Rescue Dog Sherman & the Torture of Heartworm+

Sherman is the sweetest Belgian Malinois I have ever met. He is currently in the care of American Belgian Malinois Rescue (ABMR) and will likely spend his remaining years in their care as well. The rescue found him in a shelter in Florida where he was likely found as a stray before he made his way to the pound. 

Before they could pull him from the shelter, they needed to secure a foster to take him in. Little did Sherman know, that would send him on a trip across several states and into a completely different climate. The foster available to take him was in Grand Ledge, MI….. but before he could make the trip, he needed to get well enough to travel. You see, Sherman is heartworm positive, he has a grade 4 heart murmur, an enlarged spleen and when he was pulled from the shelter he was ~20 pounds underweight. His initial Florida foster was able to put some weight on him and get him well enough to travel to his permanent foster in Michigan, but unfortunately they were unable to do any treatment for the heartworm. Sherman’s compounded health issues make him ineligible for heartworm treatment which also lowers his life expectancy.

Let’s talk about that for a minute…..There’s heartworm PREVENTATIVE and heartworm TREATMENT for those who don’t know. The heartworm preventative is something you give your dog monthly to prevent them from contracting heartworm. The actual treatment once they have heartworm is a different medicine and much more complicated.

The heartworm, once contracted, live primarily in the right side of the heart, and in the nearby large blood vessels. The female worms produce large numbers of immature heartworms which circulate in the blood.

The microfilaria (baby heartworms) are ingested by a mosquito biting an infected dog. After living in the mosquito, the microfilaria is injected into another dog when the mosquito feeds. It takes about six months for the heartworm to reach adulthood after infecting the dog. If you have your dog on heartworm preventative, it is very unlikely the microfilaria will survive and therefore preventing the disease.

If heartworm is not prevented, a great deal of damage can occur before any obvious signs of heartworm are even noticed. Delayed treatment may result in heart failure and/or permanent damage to the liver, lungs, and kidneys with eventual death.

Treatment for heartworm disease consists of a series of injections, based on the dogs weight, that will kill off the adult worms. The dog may be required to stay in a hospital for several days after the injections as reactions to the medication are extremely common and range in severity. Dogs receiving treatment also need to be kept on crate rest to prevent the dead worms from breaking off and causing heart attacks, strokes and could also float to the lungs and cause damage.

Back to Sherman, he is not able to receive the treatment for heartworm because he is already in bad shape and the actual treatment may be too much for him where he may not survive the injection. ABMR is taking the approach  to “prevent” new microfilaria by giving him monthly heartworm preventative in hopes it will prolong his life and stop the progression of heartworm disease.

Because of his severe health issues, Sherman will not be able to be adopted out and is considered a hospice foster dog in the care of the rescue. He will live out his senior life in the care of ABMR and his foster mom, Robin.

Since arriving in Michigan, Sherman’s foster noticed his fur was thin and equipped him with a couple of jackets and boots to keep him warm in the harsh Michigan winter climate. He’s gained another 10 pounds in Robin’s care and has gained considerable energy. She says he is sweet as sugar and perfectly content to just sleep most of the time on one of the five big dog beds that litter her floor. He is totally unassuming and doesn’t ask for much.

Along with his laundry list of ailments, his ears have a bunch of little hematomas in them and don’t stand up anymore so he doesn’t always look like a normal Malinois, but he doesn’t seem to care. Sherman also has arthritis.

Now that he is also on medications for arthritis, he is feeling so much better and is reported to even “trot” around the yard. The medications and a happy home have absolutely improved his quality of life.

This leads me to another side commentary…. Senior dogs. Whether they are dropped off at the shelter, left with rescues or just released into the world, there are some individuals, that instead of seeking better care for their senior dogs, they let them go- into the responsibilities of others. These dogs are most of the time perfectly wonderful dogs with nothing wrong other than their joints hurting them a little and their bodies moving a little slower. While these senior dogs could have more health issues than this, regardless of their health status, these animals need to find care within rescues and for these rescues it is usually allowing them to live out their lives in foster care.

For these rescues, this means sometimes extensive medical treatment and costs that they will not recoup without donations. These senior dogs are able to live their golden years in amazing care and the rescues foot the entire bill.

For those in Michigan, I want to highlight a couple rescues I know of that take in senior dogs with the anticipation they will not leave their care….

Silver Muzzle Cottage – rescue and hospice for homeless senior dogs.

3785 Rice Rd NW, Rapid City, MI 49676 (231) 264-8408

https://silvermuzzlecottage.com/

Donate: https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/112574644767835624/charity/143495

Joanie’s Place- Senior Dog Sanctuary Linden, MI (248) 982-8602

https://www.facebook.com/joanniesplace/

Donate: http://www.paypal.me/SSAA2018?fbclid=IwAR3GvFvXg51dkwMpygW1st73QaVxCMJTXrdgBrG8iTD4QpJcLB2vhcas_fg (Joanie’s place is supported through Stepping Stones)

Canine Companions Rescue Center

PO Box 1017, Clarkston, MI 48347 (248) 834-9419

https://www.ccrcdogs.com/

Donate: https://www.ccrcdogs.com/ongoing-fundraisers.html

As stated above, American Belgian Malinois Rescue will take senior Belgian Malinois dogs on long term hold as do many breed specific rescues. Please consider their group as well for donations.

American Belgian Malinois Rescue

PO Box 847 Stevens Point, WI 54481 abmr.rescue@gmail.com

https://www.malinoisrescue.org/

Donate: https://www.malinoisrescue.org/info/donate

Canine Advocacy Program

I’m always asked about how much I love my job and I won’t disagree, it’s a great job to have. If you love animals, it’s an amazing job. While spending my days with people’s pets is amazing, there are other aspects to this work that make it even more phenomenal.

I volunteer. A lot. AND I LOVE IT.

Through this volunteer work, I’m able to meet so many amazing people that work for little to no pay and they do it either to help animals or help people through animals and pets. I spent a little bit of time with one of these groups and I can’t get them out of my mind.

Dan with the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP) met me at the Oakland County District Court Building in Troy, MI to introduce me to two working dogs that he has helped to train. These dogs, through the program he helped to create, are trained to assist child victims who are being called as witnesses to testify. Are you crying yet? I’ll mail you some tissue. After meeting this bunch, I had to stop at Costco and stock up on my lifetime supply of Kleenex just to get me through the photo edits.

Freida smiling knowing she is doing good work.

While CAP has dogs in Metro-Detroit, Dan explained to me he has 30 dogs working all over the state of Michigan including two in the Upper Peninsula. He has trained 35 dogs and would love to expand the program and send more pups out to courtrooms that allow dog advocates.

We were able to meet in Troy, MI at the Oakland County 52-4 District Court in the courtroom of the Honorable Kirsten Nielsen Hartig. Judge Hartig allows these type of canine programs in her court and is an incredibly enthusiastic dog lover.

\Judge Hartig with two CAP dogs, Freida and Lance

While these children are prepping for their testimony, someone from CAP introduces them to “their” dog for the day and gives them instructions on how this pup will assist them through the process. They are given some time to get to know the dog and instantaneously a bond is formed. The canine advocate then accompanies the youth to the witness stand and sits with them to ease their anxiety and any tension they may have. This is especially important for those kids that are confronting abusers and perpetrators that have in some way hurt them.

All of the dogs entering into this program are from Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills. The dogs that were not selected for assisting blind humans at Leader Dogs are typically found other homes and potentially positions that would still have them “working” like they are with CAP.

I wanted to share with you the amazing things humans are doing with the assistance of our pet friends to not only help others, but especially to help those that are the most vulnerable…. children.

If you would like to learn more about this Non-Profit, please visit their website at https://www.capmich.org. They are accepting donations to further assist in expanding and training new dogs.