Every once in a while a Westie comes into our program who needs some extra special medical attention to get ready for a new life. Some Westies need allergies conditions identified and treatments started, some need surgery to repair broken parts, others like Koda, come to us with conditions so critical that they need multiple vet visits and specialized medical skills/testing to narrow down the issues to determine what the heck is going on.
At 3 years old Mr Koda came into the program with medical issues that a local vet clinic could not determine. A delay that caused the issues to expand and impact his ability to even breathe. As he was located in a rural area so he was transported through the efforts of Westie Rescue volunteers all the way from Georgia to our Vet (Greater Annapolis Vet Hospital) in Maryland. There he began a 8 month struggle to stabilize his condition and dive deep into his results to determine the causes of his extreme condition.
GREAT NEWS – Koda found a Westie Rescue foster mom, Karen, who held his little body, scratched his head, and showed him a life that met not only his daily needs but opened a door to a new life. One of road trips to the mountains, the beach, a soft bed to snooze on, and home with a toy box just for him. What a great find!
Over the next months Koda has had ups and downs, multiple vet visits, and became well know around the neighborhood during his frequent walks. His kind nature, gentle demeanor, and happy face sucked everyone into his world to know more about him and to care about his life.
A few days ago all turned for the worse. His blood tests showed major issues getting larger, more discomfort, and a total loss of energy. Off to the emergency Vet at night, as Koda was at a critical stage. Internal bleeding, and blood pressure falling. His eyes flickering but still there. Scary time. The decision was made to leverage our resources to see if he could be saved. The surgery team was assembled, Koda was made ready, his foster mom at his side giving him comfort, and off he went to sleep… A worried and tearful Karen drove home after midnight in the rain to wait for the news. Hours later the news came back…..
Good morning – from Koda’s mom via FB message
Koda has passed over the rainbow bridge. My baby is gone, and I felt it in my soul when it happened. I felt I needed to prepare this statement to accurately convey my love for this creature that changed my life in so many unexpected ways. This honor deserved my full time and consideration.
In the short eight months and four days that Koda graced my life, he not only stole my heart, but he infected his love into the life of all he met. He changed my life in so many positive ways and taught me about myself. He remains one of the most laid-back, gentle, loving, and kind dogs that I’ve met in my lifetime. I have many, many happy memories with him and graciously accepted the challenge of an unknown lifespan when I adopted him, disease and all. That lifespan has now, sadly, ended.
My first venture into owning a dog did not last nearly as long as I had hoped. My intention was to teach Koda some tricks and become a certified comfort dog. He would have done both so well. Some of our most precious moments were those we shared in the morning, whether it was cuddling in bed, him running into the room to share my breakfast cheese with him, or when he would embrace my hand or arm when he was lying next to me. His backward dances when being served food or water can only be outdone by the grace and coordination of Ginger Rogers. His affection for rides in the car were only surpassed by the exuberance when tearing apart any squeaky toy to silence it permanently. Our recent trip to the beach was clearly a highlight of our time together – wetting his paws in the Atlantic Ocean waves or enjoying a speedboat ride on the NC inter-coastal waterway. His ear-to-ear smile never faded. He loved my mother’s (Grandma’s) yard and playing catch-up with cousin Zander. He never fully developed the rough outer coat of a Westie, so his soft, almost puppy-like fur enticed everyone he met to pet and/or cuddle with him. He was a champ each time he had to be poked or prodded for yet another medical visit or procedure. His least favorite device was the urine catheter – who could blame him, right? His personality shown through, even if only for the short period of time we shared together.
His final, loving act while lying on the baby blanket-padded exam table at the ER hospital on Saturday evening was to nudge my hand when I took a short break with my kisses, snuggles, and hugs. Though his eyes were barely open during our last visit together, he tilted his head, fully opened his eyes to look into mine, and nudged my hand with his nose. It was his last act of affection with me, and he wanted to say “good-bye.” We both knew this was the end. Now, THAT’S my loving, tender boy.
I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who met him and loved him during our journey together – my family who loved him as one of their own, our friends at Westie Rescue, our medical team partners and friends at Greater Annapolis Veterinary Hospital and Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic, my coworkers who loved to hear the latest “Koda Tales,” and all of my friends and neighbors. To know Koda was to love him.
One final word. Koda’s life was no doubt shortened because he lacked access to quality veterinary care in his first two years of life. This care may have given him a fighting chance to live longer than 2 years and 8 months. When you adopt or buy a dog, they become family. Whether you keep your fur baby for life or give them up, know that what you do with them (or don’t do) has long-term implications for the animal and any future owner. In Koda’s case, it was clear that his poor, early medical care most likely contributed to the advancement of a disease that we could not outrun.
Koda’s short life with me has created a lifetime legacy that I can never forget.
RIP, baby. Mommy’s going to miss you.”
So, the surgeon at AAVEC had told me that there was no medical reason that his blood pressure and oxygenation should be challenging during the surgery. But, I knew. Koda had said his good-byes with me just hours earlier. He was ready to go. He was done fighting. Our last moments were embraces, kisses, snuggles, hugs, and, of course, one last brush and body massage. Oh, how he LOVED those massages!
Thank you to the entire Westie Rescue team, especially Stephen, for your unbridled support, especially this past week.