I’ll take one of each parasite, thanks.

Second in a series of who I am and what this blog is about. I do, indeed, lead a fur-filled life!  With five (at least!) dogs and two cat-dogs. No, I’m not crazy. Well, maybe a little. You get to be the judge. Without further ado, let me introduce you to one of my crew, the cats and dogs I fondly call my fur-children.  


Cold. Alone. Scared. Hungry. Sick. Exhausted. Desperately needing a miracle. That was JoJo, on the night before Thanksgiving, 2008. As Karen and Jack pulled into Karen’s mom’s driveway in rural Arkansas that night, Jack saw a flash of light as the headlights glanced off JoJo’s eyes. “Stop! There’s a dog there!” Karen and Jack are as crazy in love with their dogs as I am, so of course Karen stopped the car. There sat a raggedy-looking dog who was obviously in trouble. Problem was, they couldn’t get close to her because she was so scared. 

They set food and water out for her, and Karen’s brother-in-law, who is a coffee connoisseur, started calling her Starbuck. She had been there for three days, sitting by the mailbox, waiting, watching. I don’t know how, but dogs know things, and I believe that she knew that was the place to stay, to wait for her miracle, to wait for Karen and Jack. By the end of the holiday weekend, they had decided she was coming home with them. After a bit of doggie wrangling, they managed to get her in the tuck. No biting, no fussing, no growling. This was a sweet, gentle dog. 

JoJo in the back seat of Karen and Jack's truck on the way home from Arkansas. November, 2008.

Vet’s diagnosis: sarcoptic mange, hook worms, round worms, tapeworms. Eight months old. And terrified of every human being who comes anywhere near her. Other dogs, though? Loves them! After she got some good food in her, got rid of the worms and stopped itching so much, she was all about playing. Play-play-play!!! And collecting things, especially toys. 

JoJo with her collection of toys at Karen and Jack's house. December, 2008.

Karen and Jack have three middle-aged dogs, two Huskies and one Husky-mix. Suffice to say that JoJo was driving all three of them crazy with her play-play-play philosophy of life. Karen started looking for a rescue group to take her into their program so that she could get adopted. I have two Lab-mix littermates who are about six months older than JoJo, so I thought, “Hey, I could adopt her!” But I’d just had a really bad experience fostering a dog who attacked both of my big dogs and tried to eat both of my cats. I talked to the group I foster for, Hope Humane Society, and they agreed that if things didn’t work out for me to keep JoJo, I could foster her for them and they’d find her a home. But, she couldn’t come home with me yet. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, and the vet recommended that she not be moved until it was completely gone.

 And then there was the issue of her fears. She would let Karen pet her and would sometimes let Jack touch her, but every time I visited her, she wouldn’t come anywhere near me, even for treats. But on New Year’s Day, Karen put a leash on her and she walked right out the door with me and jumped into my car. That night, she crawled up into my lap like she knew that’s where she’d always belonged.

My three Labs are magic together. They wrestle, they play, they sometimes tussle, and they’re always quick to shower me with more love than I know what to do with. JoJo has wrapped us all around her chocolate-brown paws. Well, except that cats. She loves them and wants to play with them. They hate her. But, they’re getting braver about being around her. All was going pretty well in our little world. Until four weeks ago.

Four weeks ago, I learned – the hard way, of course – that one negative heartworm test doesn’t mean a darn thing. Here’s what I know about heartworms now: They have four stages of development. The first stage is killed by heartworm meds. The next two aren’t. The fourth one isn’t, either, but at this stage, they secrete the antigen that the heartworm test detects. At stages 2 and 3, they don’t. At stages 2 and 3, they’re still growing, still lurking around in the bloodstream, making their way to the heart to wreak havoc, completely undetected by tests and completely unaffected by any heartworm preventive medicine. 

So now my Josie-girl is recovering from heartworm treatment. The medicine kills the worms and as they die, the body cleans up the mess. During the cleaning up stage, the patient has to be still, be quiet. She can’t do anything that increases her heart rate. You know, like running, wrestling with her sisters, going for walks, taking an outing at the dog park, or just playing with her favorite tug toy. Because what we don’t want is for one of those dead worms to break loose and go careening into her lungs and cause an embolisim. Still, quiet. She’s almost two years old. She’s a Labrador Retriever. Gimme the sedatives!

We’re four and a half weeks into recovery. Seven and a half more to go. The good news is that she can gradually increase her activity level. Right now, she gets to roam the yard – by herself – for about five minutes at a time about three times a day. Not great fun, but exceedingly more fun than walking on a leash to the pee-and-poop zone and then coming straight back inside, which is what the first three weeks of recovery entailed. She’s still taking sedatives, which sometimes work wonders and sometimes work not at all. I worry. A lot. As my favorite vet tech, Holly, said, “Statistically, her recovery should be a breeze. {pause} But statistics don’t mean anything when it’s your dog on the wrong end of them.”

Oh, her name? Jack and I, both sci-fi fans, agreed that Starbuck was not a fitting name for this girl. While Starbuck is a female in the new Battlestar Gallactica series, the name just didn’t suit her personality. We were discussing names at work, and I mentioned that I loved the idea given to me by a former coworker to give a pet a name she can grow into. Someone piped up and said, “Hey, wasn’t there an ice skater named Starbuck?” Yes! JoJo Starbuck, three-time US pairs champion and two-time Olympian. I remember watching her skate when I was a young girl. JoJo Starbuck was the perfect name for this sweet dog to grow into. Like all my pets, she has a million nicknames. I don’t know why I started calling her Josie-girl, but when I do, it reminds me of my friend from college, Josie Cruz. And I smile. Because I love her. 

JoJo playing with the twins, Ginger and Chassie, and her foster-brother, Geordi.

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6 Responses to I’ll take one of each parasite, thanks.

  1. Victoria Kaak says:

    Sherron: I am really enjoying your blog!

  2. Wen says:

    Oh, what a story! I have my fur babies, too, but no rescue dogs lately. Right now my pet project (pun intended)is to get Rick to let me bring my porch kitty in. He just showed up this winter…we call him Good Boy. even Hannie can pet him, he’s so sweet, but he’s terrified of my dog! They will let us into four-legged Heaven because we can work the can opener!

    • sherronh says:

      Aww…Wen! If you have a feral kitty that your grandbaby can pet, you need to make him a house kitty for sure! My cats aren’t too sure of my dogs, either, but they’re getting there. I think you need to stick with the plan! 🙂

  3. Karen says:

    What a great blog! You remembered a few things I did not. She looks like a completely different dog now. Healthy AND happy. I’m glad to know her recovery is going mostly well. I can’t wait for the day for her to be able to run and play again, as much as she wants!

  4. Darcy says:

    What a beautiful fur-baby! Good luck riding out the last few weeks of treatment. I love the picture of her all cuddled up with her toys.

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