Update on Toby: Toby gets three meals a day in his feeding chair and has a voracious appetite. Unfortunately, he’s also figured out how to sneak out of the feeding chair when his mother is not looking. Suddenly, sheâ€™ll find him in the kitchen instead of in the chair where he’s supposed to be. He also makes her chase him to put him in the chair or to put on his sweater when theyâ€™re going out. Toby is no longer the aloof loner he was when he first came to his new home. He expects a lot of petting. He scratches at his mother until she does his bidding. If she doesnâ€™t invite him under the covers at bedtime, he scratches at her blanket until she puts it over him. If he finds a pile of laundry, he’s happy to catch a few winks on top of it.
A Few Words from Carolyn, Tobyâ€™s Mother and Guardian Angelâ€¦.
If you are looking to adopt a dog but are afraid a special needs dog will be too much work, please think again. I fell in love with a picture on the North Shore Animal League America website and only after inquiring about her did I find out that she was special needs. I was too much in love with her face to give up so I asked to find out more about her.
First the scary part:
Her name was Nelle then (Zoe now) and she has megaesophagus. That means her esophagus muscles don’t do their job of pushing food into the stomach. In a “mega,” the food just sits in the esophagus until the dog regurgitates it or, worst case scenario, inhales it into the lungs. This can lead to what is called aspiration pneumonia so it needs to be avoided at all costs. Megaesophagus can also make it hard for a dog to get enough nourishment and maintain a healthy weight. Zoe weighed 14 pounds when she first came to the Animal League and 27 pounds when I met her.
Now the not-scary stuff:
She sits in a special chair to eat (canned dog food with water added), which holds her upright on her hind legs and allows gravity to move the food and water into her stomach. She stays in the chair for about 15 to 20 minutes after she finishes eating. And that’s it! Otherwise she is completely normal.
She jumps up on her chair to let me know she’s hungry or thirsty and now that she’s an old hand at it, just naps while she waits for the time to pass. She doesn’t need supervision so I use that time to get my own stuff done. Zoe currently weighs 38 pounds (down from a too-chubby 41) and wants nothing more than constant love and a good bully stick.
Zoe can’t have treats so food can’t be used for training and when she’s out for a walk, you have to be careful she doesn’t eat anything off the ground. But if she sneaks something, I just put her back in her chair when we get back home. I let her drink water at the dog park on a hot day and just take her home to her chair shortly after. I can’t leave food and water out for her but I make sure she’s well-hydrated before I leave and I keep an air conditioner on in the summer.
Dealing with a “mega” takes a little more vigilance but other than that it’s not a big deal. In fact, I recently adopted my second “mega” from North Shore Animal League America. Toby, a Chihuahua Mutt-i-greeâ„¢ (mixed-breed dog), had been there for several years off and on and been through a few major health crises, including pneumonia, hepatitis and tooth decay. Every time I brought Zoe for a checkup I would ask about Toby, hoping that he had been adopted. Finally, after two years I decided I had to give him a real home (even though he was showered with love at North Shore Animal League America).
Zoe and Toby met and a month or so later two staff members drove him to my house, with his toys, his bedding, his medicine and plenty of his special food. Toby is still on medicine to help move the food down and he has skin allergies (therefore the special food), but otherwise he is an energetic, feisty, typical Chihuahua. He has an identical chair to Zoe’s except smaller and he gets his pills with his food but otherwise the routine is the same.
Keeping a “mega” healthy is the key, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll seem as normal as playing fetch.
Toby is settling in to his new home nicely. He and the other megaesophagus dog, Zoe, are getting used to each other and have agreed to swap beds and toys whenever it suits them. Mostly Zoe steals from Toby (he has the best toys) but Toby steals Zoe’s precious bully sticks when she’s not looking, so they’re even. They’re not “best buds” yet, but we hope that will come. Toby is still on medication, but has not vomited as he was when he was still dealing with the stress of his move. Toby loves to go on walks. He struts around the neighborhood like he’s the king. 40 pound Zoe is afraid of toddlers, trucks and skateboarders but 9 pound Toby fears nothing. He gives all dogs fair warning that he will take no nonsense from any of them.
Good news â€“ Toby has been adopted! His new home is with a former adopter who adopted another dog with megaesopagus from us a few years ago. Toby was driven to his new home, along with all his baggage which included his highchair, bed, toys and extensive wardrobe, by two of our trainers. Tobyâ€™s new sister, Zoey, was a little territorial at first; and Toby did not like Zoey checking out his bed, but they soon settled in together. Our Training Department will always be available for any help or advice that is needed. There were tearful goodbyes as Toby left, but everyone at NSALA wishes him the best.
Before he was adopted. our little man had quite a bit of dental work done. Unfortunately, his soft diet contributed to his dental problems and he had to have several teeth pulled. After a day or two of discomfort, Toby was his old self again. Even though he is adopted, Toby will always be in the Sponsor Program. His megaespogagus is a lifelong condition, and all his medical needs will be covered by NSALA.
April 20, 2010:
Toby, shown here on-site at North Shore Animal League America, gets a welcome vist from the Happy Puppy Club!
February 2010 Update: Toby continues to do well in the Animal Leagueâ€™s care. He received a bunch of toys for the holiday season and graciously shared them with other pets in need of a loving home within our shelter. He has quickly gotten used to his new cage which features a comfy bed of his own. Heâ€™s also getting used to the familiar faces of Animal League staff members that knew him years ago. If he is well-behaved both staff and volunteers will take him for daily walks. Weâ€™re keeping our fingers crossed that the perfect family will come along to foster or adopt him this year!
March 2010 Update: Our dear little Toby, with big, puppy dog eyes, continues to do well in the Animal Leagueâ€™s care. As a precaution, Toby often has to wear a cone around his neck to prevent him from licking his fur. The staff is worried that he may ingest his fur and be unable to swallow it or choke due to his Megaesophagus condition. Twice a day he is brought to a special, calm holding area for his feedings. He is maintaining a healthy appetite. If he is well-behaved the staff and volunteers will take him for daily walks.
April 2010 Update: Toby is doing well in the Animal Leagueâ€™s care. He can be seen walking on the Animal League campus each day with a volunteer or a staff member. Evidently, heâ€™s a favorite to walk among the volunteers who he has come to know and love. If Toby trusts you, he wants to be your best friend. With the recent bout of warmer weather, heâ€™s put his winter coat away â€“ a coat just his small size that was given to him so generously by one of his Sponsors. Twice a day he is brought to a special, calm holding area for his feedings. He is maintaining a healthy appetite.
Toby is due for a check-up and will be coming to the Animal Leagueâ€™s medical center soon.Â His foster mother reports that Toby is feeling well. Â He is enjoying the warmer weather and the longer, sunny days.Â He is calm and well-adjusted now after a few years of settling in with his family and his condition.Â Fortunately, he hasn’t gotten sick in a long time and it is our wish that he remains this way.Â Toby is much friendlier around people and other animals than every before.Â Â Check him out in this picture snuggling with his best friend!