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Our Distemper Journey: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Our Distemper Journey chronicles the week-to-week experiences of our dog, Kyla, a young 1 year and 2 month old female Aspin who was diagnosed with distemper 08/15/15. This is inspired by a blog by Ms. Joyce Ann Burton-Titular who shared her experience with her dog, Bailey, and her survival from distemper from AdventuresofaBeautyQueen.com.

Oh, where do I start? With the title alone, I know you probably knew what happened in the days that passed since Kyla and I embarked on this journey. I found it to be the best title that could summarize the highs and lows of our experience with this agonizing, debilitating and yes – killer – Canine Distemper virus.

This is mommy by the way. I am writing this in behalf of Kyla who could no longer type this very moment as she already crossed the rainbow bridge two days ago. Pardon the typo errors I might make as typing in between tears is difficult to manage.

Like what Kyla told you a post ago, I barely had any sleep the night post-procedure. I was constantly checking on her for any signs of seizure. She didn’t have any but she couldn’t sleep well that night and the nights that followed. The constant jerking of her hind legs, her head and – later on – her right front paw kept her from getting a good night’s sleep. We had to put her on an old mattress and surround her with old pillows to make her feel comfortable. The first night we did that was a success, she slept like a baby despite the twitching which went from bad to worse. Her hind legs twitched about 1-2 twitches per second, sometimes it would twitch 3 times in a second.

In the days that followed, Kyla never got back the power of her hind legs. I also noticed how she slowly lost her ability to hold her head up so she most often laid down on her side. Sometimes, she’ll try to hold her head up but you’d notice the wild shaking of her head in her attempts to do so. In the end, we’d just prop her head on her pillow and feed her slowly as she could no longer feed or drink on her own.

When she reached the 6th day post-spinal tap, I felt joy as I thought we’d finally see her recover but the fevers were incessant and high. She would sometimes run a fever as high as 41.5 C (the normal temp for a dog is until 39.4 C according to the vet from VIP). And I would then continue my routine to keep her fevers down: sprinkle her paws, her belly and behind her ears with alcohol and water and turn on the electric fan to keep her cool. If that didn’t work, I would flush down cold intravenous fluid on her IV line. Inserting a Paracetamol suppository was our last resort but it went to a point wherein that won’t even bring down her fever.

Then I noticed the onset of the respiratory and epithelial signs of distemper: a runny nose and thicker skin on her nose and footpads. Her usual pink nose had turned a lighter shade of brown. Her eyes which never ended up watery and matted had reddish conjunctivae (white of the eyes) instead. A day after celebrating one week from the spinal tap, she started having fast breathing. Although she was clear on auscultation (yes, I did try to listen to her breathing), her clinical signs were pointing towards a dreaded complication of distemper. I was worried that it might have been pneumonia. We restarted her on Baytril which I had to scout for every vet clinic I know of within the area. I was able to buy one week’s worth of meds at VIP Alabang (where apparently, they also do the same distemper treatments available in Mandaluyong for the same price).

As if developing pneumonia was not bad enough, she also ended up developing an abscess on the new IV line that was inserted after a week of being on IV fluids. What I initially thought was just a bad case of infiltrated IV site was actually a subcutaneous abscess that eventually drained on its own and required twice-a-day wound care with saline washing, application of a special bandage with antibiotics and a wet-to-dry dressing.

To be honest, during her last few days on Earth, I felt as if the whole world was against us; that despite all the efforts I had exerted, fate would find a new way to ensure that she will be taken from us. It was as if all roads led to her death and I had no other option but to surrender.

But I never did surrender. I was determined to fight it out ’till the very end.

I know Kyla never would have wanted to leave mommy – at least not when I am around her. She specifically chose the day when I was on duty somewhere in the south to finally breathe her last on Earth. It was at the break of dawn on Friday, August 28, 2015 when my baby, my “almost” yellow Labrador bid us farewell.

I never got to see her again. They had buried Kyla on the vacant lot next to our house when I got home. I think it must have been my baby’s final wish: For me to remember her as a happy, active and playful puppy rather than as a cold, lifeless body.

When I started this series a few weeks ago, I had envisioned an ending of good news and joy; of updates on how my strong survivor would learn how to walk again and how we would resume her life that was interrupted by this deadly disease. I had hoped that by doing the best that I could, she’ll be able to survive a disease that has killed and will continuously claim the lives of many dogs. But fate would like to have it the other way.

Canine Distemper is a disease that kills. Please vaccinate your dogs and update their vaccinations regularly. For the few who owns vaccinated dogs, who, due to reasons still unknown has still contracted the disease, please, please, do not give up on them. There is hope. A handful of lucky ones had gone through “death” and back. They just need you to be by their side and feel your tender loving care. For more information on treatment options for Canine Distemper, visit our friends from Kind Hearts in Action.

I’d like to end this series with a special poem for those who are grieving like me with the loss of a good ol’ furry friend. (Source: Pets on the Net)

Do dogs go to heaven?

My little bully passed away, no more to breathe a sound.
I held him for the last time, then entombed him in the ground.
Day and night I wept so much, in tears I thought I’d drown.
I searched my soul for comfort, but no peace therein was found.

In great despair, I hit my knees and then began to pray.
“Father will I ever see, my dog again someday?”
I raised my eyes and saw an angel standing near a gate.
I sensed an inner peace I’d never felt before that day.

The angel smiled and said to me, “Oh man of little faith!
God sees every bird that falls; He knows your bully’s fate.
I have met your little dog, I saw him pass my way.
Your precious dog is still alive; he just walked through this gate.

Paradise is lovelier than you can comprehend.
No pain or grief, no tears or fears, and life will have no end.
God gave to man His only Son, to cover all his sins.
So why would God withhold from you, your pure and loving friend?”

The angel took me by the hand and said, “Now come with me.
A glimpse of paradise I’ll give, to you so you can see.”
Through the gate and o’er the Rainbow Bridge we did proceed.
Through green valleys filled with flowers, rolling hills and trees.

“Wow, so this is paradise!” The place was filled with joy.
I saw my bully playing there, with dogs and cats and toys.
He also had some doggie treats, and food that he enjoyed.
He’d made a lot of new friends there, including girls and boys.

Then I saw a child come near, and hug my little mate.
She said to him, “I love you so,” and kissed him on the face.
The angel said, “The child just crossed the Rainbow Bridge today.
Now she needs a little friend, to love and help her play.

God’s love for her would be enough, in that make no mistake.
But in His love, He knew full well, the child would want a mate.
This is why God called your dog unto this splendid place.
God’s entrusted her with him, ‘til you pass through the gate.”

I pleaded, “May I hug them both?!” The angel answered, “No!
You’d violate a sacred site, and now it’s time to go.”
He led me back across the Bridge and through the gate to home.
He left me there with new-found hope and peace within my soul.

If someone ever asks what happens to a dog that dies,
Just give a gentle smile of joy and look them in the eye.
Take their hand and comfort them and tell them not to cry.
For dogs don’t die, they simply cross a bridge to paradise.

 – Dan Atcheson –


In memoriam: Kyla (June 2014 - August 28, 2015)

In loving memory of a lovable and playful Aspin, Kyla (June 2014 – August 28, 2015)

Read our whole story: Our Distemper Journey: Prologue and Our Distemper Journey: From Diagnosis to Procedure


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