Tuff Puppy

Short Version
What the kool kids call the TL;DR…

Last month, Maxwell suffered congestive heart failure. We obtained emergency care and he is recuperating. While the condition is incurable, a life expectancy of up to 2 years is possible. So far, he has made good progress in his recovery. His prognosis is favorable within the constraints of the disease. Meanwhile, he’s just as sweet tempered as always and a joy for us to have. However, he’s not amused by his new low salt diet.

“Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.” –Mark Twain

Below is the long version of the story because some of you guys always want the details. But, really, you already know all the important stuff.

Part One

It was on a Friday at about midday when we first noticed that Max was having problems walking. His rear end was just sort of floppy and he had a pronounced limp. He was not showing any signs of pain or distress and his legs and hips were not sensitive to touch or manipulation.

We decided simply to monitor him for awhile. In the past he has twisted his leg or stubbed his doggy toe on the stairs and he recovered quickly without intervention. But as the day wore on his gait continued to deteriorate.

About 5PM Max’s respiration changed. He began to breathe very fast, contracting his stomach with each breath. A slight wheezing was heard and he had no interest in any activity or food. When the Furbeast declines his snacks, there is something very wrong.

I called his regular veterinarian office which maintains services until 8PM every day. That’s when I first discovered that vet offices across Southern California, and probably across the country, have been overwhelmed by demand for several months, largely because of people adding pets to their families during the lockdown days of the pandemic. The vet office said it was at capacity and could not see Max even on an emergency basis.

“At capacity” was a phrase we would hear a lot in the next few hours.

At first we pondered whether we could wait on treatment and see if Max recovered spontaneously but by then he had started shivering and shaking so we started a search for an emergency veterinary office that could accept our pup.

You can’t keep a good Malt down.

I called three or four nearby places but the response was a carbon copy of our vet’s answer: “at capacity.” This wasn’t working, so we opted to grab Max, jump in the car and present ourselves in person at the next possible vet office on theory that it is always harder to refuse someone when he is standing in front of you.

After two more flat-out rejections, a very kind Vet Tech at a VCA Animal Hospital agreed to at least come outside and give Max a quick look-over. Her assessment was that the Pupster did indeed need immediate care and although the VCA Hospital was at capacity she knew of a small emergency clinic in the unlikely named town of Diamond Bar that might be able to accommodate him. By then it was past 8PM but that clinic operates 24 hours on weekends so we quickly drove the 20 miles.

Success! The clinic welcomed Max, the techs carried him into the back rooms and soon we were talking to the Veterinarian on Duty who said Max was reasonably stable and would have to wait his turn in triage before a more thorough examination could be performed. That’s because the clinic was – you got it – at capacity, and Max was the cow’s tail, the last one in the door.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions and the dearth of nearby alternative venues for waiting, the Alpha Japanese Female and I sat in the car for the next three hours. Then the Veterinarian called and presented his plan for diagnosis. Not treatment mind you, just the diagnosis. In other words, it was near midnight and they were just getting started on Max.

The diagnosis plan included a full body examination, complete blood work-up, pulmonary tests, EKG/ECG, and a series of radiographs followed by a telemedicine consult with a canine radiographer. I could hear my VISA card screaming in torment at the news. But, of course as doting dog parents, we just said, “Do everything you can.”

Hair is growing on his “bare spot” from the ECG/EKG and echocardiogram tests.

After (probably) ordering a new Mercedes, the Vet got to work and by 2AM had completed all but the online consult. He recommended at that point that we leave Max at the office until morning so that the Dogger could have oxygen therapy too. We were exhausted and went home to wait for the Vet’s phone call which he promised by 6AM.

It was a short and not very restful sleep and my phone rang just after 5AM. The consult was complete, the test results and examinations done and Max was resting quietly. So, what was the problem?

The Vet said that all of Max’s symptoms traced to a rapid manifestation of congestive heart failure. His heart had difficulty pumping sufficient quantity of blood and as a result there was a build-up of fluid in his lungs. That, in turn, triggered the labored breathing, the weakness in his hindquarters and his overall weakness and malaise. After oxygen and a dose of a diuretic to start draining the fluids Max was discharged and we were told to get him to his regular Vet tout suite (or “toot sweet” if you speak American.)

Part Deux

We collected Max , his meds, a sheaf of medical reports and a CD of his digital images and returned home at about 8AM, the same time that his regular veterinarian’s office opens. Can you guess who was first in the queue? Thanks to my charm (or BS abilities) I got past the gatekeepers at the front desk and was able to talk directly to Max’s regular Vet, the lovely Dr. C, who cleared a spot on her schedule so that she could look Max over that afternoon.

After reviewing the material we brought from the emergency clinic, giving the Malt another exam and running some tests, Dr. C agreed with the earlier diagnosis of CHF – congestive heart failure and prescribed a few additional medicines for Max to take to strengthen him to withstand a further battery of tests including ultrasound studies, fluid collection and other stuff I don’t remember.

A few days later we sat with Dr. C to talk about the results and what it all meant for our Hero.

That would appear to be acceptable.

Congestive heart disease is a common affliction, especially among older, small dogs. Max will be 14 next month. We knew for some time that Max had a mild heart murmur and Dr. C confirmed that the chief problem was Max’s mitral valve which was leaking and reducing his heart’s pumping capability. The disease is not curable but pharmacological intervention and lifestyle changes can extend the life expectancy of a dog in these circumstances.

With congestive heart disease the possible outcomes all lead to the same place; it’s just a matter of time. The arc of survival ranges from sudden death to as long as 24 months if things go exceptionally well. Dr. C couldn’t be much more precise because there are so many other factors involved but noted that both she and the consulting doggie cardiologist felt Max’s condition was milder than other cases. She prescribed a series of drugs that Max takes three times a day. To maximize his life expectancy, he is to live quietly and avoid stresses (tell the squirrels), no running in the park or other physical exertion, a low salt diet and frequent check-ups.

So, how is he doing right now? His respiration rate has returned to normal and he can walk normally with just an occasional “hitch in his giddy-yap” as the cowboys would say. He’s pretty low energy right now and spends much of his time sleeping. He has an appetite again and is parlaying his affliction masterfully so as to obtain more (low salt) treats from the Alpha Japanese Female. He gets his pills hidden in hot dogs and that’s a story for another day.

Throughout it all Max remained the world’s most gentle dog and never exhibited irritation or aggression to anyone even when in distress. He still snuggles against my leg when he sleeps although his diuretic regimen means he and I are outside on the back lawn at 3AM like clockwork. He pees, I watch out for coyotes, we discuss prostate issues and then it’s back in the sack for us both while the AJF snores quietly throughout.

We’ve been spending more time together in the infamous pleather recliner, swapping political views, solving world problems and talking sports and I think I see signs of growing vitality. He’s a pretty tuff little guy and we hope we will have him for a long time to come. So far, so good.

So that’s the whole story. From time to time I’ll update you with progress reports on his health as well as relating other stories about Max. Keep your fingers crossed and never bet against the Malt!

Wait until you hear the story of how my Dog Dad embarrassed himself in front of the Vet! Hahaha.

62 replies

  1. You know I want to cry. Max, hang tough, little buddy. And it is perfectly acceptable to fall asleep as your dad talks sports and solves the worlds problems. The cats (all 5 of them!!) send healing purrs. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, poor guy. I remember all too well when my vet told me my previous dog’s third bout of cancer was going to be her last. I was driving at the time. It’s a wonder I didn’t crash the car. She outlived the vet’s prognosis. Let’s hope Max does, too.

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    • In the past few days I think he has made excellent progress so we are hopeful. He goes back to Dr. C at the end of this week at which time I suppose they will fiddle with his meds to optimize dosages and see what else, if anything needs to be done. When he got home after the night at the emergency clinic I don’t who was happier – Max or or us. It was exhausting for all us running up against rejection after rejection at the various vets’ offices. I think I put 150 miles on the car running around Southern California.

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  3. Max says “thanks” Kristie and he’ll stuff your kind thoughts and prayers in what my Grandmother would have called his “foxy pocket,” the secret stash where he keeps things dear to him.

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  4. There’s not a dry eye in any household where your post is being read Tom. Every pet owner is remembering when they walked in your shoes…..probably more than once.

    Our sweet Murphy was 14 in April, and she’s in the same situation as your sweet Max, just a different health issue.

    Max, you have the best dog dad and mom ever. They love you beyond words and will do everything within their means to keep you well and comfortable. Murphy and I are sending you healing vibes. You are in our prayers as are your mom and dad.

    You truly are a tuff puppy. One who is much loved because one day your dad decided to introduce you to us.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to hear that Murphy is not well. She and Max are the same age although Max will claim to be much younger because he doesn’t turn 14 until later this month. We all realize that it’s likely our pets will precede us but it never gets easier; I’d say it gets harder as we age. Still, let’s be optimistic that the fluffs will rally and be with us for awhile more. Thanks for your kind thoughts, Ginger.

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  5. Little Max, 😢. There is so much that I want to say, but it all comes out sounding stupid. I have every confidence that you are going to live a long and happy life with the best family a pup could ask for. *hugs from Angel Geordie* 💗

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    • Max says he’s the George Foreman of the Maltese set. Since it’s unlikely you are a fan of old time boxing, George – the creator of the grill – is generally recognized as the greatest comeback kid in boxing. Max says “hold my beer” while he makes his comeback. You can’t count out a tuff Malt! Meanwhile, hugs from Angel Geordie are always welcome.

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  6. Oh so so sorry about this turn of events! Max is a tuff pupper so he has that going for him (and his loving and caring hoomans too). I can’t believe an emergency vet would turn you away! I guess things must be super busy there. Sounds like Max is doing better and I know Sookie and Duncan and I, will be sending lots of good JUJU his way! You got this Max!

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    • We’ll definitely take the JUJU! It was a complete surprise to us when we found out that none of the so-called “emergency” vet clinics would even take a look at him. To be fair, the staff members were empathetic and apologetic but absolutely firm in turning Max down. We kept shuffling off to one clinic after another. I was thinking of finding hay and a manger and waiting for 3 wise men. Helpless! But the place we ended up seemed very competent so that was good.

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  7. Max is in good hands, both at home and at the vet’s. I can’t imagine being rejected by vet after vet in that situation. I think I would have been crying and pleading, and stressed to the “max.” I do hope things keep getting better for the precious little guy. Maltese really are great dogs. If my breed choice wasn’t schnauzers, it would be maltese or multipoos. Best wishes, and prayers for Max.

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  8. Max is in good hands, both at home and at the vet’s. I can’t imagine being rejected by vet after vet in that situation. I think I would have been crying and pleading, and stressed to the “max.” I do hope things keep getting better for the precious little guy. Maltese really are great dogs. If my breed choice wasn’t schnauzers, it would be maltese or multipoos. Best wishes, and prayers for Max.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max says his goal is to get well, practice dancing and take Xena around the floor for a doggie waltz or maybe a slow but very suggestive tango. Problem is Max dances as well as I do which is to say pitifully. I even screw up the white man overbite dance. Anyway, it’s good to have goals. Max appreciates the good wishes and kind thoughts and prayers too.

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  9. Wow…that sounds super scary! We are so glad that mom and dad were persistent and found a nice clinic that could help you! We are also very glad you are doing better!! We will be sending lots of healing drool your way along with some extra prayers!! ❤️❤️❤️

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  10. My heart aches and I haven’t even been lucky enough to know the little dude. I am so sorry, I think we should start a petition to make doggies live forever and never get sick. Think we could get it through congress? Well he is not just cute but tough too. Chester is rooting him on and we wish you the best. Btw I haven’t heard toot sweet for awhile but it was frequently used at our house! That and lollygagging.

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    • Throw out the Congress folk and elect dogs. It would be an improvement. Tell Chester his little buddy says thanks for the sentiment and Max is determined to do his best to recover. I have been accused of lollygagging and I’m pretty sure I am guilty even though I don’t know for sure what it is.

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  11. Well, I’m sitting here bawling. Maxwell – take it easy, eat the low salt crap, and do what the vet says, k? We need you around for a long time.
    My mom had CHF – it’s a tough battle. You and Max and AJF are all in my prayers. I’m so sorry this is happening.

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  12. Oh, sweet handsome Max! I am sitting here weeping! 😦 I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all of this! 😦 (And your Mom and Dad, too. 😦 )
    I’m so glad you got some help AND I know your Mom and Dad are taking THE best care of you! They love you so so SO much!
    Coops and I love you, too, and wish you well. We need you around here.
    Tell your Dad to give you lots of gentle rubs and pats for me and Coops. And to give you a kiss on the head. AND to keep us updated on you.
    PATS and RUBS and SNIFFS,
    Carolyn and Cooper
    PS…Your Dad embarrassed himself!?!?!? I don’t believe it! 😉 HA! I REALLY need to hear THAT story!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rest assured that the Furry One gets good care and lots of attention. I mean, I’m standing out in the yard in my skivvies at 3AM watching him pee. But he’d do it for me, if he had skivvies that is. Max says the battle has just begun and he expects nothing less than victory! Yes, there is a story of Dog Dad embarrassment involved in all this and that tale will be told pretty soon along with a couple of other strange and funny anecdotes that happened along the way of getting care for Max.

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  13. Sending hugs and prayers, been in your position with a fur baby and I know how awful it feels. Max has the best life, he knows he is loved and well cared for. You and the AJF will not let him down. Keep him close and keep those low salt treats coming…Max deserves them now more than ever. Thanks for sharing his story.

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    • Hugs and prayers gratefully accepted and thanks for sending them our way, Kim! I think all of us who visit this silly dog blog have experienced the ups and downs of loving and someday losing their pet. Never gets easy though. Fortunately Max is back from the brink and all signs point to a recovery that may keep him with us for more time and a high quality of life, too.

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  14. That must have been some of the worst moments of your lives, driving from rejection to rejection and little Max getting worse all the time.
    He has the best of care now, between you and his regular vet, so just enjoy the itme you have together…even the 3.00 am pees……

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  15. Who knew that Vet clinics were so swamped? Also, at an appropriate future date I want to have a discussion with the boss Vet at Max’s regular clinic and discuss just how much business has been transacted between us over the past years and how maybe, just maybe, there should be a procedure that allows the escalation of requests for attention in emergency situations. I can’t blame the front desk folks because they are just doing what they are told. But “tough luck, we’re full, try somewhere else” (even when said politely) doesn’t work for me in a relationship of such long standing and which has been so lucrative for the clinic. The AJF says to let it go but you know that’s not going happen when I get my Irish up.

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  16. Oh Max! Miss Butterfly had congestive heart failure for almost her whole 4 and three quarters years with us. She had a special diet and lots of meds and was told to keep quiet and still, and she totally ignored that last one. She had some tough times but she had so many more great ones and I expect that’s what it’s going to be like for you. Love (and sufficient treats) is all you need. Cricket and Ellie and I are sending our love!

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    • I thought of Miss Butterfly and wondered if she had to deal with CHF. Max, too, is unlikely to take to heart (pun!) advice about remaining still and living a sedate lifestyle. Not when there are squirrels to dominate! Thanks for the kind thoughts and wishes Rachel, Cricket and Ellie, They’re much appreciated.

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  17. So sad.
    Good job the boy is tuff!
    Make the most of it Max, two more years of them pandering to your every whim.
    Still, very sad to hear this.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. So sorry to hear that Salty Malty is having trouble and send my best wishes to you all. I guess now he is low-sodium Malt. I can’t believe how hard it was to get to a Vet. “At capacity” indeed. My thoughts and prayers go out to Maxwell. He’s got the best human pets this side of the Mississippi.

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    • Yup, the “former” Salty Malty. Turns out that low-salt treats are thin on the ground as my Grandmother used to say. Dog food apparently doesn’t conform to labeling requirements as does the human equivalent so sodium isn’t often mentioned. Of course there are exotics on the market at silly prices. So we rely on plain ole chicken chunks. He’s a little guy so I can grill a large skinless chicken breast (a DD as I call them) and slip him shreds as his treat rewards. He gets salmon treats from the AJF too. But to hide the meds it takes a hot dog. 😒

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  19. We’ve been there done that. In 2014, Kyla (our rescue Scottie, was diagnosed with Addison’s. That meant she had to get a shot once a month for the rest of her life (which would be short. The vet gave her 3 to 9 months to live. It was six months.. She got a grand send off-she loved to eat and when she was put to sleep because she couldn’t even stand up, she was eating treats/ She loved food. We

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  20. Dear Max, milk this diagnosis for every treat and indulgence you can, because you’ve been blessed, living with humans who will do anything and everything to ensure your well-being while keeping you happy. Milk it, live long, and prosper.

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    • Yeah, I admit we’ve been totally snookered into doing just about anything for His Highness the Malt and Max plays us like a Stradivarius. We are doting grandparents too, I guess it comes with age. (And diminished capacity.)

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  21. Oh. My. Gawd. I’m just stunned with this news. Please know that I, Norman and the Ninja are sending our most heartfelt healing thoughts. Stay strong Max…your dad needs you to watch over him. And work that Malt magic for separating treats from the bag into your belly. I’d say work those eyes to your advantage, but realize you’re a pro and need no help from me. Sending loads of digital ear scritches.

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  22. Golly, I just now read this. Poor Max! Poor Tom’s wallet! 14 is a good long life, but I believe there is much more for you two to spend together. I would hate to think of Max not being your sidekick. And what’s with everything at full capacity? Is everyone on unemployment and not working, or are there that many ailing pets? It sounds like you exhausted every avenue possible for your puppers. Big hugs to you both–and the AJF.

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    • Malts usually go 12 – 16 so he is definitely a senior but not yet Methuselah level. I guess when everyone was stuck at home they thought it would be a great idea to add a pet. A little short term on the strategy. Vets are making bank these days.

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