Animals with multiple health issues like Maui don’t usually get a second chance, let alone a third, fourth or fifth.
But Lort Smith won’t give up on him or any other animal that can be rehomed.
Five-year-old shar-pei cross Maui, was brought into Lort Smith by his former family, when they noticed his eyes were swollen and his mouth was full of blood.
They admitted they didn’t know how long he’d been like that — Maui was primarily kept in the backyard by himself as they said they didn’t have much time for him.
His family said they couldn’t afford the cost of admitting him to hospital. They said they felt he deserved a better life than what they could give him and decided to surrender him into our care, so we could give him that chance.
It was the best decision they could’ve made. Knowing all the medical issues Maui would soon face, it’s a relief to know he was now in safe hands.
When one of our vets, Dr Geoff, had a closer look at his mouth, he realised that a piece of old bone was stuck behind his last molar and was painfully piercing the gum. Dr Geoff was able to remove it successfully and advised that the wound would need further monitoring to make sure it healed.
Poor Maui didn’t take too well to being in hospital. As a backyard dog who was used to being alone all the time, he wasn’t accustomed to all the sights and smells that come with being in a busy hospital alongside so many other animals.
Our staff did their best to comfort him, moving him to a quieter location away from other dogs, and offering him gentle reassurance. But Maui’s anxiety only got worse. We put him on anti-anxiety medication to help him cope better.
Then, as we prepared him for his desexing surgery, which we perform on all animals who go up for adoption, we noticed Maui had a lump on his testes.
We sent a sample off to pathology for testing, where we found that Maui had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is a tumor of skin cells.
Following his desexing surgery, our staff noticed that Maui’s pen was saturated with urine. When they took him for walks, he peed without seeming to notice what he was doing. He had developed urinary incontinence, which was possibly prostate related. And to top things off, Maui caught kennel cough, a common occurrence in unvaccinated dogs.
The poor boy just couldn’t seem to catch a break!
We knew he’d need a very special foster carer to look after him; one who would understand the various issues he had and would be empathic and patient in his recovery.
Our long-term volunteer, Cindy, fit the description perfectly!
“I walked him and spent time with him for maybe a month before I took him home,” she says. “As soon as he was up for foster, I put my hand up.”
Having lost her own dog recently, Cindy felt that she and Maui could both offer each other something — her, a place for him to recover in peace and safety, and he, the familiar sounds and soothing presence of a dog in her home.
“The thing is though — Maui was my first-ever foster!” Cindy says. “A bit of a challenging one to start with! He’s certainly been keeping me on my toes but he’s just such a beautiful dog.
After a lifetime spent mostly outside or in a hospital, it seems Maui couldn’t believe his luck at getting to sleep inside with Cindy. He relaxed so much in foster care that we were able to take him off his anti-anxiety medications almost immediately. And Cindy said even his incontinence improved.
Things were looking up for Maui and we were even considering putting him up for adoption … until one horrific night that Cindy says she won’t forget anytime soon.
“I knew he was a bit off that night, that something was up, but I thought maybe he just needed to sleep it off,” she says.
“Then at maybe one in the morning, he fell off the bed and the sound woke me up. His eyes were darting side to side, and he was vomiting and peeing everywhere. I was totally freaking out … I just kept thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, he’s going to die’. It was so scary.”
Our foster carers truly are heroes. They take sick and injured into their homes and hearts knowing that things like this can happen — and yet they do it anyway. Cindy was remarkable that night. She rushed Maui to emergency, where he was stabilised and we were able to run a number of tests to determine the cause of his seizures.
I don’t like thinking about what would’ve happened if this event had occurred while Maui was still living in that backyard alone.
Nor do I want to imagine what would’ve happened if he was brought anywhere but Lort Smith. Here, we have the advanced medical equipment, compassionate staff, and sheer determination to help even the most complicated cases like Maui’s.
Another one of our highly skilled vets, Dr Lucy, took over Maui’s case and said she suspected he has vestibular disease. This is a condition characterised by the sudden onset of loss of balance, disorientation, head tilting, and irregular jerking eye movements.
“He’s still head tilting and he’s still a bit wobbly,” Cindy says. “When he’s calm, he seems to be ok but if he sees or smells something interesting, or if there is someone at the door, then he’ll tilt a bit more and that causes him to lose balance.”
Maui is still a bit unsteady on his feet — although a recent CT scan thankfully revealed he hasn’t suffered a brain injury. But when it comes to Maui, one thing is certain: we won’t stop until we’ve figured it out.
Mouth trauma, anxiety, tumors, incontinence, and a mysterious neurological condition — Maui has been through the ringer.
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