Cheryl placed Lola with a friend of theirs, whom they trusted would take good care of her. They were wrong.
When Lola started fighting with his dog, he took Lola to the shelter in San Diego! Ricky and I just happened to bump into Cheryl and Debbie one Friday night in the Hillcrest section of San Diego, and they mentioned that their "friend" had taken Lola to the shelter!
Next morning, I went over to the shelter, located Lola and bailed her out. She came home with us and has been with us ever since.
In San Diego, Ricky and I lived in a small Craftsman bungalow in North Park. That is -- Ricky and I and 20+ dogs lived there! Lola became friends with Alexander Hound, who had a lot of bully breed in him, just like Lola. They were fast friends.
In those days, we fed our babies when they were out in one of the yards. When Alexander and Lola went outside, there was a protocol that we observed. Alexander goes out first, he chooses which bowl is his, and then Lola follows, and she takes the remaining bowl.
And all went well -- until we forgot that protocol one day!
Ricky was home alone with the dogs. I was called to jury duty that day. Ricky was the one who routinely put out Lola and Alexander, which makes it harder to understand what happened that fateful day that he confused the order. Ricky put out Lola first, that morning. She chose a bowl and began to eat. Alexander followed her outside. But unlike Lola, who would just claim whichever bowl was left, Alexander decided that Lola was eating from his bowl. And he would not tolerate that!
He looked at her. She looked at him. He made the first move, Lola responded in kind and Ricky had a full blown dog fight on his hands. Alone. With no one else there to help break it up!
He figured the best way was to bring one back into the house. He was able to grab Lola and get her out of Alexander Hound's grip. But as Ricky picked up Lola, Alexander Hound jumped to get Lola. Ricky used his hand to try to deflect Alexander.
And that is when it happened.
Alexander Hound's powerful jaws clamped onto Ricky's finger, instead of Lola. As soon as Alexander understood what he had done, he let go and looked very sad and ashamed. Ricky managed to get Lola into the house. But his finger was in bad shape.
He drove himself to Sharp Hospital.
I finally got his voice mails, telling me he was at the hospital, after I had been dismissed as a potential juror. (I was juror number 9 in the first wave of potential jurors. When the attorneys questioned me, I told them that I did not see why we would spend a lot of time on this trial. It seemed pretty simple to me. Either the young man at the defendant's table did in fact sell drugs to the undercover officer, or he didn't. I didn't figure it would take lot of taxpayer time and money to get to the bottom of that. And for some reason, both sides decided they would prefer not to have me on the jury!) I rushed to Sharp Hospital and got to talk to the surgeon who would be working on Ricky's finger.
Alexander Hound did not have many teeth, at that stage in his life. But he still had a powerful jaw. So powerful that it crushed the bones in Ricky's finger. The bone was not broken into two or three pieces -- it was crushed into many tiny shards of bone! The surgeon was a plastic surgeon, who would go in and reconstruct the bones as best he could.
Ricky spent four days in the hospital, with an antibiotic IV the entire time. When he was able to come home, his finger, and hence his hand, was pretty much useless. For another nine months, Ricky went to a physical therapist who did his best to get Ricky's finger to move normally.
But that never quite worked out, either. To this day, his finger sort of juts off into space, at a peculiar angle. It does not bend all the way. But he has learned to compensate for it.
When we left San Diego for Arizona in 2004, Lola became a desert dog. She merrily played in her play yard chasing lizards and barking at the Javelina Hogs who would roam the desert, and stop by our property on their journeys. One day, I noticed that Lola was coughing. We figured it was the sand and the dry climate. When it persisted, we thought that somehow she must have gotten kennel cough, because the cough sounded like that. We put her on Amoxicillin as supportive therapy to help her body's immune system knock out the kennel cough.
But Lola did not get better. In fact, she began losing weight and looking frail and tired. We knew it was time to take her to the vet to see if he had better meds or better ideas for knocking out her kennel cough or her cold or whatever it was she was fighting.
We were shocked when the vet diagnosed Valley Fever. We had never heard of it, and had to go on a quick learning curve to understand it. We learned that Valley Fever is caused by spores in the earth. Sometimes rain can stir it up, or even dogs digging in the sand can bring it to the surface. Once those spores are inhaled, the dog -- or person... humans can get Valley Fever, too! -- becomes permanently infected with the disease.
Lola was our first exposure to Valley Fever. Fortunately, she responded well to the drug, Fluconazole, which is highly effective in controlling the disease. Lola will never be "cured", but once the Fluconazole did its work, Lola was symptom free and has been for four years, now. If we see signs that the dormant Valley Fever is becoming active in her again, we will just put her back on a Fluconazole regime.
Valley Fever is a hard disease to diagnose because it is often missed on the test given for it. Our Casa Grande vet used to tell us that if a dog is showing symptoms that could only be explained by Valley Fever, we should just assume he has it and treat him with Fluconazole.
Another reason it is hard to diagnose is that it manifests itself differently in each dog. In Lola's case, her involvement was entirely respiratory, affecting only her lungs. But in other dogs, it created different symptoms. Tasha (see blog, September 6, 2008) developed a large growth on her throat that was wet and slimy. Andy developed a permanent twisting of his neck to the left, and he could not move it at all. And he was in excruciating pain most of the time.
Lola was lucky to have a doctor who recognized Valley Fever in her and treated her before her lungs were permanently damaged.
Today, Lola is one of the older, respected members of Smilng Dog Farms. She has lost some of the bounce in her step, as old age has crept up on her. She has survived her old buddy, Alexander Hound, whom we lost to old age about seven months ago.
Our Lola has had a colorful and eventful life, and she is still going strong, barking at the roosters who walk by her yard. She still likes to have her tummy rubbed when it is her turn to sleep in the bed with us.
Lola is a survivor.
Jay Hellerich, executive director
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