A quick update on Kirby’s progress

Just wanted to give a quick update on Kirby. He came home on Saturday night – much to the delight of Quigley, who had been rather lethargic in his absence. A few pics (click any for slightly larger):

Yes, Quigley still looks kind of lethargic, but I think he understands, to some extent, that Kirby is not well and does not need to be wired for sound. Kirby, too, seems to be starting to understand his limitations. We believe he over-exerted himself the first couple of days and is now giving us better indication that he wants our help eating, going outside, etc.

The 80-90% recovery is a long way off, and I haven’t really slept since he came home; I’ll spare you from the reasons. But this morning, after arguably his roughest night yet, he made his trademark head tilt a few times. If you haven’t seen this, you really need to. I will try to post some video evidence soon. Seeing him display this behavior in his current condition is definitely uplifting.

I want to send out a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who has had Kirby in their thoughts. The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, co-workers and the SQL community (a.k.a. #SQLFamily) has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated! I can only hope that we never have to repay the favor, at least not specifically.

The (abridged) tale of a beagle

Kirby (click for larger)

Who couldn't love these sad eyes?

Meet Kirby.

Kirby is a 6-year old beagle in the Bertrand home. As a puppy, he was rescued from an abusive home in Tennessee. He’s had some socialization and other personality issues with strangers and certain dog breeds, but anyone who’s met him more than once knows that he is a loving animal and warms up quite quickly.

I finally figured out how to combine YouTube and WordPress. Here is a video of Kirby and Nicole playing the other night (there is another one at the bottom of the post of Kirby dreaming during Monday Night Football). I can’t wait until we have this Kirby back.

After about a year, sensing that he needed some non-human companionship, I procured Kirby a makeshift brother: Quigley, a beagle puppy rescued from Kentucky, who was found abandoned in the woods, no tags, starving to death. For the first good portion of their time together they were okay friends, fighting over food occasionally, normal dog stuff.

Then the trip to New Hampshire happened. Nicole and I rented a house in the mountains, just for a weekend, and brought the dogs. The first morning, I brought the dogs outside with me to do their business. No leashes, just walked right beside them and then walked them back inside. A couple of hours later I was taking a shower, and Nicole decided to do the same thing. They got the scent of something (I said they were beagles, right?) and they were gone. We searched the woods for them until it got dark, at which point we were just as likely to get lost. Never mind freeze to death : at its coldest, the thermometer went to 8°F. Helpless, we hung a couple of our shirts out on the deck, hoping our scent would lure them back (without luring bears or other less desirable animals). I fully believed that the dogs couldn’t have survived the night – either the cold got them, or some animal. At right around the 24 hour mark, my cell phone rang. A local number. I was ecstatic to hear that the person on the other end had one of our dogs in the garage (this turned out to be Quigley), and could see Kirby lurking at a safe distance. (Both of our cell numbers are listed on their collars.) They were in rough shape but alive. On the drive home they were huddled together on the back seat like Siamese twins, which I imagine they must have done for warmth throughout the night. And they’ve been similarly inseparable ever since.

Kirby & Quigley (click for larger)

Flash forward to yesterday afternoon. I let the boys out into the yard. As soon as I opened the door, they went absolutely nuts. I looked around to see what was going on, and there was a rafter of wild turkeys just on the other side of the fence. I grabbed my phone to text Nicole, because we had never seen wild turkeys in this neighborhood before. I looked back up, and saw the dogs running on the other side of the fence – in a matter of seconds they had dug their way out and were chasing the turkeys. Note that I have never said our beagles were smart. So, I chased after them, which proved futile after only about 5 minutes. They were gone. I ran back to the house, jumped in the car, and trawled the neighborhood beyond the woods behind us, which is where they usually end up when they’ve broken out of jail. I stopped at the end of the nearest cul-de-sac, killed the engine, and listened. Usually if they’re on the prowl, you can gradually hone in on them because they sound like, well, a pack of hunting beagles. But for good reason, I saw them before I heard them.

Kirby was lying down in a backyard, by some bizarre coincidence not 40 feet from where I had arbitrarily decided to park. I called to him but he didn’t respond. I jumped out of the car and ran over. Quigley was there too, marching laps in a tight circle around his big brother. When I reached them, my heart absolutely sank. Kirby’s face was bloodied, and he seemed unwilling or unable to move. One of his hind legs was curled up under him in a position that could only be described as uncomfortable. I was hesitant to try and move him, but for lack of a dog airlift approaching, I didn’t really have a choice. I bundled him up in my arms and ordered Quigley to follow us. I laid Kirby down in the back seat of the car, ushered Quigley in behind him, and sped to Ocean State Veterinary Hospital in Warwick.

I can’t even come close to describing that drive to you. I’ve driven from North Bay, Ontario (yes, the one near the Arctic Circle) to places as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. At least 3 times a year, I make the 12-hour trek home over a long weekend. But yesterday’s 30-minute drive was easily the longest in my life, even though I took a few liberties with speed that I don’t think I’ve taken in a decade. Kirby was making gut-wrenching noises that I had never heard before, and all I could do was wish that there was something I could do.

I got to the hospital and they took some initial X-Rays. A couple of broken ribs, but otherwise he seemed ok. They asked me what happened, and I said I wasn’t sure, I didn’t see it. We went back and forth about whether he was hit by a car, attacked by the turkeys, attacked by the jerk dog they leave tied up on a chain all day in that other neighborhood, or possibly some combination – since there seemed to be evidence of each. They took some more X-Rays from different angles and raised their estimate of two broken ribs to five. Serious lung trauma, possible pelvic and forearm issues, difficulty breathing, and signs of pain that were obvious to everyone in the hospital. Things were not looking good at all, and I was expecting to have to make the ultimate choice.

I remember quite vividly the few times I’ve cried as an adult. When my grandmother passed away. When Wayne Gretzky retired. And then yesterday. It really is quite amazing how “human” a pet can become, how tightly woven into your life, and how much you can care about an animal that someone else decided deserved to be beaten or abandoned.

As it turns out, barring any complications that may be revealed through further testing (they can’t test thoroughly yet because of the pain), Kirby’s ribs should heal in about 6-8 weeks, and his life should return to relative normalcy. He is under 24/7 hospitalization right now, and I feel much better about his prognosis than I did a mere 16 hours ago. I can’t visit with him until noon, and I feel pretty useless in the meantime. In fact I’m a little worried that Quigley is traumatized by the whole thing, even though he escaped the entire incident unscathed – he seems quite lethargic and perhaps confused that his brother isn’t around.

Don’t worry, Quigley. Kirby is coming home.

UPDATE 2011-12-09 3:10 PM EST

Nicole and I visited Kirby at the hospital at lunch. It’s quite unbearable seeing the pain he’s in, but the doctor is confident that it will subside and that he will have a good chance at a full recovery, so we have to stay positive.

Nicole took a great shot of me trying to comfort him, though there really isn’t a whole lot we can do:

Kirby & I (click for larger)

We brought one of my T-shirts to mix in with his bedding. I hope this gives him at least a faint sense of our presence, because even though we can’t be in the hospital with him all day long, our hearts are certainly there with him.

There’s definitely an issue with his left hind leg (though X-Rays are negative), and he hasn’t been able to urinate yet without the catheter (they suspect potential bladder rupture). Though they do admit that some of these things could just be symptoms of the pain caused by the 5 fractured ribs.

Stupid turkeys.

Testing video embedding: