Saturday, September 10, 2011
(Left: Alexia. Right: Rosco. Photo by Miguel Buchwald.)
For Rosco the puppy, last Friday was the second-best day of his life, second only to the day five months ago when he was adopted by Kate McFarland of Oakland and her parents, Rick and Carolyn.
Rosco, a 7-month-old, brown-and-white fluffball with a black button nose and two coal black eyes, was playing with his favorite squeaky toy when the doorbell rang.
In walked his sister Alexia, whom he hadn't seen since they both survived a medical ordeal that shouldn't happen to, well, a dog.
Both dogs jumped for joy. He chased her around the room. Then she chased him around the room. Then they rolled around together and wrestled. Then, totally bushed, they flopped down and curled up together for about five minutes. Then they jumped up and started the whole routine all over again.
This continued non-stop for more than three hours. The puppies were in ecstasy. And so were their owners, watching them.
"When I think of how close both of them came to dying, it's a joy to see them so happy and healthy," said Sandy Buchwald of Vallejo who, with her husband Miguel, adopted Alexia.
Rosco and Alexia were part of a litter that were rescued last March by Paw Prints Rescue in Yuba City after they were abandoned by their mother. The two puppies were so devoted to each other, the staffers at Paw Prints dubbed them "The Twins."
Roscoe was adopted by the McFarlands after they saw his picture online and were instantly smitten. Ditto for Alexia and the Buchwalds. They were headed for happy homes, but it was doubtful that they would ever see each other again.
But a few days later, Rosco developed severe vomiting and diarrhea. His worried owners rushed him to PETS Referral Center in Berkeley, where Dr. Shea Cox, the veterinarian on duty, diagnosed parvovirus, a highly contagious and potentially lethal disease, especially in puppies.
The next day he was feeling better, so he was sent home to continue his recovery. Two hours after he left, another puppy was brought in with the same symptoms.
It was Alexia, and she was even sicker than Rosco. Pneumonia and anemia set in on top of the parvovirus, and she was soon struggling for her life.
The next day, Rosco's condition started deteriorating again, and he returned to the hospital. It was only then that the McFarlands and Buchwalds finally met. They put two and two together and realized that their puppies were littermates.
Dr. Cox put Rosco and Alexia in side-by-side cages in intensive care, hooked them up to IVs, and worked day and night to keep them alive. By now, they were down to less than three pounds.
"I had to stop the vomiting and diarrhea because they were dying of starvation and thirst," she said. "I gave them anti-emetics, antibiotics, sugar and potassium supplements, and plasma transfusions as a protein source. Plasma contains small proteins - not enough to do a big dog any good, but enough for small dogs like them."
But the best medicine of all was each other.
"It was so comforting knowing that Alexia was no longer alone in the isolation ward," said Sandy Buchwald. "I knew that if either of these puppies ever had a chance of fighting this illness off, it would be now, when they could comfort and support each other."
And she was right. After a week of medical treatment and loads of TLC, the puppies were well enough to return to their respective homes.
But they haven't seen each other since then. Alexia had to be spayed, Rosco had to be neutered, and their owners wanted to take time to let the incisions heal for fear that in their unrestrained joy at seeing each other they might tear their stitches.
That waiting period ended last Friday. By now, Rosco has grown to 15 pounds, and Alexia isn't far behind at 13 pounds. They are the picture of health and high spirits.
While the puppies cavorted, their owners compared notes and were amazed to discover how similar their personalities are.
Both love tummy rubs. Both love to chew flip-flops. Both love to ride in cars. Both like to lick the water from their owners' legs when they emerge from the shower.
Both are voracious chowhounds. Both are addicted to their squeaky toys. And both are utterly devoted to their owners - and each other.
About three hours into this play date the doorbell rang again. It was Dr. Cox, who stopped by to say hi to her former patients.
The puppies exploded with joy at seeing her again, and she wiped more than a few tears from her eyes.
""They made it!" she said. "They really did it! They were so weak when I first met them, they couldn't even lift their heads. And now look at them!"
And will there be more play dates in the future?
"Are you kidding?" says Carolyn McFarland. "After all they've been through together? These dogs will never be apart again!"