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A Testimonial about Tammys dedication to her pugs
By: Kathy @ Wyoming Rural Water
Story was published in "The Wyoming Connection" Issue: Fall 2017
Do you believe in miracles? I do because I live with one. Well I actually live with two but that is another story (See Total Dedication). My life was forever changed in March of this year when I ran into my friend Tammy Downs Owner of PugDowns at Glenrock's local grocery store. She looked exhausted and I asked what was going on. She explained that her pug had given birth and that one of the puppies was not thriving and was near death. She correctly diagnosed the puppy as having a cleft palate and rushed him to the emergency clinic where she was counseled to euthanize the little guy. Those were fighting words to my friend Tammy. The vet said that she could try tube feeding him but that if not done properly and consistently he would die on his own. Tammy took the tubes, syringes and puppy and began the battle to save his life. I had absolutely no idea when I offered to help that included tube feeding a puppy..
Tube feed we did. The first thing we learned about tube feeding was that if the tube was not correctly placed that he would drown and die. No pressure there! Tammy and I would trade off days because he had to be tube fed every two hours and stimulated on the off hours just like a mommy pug would do for a puppy. Curiously, we couldn't find anyone else crazy enough to help us. Truthfully I don't think there was anyone else that saw this puppy that actually believed he was going to live. He weighed 3 ounces when we began tube feeding him but soon started gaining an ounce a day, which was exactly on target. It was apparent to us that this little guy was a fighter and had an unbelievable will to live. Being born a preemie myself I could relate and the little pug and I entered into a covenant with the Creator. The pug and I would do our part but the rest was up to God. In that quiet moment the pug's name came to me. He was a Blessed Boy. From that moment on he became B.B. Trooper was added a couple of days later at the suggestion of Tammy's daughters because he was just that , a real trooper .
Tammy and I continued trading B.B. off every couple of days for a month and than life took a turn. I was scheduled to attend the Solid Waste Association of North America's conference. I would be gone for a full 6 days. With much trepidation about leaving the little guy for that long, not to mention the guilt I felt knowing that Tammy would not have a good night's sleep till I returned, I handed B.B. over and headed to the airport. I learned lots at the conference but I was a nervous wreck for those six days worrying about B.B. When I returned from the conference I drove straight to Tammy's to pick up the little guy. I had been terrified that B.B. would have forgotten who I was while I was gone. I could not have been more wrong. There were pug puppy shrieks of delight greeting me as soon as he saw my face. As it turned out he had been more than a handful to feed. To successfully tube feed a puppy they really need to help by swallowing the tube. B.B. hadn't wanted to swallow and had made the whole feeding experience unpleasant for himself and for my friend. He and I made our way home, settled into the rocking chair, with my two other pugs at my feet guarding B.B., and had a big tube fed dinner. From that day forward he was unwilling to allow anyone else to feed him. The trading off with Tammy stopped and I faced the reality that B.B. was now a part of my pug pack family.
I knew very little about cleft palates in humans or pugs but I was determined to find out. I found out that there are a couple of different types of clefts. One you can see externally and the other is only apparent if you look inside the mouth. That is the type of cleft that B.B. had. It is basically a hole in the roof of the mouth and his was a whooper. It started at the back of his tooth line and went all the way to the back of his throat. If food or water got into this cleft it would enter his nasal passage and drain into his lungs. It could kill him quickly by drowning or longer term by filling his lungs and giving him pneumonia.
If he tried to eat or drink it would come out his nose. The only way to correct this abnormality was surgery. B.B. and I began the search for a Vet that could help us. The problem was that none of the vets had actually done surgery on a cleft palate dog. Most of these dogs are either euthanized or die on their own before it is ever time to do surgery. Most of the vets still thought that euthanizing B.B. was the best course of action but if that wasn't going to happen then he needed to be seen by the soft tissue surgeons at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. An appointment for consultation was made and off to Colorado we went. We were really worried that they would take a look at B.B. and declare him not fixable. What a health care facility for animals this place is. We should all have such good health care. One of the first things that the intern and resident wanted to know was how Tammy and I learned to tube feed a puppy. They informed us that they do not allow students to tube feed an animal until they have completed an 8 week class. I wish you could have seen their faces when Tammy replied that she had learned from YouTube and taught me. B.B.'s assessment took a full 3 hours. The surgeon assigned to his case was as stubborn as B.B. and his moms. Dr. Marvel ( and she lived up to her name) thought she could surgically repair the palate and that B.B. could live a normal life. The catch was that the longer we waited the better chance of success he would have.
Don't think that B.B. just hung out at home while he awaited surgery. This is one well traveled pug. Because he had to be fed every four hours he had to go on the road with me when I traveled for work. He was a great traveler but even more than that he had a way with people. Everyone loved B.B. He was and is an ambassador of goodwill wherever he goes. He has help me teach classes, make presentations at city council meetings and helped mom figure out sustainable rates at systems across Wyoming. He was a star attraction at the PugDowns and Platte River RV and Campground during the solar eclipse. I swear he seemed to know all 2100 people in attendance and they seemed to know him by name. The calming effect he has on people, especially those that are agitated is an amazing thing to experience. There may well be a service dog vest awaiting him after getting the proper training.
On July 26th, after four and a half months of being tube fed, B.B. had surgery. The surgery went really well and his surgical team were able to close 90% of the cleft. for the next 5 weeks though B.B. had to be kept quiet and not allowed to have anything in his mouth. Oh good lord, let me tell you that was easier said than done. His regular feeding tube was replaced by one surgically implanted in his neck that delivered food to his tummy. He also had to wear a little t-shirt to keep the tube in place. Yeah right. Not to mention that I could kill the little boy by pushing food through the tube to quickly and causing his belly to explode. Thankfully there was no exploding stomach but there was also no stability in the feeding tube. 5 weeks, 3 feeding tubes latter and 4 holes in his non-existent pug neck , a command decision had to be made. He was successfully drinking water and my very own vet, B.B. and I decided enough was enough. He was going to learn to eat like a big dog. Having never tasted real food or chewed and swallowed successfully in his whole pug life he just didn't get it. I was sure that he was going to starve to death before he figured out what hunger felt like and realized that he could fix that condition all on his own. My vet assured me that he had never known an animal to starve to death if he had food available. No matter what I gave him it didn't seem to make its way into his mouth and down to his tummy; that is until he discovered the wonders of vanilla ice cream . He got it and we were off to the pug puppy food races. Today B.B. weighs 11 pounds which is just perfect for a growing pug puppy
On September 5th, 6 months after he was born, B.B. Trooper was released from medical care and declared your run of the mill healthy, happy, pain in the butt puppy. I don't believe that I will ever watch him eat and drink without being mesmerized at what a miracle he is. He is a constant reminder to me and all those he meets that miracles do happen and that nothing is impossible. Thank you for the gift B.B. and keep on trooping.