My friend Bill Jones of Bath Township recently called with heartbreaking news. His small black dog, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, was very ill. Jones thought the poor pup was about to die and he wanted to talk.
I understood his need to reach out to me. Just like Jones, I speak dog. That may sound silly to those of you who don’t understand the bond between a dog and its owner, but most of my readers know there is one special dog that comes into our hearts and will never leave.
After all the dogs Jones and his wife, Kim, have had through the years, Simon is his one dog.
“It’s because he picked me,” Jones explained.
Let me tell you a bit of Simon’s backstory.
The couple were ready for an adventure in 2005, and after seeing the devastation wrought in Louisiana by the hurricane, volunteered online to help the Humane Society of the United States. They picked up their two dogs, P.J. and Jackie, packed up their camper and headed off to see what they could do to help.
While they were en route, they learned the HSUS had already packed up and left town.
They went on to Alabama where they saw a news story that said Best Friends Animal Society was seeking volunteers in Tylertown, Miss., just 70 miles away. One month after Katrina hit, the couple arrived at the Saint Francis Animal Sanctuary and volunteered to help.
“You did everything: administered meds, cleaned up the pens and fed the animals. We even had birthing going on,” said Jones. “There was no Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, it was just night and day.
A month after Jones was put in charge of the small dogs, a sickly, tiny black cockapoo arrived.
The dog had managed to survive two months on his own. What’s more, said Jones, the dog he called Simon managed to survive the aftermath of Katrina while blinded by juvenile cataracts.
“It wasn’t until the second day that I realized he couldn’t see. When that happened, I decided I would spend all my spare time with him. I felt so bad for him,” Jones said.
For the next five days, Jones sat in Simon’s pen, waiting for the dog to come near. On the fifth day, the dog came and sniffed him, turned around a few times and laid down beside him. When Jones put an arm around him, the dog let out a sigh.
It darn near broke his heart, Jones said.
The couple took a weekend break away from what he termed a “war zone” with as many as 700 dogs as well as hundreds of cats and other rescued pets. They returned to a frantic report that Simon hadn’t eaten while they were away.
It was the last time the two were separated. When the couple left the makeshift clinic after three months and headed west for their postponed vacation to Arizona, little Simon was a permanent part of the pack.
Jones knew the dog was suffering from heart worm, as were 90 percent of the Katrina dogs. What he didn’t realize was how bad his tiny body was infested. When he got deathly ill, Jones headed to a clinic to get the dog some help.
Veterinarians in Arizona see little of the malady that was killing the dog but knew that Simon was in the final stages of the disease. They hospitalized the dog and pumped intravenous fluids into him for five days.
“If you want this dog to live, you have to leave Phoenix today or he will die today,” Jones recalled the vet saying.
The couple packed up the camper and headed to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine to get Simon help. En route, the doctor they were traveling to see told them to go home to see what he termed one of the “best animal cardiologists in the country, if not the world,” Dr. Lori Hitchcock at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Copley Township, said Jones. Hitchcock managed to remove most of the worms and gave Simon the inoculations he needed to survive.
“I promised him, that if he lived, I’d have his cataracts removed,” said Jones. The following year, Jones kept his promise and the small dog could see again.
But recently, age and the dog’s early health issues caught up with him. He has been living with congestive heart failure for some time now. Jones knows it’s just a matter of time for Simon, who is now about 14 years old.
But Simon is a survivor and surprised everyone by miraculously recovering from his most recent brush with death.
“He’s had a good run, but when it’s over, it’s going to kill me,” Jones admitted.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to email@example.com.