Fig is an 8-year old, brindle mutt with some boxer, Pitt Bull and who knows what else is in him. He is high energy, perpetually happy, expressive, a lover, and sometimes a bit mischievous. Fig along with his older companion Dora (15) were added benefits of having Kris Chiappa come into my life. These two awesome dogs provided much needed emotional support (and hiking buddies) for Kris as she cared for her late husband, Dave Chiappa during the toughest times of his declining health. There are a few characteristics everyone notices about Fig. First, is how enthusiastically he wags his tail. Actually, his whole back end wags when he’s happy. He’s quite expressive and you cannot help but smile when you get a “Fig butt wag greeting.” Secondly, when his is excited (like greeting people at the door), he always runs to a grab a toy or a nylon bone to carry in his mouth.
Fig loves to snuggle!
TUESDAY JANUARY 22 – FIG GOES ON A SUICIDE MISSION
It was a Tuesday night, Kris and I were out for the evening. Fig had a lot of pent up energy because it was incredibly cold and wet for several days and he didn’t get his usual walks. While we were out, Fig dragged my work backpack into the living room, unzipped a compartment, grabbed a bottle of Advil, somehow removed the childproof cap, and consumed an unknown quantity of Advil pills (probably around 10). Kris and I realized something was wrong shortly after we got home when Fig puked up a full meal and more. Advil tablets have a sweet coating which obviously appealed to Fig. However, Advil is extremely toxic for dogs. It’s also designed to absorb very quickly into the blood stream.
WEDNESDAY THRU FRIDAY – LUDWIGS CORNER VETERINARY CLINIC
Fig obviously was in distress. We rushed him to Ludwigs Corner Veterinary Hospital (LCVH) first thing on Wednesday morning and he went into emergency care mode under the supervision of the amazing Dr. Heather Clauser.
She took baseline blood work. Fig’s Serum Creatinine level was 1.9 (normal level is 0.3 – 1.4). His Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) level was 17 (normal level is 7-25). It was concerning but didn’t seem horrible. I canceled my business trip to Texas on Wednesday to be with Fig. Fig seemed like he’d be ok, so Kris flew on her scheduled trip to Seattle Wednesday evening to help care for her newborn twin granddaughters.
Fig was a full day resident at LCVH for 3 days. He was mainly in a crate getting IV fluids non-stop to flush the toxins out of him. The staff at LCVH loved Fig because despite his obvious distress, he wagged his tail and enthusiastically greeted everyone that came by his crate. He had 12 hours of IV fluids on Wednesday, 12 hours on Thursday, and 10 hours on Friday. Each night he came home with me which helped comfort Fig. However, he wouldn’t eat and was lethargic. They did another blood test on Friday evening to measure Fig’s progress.
FRIDAY EVENING – HORRIBLE NEWS
I went to get Fig Friday evening (I brought Dora with me), the staff at LCVH all had sad faces and brought me into a private room and informed me that Dr. Clauser will be in to see me in a minute. I knew that was not good.
Dr. Clauser walked in to the exam room with a very solemn face. She tactfully informed me that the lastest blood test was not good, in fact, really bad. Fig’s Serum Creatinine level was 4.4 (4x the normal range) and his BUN was 63 (4x the normal range). Basically, Fig was in kidney failure with less than 25% kidney function and he was probably going to die sooner than later. Devasting news.
I was numb at first, in disbelief. I wave of sadness came over me as the horrible news sunk in. Plus, the prognosis was that Fig will probably need to be put down pretty soon. Dr. Clauser shared some tears with me. She reminded me how she and the staff at LCVH just love Fig and his awesome personality. She said, it’s not likely he will recover, but there’s always hope. She’s seen some amazing recoveries on rare occasions. She said I should try to continue Fig’s care at home for as long as he is comfortable. Dr. Clauser then showed me how to administer Bolus fluids by inserting a needle into Fig every day. She sent me home with several Bolus bags plus some medications to help with nausea, stomach pain, and acid reflux. I knew I could not let him suffer and I figured this is the start of Fig’s hospice care. I was still in shock as I paid my bill. Then the grief hit me like a tidal wave as Fig and Dora jumped into the back of our SUV. Plus, I knew I had to make a really difficult call.
I got in the car and called Kris in Seattle informing her that Fig is dying. One of the hardest things I ever had to do. We cried together and just tried to process what this all meant and how in an instant, our world was rocked. Not only was I grieving, but I also felt guilty for leaving my backpack accessible to the dogs. Kris was considering flying back home, but we agreed that there’s not much she could do and until Fig’s condition really changed for the worse, she was needed in Seattle to help care for the granddaughters. I sent messages to friends and family informing them of our devasting news. I was home alone with the two dogs; Fig was dying and wouldn’t eat and Dora was wondering why Fig was getting all the attention.
FRIDAY NIGHT – HOME CARE / HOSPICE BEGINS FOR FIG
Friday night was rough. Fig, Dora, and I came home to our empty house and cuddled on the couch. I was grieving. Fig was not eating and lethargic. My daughter Laura and her husband Ray stopped by late in the evening to check on me and to see Fig. I might have slept 2 hours, I mostly cried. I felt bad, I felt even worse for Fig and for Kris. Fig unfortunately seemed to be getting incontinent because he wet his bed overnight.
SATURDAY – THE VILLAGE ARRIVES!
I was overwhelmed with the amount of compassion, offers to help and outright love from my circle of friends and family. I was getting calls, emails, text messages, and house visits from so many people. My sister, Jodi Floyd mentioned the BEMER Therapy Mat has shown to be helpful with kidney issues. She also informed me that my ex-wife, Christa Saltzman has a BEMER mat (more on that to follow). I called Christa and she was happy to try the BEMER with Fig. I called Dr. Clauser and she encouraged me to try it too. Linda Helmbrecht, owner of the Dog Walking business I use to walk my dogs when I’m at work called and said she and her staff love Fig and wanted to volunteer their time if I ever need a break or some pet care coverage. My awesome neighbors and good friends Linda Kinsley and MJ Dougherty were there for me and willing to help in any way possible. Kris and I talked and texted continuously which helped too.
Saturday morning was a blur as I was sad and exhausted. Fig didn’t want to eat much of anything (despite trying all sorts of things). I made some boiled organic chicken breast (recommended by vet) and he ate some of that. I had a good wrestling match with Fig, trying to get his meds consumed. I eventually won and Fig quickly forgave me. Kris and her daughter Joanna did research on holistic treatments. So the dogs and I took a ride to visit Lionville Holistic Pharmacy. Mike the Pharmacist was so helpful. After discussing the situation, he recommended a supplement for kidney health that I bought and then he gave me an open bottle of Sonne’s Detoxificant #7 to try. It’s a thick liquid that when consumed is supposed to help absorb toxins. I had a healthy collection of prescription and holistic meds to administer at home:
After spending a lot of time talking and reviewing research with Mike, the dogs and I went to Christa’s house to see if the BEMER might help Fig. I read about it on the Internet and a few sites indicated good results, but nothing scientific. The following links provide some information on the BEMER Therapy Matt:
Christa set the BEMER to the lowest setting (1 out of 10) and we had Fig lay on it. He must have felt something good, because he just wagged his tail the entire 8 minutes that BEMER was running. Protocol is two treatments per day. We came home after the first treatment. Fig had good energy but didn’t eat much or was finicky. On the way home, I went to PetSmart to buy doggie diapers and I picked up some more boneless organic chicken breasts at Wegmans. I boiled the breasts and made white rice. Much to shock, Fig was really hungry and ate two whole chicken breasts, plus a little bit of rice. Christa let Fig try a few samples of the dry food her dog, Bruce eats, Eukanuba Senior. Fig loved it and wanted as much as she would give him. She also sent me home with a few servings of the food that I could use for treats. Fig seemed more energetic. I gave him Bolus fluids when we got home. Turns out, Fig is a great patient. He just sat on the couch leaning against me as I stuck the needle in his back and wagged his tail until ½ the bag was under his skin. It ends up in collecting in a big pouch under his chest – looks pretty funny.
Fig was now drinking filtered water non-stop, peeing hourly, and had chronic diarrhea. Saturday for dinner, Fig had an appetite – a good sign. He ate a whole chicken breast and ½ serving of his usual dry food. Later Saturday night we made the 30-minute drive back to Christa’s for another BEMER treatment (Level 2). Fig still loved it. Then we drove home to settle in for the night. Fig was happy and a little more energetic. We went to bed about 10pm. I put a diaper on Fig but he is like Houdini and got out of it without me knowing or hearing him. He woke me up at 2am and then again at 4:15AM to go pee. At the 4:15 wake-up, I noticed he did leave a pee spot on his bed.
SUNDAY – THINGS ARE LOOKING A LITTLE BETTER
Fig had some appetite and ate 4 scrambled eggs! A good sign. Plus, I could hide his meds in the eggs and avoid the battles. He was still peeing every few hours and had more chronic diarrhea. Sunday morning, I drove Fig and Dora for 30 minutes to Christa’s so Fig could get his 3rd BEMER treatment. Christa increased the BEMER level to 3. Fig still seemed to love it. Dora decided to lay on the mat too, and she seemed to like it.
I came home in the early afternoon. Fig seemed more energetic but his bodily functions had not improved. I gave him his Bolus fluids.
Dr. Clauser called me to check on Fig and because I needed more Bolus bags and meds for Fig. She was absolutely delighted and amazed at Fig’s progress and arranged to have everything ready for me to pick up that afternoon. The dogs and I drove back to LCVH to get the meds for Fig. I made an appointment for the following week to bring Fig back for a checkup and new blood work. I am so hoping it will show dramatic improvement! We stopped at Acme on the way home to buy more organic chicken and eggs. When I got home, we all crashed on the couch until dinner time.
Then came dinner and OMG – Fig ate two whole chicken breasts, rice, cucumber, red pepper, and some of his dry food. Then he tried to steal Dora’s food. I figured that was encouraging, but his incessant peeing and diarrhea were still indications of kidney problems. We took a two-mile night time walk around the neighborhood. I was crying for a lot of the walk thinking about how much I’d miss Fig and our daily walks. We then took an 8pm ride to Christa’s for his 4th BEMER treatment. Fig just lays on the mat, wags his tail and leans his head against me for the entire 8-minute treatment. Then in an incredible gesture of kindness, Christa taught me to use the BEMER and let me bring it home with me. I’m so very grateful.
Sunday night, we went to bed around 10:15. Fig woke me up at 1:15AM to pee. We went right back to sleep right after and he slept (without a diaper) until 4:15 and had no accidents.
MONDAY – PROGRESS SEEMS TO BE CONTINUING
I gave Fig a BEMER treatment at 6AM. At 6:30, I fed Fig breakfast. He was ravenous. He ate 4 scrambled eggs and ½ a chicken breast and wanted more food. I appreciate it, because I continue to hide his meds in the food. I gave him his morning fluids and worked from home. Laurie Curl, our dog sitter when I’m out of town, came over and watched the dogs, walked them, and let Fig out to go pee and poop hourly so I could focus on work. I gave Fig a 2nd BEMER treatment around 2PM and went back to work. Laurie was his personal doorperson and walker. It started snowing so Fig left quite a few slightly yellow marks in the back yard.
Monday for dinner, Fig ate a chicken breast plus his normal dry food meal, some cucumbers and some rice. He still was peeing and pooping nonstop. He isn’t showing the other common symptoms of kidney failure (vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, depression) so I have hope. He had his 3rd BEMER treatment of the day at 9:30PM. We went to bed at 10:30PM. Fig woke me up at 2:30AM. No accidents! He peed and we went back to sleep until 6AM when my alarm went off. No accidents! 3.5 hours without peeing…PROGRESS!
Fig ate his normal breakfast plus two scrambled eggs. I gave him a BEMER treatment and his IV and by 8AM I was ready to go to work at my office in Conshohocken. I actually felt ok going to work in since Laurie Curl was caring for the dogs at the house. Fig still peed frequently and had diarrhea, but he sustained his amazing appetite. I continued to give him his meds and BEMER.
WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
Fig is eating like a champ. Both nights, he slept almost 4 hours without peeing which is his best performance since the incident. On Thursday, his chronic diarrhea also ended 🙂 PROGRESS!!!!!
SUMMARY – NEXT MILESTONE IS FEBRUARY 7TH
I am cautiously optimistic that Fig will recover and regain more kidney function. Time will tell. I don’t know if his improvement is due to the BEMER, the meds, the holistic supplements, Fig’s spunk, or some combination of all these factors. On Thursday, February 7th, Fig visits Dr. Clauser for a checkup and new blood work.
Last Friday, I seriously thought Fig would not even be with us on February 7th. Keep it up Fig! I am so grateful for all the love, support, and help that has come my way. So are Kris and especially Fig!
FINAL UPDATE – APRIL (It’s all good!)
I am pleased to update everyone that Fig has fully recovered and is back to his usual, highly energetic ways. His blood tests all came back normal though he is a little low on electrolytes. He is sleeping through the night with no accidents and can last 5-6 hours during the day without needing to pee. Probably the only obvious lingering symptom is he has more grey on his face. Our vet was absolutely amazed and delighted that Fig pulled through so well. So am I.