Linus was a Chihuahua who was anything but healthy. I was working in the ICU at the veterinary hospital I worked at many eons ago.
So Linus and his owners (new dog people; never had a dog before) came in for Linus’ wellness exam. The owners didn’t like the way he was breathing. After an x-ray, it showed that Linus’ intestines were in his thoracic cavity instead of in his abdominal cavity where they belong! He had a diaphragmatic hernia. But this wasn’t the only health issue, but it would prove to be the worst of his health problems.
He also had severe periodontal disease, cryptorchid, AND sclerosis of his spine.
The doctor gave the new owners the estimate. Way more money than they had. So, the doc let them know they could always surrender him too. Then Linus would have all of his needed surgeries and go home with one of the techs, or veterinarians… whom ever wanted him.
Surrender & Surgery
As the owners couldn’t afford the surgery, and the humane society wasn’t going to help at all (even though initially they said they would,) the owners surrendered Linus. They loved him very much, and they knew that he would be euthanized if they returned him back to the humane society.
Linus’ first surgery was to fix his diaphragmatic hernia, neuter him, and remove his cryptorchid. A cryptorchid is when one or both testicles haven’t dropped yet – they’re still in the abdominal cavity. Then he had his periodontal examination which also requires anesthesia. He had several of his teeth extracted.
After all of this, Linus went home to his first foster family. He was regurgitating after every meal. Because of this, he was brought back to the hospital, and another person attempted to adopt him. This went on for a few months. 😢
I am a foster failure
I finally decided to foster little man, Linus. After watching him eat with gusto and then seeing all of the food come back up – I started doing lots of research in our hospital’s library every morning when I’d get off of work. Linus came with me to work everyday. He also had many blood tests done, different types of medications given to him, back on IV fluids, but nothing seemed to help.
Endoscopy & Peg Tube
After talking with quite a few veterinarians, my veterinary friend, C, decided to step in. She is the endoscopy queen. More anesthesia for little Linus… endoscopy showed he had quite a few ulcers – lining his esophagus and stomach. She inserted a peg tube – this tube runs down his esophagus and into the beginning part of his stomach. She changed his medications, and we hoped for the best.
But Linus, despite everything, was still regurgitating. His electrolytes were all over the place. He needed fluids, supplements, and more antiemetics. I continued researching…
Jejunostomy Tube (j-tube)
He needed a jejunostomy tube! But out of 16 doctors, only one had done this procedure, and it was in her veterinary school days. As this was Linus’ last resort, she opted to give it a try. A jejunostomy tube, or j-tube, is inserted into the small intestine, bypassing the esophagus and stomach. Yes, one can still receive nutrients this way.
Linus was placed under anesthesia again, another doctor also scrubbed in as she was going to assist the first doctor by reading from the j-tube procedural book. Linus’ surgery was a success!
Post operative care was for me to feed Linus via his j-tube, a very liquefied slurry every 2 hours, and continue giving him his antiemetics via his peg tube (in hopes that this would help heal his esophagus and stomach.) And yes, I got up every 2 hours to feed and care for Linus.
J Tube Blocked
After only a few days, Linus’ j-tube which was really small as he was a tiny little dog became blocked. I had been told by many of the staff (both techs and veterinarians) to euthanize Linus. But one look into his “bedroom eyes” as I used to call them – I could tell he wanted to live! When I initially brought him home, I promised him he would never be in the hospital alone again.
Well when his j-tube blocked up, he had already lost 1 1/2 pounds – he weighed 2 1/2 pounds! He started off at 4 pounds… his electrolytes were really low, and it was recommended that I either euthanize him, or hospitalize him. I did neither.
I figured that if Linus was going to die, he was going to live that weekend like a dog should! Both of his tubes were removed. This is also the weekend I found out from my landlord/lady that it was OK with them for me to adopt him.
I fed him very small amounts of food, and he held it down! No regurgitation. 🙂 I also bought a dog backpack so I could carry him around easily. We went to the beach with my other two dogs, Brad and Gwenyth. Every 15 minutes or so, I’d take Linus out of his backpack and let him feel the warm sand between his toes. Oh, to watch him strut!
When we went back to the hospital after a very successful weekend, his blood work had almost returned to normal! He was eating and holding everything down! 😄
Physical Therapy & Recovery
As Linus was very skinny, more like emaciated, he had to gain his weight back – he needed his muscles. I scheduled an appointment for physical therapy… Linus did not like the guy, and the cost was outrageous! It was in the thousands! I turned physical therapy down.
Par For The Course
My supervisor and colleague made a race track with tape around the ICU, with tongue suppressors as tiny hurdles for Linus. 😂 My supervisor even bought Linus a little basketball shirt for him.
Every day, I worked with Linus. Massaging his legs and body. Feeding him 4 times a day, taking him on short walks and slowly he started gaining weight.
As Linus was sick, and my bedroom was upstairs, I’d carry Linus up and down the staircase. But when Linus became healthier, he still did not want to have anything to do with the stairs.
I set tiny little dog treats on each stair and attempted to coax him, but he was not having any of this. The next thing I did, which broke my heart, was to put him in the middle of the staircase with cookies on each step and leave. I walked outside. He cried, barked, whined. And then I didn’t hear anything. I ran back inside – he was at the top of the staircase! 😊
When I saw him and called for him, he was definitely scared to go down them, but I did notice that all of the treats from the middle of the staircase to the top were gone. So, I put more treats on each step and went down a few of them and just sat there. It took awhile, but Linus mastered the staircase!
Linus and His Previous Owners
His previous mom owner would visit with Linus from time to time at the hospital where I worked. This went on for a little over a year until one day when I went to retrieve Linus, the previous owner asked me what I would do if she stole Linus?! WHAT?! I told her I’d be devastated. Yes, she was his owner for two weeks… but I was the one who nursed him back to health, who spent every waking hour with him. I kindly told the doctor who was her guinea pig doc that there would be no more visits.
Did Someone Say Pizza? 🍕
My boyfriend (at the time) and I went out for pizza and I told him to put the leftover pizza in the fridge, but he didn’t. Instead, he put it on the table. He didn’t have pets… he had no idea. We both forgot about the pizza until the next morning… when I went to feed the pets, imagine my surprise when Linus looked like a balloon sans string. He was so bloated. Then I noticed the pizza box on the kitchen floor. Apparently one of my cats knocked the leftover pizza off the table and Linus decided to dig in. Luckily because of his stomach being “tacked,” there was no way for him to get GDV where the stomach flips on itself, causing a medical emergency.
But because of Linus’ previous problems, the doctor on call told me not to feed him until his bloating subsided. This was 4 missed meals later before Linus was able to eat again.
Enucleation Post Stroke
Linus suffered a stroke, years later, and he was unable to close his right eye. After trying to place drops into his eye to keep it moistened, he finally had his eye removed (enucleation.) He was also not able to keep his tongue in his mouth. But he did continue to eat his slurries. No more hard food – he was only able to eat blended food.
The Reason For Clothes
Linus always had some type of shirt on when we were out in public due to his spine sclerosis. People wouldn’t comment on it as they couldn’t see it.
Rest In Peace
Linus had a wonderful life – playing, strutting his stuff on many walks, sleeping, eating, and doing all the fun things that dogs do. But when he suffered from his second stroke and couldn’t swallow any more, that’s when it was time to say goodbye.
It’s been years since Linus’ death, but I still miss this little guy terribly. He was a fighter through and through. He was my little man! ♥️