by Adam and Jessica in Rochester, Wa.
This was our baby girl, Shuvee, who we lovingly called Punkin Head. Shuvee was a well-bred Bloodhound and a very promising working dog in search and rescue (SAR) training. She came to us at just over eight weeks old. She left us just shy of two years, at 23 months.
Even as a baby, Shuvee hit the ground running in SAR training, with a drive we could only dream of. She knew every Saturday morning by the pants Adam put on that it was training day. We fed her California Natural Kangaroo dog food at first, then switched her diet to Zignature Kangaroo.
When Shuvee was about a year old, she began dramatically losing weight, falling from a healthy 115 pounds to 96 pounds. We had her in and out of the vet clinic, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. We did everything possible to put weight back on her. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) was definitely not on the radar – never a murmur or any indication her heart was in trouble.
Our SAR team was at an event on a Sunday evening. We got home around 11pm, time for everybody to go to sleep. We have other Bloodhounds, and all of our dogs are crated in our bedroom at night. On this night, though, Shuvee would not lay down. We had recently noticed her hesitance to lay down, but this time was different. Adam took Shuvee to the ER.
At the ER, Adam heard the horrific words we will never forget. Shuvee was in heart failure! Adam was told if he could get Shuvee to the specialist in the next 30 minutes, they could see her. If not, there was nothing they could do. In what was normally a 40-minute drive, Adam and Shuvee made it in just over 25. The team rushed Shuvee to the ICU to stabilize her. About an hour later, the doctor said if Shuvee could make it through the night, she would have a fighting chance.
Shuvee fought through the night. In the morning, the doctor diagnosed Shuvee with DCM. She spent the next 36 hours in the ICU and was released to come home with a slew of medications and instructions – and a grim prognosis of three to six months. The cardiologist said it would be a miracle if Shuvee were still here in six months.
We quickly learned our Shuvee wasn’t going down without a fight. She took her heart medications morning and night on a strict schedule. DCM literally consumed our lives. We lived by Shuvee’s pill, potty, and rest schedule, counting her respiratory rates, watching her sleep, constantly checking on her.
If she was going to fight, so were we!
There was a new normal in our house, and Shuvee was definitely in the driver’s seat.
When she loved, we loved. When she hurt, we hurt. When she was a goofball, we laughed and laughed, soaking up every minute of her joy. She got so happy when the kids or Adam returned home and would yell (baroorooroo!) when she thought they were gone too long.
While Shuvee had a special bond with everyone in the house, she and Jessica became inseparable. She was Jessica’s shadow, best friend, soul sister and foot warmer. When Jes was cooking, Shuvee laid at her feet. When Jes was in the bathroom or shower, Shuvee steadfastly waited at the door. When Shuvee wanted Jessica’s chair, she got it and Jes happily sat on the floor. And instead of being crated at night, Shuvee slept on her blanky on the floor on Jessica’s side of the bed.
Shuvee began putting weight back on. She got back up to a healthy 115 pounds. Then we purchased a new two-story house. Shuvee didn’t take too kindly to the stairs, so Adam carried her up and down at night for bed and potty breaks. She was in heaven.
Shuvee got used to the stairs and her health also continued to improve. At regular vet visits, we would hear, “She’s doing great.” When Shuvee blew past six months, we thought, “Were going to beat this!”
At the 10-month mark, in the wee hours of May 8, 2018, Jessica got up to take our new puppy outside. Shuvee was laying down but awake, and her head was up. Jes asked her if she needed to potty, too. No, she was good.
At 5:30am, Jessica was up as usual to take all of the dogs outside. In this routine, Jes opens the door, calls their names and one by one they head down the stairs. On this fateful morning, Shuvee didn’t move. She had passed in her sleep. We were devastated. Our kids knew when they heard Jessica scream that it was for our Shuvee.
Not a day goes by when we do not talk about Shuvee. She most definitely showed us a new level of love. We lost a beloved family member. The country lost a wonderful, would-be SAR dog. We currently have three Bloodhounds, one of whom is Shuvee’s uncle, and we find comfort in still having part of her with us this way.
Our hearts are with everyone who has to hear those unthinkable words – DCM or heart failure caused by diet. We send our love to every dog still fighting to live, improve, or even see a reversal of heart damage.
We will always be here for those still fighting, and we are spreading the word in hopes of sparing the next dog from this horrible disease.
You will never be forgotten, Punkin Head.