Success is not always measured in dollars, especially in the veterinary profession. The story of Maizy demonstrates that.
On a cold day in late November 2009, my (Dr. Henri Bianucci) wife, Susan, was driving on Maybank Highway. She saw a heart wrenching site. It was a mere skeleton of a dog stumbling along the road being blown down from the draft of passing cars. The dog was barely able to struggle to her feet before being blown over again.
Susan stopped and approached the dog, which weakly wagged its tail and then collapsed. She lifted the dog into the car and quickly brought her to the Mount Pleasant office of Veterinary Emergency Care, where I met her. In my career, I have never seen a more pathetic sight. This creature was so dehydrated that her eyes could not even be seen for being so sunken in. She could not raise her head to eat or drink. She had a tumor under her tail the size of a grapefruit.
Further examination revealed that the tumor had spread to her abdomen and a similarly sized mass was there. This poor dog had lost nearly all of her hair and weighed only a frail 29 pounds. Her body temperature was too low to register. When her blood was drawn, it was so thick it resembled syrup because of her dehydration.
The decision was made that she should be put to sleep. The only dissenters were Susan and me. We could not help but feel that this dog had been so terribly neglected and had suffered so badly that to let her go now amid such misery was wrong. She deserved to experience some love and care. So we started her on fluids and electrolytes, and the entire staff gradually signed on to this project, but there were plenty of doubters at first.
We decided on a name for the rescued dog that might or might not have a hope for survival. We settled on Maizy since she was found on Maybank Highway.
Within a few days, Maizy began to walk. A few days later, she could eat. As her hydration improved, her beautiful brown eyes came into view. After a week, we decided it was time to go to surgery. This was risky. The mass on her backside was huge. The one in the abdomen also was huge and was surrounded by the bladder, major vessels and nerves.
The surgery was difficult, and there were times during which putting her to sleep seemed reasonable, but we moved forward. As a result of the team's efforts, Maizy made a wonderful recovery. Biopsies indicated that this was a type of cancer that responds well to chemotherapy, so our oncology specialists joined the fight and volunteered their services.
Maizy was adopted around the holidays by one of our surgery technicians, Christine. I will never for get how touched I was at the site of her children in the backseat of the car with their new dog.
Maizy had no hair, worn teeth and was emaciated. But they were smiling like she was a new puppy and she was absolutely basking in their affection. What a beautiful experience and lesson she provided those children. They didn't need a “beautiful” puppy because Christine had taught them to see Maizy's inner beauty.
Within three months, all of Maizy's hair had grown back, and she weighed a healthy 52 pounds.
Maizy's story is a great example of a team approach to patient care. She was treated by emergency staff, surgeons and oncologists.
For many, the decision to treat rather than euthanize was absurd. Their conviction, at that time, was that this was a lost cause beyond hope of any quality of life. That changed for all of them. Their intentions were good; they didn't want to see a dog suffer. But by changing all of their minds, Maizy showed that the boundary between treatable and nontreatable is not always absolute.
Maizy lived the good life with her new family for 10 months (or six human years) giving and receiving unconditional love. She taught everyone a lesson about being a fighter and what can be achieved with a little faith and a combined effort of care and compassion.
Her cancer then returned, and she died peacefully and loved.
She came to us with no owner and no sponsor. But hers is one of the most enriching cases of my career. She expanded everyone's sense of what is possible. Her beautiful spirit helped some children to look beyond her external appearance, or maybe those children helped us to do that.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.