Love at First Sight
On that thankful day, I went to the pet store to get cat food for Maggie May. Little did I know, I would be going in a second time. It was dog adoption day. When I came out, I had to walk past the pen that was set up – to get to my car of course … no other reason! All the pups were playing and coming to the fence to enchant a passerby to adopt them. And then I saw her – a lone pup just sitting there. It was love at first sight. My heart told me to go in and pet her, but my mind said no more pets. Before I knew it, I was sitting on the ground, petting her. She looked up at me with large, sad, brown eyes. They said she was about 8 weeks old and would be about 40 to 50 pounds. Perfect! Back into the store for the puppy food. On her first vet check-up a week later, I was amazed when they told me she was only 5, maybe 6, weeks old. The vet estimated she could get to 80 pounds. Yup, she did!
Fun in the Sun
Once she settled into our household, she became a happy, crazy dog. She was always getting into mischief. One of the most memorable times was when we put her on a lunge line in the side yard for a change of scenery. From the kitchen, I heard a playful barking sound. I was suspicious. She was barking at a large hole in the ground. Then she ran around, came back to the hole, barked, and pounced. Mud and water sprayed up everywhere. She was soaked and very muddy. The hole was full of water – gushing water! Evidently, her lunge line had wrapped around a sprinkler manifold. She ran. The pipe broke. She played, and I laughed. The look on her face was priceless, and she really was having a great time.
She also loved the sun. She would lay out in it and would sit on the second step in the pool to cool off when she was too hot. I got her a life vest and coaxed her out for a swim. She was in heaven. We swam a lot after that. If she didn’t have the vest on, she would not go past that second step – no way, no how! I guess she knew – water safety first.
‘A Mom Knows’
In the summer of Kaylee Bear’s fourth year, the end of her nose started to get crusty and red. I thought it was sunburn. So did the vet. “Keep her out of the sun,” they said. It would have been easier to tell a duck not to swim. But we tried. Everything else with her seemed fine. Her nose was still pink by winter, but the crust was gone.
Unfortunately, things gradually got worse over the next year. The changes were subtle, but a mom knows. The vet put her on steroids for the visible inflammation in her nose, but she did not tolerate them well. She became depressed and was embarrassed when she had the “accidents” that steroids can cause.
In her sixth year, her whole face became swollen. She had problems breathing too. The vet noticed she had muscle wasting in her skull and along her back. They administered more blood tests and gave her more steroids. All the tests came back negative, so the vet did some research. We came in for a recheck, and the vet diagnosed Kaylee Bear with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that can affect multiple body systems. The best course of action was keeping her out of the sun and keeping her on steroids. (RELATED: My Lupus Story: How Animal Research Saved My Life)
A little over a year later, she let me know it was time. She was in pain. Her kidneys were failing. We went for a walk around our property on that last morning. She still had enough in her to try to chase a rabbit or two, but we both knew it was time for her to cross over the Rainbow Bridge.
I learned a lot from Kaylee Bear. I did not realize how many diseases both humans and our beloved pets can get and how similar the treatments are. For years, veterinary medicine has advanced as progress has been made in animal research. Because of animal research, more treatment options that benefit both pets and humans have been discovered. Many vets are realizing this and looking deeper into symptoms, as my vet did when they made Kaylee Bear’s diagnosis. (ALSO READ HOW MAGGIE MAY HELPED SAVE ELEPHANTS IN AFRICA)
I work in animal research because someday early detection methods, treatment options to increase quality of life, and even cures can be found for lupus and other life-threating diseases for humans and for our beloved fur-babies.
Thank you, Kaylee Bear, for making me laugh from all your craziness and for helping me fully appreciate all the progress I have witnessed in my years as a research animal technician. Rest in peace.
Sandy Hively is an animal technician at Scripps Research. She provided the lovely photos of her pets. Sandy is pictured with Kaylee Bear in the pool, and her daughter is in the featured photo.