We got our first dog Toben, a German Rottweiler in 2004. We bought him from a backyard breeder; we had no idea what we were doing back then. We did a lot of research, took him to dog training, and socialized him at the dog park. That is when we noticed he was not playing like the other dogs.
Toben would play for a few minutes then come back to us in serious discomfort and not play anymore. We were very worried and took him to the vet. It turned out his knee and elbow joints were malformed and it would get painful quickly. The vet prescribed pain killers, supplements and steroids to reduce the inflammation. He told us Toben would not live past 3 years old, we were devastated.
If these issues were not enough Toben developed multiple allergies; he was allergic to flees, grass, corn. You name it he was allergic to it. We had to put him on a special diet that was corn free, but he continued to lose fur and his skin was getting worse, we could not get rid of the flees no matter how hard we tried. Finally in 2006 we moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was like magic for his allergies, there were no fleas and the plants there never seemed to bother him and his coat come back at was soft again.
In Salt Lake City as our kids got older, our pack started to grow. We got our next dog an Alaskan Malamute named Sapphire. She was a healthy dog, who was always healthy and strong, until one day a freak accident happened and she tore her ACL in her knee. She was still a pup. As luck would have it our normal vet was an orthopedic specialist, but we could not afford the surgery since the company I worked for at the time was in trouble and my pay checks were getting further behind. Faced with the prospect of having to euthanize her, our adult daughter loaned us the money to have the surgery. After a few complications, she recovered fully.
When our youngest turned 14 we got her a puppy, as is our tradition. Her name was Angel a cute mini American Eskimo dog. She was very healthy but had anxiety and would often pee when called or approached wrong. She was very friendly and wonderful with children and other dogs, but was always very anxious. Over time this has improved without the use of medications.
Our oldest daughter, who we had originally bought Toben for wanted a small dog. With all of Toben's health issues he was never a fun dog for a teen girl not the companion she had hoped for. We let her get a Pugle she name Penny. Penny was a happy, healthy dog who was always getting in trouble, but had the cuteness to get out of it. She is no longer with our pack since our daughter moved out, but we are always grateful when we get to dog sit for her vacations.
In 2010 we finally settled into a permanent home in Southern Oregon. We got a beautiful log home out in the woods 20 minutes from the nearest town. We had 5+ acres, which was plenty of room for the dogs to roam and there are miles of trails to hike and explore.
After we got settled in Kimberly decided she wanted her own companion. One who would constantly be there and go everywhere with her. After months of going back and forth on breeds and looking for the perfect dog, she found a free puppy, one of around a dozen they had to home. His name was Dusky and he was so cute. Then we started to show people him and they started asking about his snout. Kimberly did not noticed a rash on the bridge of the snout, she thought it was dirt. It turned out Dusky had immune issues and it was a staph infection on his nose. I took us almost 6 months of trying different antibiotics and other treatments before the rash was gone.
Dusky had a compromised immune system when it came to infections. Every scratch or minor injury would require some type of antibiotic to heal, but otherwise he was a happy healthy Labrador mix. Until, one day on one of our many hikes Dusky snapped his ACL over a mile into the hike. We had to hobble him back to the car. We were able to get him surgery and they replaced his ACL with bands to hold his knee joint together. The healing was going well until he broke the bands and his knee became loose again. We had to go in and have ACL surgery a second time on the same knee. This time the healing process was not so smooth.
With his compromised immune system and the rapid follow up to the original surgery, infection set in. We have been struggling for over 2 years, with infection in that knee. When the infection would go down, he would start walking, then it would get worse and he would stop using his leg again. Recently he was diagnosed with MRSA in his knee, we are fighting it with some very powerful drugs, but so far the infection is not getting better. He will be seeing a specialist soon.
A few years after we got Dusky and about a year after his injury, Paul decide he want his own companion too. Paul really wanted a German Shepherd. He searched for one for over a year, then amazingly he found out about a litter for 5 pure bred puppies that needed rescued. His prayers were answered when he adopted Elsa at 8 weeks old.
Elsa was a very energetic GSD puppy, but did not seem to like to eat and would eat less and less and stop eating certain foods altogether. We would find a new food to try and after a few weeks she would stop eating that too. She started to lose weight and we could not get enough food into her and we noticed quite often after meal time she would throw up her entire meal, this later turned out to be regurgitation not throwing up.
We found out her sister Koda, who was adopted by another family had MegaEsophagus (ME). Koda not only could not hold down food, she also could not hold down water either. After doing research into ME we got Elsa checked. They took an x-ray of her esophagus and the doctor could not see the deformity. We were relieved, at first, it did not last long. The doctor on a hunch decided to reshoot the x-ray with barium. This revealed Elsa did in fact have ME. We were crushed.
After a quick crash course on ME and joining an online ME community, we discovered a special high chair for ME dogs called a Bailey chair after the first dog it was invented for. This forces the dogs to stand up while eating and allowed gravity to move the food down the esophagus into the stomach. We got Elsa a Bailey chair, it worked, but she hated it. Every meal was an hour long battle. Paul had to get up an hour and a half early every morning to feed Elsa and would have to fight the same battle as soon as he got home from work. It was so frustrating but so worth it. Elsa was finally gaining weight.
A few month later we adopted an emaciated 4 month old puppy we thought was a White German Shepherd. We named him Sam. Sam was extremely skinny, but we had learned a lot of tricks trying to get Elsa to eat. We were able to get Sam back to a healthy weight quickly. Sam does have his own issues as well, so far he has allergies and is prone to ear infections. Sam is an great dog, and has the ability to get along with every dog he meets. Today he is actually very muscular, turns out he was not a Shepherd at all. We DNA tested Sam and he is a Yorkshire/Staffordshire/Husky/Dogo mix.
Getting Sam had an amazing effect on Elsa as well. Elsa became a competitive eater around Sam. She was still in her chair and we started to notice her eating behavior changing. We let her out of the chair and eat off a raised platform at first. She was eating better than ever before. Next we noticed she started eating Sam's food on the floor. This was amazing how she could now eat from a bowl on the floor. She has been doing so well, we donated her chair to another GSD that needed it for his ME.
Kimberly and Paul swore they would never foster dogs, knowing that they would likely end up adopting them all. But one evening Paul got a call that a GSD had been rescued that was extremely emaciated and had severe mange. It was believed she might have ME, and we were kind of the local "experts". When we were texted a picture of the dog, we cried. We had no idea a dog could be so bad.
The next day we picked up Miss Gabriel, or as we called her Gabby from the vet's office. Gabby smelled so bad, she could barely stand, but she had a fabulous spirit and a will to survive. Over the next 4 months Kimberly took care of her, giving her medication 4 times and day, bathing and flushing her on alternating days. She slowly got stronger and started to play with the other dogs. Every day she was acting more like a dog; she starting wagging, barking at other dogs and greeting us when we got home. But there was a ticking time bomb that went undetected, the MRSA in her skin had gotten into her lungs. Tragically and suddenly, just as she was getting better she died.
Gabby affected us so much, that we want to help as many Gabby's as we can. We created the Miss Gabriel Foundation so other dogs that are severely neglected may get the chance Gabby never fully got, or if they do pass as Gabby did, they will die peacefully knowing love and the power of the pack.