I Do Believe in Miracles by Judy Parisi, Editor-in-Chief
I do believe in miracles. My dog Cookie has defied the odds. Despite having numerous serious health problems - including IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), and liver problems -- she has made a comeback. Though confronted with a bleak prognosis and daunting odds, I never gave up hope.
I don't kid myself. My dog still has serious health issues that are incurable and have to be addressed on a daily basis. But over the last year since Cookie was first diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, she and I, along with her vets, waged a fierce battle to turn things around and give her another chance. As I previously detailed in my earlier letter (If Love Alone Could Heal), Cookie's struggles really began about six months before that when she began to show signs of illness with intermittent bouts of diarrhea. As those episodes became more frequent and she wasn't responding to diet change and noninvasive herbal remedies, we began increasing the tests and discovered she had several illnesses. Any one alone would be challenging, but all attacking her body at the same time seemed insurmountable. It was a juggling act of medications to see what would work.
With her weight dropping by two to three pounds a week, her body began to look skeletal. Her stomach was blown up like a balloon. It was a sight that would be horrifying to any pet parent and one that often brought me to tears. I felt like my dog was slipping away -- and she was. Her weight loss hit 23 pounds -- so instead of the strapping 63 pounds, she was 40. The medications made her nauseous and weak. From her muscles atrophying, she couldn't stand without her legs trembling. She couldn't jump and so I’d have to pick her up to put her in the car. At one time, this would have been difficult but now she felt like a featherweight.
At one point Cookie was so weak we couldn’t go on walks. Our big outing was going into the front yard. It was on one of these nightly excursions when we met a little brown dog named Hope. It was winter and chilly at night, even for LA. This particular evening was special for sky gazers. It was early December and an unusual event was happening in the sky – the moon, Venus, and Jupiter would shine brightly and appear to be close together.
So there I was looking up at the sky at this extraordinary celestial event and praying for a miracle when along came a neighbor I’d never met before and this little dog named Hope. And though I'm not always great at remembering names, I remember saying to the newly-met neighbor (whose name I forgot) that I would remember Hope’s name because that’s exactly what we needed right now – Hope. I didn't know it at the time, but that evening would be one I would vividly remember and that would seem to hold unusual significance.
Right around this time Cookie’s vet presented me with a timeline that was unimaginable. She told me maybe three months, but in Cookie's extremely poor condition, it could be much sooner. I don’t know if it was shock or denial, but I simply blurted out – quite adamantly - that that was not an option. I remember she just looked at me, probably taken aback by my declaration. I was determined to give it all I had. I was going to fight for my dog’s life…and nobody and nothing was going to stop me. Not reason, not logic, not plain medical sense. Cookie and I were now engaged in the fight of her life.
There were many sleepless nights -- for both of us. Finally with the help of steroids, her appetite increased. We had five feedings a day...something like 7am, noon, 5pm, 10pm, and 2am. She actually developed a pretty ravenous appetite which eventually brought about a weight gain of two to three pounds a week. Finally we were beating back these insidious illnesses that had taken over her body.
Those were difficult months. And I am thankful to Cookie's main vet, Dr. Rhonda Schulman and the associate vets who assisted, Wyatt (her primary vet tech), and all my friends (Cookie's aunts) who helped and cheered along the way.
Dr. Schulman calls Cookie the "poster child" for all her illnesses. She says she's never seen a dog in Cookie's condition come back like she did. And she adds that no one she works with has either. Today Cookie weighs 60 pounds. After months of thinning fur, her coat looks thick and fluffy again. She can jump, go for long walks, and play with the cats -- one of her favorite pastimes. She's pretty close to what she used to be but then again she is a year older. And in that year we all learned a lot -- about perserverance and hope and never giving up. I'm sure there were times even Cookie doubted she'd ever feel better again. I do believe part of the reason she got better was for me because I was not ready to lose her. Part of me believes it was sheer will -- mine and Cookie's -- that helped us get to where we are today. But then again, there was that little brown dog named Hope.
Cookie and me today.