Rory – A Parvo Story

On June 3rd of last year, Jeremy and I drove up into the Adirondacks in search of a puppy. We’d been together 11 months at that point, and *my* dog Archie had decided, pretty much from the moment that he met Jeremy, that Jeremy was his human and I was chopped liver. It seemed like a good idea to get another dog to even things out a bit.

Seriously, do you see how pleased he looks?

We went to a place that I won’t advertise here, that is known for bringing litters of puppies up to NY from kill shelters in southern states. Sounds great in theory. I wasn’t set on any particular type of dog. I felt very strongly that when we met the right dog, we would just know.

As fate would have it, two puppies were available. One, was, in retrospect, probably already sick, and one was our puppy. I locked eyes on this soulful golden puppy, and knew he was mine. Pictures simply did not and do not do him justice. His coat looked like it had been spun by Ruplestiltskin, and his eyes were that same sparkling pale gold. To me, he looked like a golden Weimaraner. His brother ignored us, and dropped off into a corner to sleep, but this puppy stood on his hind legs, tail wagging furiously, as if to say, “What took you so long to come get me.”

The Golden Puppy

I have had dogs my entire life, and know a good dog when I see one. This puppy had he calmest, most grounded, most generally lovely dog energy I’d ever seen. No puppy frenetic energy. No mouthiness. No distractibility. It was weird. I had the strongest impression that we needed him. And that full grown, he was going to be the sort of dog that people reverentially refer to as good.

So without even thinking about it, we adopted him, and brought him home. On the drive home, Jeremy and I tried to name him. I felt like such an usually beautiful dog needed an unusual name, something like Calyx, or Zephyr. But they weren’t quite right. We started brainstorming characters we liked from books and movies and tv shows, and when we got to Rory, the character from Doctor Who, we knew we’d found the name.

For those who aren’t familiar with Dr. Who’s Rory, he is what you would call salt of the Earth. He’s unfailingly loyal and loving and dependable. And it is that loyalty and love and dependability that allows him to cheat death over and over and over. I realized that this wonderful doggie energy was Rory to a T.

So we had a puppy and we had a name.


One of the shittiest things about divorce is not seeing my boys 100% of the time. The day we got Rory happened to be my son’s 10th birthday, and he and Sam were with their father for the weekend. So we had to wait until Monday to introduce them.

Rory and John

Rory and John hit it off right away. So much for *any* dog being my dog in this house… *sigh*

So Monday June 5th was full of new puppy excitement and bonding.

Then June 6th, Rory threw up. What follows are my facebook status updates.

Tuesday June 6th: Poor Rory ate something that didn’t agree with him and was sick vomiting and shaking with a gurgly tummy, and wasn’t eating or drinking. Of course I freaked, but I called the vet and they said it was probably something he ate and to give it overnight to see if he started feeling better…

...which I heard as “let the puppy sleep in your bed so he won’t be sad and scared and will get better faster…”

It must’ve worked because he slept through the night and had some canned chicken and broth this morning!

Wednesday he wasn’t throwing up or sick to his stomach, but he was listless, and didn’t engage with me at all when I came home at lunch. His eyes looked glassy and he wasn’t making eye contact. I called the vet and made an appointment for him for after work. Something just seemed wrong. I had had puppies before, and something in my gut told me that he wasn’t doing well. With what, I had no idea. But I was a nervous wreck all day until I could get home and get him into the vet’s office.

We took him to the vet, who the minute she heard where he came from, ordered a Parvo test. It came back positive.

When I was three or four my aunt and uncle got a German Shepherd puppy who had Parvo. I remember my mom taking my to visit her in the vet hospital because we thought she was going to die. I remember we let her lick ice cubes, and she looked like complete and utter hell. Miraculously, she survived and lived a long, happy life. But the memory stuck with me. I knew Rory was seriously ill, and I knew this was going to be one seriously expensive vet bill. But I was also a little in denial that he was gravely ill, because he wasn’t vomiting and didn’t have diarrhea, so I assumed it was a mild case. You know what they say about assumptions…

Tuesday June 6th: Poor Rory is at the vet hospital 

😦 Turns out he has PARVO. Please send your prayers, healing mojo, good thoughts, etc that he recovers quickly.

Wednesday June 7th: No word from the vet. But imagine the absolute heartbreak of explaining to your kids who come over expecting a happy puppy day, that their puppy is gravely ill and may not be coming home.

Thursday June 8th: Update from the vet: Rory has bloody diarrhea and the goal today is to get some food in his stomach whether voluntarily or through a feeding tube. 

Then later in the day…

Latest vet update: Rory is responding to treatment. Diarrhea almost over. They’re putting in a feeding tube because the sooner his gut gets nourishment the faster it’ll heal. She sounded much more optimistic about his prognosis and said he absolutely is holding his own and has not lost ground.

In dealing with the rescue organization, I would say that while I really respect and admire what they’re trying to do, DO NOT expect to get a healthy puppy there. They are aware of Rory’s parvo and are trying to deflect responsibility for his infection on something we did… claiming his adopted brothers are all fine, meanwhile keeping their shelter open and continuing to adopt out puppies that were parvo exposed to unsuspecting families. Read up on the steps necessary to remove parvo virus from your house and yard. It lives in soil for years! ( I actually sprayed down my backyard with a water/bleach mixture and was told by the vet that even doing that, it wasn’t safe to have an unvaccinated puppy there for at least a year!)

Plus, they have asked us repeatedly to pull Rory out of the vet HOSPITAL and be seen by their vet (who incidentally lives in Bennington Vermont and only comes to them intermittently AND handles all their incoming puppies). Um… no. A thousand million times no.

Thursday June 9th: Ugh… talked to the vet this am. The bad news is that Rory’s white blood count is at 1040 and anything below 1000 is associated with unfavorable outcomes. He’s also still vomiting with diarrhea, but the vet said that’s not unexpected.

The good news is that Rory is alert and responsive, which is associated with good outcomes. He’s been put on a different antibiotic. He’s keeping the food being tube fed to him down. And the vet is optimistic that based on all of that today might be as low as his white blood count gets and it should begin to go up tomorrow.

So we wait… and bleach the house…

Friday June 10th: Poor Rory. He’s stable, quiet but alert and making some small improvement – no diarrhea but is still spitting up and drooling- his white blood cell count is at 600. The outcome below 1000 isn’t wonderful, so he’s going to have a plasma transplant today. The vet is hopeful that it will really help him. God I hope so. I feel sick. Our poor puppy. 

Later that day: Rory made it through the transfusion without any adverse reactions. Anecdotally they say they have seen huge improvements in lots of dogs after plasma, so hopefully in the next 12-24 hours he’ll turn a corner. Seems like the stomach issues are minimal now, so I’m hopeful that he won’t have to fight so hard to fight the virus and can use his limited resources to start healing.

Saturday June 11th: Finally a good Rory update! The plasma transfusion worked and the vet is very pleased with his numbers. Still some tummy issues but they’re going to start syringe feeding tomorrow.

The vet says everyone at the office thinks he’s awesome and he’s getting lots of love from everyone. His long-term prognosis is much more positive but still no talk of when he can come home.

*does happy dance anyway*

Sunday June 12th: The update on Rory today: his white blood cell count continues to go up (thank God!) But he was still vomiting and is still weak. They think maybe the gastric tube could be causing the vomiting, so they’re going to switch it out for syringe feeding and see how it goes. He can come home when he’s able to eat again.

Later that day: Latest Rory update: the first syringe food they tried he couldn’t keep down, but he IS keeping pedialyte down!!!! Making progress!

Monday June 13th: Today’s Rory update: the word from the vet’s office is that Rory kept all the pedialyte down last night!!! He was much brighter today, able to lift his head, took it eagerly, even wagged his tail. They’re really pleased and happy with his progress and going to try solids tomorrow.

As awesome as this it, you can’t know how much it pisses me off that through pure human greed/stupidity/cruelty my puppy is/was SO sick that drinking pedialyte and lifting his head up are considered good news and signs of encouragement. 

Later that day: Afternoon Rory update: the vet says he’s not out the woods yet but seems to have turned a corner. He’s tolerating the pedialyte and is sitting up now and looking happy to see people when they visit. He’s making incremental improvement, but she said coming home even by Saturday is optimistic. This was a SEVERE parvo infection and he’s still got a long way to go. We’ve racked up a $1600 vet bill so far.

Apparently the rescue group keeps calling to check on him but since we didn’t authorize them to talk to the vet they haven’t been told anything. And in an uncharacteristic gesture the vet had *never* seen before, they credited our adoption fee to his medical bill. (This does not make me like them any more, but it’s something and I was expecting nothing.)

Tuesday June 14th: Guess who ate solid food today, no longer has an iv, and will probably come home tomorrow?????

Wednesday June 15th Rory came home

Sick puppy

He was home, but honestly, I’ve never been so frightened that something might drop dead at any moment on me than I was when I saw him. We brought him home in a cat crate and there was just no life in him. The vets were all like, “He’s doing great!” And I was thinking, “OH my god… if this is great, how bad was it when you said it was bad?”

Emaciated is an understatement. As was our bank account, hit with a whopping $2100 vet bill (which I suspect was heavily discounted because 8 days in veterinary icu is not cheap). Rory was too weak to stand, nearly too weak to lift his head, and had no energy at all. I stuck him in a dog bed, wrapped him in a blanket, and carried him room to room wherever I was. I also slept with him in the bed right beside me, because I felt like at this point he needed to know what he’d been fighting for. I promised him, he was going to grow up and live his best doggie life when he got well.

I learned that this particular rescue group is a notorious parvo factory. According to someone in the media I spoke to, Rory was the 11th (!!!!!!!) case of parvo he’d heard about coming from that organization THAT SPRING! My vet said they have begged and pleaded with this group to take steps to do parvo abatement (because it lives in the soil beneath the runs where they continually put new litters of puppies, and it can be transmitted through a puppy’s nose who sniffs the infected soil. What puppy doesn’t sniff everything?) and this group won’t do it because it would be too costly. So they are saving puppies from a kill shelter’s gas chambers to suffer from (and unfortunately, die) from the dog equivalent of Ebola… I’m still enraged just thinking about it.

June 16th: Well, I think crate training isn’t going to be happening any time soon… After 8 days in a cage in a vet’s office, Rory has no interest in ever going back in any kind of metal box. He’ll sleep in a dog bed on the couch with a duvet over him, thank you very much.

I have been up with him every few hours all night. He’s overhydrated from the iv and peeing a lot, and I’m feeding him a couple teaspoons of baby food meat (mixed with a little plain yogurt) every couple of hours.

When he first came home he seemed so out of it and I don’t think he had a clue who we were. He just looked lost.

At some point last night I think the lights flickered back on, he remembered us, and the layout of the house, and his favorite spots. Now he is using his energy to explore and play a little and seems a little steadier on his feet now.

June 17th: Rory had a rough night. He had a couple of exorcist-like bouts of vomiting and is much weaker than he was before the vomiting, although he is willing to eat and drink water (which he wouldn’t do yesterday). Yesterday I’d been feeding him roasted chicken and hamburger (per the doctor) but I’ve gone back to baby food since his stomach is still raw. He’s very hungry with no energy and is struggling to stand this morning. It’s really hard to not feed him all he’ll eat or just stop at a few tablespoons and spread them out throughout the day.

He whined all night at me (hound dog speak for I dont feel good, mom) and seemed to feel better if I was touching him. So I kept a hand on him all night.

My poor baby has a long road to recovery ahead of him and this just sucks.

But after this last horrible day, he finally turned a corner. Soon he was back to his old self.

June 19th Rory is ruined. He gets rotisserie chicken, ground beef, and steak (doctors orders) and now when we try to feed him dog food he looks at us like “are you kidding me right now”.

Round the clock care and crate trauma means he thinks he *has* to sleep with us.

That he has to be carried around the house.

We went to petco to get him some canned dog food and I found a cute teething toy for him. Conversation with Jeremy:

Me: “Is $9.99 a ridiculous amount to pay for a dog toy?”

Jeremy: “Everything about that dog is ridiculous. So why not?”

Rory today
He and John are always together
My beautiful golden dog

This is Rory today. A year old, a year stronger, and a good dog living his best life.