Written by Gerald de Witt
In December 2016, my wife, Hester, and I applied to adopt a Spaniel through Spaniel Welfare SA (SWSA). We were excited when our application was approved and we were told about a Spaniel at our local SPCA in urgent need of a home. That’s how Layla came into our lives. But she was just the start of our link with SWSA…
When it’s good to be a failure
A few months ago, Lesley-Ann Marshall from Spaniel Welfare SA contacted us asking if we would be able to foster Oscar and Chloe, two golden Cocker Spaniels booked to fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg where a foster home awaited them. She asked if we could take care of them until the day that they’d be flying to Johannesburg; we agreed gladly.
Lauren Butcher brought them to us… and it was love at first sight. They soon got as comfortable with us as we were with them.
With an impending flight to a foster, we decided on a change of plans: I immediately phoned Lesley-Ann to ask her if we could adopt them. Gratefully she agreed – and we were thrilled.
The worst news ever
Approximately two months later, in mid-June 2017, we noticed that Oscar was not eating his food like he normally did. We monitored him that day, thinking that maybe he had an upset tummy. Later in the afternoon he tried to jump onto the couch but could not get on. Observing that he was in pain, we laid him down with some pillows to make him comfortable.
We contacted Lauren to ask if she knew of a vet we could take him to, explaining that we were going through a tough time and asking if the vet would allow us to pay off the bill if it was a large amount. Lauren was so nice and made arrangements with the vet to open up the hospital and examine Oscar.
Once he’d been examined, we got the worst news ever: Oscar was paralysed in his back section and had no feeling in his hind legs.
It was like I was dead for a few moments hearing those words. The vet said that they could perform surgery for a suspected slipped disc, but it would be very expensive. And the fact that Oscar was an old boy also needed to be taken into consideration. Oscar’s chances were not good.
I was in tears and just waiting for the vet to say that my little boy would have to be put to sleep. But, instead, he said that they’d had cases where they’d rested dogs with this condition by giving them medication to calm them and relieve the pain. He said that we could leave Oscar in the animal hospital, but if he did not show any change within 48 hours, we’d have to consider putting him down to spare him suffering.
Still no change
My wife and I thanked the vet and left with so much sadness in our hearts as we love our fur babies more than anything. We went home and prayed like never before, knowing that Oscar was now in God’s hands. We kept praying and could not sleep.
The following morning, Lauren phoned us to say that she’d been at the animal hospital and that there was no change and Oscar wouldn’t eat. We went to visit him later that day, taking him some fried chicken. As we came in to see him, he went crazy and could not take his eyes off his mommy. He was overjoyed to see us. My wife offered him the chicken – and he ate all of it.
We sat with him for a short while but had to leave again so he could stay calm and rest. The morning after there was still no change. I knew that I’d have to be with him; that I’d have to hold him while they put that needle into him and I thought that he would die in my arms. By this time, we were falling apart.
Specialist care – and plenty of rest
At first, I told Hester that I couldn’t be there when it happened; then I could also not let him die alone amongst strangers, and I realised how much I would let him down by not being there. I’m crying now as I write this. It was not easy at all. Again, I began to think about how much he trusted us, how I needed to be there to calm him and tell him it’s all okay. This was so hard to live through.
I wished that it was rather me than him.
Lauren spoke to the vet as I was just not able to. They arranged for us to take Oscar to a specialist, who examined him and explained that it appeared he had limited feeling in his hind legs. His suggestion was to carry on with the treatment. That was the first piece of good news, but there were still no guarantees that it would work.
Back to the animal hospital Oscar went, where the vet and his staff continued the treatment. We avoided visiting him because he needed to stay calm and he got too excited when he saw us. It really was the hardest thing for us to do.
But we didn’t stop praying. We knew that God could heal him and we left Oscar in God’s hands, knowing that, no matter which way it went, he would be in the best hands ever.
And now for the good news
The next day we received more good news. Oscar could now stand on his hind legs, although he could still not walk. Every day thereafter he improved more and more. We continued to pray – but this time to thank God for hearing our prayers and feeling our hearts.
Finally, it was time to take our Oscar home. While he still wasn’t walking properly, the vet said that he was missing us so much that he couldn’t be kept calm anymore. Being with us now would be the best, but we’d still have to keep him calm.
It’s been about a month now and Oscar is doing so well. My deepest thanks go to God for hearing our prayers, and loving and caring so much for us. I know He loves us all the same – what a wonderful God we serve.
Thanks again to Lesley-Ann, Lauren and Spaniel Welfare SA for all the love, care and dedication in the wonderful work they do. Thank you so much for our precious Spaniels.
Visit Spaniel Welfare SA’s Facebook page to see videos of Oscar’s progress: @SpanielWelfareSA