Friday, June 12, 2009

Meet Mama

Meet Mama, a 102 lbs., two-year old stray picked up by a Good Samaritan in Valley Center, CA on May 21 and delivered to the Escondido Humane Society. The following day Mama was transferred to San Diego County Animal Control in Carlsbad where she remained in quarantine, for observation, until June 3. Judging by her massive size, and signs that she had recently given birth, shelter staff said she most likely had been a backyard breeder.

That morning I visited the Carlsbad shelter to view Rooster, a German shepherd mix whose mental health was quickly deteriorating due to shelter stress. I had just lost my beloved 12-year-old dog, Henry, and was approached by friend Susan Healy, a rescue volunteer, to consider fostering Rooster due to the high kill rate at the shelter brought on by the economy.

As I got closer to Rooster's kennel I saw that he was miserable, whining uncontrollably. I happened to glance to the right where I noticed an unmarked kennel with what looked to be a Shar Pei. On closer examination I recognized that underneath the layers of fat and skin was the forlorn face of an English labrador. Her breasts were almost touching the ground.

That afternoon when I returned with my nephew, Joey, Mama's condition had worsened. Her breathing was very labored, her eyes blurred and unfocused. I arranged through Alison Hardison of Shelter Pet Partners to foster Mama so I could get her on a low-calorie diet and walking regimen. Two days later Rooster arrived home.

Both dogs were well mannered and grateful to finally be in a home. Mama proudly walked around the first floor snorting, a large stuffed polar bear in her mouth. Sometimes a whistling sound traveled through her nostrils. When Rooster and my dog, Ollie, raced up the staircase to follow me, Mama stayed behind, too heavy to get beyond the first step. Instead, she stared sadly up the stairs, clutching the polar bear in her mouth.

I wondered what health implications were brought on by her obesity - possibly a deviated septum, heart failure, arthritis and who knows what else? When I walked her around the block the first time, she was only able to make it halfway before stopping, then staring at the sidewalk and lying down. It was obvious she needed medical help.

I hatched a plan to recruit a veterinarian to design and manage a custom weight loss program. In turn, I would propose to write a blog so that the cybercommunity could follow her progress while giving the veterinarian publicity for his efforts.

My strategy was to approach the veterinary hospital who could offer the most comprehensive services. I've always believed that it's better to shoot for the stars and end up with an arrow in the moon then shoot for the moon and end up with an arrow in the foot.

At the top of my list was Dr. Carmine Bausone of the Acacia Animal Health Clinic in Escondido and his associate Dr. John Harrison, a veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM) practitioner. I had profiled Dr. Harrison's work in a newspaper article in March and was impressed with both doctors and the services offered by the clinic that also included acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy.

When I called to present my proposal, both doctors enthusiastically agreed to take on the challenge. Dr. Bausone explained that pet obesity was an issue near and dear to his heart and that he welcomed the opportunity to reach out and educate the public.

At his request, I called the office and scheduled an appointment for Mama for Wed., June 11 at 2:45.

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