Cesar is far from being a senior, but he recently adopted a senior dog as a brother. He has been through a lot in just a few short years so we asked him to share his story with our Retired Retrievers family.
Written by Cesar, with some help from his dad, Ken
Hello, my name is Cesar and I am a 3 1/2 year old Westie. When you hear my story you may think I am the unluckiest dog in the world, but I think I am the luckiest dog in the world.
I live in Millen, Georgia, with my human owners, Angela
and Ken DeLay, or Mom and Dad as I will call them. I have four canine siblings: Maddie, Rusty, Smokey Joe and Sparky, who just came to live with us. My mom and dad got me from a long time friend who raises Westies just a few miles down the road from where we live. My dad picked me up when I was seven weeks old and I had a great time as a puppy. The other dogs were nice to me when I came home, especially Smokey Joe. Mom and Dad were home a lot and when they weren’t I chilled out with the pack. We have a doggy door and fenced yard, so I can come in and out as I please.
My first year at home I occasionally got an upset stomach, but we just thought I had a sensitive tummy and so we tried to watch what I ate. When I was 15 months old Mom and Dad went on vacation to Europe. They had left us for the weekend before and we always had a sitter come over and stay with us a couple hours a day and it worked out fine. We could still come and go through the doggy door and it was better than being sent to a boarder.
When mom and dad went on vacation during Labor Day weekend of 2013 my cousin dogs that belong to my human sister Ashley were there for the weekend also. Ashley came to pick up my cousins on Labor Day around noon and she couldn’t find me. She was very worried. She called and called me. She got my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jimmy to come over and help look for me. After an hour or so of searching Lisa asked Smokey Joe, “Where is Cesar?” Smokey Joe went and stood by some partially used sheets of plywood leaning against the garage. Jimmy started peeling back the sheets of plywood and there they found me. The fence was on the other side of the plywood so I had gotten trapped when I wandered in there. I can’t remember why I went in there but Westies are bad about going into tight spots. That’s why we have that carrot tail, so our humans can pull us out.
It was very hot and I was in heatstroke when they found me. It was a holiday and the vets were closed, but Lisa started calling all the vets in Statesboro as Ashley and Paul drove me. A nice vet tech met us in Statesboro, hooked me up to an IV and Ashley and Paul took me on to Savannah at the Emergency Clinic. I was in a coma so I don’t remember all this, just what I was told. Ashley left me at the emergency vet and it didn’t look good. During the night Ashley got a call and was told I was throwing up blood. They X-rays showed I had some foreign objects in my tummy. I had eaten a couple of screws and berries when I was trapped, I guess I panicked. So into surgery I went to get the contraband out. I survived the surgery but was still in a coma.
The next day I was transferred to the intensive care part of the hospital, where Dr. Pointer took over my care. She didn’t think I was going to make it, but I couldn’t die with my mom and dad so far away. Poor Ashley didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to disturb Mom and Dad’s vacation in Europe, but she talked to my human brother Kent and decided they should know. So dad got a call at the hotel in Berlin to call Ashley and he found out what happened. They were on a trip with Kent’s in-laws (yes these in-laws get along) and Mom and Dad’s first reaction was to come home, but Ashley told him what good hands I was in and they stayed. They did get together with the in-laws every night and prayed for me and my caretakers.
After a couple of days I could open my eyes. Then I raised my head and looked up. Dr. Pointer, Holly, Jessie and of course Ashley were thrilled. I slowly got better during the week and by the weekend Dr. Pointer and Dr. Woods decided I could go home with Ashley. My dad took me for a checkup when he got home a week later and it looked like my health problems were a thing of the past. Boy was I wrong.
My accident was in September and things were fine. Mom and Dad got home and I was so glad to see them. Then the following February I wasn’t feeling too well. I was acting real weird and walking around in a daze. My mom took me to see Dr. Ford my regular vet in Waynesboro. She looked at my symptoms and thought I might have Addison’s disease, which is a problem with the adrenal glands. Most people only know about Addison’s because president Kennedy had it. Dr. Ford had to give me some medicine to get me better and ordered the diagnostic test for Addison’s which most vet clinics never use. The problem was we had a bad ice storm during this time and UPS couldn’t make any deliveries for several days. When Dr. Ford got the test in it showed I had Addison’s but just barely. You either have it or you don’t so I was officially Addisonian. Dr. Ford even showed the test to the endocrinologist at UGA and she said yes he has it.
I was fine for about a month and then started feeling bad again. Dad gave me a shot and then I got to feeling better. This happened a couple more times during the spring, and in June I was back to square one. Dr. Ford decided to send me to UGA Vet School to see if they could help me. Mom and Dad went to Pharmacy college there so they were familiar with Athens. We got to the emergency clinic and they looked at me, asked Mom and Dad a few questions, and said they suspected a liver shunt. Dad said what’s a liver shunt? It turns out I had a blood vessel that should have closed off when I was young, but it never did and that blood didn’t go through the liver. The liver cleanses our blood so that portion of my blood didn’t get cleansed, and when it went to my brain I started acting loopy.
They put me in the hospital at UGA and did some tests that confirmed their suspicions. It was a liver shunt. The best option was surgery to slowly close the vessel off and route the blood back through the liver. I had the surgery on June 21, 2014 and after a period of time my scar healed up and I started feeling better. Of course dad was keeping Dr. Pointer in the loop the whole time and she was having some questions about my having Addison’s disease. We talked to the endocrinologist at UGA and decided when I got over my surgery we would wean off my Addison’s medicine and retest. When dad took me back in September we got great news. I did not have Addison’s disease! Again it looked like my health problems were a thing of the past. Boy was I wrong.
The test to see if your liver is working better is the bile acid test. Mine were very high before I had surgery. When we retested after surgery they had gone down, but only about halfway to normal. But I was feeling better so not too worried. Mom and Dad went on a vacation in September and I stayed with Ashley. I had a great time with her she is my third favorite person in the world. When Mom and Dad got back from vacation I had a sore spot on my stomach with blood showing. So off to Dr. Ford I went, and it turned out to be a suture granuloma, which is a reaction where they sewed me back up. That got fixed and in a month I got another. Dad took me to UGA to get that one fixed and they really could not tell Dad why I was getting them. Then in a month I got another, which Dr Ford fixed. Turned out the sutures had inverted or something causing irritation and making the sores form. We kept doing the bile acid test and they weren’t much changed. My liver enzymes were also high, so dad was really upset.
In January, I had an ultrasound at UGA and they told Dad I had portal hypertension, which is something they warn you about right after surgery, but this was six months later. Dad was distraught and confused. It didn’t make sense to him or Dr. Pointer or Dr. Ford. Dad wasn’t giving up though, so he contacted our family friend Liz, who was a senior in Vet School at the University of Florida. Dr. Liz asked some of her teachers about my case, and before I knew it I was heading to Gainesville, Florida, on a road trip with my dad. I wore my Bulldog jersey to my first appointment at UF, which I was super cute in. Dr. Ellison had a CT Scan done. He said he couldn’t see anything looking at my shunt, but he would have the radiology department look it over.
He called dad a couple weeks later and said we think the shunt did not close off completely, but he wanted to do an ultrasound to be sure. By this time dad had gotten Dr. Pointer back on the case and I went to see her in March before returning to UF in April. We had to get the best minds in the business on my case to help figure this thing out. We went back to UF on April 8th for my ultrasound. Word must have gotten out about me because Dr. Liz texted dad that about 20 people were in the room for my study. I guess I was teaching them something.
After my ultrasound Dr. Ellison told my dad that I did not have portal hypertension and that my shunt had not closed all the way. I could be managed on a special diet but surgery was back in the picture. Dad took me home and fed me a special diet for a while. I went back to Dr. Pointer in June and my bile acids were still high. Dr. Pointer will tell you she’s a wimp about surgery but my dad wanted to give me the best chance at a long life, which a successful surgery would do. Plus he had been agonizing over the right thing to do since April. Dr. Pointer talked to Dr. Ellison and we all decided on surgery for July 15th.
My dad took me to Gainesville the day before and I had surgery the morning of the 15th, which was a Wednesday. It was a long surgery since I had already been under the knife twice, but Dr. Ellison deemed it a success. I went home on Sunday and was feeling better soon. n August 19th dad took me to Dr. Pointer for my bile acid test. We were on pins and needles waiting for the results. The next morning Dr. Pointer got the results and they were NORMAL!! My dad and Dr. Pointer were so happy.
That’s why I think I’m the luckiest dog in the world.
I’ve got the best mom and dad and the best vets in the world. Some people call me the million dollar dog. I don’t know what a dollar is but I do know my mom and dad would do anything in the world to make me better and I love them very much. My dad told me he has made so many friends on the liver shunt group on FB and of course if I had died in that plywood we would have never gotten to meet so many great folks. I feel better and have more energy now than I ever have in my life, so I’m glad my mom and dad didn’t give up on me. It looks like me health problems are a thing of the past. Let’s hope I’m right. And that’s my story, Cesar.
P.S. dad said I had to tell my story because if he did people would say he had to make that up!