Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 29, 2018

Camp Fire: More Notes from a Disaster Area

Posted at 10:38AM - Comments: (33)

On Thanksgiving Day last week, we were most grateful for RAIN. The first day of precipitation helped the firefighters to completely “contain” (form a containment line around) the still-burning fire.

Life won’t be the same for a long, long time in this county. The death toll (88 as of this writing, and counting) is staggering, the number of missing people is still high, the number of homes burned (nearly 14,000) is unprecedented, and many of the businesses in the towns that burned won’t be able to recover.

Camp Fire Notes #1

Camp Fire Notes #2

Given that this is a rural area, the impact on the large animal population was quite severe. Many animals, wild and domestic, small and large, were killed in the fire.  Quite a few pets were saved by their owners in the mass evacuation, and many more were saved by first responders of all kinds: firefighters, police, and even utility workers. Three weeks later, animal rescue teams are still finding, catching, and evacuating animals from the fire zone. Where possible, some animals are being “sheltered in place” and provided with food and water by volunteer feeding teams.

Tens of thousands of people and animals have been affected by the fire, and thousands of people are helping those displaced. Several emergency shelters were hastily set up to contain pets. Some of the pets were left at the shelters by owners who were themselves homeless and staying in shelters; many more were rescued and brought to the shelters with either an address or rough estimate of where they had been rescued from.

The good news: The animals were alive, rescued from the fire, starvation, and lack of shelter. The bad news: Conditions in the emergency shelters are crowded and stressful. All of the animals are being kept in wire cages– you know, the kind of wire crate that folds flat when not in use. There are no kennels or runs for the dogs; the cats barely have room for themselves, their litter pans, and food and water bowls. Despite an army of volunteers arriving throughout the day to walk dogs (and clean cages and bowls, and feed and water), there are so many animals being held in these “temporary” shelters that the dogs are not getting out of those cramped cages for more than 20 minutes or so a day (and of course, the cats don’t get out of their cages at all). And we’re going on three weeks of this, with no end in sight for many of the animals.

Why? Because some of the animals’ owners are deceased or at least missing. Some animals’ owners are staying in shelters or hotels (or campgrounds or in their cars) where they can’t have their pets. Many animals have not yet been identified by their owners for any number of reasons.

Hundreds of burned animals (mostly cats) were transported to quite a number of veterinary clinics and shelters whose managers were willing to take on the care of these unfortunate victims. Again, this is great, because the animals are alive and receiving much better care than they would in the emergency shelters, but their distance from the area makes it that much more difficult for owners who have lots of other basic survival challenges now to track them down and get them back.

When I first heard about van-loads of injured animals being transported out of the area, I was beside myself; all I could think of was how distraught I would be if I could not immediately find my injured pet after a catastrophe. But a friend who was on the front lines of animal rescue following the gigantic Tubbs Fire in Sonoma and Napa Counties last year checked my outrage with a sobering fact: Many of the animals rescued from that fire were never claimed by their owners, and many were held for months by animal control agencies before ultimately being put up for adoption.

Here in Butte County, we have several times the number of rescued/evacuated animals from the 2017 Tubbs Fire being housed in temporary shelters and being cared for by volunteers. I just don’t know how long this effort can be maintained. It rends the hearts of all the volunteers.

mange puppies in fleece coats

I have electric heating pads in their indoor doghouse, but I'm also having them wear these soft, comfortable, and easily washed/dried fleece coats from Gold Paw Series. The coats definitely reduced their shivering (even indoors!) and will help them put their calories to work healing their bodies instead of keeping them warm.

A More Ordinary Animal Emergency, Still Tragic

After volunteering for hours every day for a week, I was in this emotionally bruised state when I answered a different call for volunteers, issued by the shelter where I usually volunteer.

The Northwest SPCA is the open-admission shelter that serves all the unincorporated areas in Butte County and the city of Oroville, where I live. The shelter was serving as a collection site for donations of pet food, towels, blankets, and other supplies, and the piles of donated goods quickly overflowed the shelter’s storage space.

mange puppies

Great friend and dog expert Leonora has been helping me bathe and love these mangey pups.

Some shipping containers were ordered and delivered to the shelter about 12 hours before rain was forecast to begin – on the day before Thanksgiving – but volunteers were needed to sort through the donations and help move them to and neatly stack them in the shipping containers: Dog food and cat food in one (separated by canned and dry, adult and puppy/kitten), and bedding in the other (separated by towels, sheets, blankets, and pet beds). My husband and I and some friends worked at this task well into the night.

Afterward, I entered the shelter to use the restroom – and that’s when I saw the most pathetic bunch of puppies I have ever seen in my life. Seven emaciated, nearly hairless puppies with skin like raw hamburger huddled in a pet bed in a kennel, staring blankly up at me. I was frozen in place; I could not believe what I was seeing – or smelling. They absolutely reeked like yeast, just seared with skin infections. I asked one of the shelter workers (who was there working incredibly late), “What the…?”

“Oh gosh, aren’t they just sad? Someone found them in a field and brought them in last night,” I was told. “Tomorrow we’ll get a skin scraping and find out what sort of mange they have.”

“And what then?” I asked. What I know about mange could fit in a teaspoon.

“Well…” the shelter worker reluctantly told me, “if it’s one kind of mange, they will get treated for it. If it’s the other…” She shrugged.

I didn’t know this before, but like many open-admission shelters, particularly in an economically impoverished area, my shelter often euthanizes dogs who come in, like these puppies, with severe, all-body mange caused by Demodex canis, a type of mite. That’s because treatment for the condition can often take a lot of time and health complications can arise. In a home setting, treatment is quicker and more successful; in the stressful environment of a shelter, it can take far longer for the dog to recover completely and regrow his coat.

Of course, the mange these puppies had turned out to be demodectic. And of course, despite my vows to abstain from any further fostering for a few months, I had to take the puppies home. I just could NOT live with myself if I allowed their lives to end after such a short and miserable span when I knew I could do something, anything, to help them. Those blank little faces and that angry-looking skin just haunted me – and I was afraid that with all the focus on the fire victims and evacuated pets, and the shelter short-staffed as they were pulled into the rescue and emergency animal-housing efforts, the pups had no other chance.

carpal hyperflexion in manged puppy

It is hard to sort out how much of their hunched posture and plantigrade stance is tense discomfort and how much is carpal hyperflexion caused by malnutrition. Hopefully, both conditions will resolve with time, nutrition, and foster care.

So, for the past week, while I’ve been trying to finish work on the January issue of WDJ, I’ve been caring for this sad little litter of who-knows-what puppies. (It’s surprisingly hard to guess the breed of pups who lack hair.) Their infections are obviously linked to immune system failure, at least in part due to their malnutrition. They are skinny and yet bloated, and half of them have what’s called “carpal hyperextension” – a weakness of the carpal joints causing them to walk on their “wrists” rather than their feet, which is, we hope, a temporary condition that will improve with a good diet and better health.

But they are so depleted and weak. The largest pup in the litter, who is also the one with the most hair, is the only one who wags his tail and gets out of their bed to greet me; the rest will get up to eat, drink, and potty, and then they go right back into the bed and curl up, miserable.

I took them to a veterinary clinic and got medicine to treat the demodex mites, as well as an antibiotic and an antifungal medication to treat their skin infections. Several days into those medications, we had to abruptly stop those medicines and switch to a different antibiotic to treat the kennel cough they picked up at the shelter. The kennel cough made them feel crappy enough to lose their appetites, and I was beside myself trying to get them to eat something, anything.

manged puppy

The puppies were examined and given a dewormer before I took them home to foster them.

And then the worst thing happened: The smallest, sickest puppy just tanked. On Sunday night, she would neither eat nor drink. Before dawn the next morning, she vomited and then had a bloody stool. I took her to the shelter, and the shelter’s vet tech ran a test for parvovirus – and the test was positive.

Puppies can be pulled through a parvo infection with aggressive supportive care, but this puppy was so weak, and had so many health challenges. The vet tech was sympathetic but grim. I was heartbroken, but didn’t want her to suffer any longer, with just a poor prognosis and no indication she had the strength to fight. She was euthanized, and I went home to both cry and redouble my efforts to get the rest of the puppies to eat.  Since the whole litter was probably exposed to parvovirus – the part of town where they were found is historically rife with parvo cases – all I can do is try to keep them warm, fed, and unstressed, and pray that their immune systems do what immune systems are supposed to do, and that the virus doesn’t get the upper hand with any of the rest.

So I’m a little behind at work, and with the formidable job of keeping these guys warm, clean, medicated, and fed, I’m not able to help at the emergency shelters – at least not until the next issue is at the printer and the puppies are out of the woods. As I write this, three of the pups now feel well enough to play, and the other three remaining pups are starting to show an interest in playing. It’s a start; I’ll take it. Keep them (and all the rest of the souls displaced by this disaster) in your thoughts, won’t you?

If you would you like to support the efforts of the animal rescue and emergency sheltering of the animals evacuated from the Camp Fire, donations are gladly accepted by the North Valley Animal Disaster Group.

Here is a linkif you would like to contribute to the medical fund for the sick puppies (or go directly to www.nwspca.org and click on the donate button).

Comments (33)

I would like to donate specifically to the puppies. The link opens a PayPal page which states "Your session is invalid or expired." Is there another way to locate the donation page from the PayPal site? Alternatively, is there another way to donate to the puppies, such as a sending a check?

Posted by: ggbanks | December 5, 2018 9:27 PM    Report this comment

Thought you might like to know about this if you don't already:
"Seacure from Proper Nutrition" helps with many conditions and also helps with appetite. I recently got some online in 2 days. I have used it with cats and family members who had chemo treatment, and also have taken it myself for food poisoning with wonderful results in all cases. It can be given as capsule if they don't like the taste/smell of the powder, but most animals do. They even have a pet product series, as well as "the science" link on their website, explaining the benefits. So many illnesses make animals a little (or a lot) queasy and this is really great for that. And the website says it is also good for wound healing. Best wishes and appreciation for taking care of the babies.

Posted by: Laurie in Portland | December 2, 2018 4:20 PM    Report this comment

Oh my goodness! You are such an angel. I found 2 puppies with demodex and they weren’t nearly as sick as these guys. It still took my “Baby Loves” a long time to get well. I know you have been getting lots of advice, so I’ll add mine. After all the ivermectin etc what really helped mygirls was topical “Cedarcide”. It’s cedar oil and seems to work very well without a lot/or anyside effects in our dogs. Feel free to pm meand I’ll send you a gallon. Take care and i hope these guys pull through.

Posted by: Flaquita | December 1, 2018 5:12 PM    Report this comment

Ah, you guys! You kill me with your generosity! The NWSPCA reports that they are receiving donations specifically targeted to the puppies, and all I can say is thank you, and thank goodness! My only concern when I took them on was the fact that I depleted my bank account so much with the LAST litter of pups (including two weeks of Immodium and Pedialyte and cases of canned pumpkin and paper towels!), that I wouldn't be able to get them as much veterinary attention as I would have liked...and then, two days in, with them starting to sink, I took them to the emergency vet anyway. It was one of those, "Oh well, life is short, I will pay the bill somehow" moments that most of us pet owners are familiar with. And I hate to ask the shelter to pick up a vet bill for animals that they might not have thought it was a good idea to try to save... But happily, you guys have made it possible for me to be reimbursed for that bill AND the shelter mgt. has given the happy ok to take them back to the vet any time they might need it.

I'm sorry that the donation button continues to cause trouble. The shelter web master has been in contact with Paypal but they can't seem to figure out the problem. Some donations are coming through without a problem. I tried it myself (donated a dollar!) and it went through.

RE: The suggestion to try them with bone broth. YES! My sister is a chef in town, and SHE has been volunteering with feeding *human* refugees from the fire. She roasted 40 turkeys on Thanksgiving! -- and saved me a bunch of turkey, and gave me two gallons of broth that is so bone-rich it turns to jelly when refrigerated. I have been using it to soak their dry food and it really did pique their appetites. I haven't had to resort to the Stella and Chewy's to get them to eat for two whole days! :)

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | December 1, 2018 2:32 PM    Report this comment

I get an error message when I click on the space to donate to the puppies. I'd like to donate specifically for the puppies.

Posted by: Rottiegirl | December 1, 2018 8:04 AM    Report this comment

This made me so very sad. You are such an amazing person to give so much of your time, love and commitment to all the lucky dogs. I always love reading all your articles and I hope that writing helps heal some of your heartache.

Posted by: lindasig | November 30, 2018 5:25 PM    Report this comment

How about home prepared bone broth for the puppies? It's warm, noursihing and full of immune boosting benefits. Even a puppy who doesn't feel like eating will usually lap up a bowl of broth.
You are an angel on earth. Thank you for your compassion!

Posted by: Girlinoregon | November 30, 2018 4:26 PM    Report this comment

Thank you so much for your compassion and caring for these poor innocent babies. I know all too well that sinking feeling when you are overwhelmed, but know you just have to take on the care of an animal in need. If anyone needs an savior it is these poor pups! Just made a donation - will be rooting for the little angels.

Posted by: dmar | November 30, 2018 7:30 AM    Report this comment

great job and all i can say is please dont do anything with wdj etc and just focus on the pups - no one should care one bit about when an issue comes out. i just tried one of the links to make a donation and no luck, it was asking me to set up money into my own account, but would be happy to donate

Posted by: kmartin | November 30, 2018 1:44 AM    Report this comment

I made it to the part where you lost the pup and started quietly crying. My Auskie (Aussie/husky mix) popped her head up from the other side of the ottoman and cocked her head at me. Then she came over and crawled up in my lap and let me cuddle her and cry. My husky watched for a bit and went back to sleep assured that she had taken care of things but he stayed close. I've never cried in front of them I guess. After cuddling for awhile I finished the article and cried some more. I am so grateful for all you do for these sweet vulnerable little ones. For all the dogs you care for with such dedication. I will try the link again tomorrow and see if it works for me then because I think you're going to need a boost to help pay the medical bills for these pups.

Posted by: sharchas | November 29, 2018 10:58 PM    Report this comment

There is a special place in heaven for you. Your boundless compassion takes my breath away.

Posted by: CMS | November 29, 2018 8:35 PM    Report this comment

The PayPal link is still not working... if I donate to nwspca.org, will the funds go towards caring for these pups? Also... will you, or the shelter, be the ones doing adoptions for them once they are well?

Posted by: EileenB | November 29, 2018 8:12 PM    Report this comment

You are a legend Nancy, I have the utmost respect for you and all you do. I will be keeping you all in my thoughts and sending all the positive and healing thoughts possible from Australia. XxXoOo

Posted by: Chi Mum | November 29, 2018 8:11 PM    Report this comment

One more update: The web manager at the NWSPCA reports that the problem seems to be on Paypal's end. They received one donation early this morning, then nothing until 1 pm, and then a flurry right after that. So it's working now! Thanks again for your support!

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | November 29, 2018 8:06 PM    Report this comment

Your job as editor for WDJ has been more than just a job. You truly fight for the health and well being of animals. You're a caring person and I feel as if I know you and regard you as a dear friend when I read your editorials.

Posted by: StarryNight | November 29, 2018 7:11 PM    Report this comment

You are truly amazing! I've dealt with both mange and parvo ( in different pups), and it is a lot of work to get them back to health. I'm so glad they have you!

Posted by: vwvw | November 29, 2018 6:18 PM    Report this comment

I was able to donate online with no problem.
Thank you, Nancy for all your hard work and loving care of those sweet puppies. Just awful what they've been through! Awful what you've been through too. Looking forward to more updates on the pups and I, personally, would understand if you just took a break for a month on the journal. You are one exceptional lady!

Posted by: kmajor | November 29, 2018 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, you are a good egg!

Posted by: KimDK | November 29, 2018 4:47 PM    Report this comment

dante_lanzetta: ARGH! I'm so sorry it's not working, and for the frustration. I'm passing along your experience to the web manager at the NWSPCA. I don't know WHAT the problem is! A check sent to its address (also on its home page) might be a better alternative at this moment, but I will keep pressing the web manager to figure out what's what! Thank you for trying!

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | November 29, 2018 4:31 PM    Report this comment

I agree, bless you for caring about those poor pups. Obviously someone else did not.

Posted by: Elmer_Fudd | November 29, 2018 4:21 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, you're incredible... and it's a thankless job. I volunteer with Emergency Communications here on Vancouver Island, and we prepare as best we can for such events. Thankfully, we have CDART, Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team, who put in all the training to help us up here - but few people remember them when there is no catastrophe. These organizations need our support so they can help support people like Nancy... Thank you for all that you're doing.

Posted by: svpaparumba | November 29, 2018 4:06 PM    Report this comment

I too cannot get your donation link to work. It DOES send me to PayPal, which only tells me my donation is already complete. Trust me: I didn't even start it. The NWSPCA link doesn't take me anywhere specific to help with the care of these puppies. I have yet to donate for relief for the people or the animals devastated by the Camp fire, but I'd like to help you keep as many of these guys alive as possible. Are you able to raise funds via Cuddly (formerly PoundWishes)?

Posted by: dante_lanzetta@sbcglobal.net | November 29, 2018 3:54 PM    Report this comment

Ah, just reading this and seeing the pictures made me tear up and want to just quit my job and race down there to help these poor puppies! Thank goodness someone found them and brought them in, then you brought them home and are giving them a great shot at life! Thank you! Wish I could help, will just keep doing what I can up here!

Posted by: mutterma77 | November 29, 2018 3:32 PM    Report this comment

I just have no words after reading these reports, so much pain. Thank you for what you are doing.

Posted by: Alice R. | November 29, 2018 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, thank you for stepping up, again. Thank you for always caring and for never stopping. Thank you.

Posted by: EllenM | November 29, 2018 3:21 PM    Report this comment

OMG - out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. Bless you for caring so much. And, after these 6 are healthy and in forever homes - take a vacation. You certainly could use a break.

Posted by: Cindie M | November 29, 2018 2:54 PM    Report this comment

THANK YOU for the donation attempts! What might work better is to go to the Northwest SPCA home page -- the link has been corrected in the article above -- and then click on "Donate." And omigosh, thanks again!

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | November 29, 2018 2:40 PM    Report this comment

Still having trouble with the link. I would like to help fostering/rescuing. Can you direct me?

Posted by: spill | November 29, 2018 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I can't seem to donate successfully either and I'd really like to. Same message from PayPal. Is there another option, please? And thank you for taking on such a wrenching situation.

Posted by: KEHInd | November 29, 2018 2:18 PM    Report this comment

MiamiJ, I get that same error message when I try to use the link to donate to the care of the sick puppies. :-( Maybe if we check back later today it will work, I hope.

Posted by: Kris B-W | November 29, 2018 2:12 PM    Report this comment

I'm getting a message that "your session is invalid or expired" from Paypal when I click on the link to contribute for the pup's medical expenses. Any idea if the problem is on my end or WDJ's?

Posted by: MiamiJ | November 29, 2018 1:53 PM    Report this comment

Bless you for caring!

Posted by: Wildmann | November 29, 2018 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Bless you for your caring! What an awful experience! Do keep us posted re the progress of the pups, and I will be praying for their full recovery, and for many to come alongside and help you financially and personally.

Posted by: KSJ | November 29, 2018 1:38 PM    Report this comment

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