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From ghost to gorgeous!

Twiggy arrived at the pound starving, painfully thin and bewildered. The immediate concern was for her welfare, and she was carefully monitored by the girls at the kennels having been checked for any signs of mange, fleas or other immediate problems. Twiggy, named by the kennel girls due to her stick thin body, had trouble keeping food in, and although small meals were offered knowing that her stomach would not tolerate larger portions, even these small quantities triggered almost immediate diarrheoa.

In the first few days Twiggy was too weak even to leave her bed to open her bowels, and her kennel had to be regularly cleaned, and bedding changed. Dogs do not naturally soil in their sleeping area, and we can only imagine how distressing this must have been for her.

After a few days of gentle care and the dry food Twiggy began to keep more meals in, and became brighter in herself. She was now able to move around her kennel, and it became apparent that she was actually quite clean, and was probably house-trained in a home environment.

As her 7 days neared an end, the decision was made that Twiggy was too frail at this stage to move to rescue, and needed to be in a fostering situation. Lindsey, our most experienced foster carer offered her a home, and arrangements were made to move Twiggy there, to allow her time to build her strength and to be fully assessed.

Whilst these arrangements were being made we received a call from a member of the public to say that Twiggy looked like a dog that had just been homed from another pound, and after checking the picture on their website there was no denying it was her. Twiggy had been with them about 10 days before homing, but only a few days later was found by the Dog Warden as a stray. That pound had received no reports of her being missing, and the new owners never came looking for her.

In just a fortnight Twiggy had gone from street to pound to home to street to pound and then to foster. No wonder this beautiful girl was bewildered and dispirited!

On the day that she arrived with Lindsey, Twiggy was treated to a visit to the vet. Despite her lack of body weight and the stomach problems even the vet commented on what a lovely dog she was, how tolerant of his prodding and poking and how gentle.

As well as all the usual health checks, and discussion about Twiggy's dietery needs and possible tests to rule out anything untoward, Twiggy was weighed. Shockingly, this Collie sized girl weighed just 6.9kg. That's less than half the weight she should be, and the equivalent of a small breed, such as a Jack Russell.

Lindsey described her as a 'ghost dog', so thin you felt she would fade away before your eyes. Her words at this point say it all:

"Without applying any pressure you can feel every single rib bone. I dread to think what she's been through but she has obviously had a terrible 2006 thus far...despite her body being weak she is still an active little soul, and that tail must have more muscles than any other part with all the wagging it does.

A beautiful girl whose courage and strength must be the only thing that's got her this far. If I was her I would probably want to curl up forever and have a lot of complaining to do - but I guess that's the difference between humans and dogs."

After the visit to the vet, Lindsey treated Twiggy to a new collar and some toys all of her own.

Twiggy's Diary

Regular updates from Lindsey will be posted here so that you can follow Twiggy's progress. Lindsey and her family already have 2 Collies of their own and are experienced with Collie traits and training, and already Twiggy is proving to be a wonderful dog, tolerant, gentle, playful and very affectionate. It always amazes us how a dog that has been treated so unfairly will remain loyal and devoted to humankind.

Twiggy will never be well enough to be rehomed, and will remain a lifetime foster dog with Lindsey and her family. Twiggy's lifespan is unknown, but will be significantly reduced, and all we can hope for is to ensure her comfort, happiness and security until such time that a decision has to be made to let her go.

Wednesday 23rd August

At the vets she just wagged at the 2 Ridgebacks in front of her, the large gorgeous one eyed yellow Lab, and the huge male Dobie who kept straining to go over to her. Wags to all and not scared by anything other than climbing the steps to get in. She needs to go back in a week to see how she's got on with the eating and digesting. She has her wormer too now of course. If she's still got troubles then it will be a faecal sample to check for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. If it's not that then it will be blood tests but hopefully it is nothing more than sheer starvation.

Twiggy's had a quite good day, the food has stayed in for much longer and she's doing her wees (teeny tiny ones) in the garden . A quiet girl who has got the sweetest temperament going. She had her first bath today and as soon as I put the shampoo on her back I realised I simply could not rub it in, there was nothing to rub it into, just bone and the skin covering it. After her bath she had a loopy mad run around the house for 5 minutes and became frolicking Twiggy, and she got all fluffy. I daren't groom her, I might hurt her.

In about 12 hours she has learnt 'Sit' and tonight she learnt how to get a nice lap. She just settles in her den and is an unbelievably willing young Lady who greets everything with that famous tail wag of hers. She has a good appetite but takes about 20 bites to chew a single mini sized piece of kibble so a small amount can go a long way!

Friday 25th August

She's now been wormed and remains clean in the house - what a clever little girl!!

She follows Annie around and she is now permitted by Annie to sniff her nose and bottom (privileged as well as clever). The one thing with Twiggy is that she paces round in circles as an anxiety thing. Not always but it's like an automatic response, I'm 99.999999% sure it's behavioural. I can only imagine that she must have been either left on her own a lot without any stimulation or shut up somewhere small, a bit like a prisoner in an exercise yard. She is going to need an understanding owner to work through whatever lingers on from her terrible start!

Monday 28th August

Twiggy is coming on in leaps and bounds (literally!). She is really starting to show her character and trust me she has a lot of it. She is an energetic, brave, gutsy little girl. Today for the first time she and Teddy had a proper play together, well actually it was more of a contest to see who could chase and make the most noise whilst doing so. Twiggy grunts and yelps out a bark, Teddy just barks. At first she was unnerved by Ted's rushing up and barking but today she gave just as good as she got, even running up to him and grunting/barking herself to get him to chase and to play. Twiggy could race for the McClaren Team and even had Annie going dizzy as she watched her running around the garden. And yes Twiggy was bold enough to 'ask' Annie to play too, instead Annie told Teddy off for being so noisy, and Twiggy and Teddy went off to Silly Land together.

She has started to jump up and tug at your trousers and shoes when excited, just like a puppy does, so I think she is well enough to start elementary school. Housetraining is going very well and she is a smart little cookie which makes things easier. When she is fit and well she is going to be stunning!

Wednesday 6th September

Twiggy is going to take a long time to grow past the life she had been given. We're still not sure if her tummy troubles are mere starvation or something more medical. We'll be back at the vets in a couple of weeks for a weigh in and check up. She may yet need investigative tests. I am really hoping not though and things do seem quite positive all in all.

Her confidence is growing and over the last couple of days she has not only taken herself outside for a walk around the garden but started to sunbathe (well, I call it 'Optimistic Sunbathing'!). She loves other dogs and can't wait to meet new friends at The Wiccaweys Autumn Show & Collie Day Out - Sunday 10th September.

Tuesday 26th September

The news on Twiggy is not as good as we'd hoped. She's been here for about a month now but has sadly not gained any weight, in fact she's lost it.

The vets are puzzled as all clinical signs are good and she no longer has the runs. The food just does not seem to be touching her, despite being on her 3rd bag. If I didn't have the empty bags to prove it, I would swear she had not eaten at all.

Anyway, she is booked in first thing tomorrow for x-rays and a complete blood panel. X-rays are to check for tumours or any stomach abnormalities, one for her lungs and one for her abdomen. Blood will be taken for the full range of pancreatic disorders and basically it's a morning of trying to rule out as much as they can.

Quite upset that she is still not able to be a 'normal' dog and truly amazed that she copes so well. She even jumped into the back of the car today for the first time. Given how much she does with so little body mass, she really must have the inner strength of an ox. As usual, she was waggy at everybody at the vets and so happy to meet new people.

Now we have to hope that the tests reveal something and that there is a simple treatment option.

Thursday 5th October

Well last week Twiggy became a pin cushion and spent the day at my local veterinary hospital. She had several blood tests done as well as xrays of her abdomen and lungs. The x-rays were clear but the bloods revealed that she has a problem with her liver function. The normal post-feeding range for Bile Acids in the canine is 0-30. Twiggy's reading came back at 500!

After a couple of days of debate it was decided to definitely go ahead with the further tests she will need in order to confirm any diagnosis. This requires specialist handling and this is why she is booked to go to the Animal Health Trust on Monday.

Bizarrely despite having lost weight (nearly a kilo sadly) and having gone through a day of tests already, Twiggy is doing really really well. She is passing normal stools and she is not having any more accidents in the house. She is obviously hungry and positively skates across the kitchen floor when she hears her food bowl being filled but despite everything she is stable and very settled. She came camping with us when I was off up Ben Nevis and she was a perfect and happy little camper, enjoying her walks around the park. In fact I felt like I had a designer dog by my side!! She has a beautiful trotting action and walks so elegantly next to you on the lead. I was really surprised by how well she walks and it just reminded me again of how much of life she has missed out on so far. She deserves to have whatever treatment she needs and she more than deserves a chance to lead a healthier and fuller life than she has done so far. She will always be a petite dog but hopefully we can make things better for her and get her to the stage where she can be adopted into a life-long home, once and for all

Monday 9th October

I left the vet at the AHT this morning (and Twiggy) with a feeling of doom. He told me that she was a very poorly dog and that one of her results (the blood albumin) was seriously seriously low. This result was more worrying to him than the high bile acids so that was a bit of shock. He warned that all prognoses would be very guarded and that she will need to stay in until tomorrow. They are repeating the tests and will probably also do an ultrasound. Oddly, given his doomsday warnings, she is not showing the symptoms he would have expected for a dog with such low albumin levels. I did leave thinking that she was a dying dog and would not have much time left at all. BUT...after speaking to a lady with a dog in a similar condition I do now feel much more positive and believe that Twiggy could be managed with diet and lactulose and still have at least a good 4 or so years left in her. We've always known, since the last bloods, that her life would be shorter but we did believe that she would be ok for that time and able to be stabilised. This morning I felt like the rug had been taken from under my feet and that Twiggy would not be able to live for very much longer at all.

I'll phone this evening and in the morning to find out what's happened since I left her. She REALLY does need an awful lot of good wishes and thoughts though.

When I picked her up off the table after her examination I was going to put her on the floor but she immediately snuggled into my arm and we had a very lengthy cuddle and snuggle whilst the vet carried on talking Twiggy did ask me though to please warn her when the next thermometer goes in - she says it's ever such a shock!

Tuesday 10th October - AM

I just spoke to the vet. The ultrasound has confirmed that Twiggy does have a portosystemic liver shunt. All he kept saying was, "I must get over to you that she is a very ill dog". I lost track of the number of times he said that.

Still feelng sort of ok due to what I learned from the owner of the other dog but the Consultant was really stressing how ill she is. He said that his main concern is her severe protein malnourishment and that needs addressing straight away, other dogs as poorly as her have been put to sleep!

She could be a candidate for surgery but his opinion was that due to her age, the chances of success are decreased and that there's a good chance that her liver would not be able to accept the increased blood flow when the shunt is tied off. There is a 10% risk of mortality during the operation and with her low protein levels, she would have poor tissue healing afterwards and would basically have to break down her own muscles to get the protein. Surgery would be her best chance of a longer term future but there is no way of knowing whether or not it will work and she would need to be stabilised first anyway.

With medical management we can control the neurological symptoms but that won't prevent her going into liver failure, he said that that could be months or years. I know really that she is not going to leave us tomorrow but when the vet keeps telling you what an ill dog she is and how serious she is, it kind of shakes you up a little. I knew when she went there that her life would be shorter, maybe he doesn't realise that I had that awareness already???? If he said the words, "very ill dog", one more time, I think I would have put the phone down!

Looking ahead, once stable, I think we now need to get her into a home where she can settle and live out her life. But how hard would it be to let her go? Need to seriously think about that one. Sorry, I'm rambling now...

Tuesday 10th October - PM

TWIGGY IS HOME We have just got back and it's very nice to have her with us again. She had a 2.5 - 3hr journey home and was bursting for the toilet but, bless her, she didn't go until her feet touched the front garden, and then the longest wee in Twiggy history out the back - easily 2 days worth. What a good girlie, she really was desperate but she still waited. Annie howled twice when Twiggy came home (Annie has gone soft lately and I'm pretty sure it was a welcome back into the fold howl). Teddy for the first time really, play bowed and barked at her, trying to get her to play (he normally ignores her and is a teeny bit worried by her) and then Annie went to nip Ted. when he barked at Twiggy, thinking he was being out of order. Annie does like things in order and was clearly telling him to back off her.

I have a copy of the Findings report the vet gave me. Twiggy has antibiotics and lactulose starting tomorrow and is to have another blood test in 3 weeks time to measure progress. Her weight was measured as 5.9 kilos - they want her to be around 10 kilos. The good news for Teddy is that Twiggy must have 4 meals a day (currently on 3) so of course, Ted and Annie will have to have a little something too!

Happy to have her home despite what the news is.

You can read the full Veterinary Report here.

Twiggy desperately needs your help in the form of donations and fundraising ideas. Please help; every penny you send is vital to ensure Twiggy can live her life in comfort and good health.

Tuesday 17th October

We now have the final veterinary bill for all of Twiggy's treatment, tests and scans to date. The full break down is as follows:

First Vet

Initial consultation = £16.80
Wormer = £1.58
VAT = £3.22
Frontline = £15.45
2nd consultation = £12.38
VAT = £4.87
3rd consultation = £14.55
Full blood profile = £37.01
X-ray = £45.25
X-ray = £17.16
Biochemical blood test = £3.09
Lab fee = £7.05
Lab fee = £25.85
Referral = £17.63

Total = £221.89


Anaesthetic consumables = £32.60
Anaesthetic professional fees = £17.64
Consultation = £162
Hospital consumables = £8.12
Hospitalisation = £24.36
Imaging consumables = £23.14
Imaging professional fees = £60.00
Lab tests = £128.12
Drugs = £24.25
Ultrasonography = £170.84
VAT = £113.96

Total = £ 765.68

Final Overall Total = £987.57

This does not however cover the cost of her special diet, nor the ongoing antibiotics she will need.

Total donations so far specifically for Twiggy total £325, added to the money raised by Lindsey's Ben Nevis Sponsored Walk (£221 currently paid) mean that we have so far raised £546 towards Twiggy's bills.

This leaves a current shortfall of £441.57.

We need to raise this money, but of course we have other dogs in need of help daily, so fundraising becomes a real problem.
If you feel moved by Twiggy's story, and wish to make a donation specifically towards her veterinary bills we would be immensely grateful.

Tuesday 24th October

Since her appointment at the AHT and with the special food and medication, Twiggy's progress has been surprisingly rapid and quite remarkable. Within 24 hours she seemed more active and alive (sounds awful but she wasn't doing much more than existing before). She has been playing with the football again and trying to play with Annie plus Tuggy but I'm afraid Annie has set strict rules about who can play with her tuggy, meaning Herself and no-one else unless by pre-invite!!!

As I have said on our little RDR forum, the other night Ted. and I got soaked on our walk so when I came home I grabbed the HUGE dog bath towel and started drying him off. As the towel was so big it completely covered both him and Twiggy as I was using it. I kept feeling Twiggy bumping into my legs repeatedly and making noises. I couldn't figure out what she was doing and wondered if it was some extrapolation of her circling patterns. Then I realised that she was actually playing 'grab the towel' and was chasing and jumping at the towel (which was dangling in front of my legs) .

Twigs has also started to chase Teddy up the garden again and bark at him. I've also seen her stalking the football when Ted. and Annie are out with it, and she's been preparing herself to jump on Annie plus stick!

One other thing which really made me smile was that a couple of times now she has jumped up at me when I've come back into the house. That was lovely to see and sent me a bit gooey.

This probably all sounds very mundane and boring and just what any normal dog would do, but that's exactly it. For Twiggy to be acting like a normal dog again is a really big step and just what we've always wanted for her. She's not in physical pain with her condition but she simply didn't have any life in her. We want her to be well enough to act like any other dog, within reason obviously, and to have that quality of life that all dogs should be able to enjoy.

Diet wise we've had a few trials and tribulations. I know now that she LOVES, as in positively wolfs down, pureed cooked courgette of all things. She will eat that until the cows come home. I gave her rice and courgette yesterday and when I checked her bowl there was a great big hole in the middle of the rice where all the courgette HAD been, but she had hardly touched the rice itself! She was also none too keen on my rice and corn pasta which personally, I think is delicious. Polenta was a no thank you too, as was banana and hummous (I agree with her on those two!). The cottage cheese though is a massive hit which I am very relieved about as it was advised by the vet and what Twiggy doesn't like, Twiggy doesn't eat!

Getting the tablets down her is a bit of an episode. She is a world expert at recognising the tiniest fragments of tablet so crushing it is not an option. She has half of one at a time and the only way I can get her to eat it is sandwiched between vegan cheese. Even then though she can still separate it, hide it and push it to the outside of her teeth, ready to spit out in disgust when I'm not looking. Now I have to gently hold her muzzle (to avoid the crafty tongue pushes out) and wait for her to swallow at least twice. The kitchen floor being white doesn't exactly help either when I'm checking that she's actually consumed it. I would liken it to giving a horse a wormer paste that they REALLY don't like the taste of (except slightly less messy!). We've managed though and she has not once complained about any of it.

The laxative effects of the lactulose are working well too. She used to only have 2 or 3 wees a day but now she is much more regular and I never thought I would be pleased to see runny poos!!

Oooh and I nearly forgot about the famous pumpkin soup - that went down a treat. Before now I had not once bought a pumpkin, never mind cooked or ate one - first time for everything as they say (and haven't I been missing out, it was yummy!).

Next week it will be her first vets visit and official weigh in since the diagnosis and I desperately hope she has gained some weight. I also hope that if anyone of her siblings have the same condition, they've been lucky enough to find better homes than Twigs did. I'm sorry for being a teeny bit judgemental there but I am so very cross that she has been left like this for so long.

Anyway, Twiggy is a girly girl and adores her fusses and silliness and cuddly laps. She is a character, she will wee under a certain bush when it rains because it keeps her dry while she goes and she's always running underneath Annie's belly, between her legs. She loves the caravanning and going for trips too so the more life she can be given, then definitely the better. If we can stabilise her she will be able to go on to live a relatively normal life, albeit a shorter life of an unknown duration.

Friday 27th October

Sadly things have taken a turn for the worse. Twigs had really picked up and is still a much perkier girl but for the last 3 days she has been sick.

It's happening just once a day and is always approx. 3-4 hours after her last meal. It's her food she's bringing back up but I have no idea why. The problem is that as well as bringing that meal up, she's missing out on her next as 3-4 hours is the interval between her 4 daily meals. At the moment then she is not getting the RDA and I fear will be losing the weight/condition that she had gained.

She's had nothing but the special kibble today, I cut out everything else in case it was that unsettling her stomach, but it made no difference. I wonder if it's simply too much food for her stomach? Before she was sick she'd probably eaten about 150g. This is worrying me as we'll be heading back to where we were before if she doesn't maintain the diet, and she had made really great progress. I'll be phoning the vets tomorrow, she was due in next week for her weigh in and blood tests. She's not poorly in herself and is still active but she so desperately needs to digest all her food, not to mention the meds. that go with it.

I'll phone the vets first thing in the morning and let you know what they say. [Comment from RDR: Twiggy will be seeing the vet on Monday for more tests to establish what is causing the vomiting. This means additional costs on the current bill which we still cannot pay in full.]

I have this little dog who needs to eat but I can't feed her, it is so frustrating.

On a lighter note I did take some photos of her out in the garden with Teddy and Annie today. I will add these asap.

Wednesday 1st November

Twiggy was back at the vet, and more bloods have been taken. Now waiting for the resuls. Vet is on a course today so not sure if we'll hear before tomorrow. He didn't know what could be causing the vomiting but will fax everything over to the A.H.T and see what they say.

She's still being sick and last night wouldn't eat although she has eaten today. Just had to bath her as she had sick dried into her coat.

Cottage cheese is still going down so at least we have something to fall back on if nothing else. Luckily she is back with an appetite today but this being sick is a worry.

She has however gained 0.2 kilos, despite a week of not holding down all the food so that's not as bad as I'd feared.

Still active and lively. Just waiting now to hear if the bloods can tell us anything. Oh and of course she still does 'sweet' incredibly well!

Here are some photos of Twigs playing with her foster brother and sister!

Friday 3rd November

Where to begin?! Okay, most people know of Twiggy's journey from stray to pound, to stray, to pound, to RDR. You know that at first we hoped it was only starvation but then blood tests suggested a liver shunt. Then her visit to the A.H.T. and the confirmation and start of treatment. (Wow, sounds a lot when put like that).

The last entry was/is her treatment stage and things were looking up. She did incredibly well in the first two weeks but as I was writing about that, a wave hit and she started to be sick. At the time it had only been for a few days and she was still ok. Some days, as you know from the thread, she wouldn't be sick and hopes would again be high. Then the next day, we were back to the sickness. On Tuesday it was the follow up vets visit and at that time she was still being sick. On Wednesday she was sick in the morning before she had eaten anything and that was something new. On Tuesday she had also started to lose her appetite and on the Wednesday we had a really bad night with Twiggy not wanting/being able to eat anything at all. Yesterday was a good day, a REALLY good day, Twiggy was eating and everything was as normal. I thought things were looking up and this was just a blip. Today, again, things seemed good, Twiggy was eating and again we had no sickness. Then we got the blood tests back and they showed some improvement. The increase in albumin, urea and glucose was all good news and it meant that she was digesting and absorbing more protein and therefore gaining more nourishment.

A bit of a rollercoaster to that point then. When she went off her food I was seriously worried and began to question what I was doing by keeping her in this state. It has been heartbreaking, so many questions, so many hypotheses, so many hopes and also worries.

When we first had the confirmation that she had a shunt, our expectations to be honest were that if we could get her past this critical point then she would perhaps have a good 2 or 3 years of life left. Our hopes and aims were to get Twiggy stable enough to be able to lead a decent quality of life, albeit a knowingly much shorter life. That was the track we were on, that was our assumption and goal. Whether or not she had the operation was also a question still in the frame.

I realised that there was no way she could go anywhere else, if she got better I couldn't part with her, if she got worse she was staying here until the end. When she wouldn't eat on Wednesday night the decision was final, I came to what I consider to be Twiggy's 'extended family' and told RDR that she was staying, she was my girl.

This evening however the tracks were switched. Twiggy is still to be 'my' girl but she is also still very much an RDR girl. She is going to stay here with us as a permanent foster dog with RDR covering the veterinary treatment that she needs. The tracks have switched because we have had to face a different map of Twiggy's future, one that had been shoved down out of the way as previously not (yet) needed. This evening Twiggy again would not eat and it is now becoming the norm and more than a blip, although the sickness has at least ceased. To explain; Twiggy was always on the very edge. Her condition is so severe that she has to make a significant improvement in order to just remain stable. We were optimistic and fighting for that recovery so she could begin her life again.

To gain that recovery she MUST eat and take in all of the nutrients and medicines to reduce the toxins. If she doesn't eat, then she simply cannot get well enough to avoid her body failing.

This evening I also spoke to the specialist vet and he said that yes her levels have increased and they are better than how she was. BUT, they are still very very low and it is not the difference that he was hoping to see for her to have a real chance, to bring her back up out of crisis point. He said the sickness could be anything, not related necessarily to the shunt but if she continues to have gastro-intestinal upsets then it's time to make a decision about her quality of life. In a nutshell he laid the call at my door. He told me that he has other adult dogs with liver shunts but that their conditions are milder, they have more blood still pumping through the liver than Twiggy does. Twiggy's condition is extreme and worse than he has seen a dog survive. No longer any talk of an operation, basically I make the call when Twig's quality of life becomes untenable. There was nothing more they could do.

I have had to accept that I will soon have to make a decision.

I cannot and will not let her suffer, I cannot leave her to the point where her body fails. At the moment she is happy and content. She is not able to have regular walks but enjoys our garden and the campsites when she has a weekend away. She is happy at home and thanks to knitters and coat makers she is now warm and very comfortable. She has to eat though to keep herself as she is. If she continues like she has done this last week then I have to be brutally honest and say that I don't think I can force feed her. I don't think I can artificially keep her alive. I want a feeling well Twiggy, that's what all of us have always wanted and I know it is what Coryn has been skinning herself to achieve. I haven't given up on her but I have come to the conclusion that I will not see her get any worse. And that is the track we are on...

The agony has been over whether or not I am doing right but I guess there is no real right or wrong. There is always of course still the chance and hope that this is still only a blip and that Twiggy will carry on doing as well as she can. At the moment though the bad days are heavily outnumbering the good days and in my heart I really think it is time to face what might be best for Twiggy.

I can't say anymore because I don't know any more. It has taken me until now to get this far and I have discussed this with Coryn who is giving me the backing to plan this ugly new route.

Please, please, please don't think I have given up, I swear I haven't. I need to accept that we have to face it and that it is more than likely going to be sooner than we had all rooted and hoped for. Maybe in a few weeks time she'll be bouncing around again and I know that Twigy's fans and supporters will be with us every step of the way and be behind her 100%. I needed to make a start though on what we now know to be an even rockier route.

Wednesday 22nd November

Sorry for the delay in updates. Twiggy is so up and down it is hard to know where we are at. She has had a rough couple of weeks and I really thought that we would have to let her go. She bounced back from vomiting and a few incidents of diarrhea but now she has an excessive appetite which is a concern. The vomiting has stopped which is quite strange but good as it had been going on for a good few weeks practically every day. Now she is eating again (had a stage of no appetite as well!!) she is regaining some physical strength and hopefully out of the real danger zone.

A very kind supporter is funding Twiggy to see another specialist vet on Monday. Hopefully we can have a thorough discussion with them and try and understand what's happening with Twiggy's body a bit more.

We know she hasn't got long left but as she is neither in pain or discomfort in her day to day life then we'll keep her as well as we can for as long as we can. She is bright and alert and and waggy and enjoys a good game of tug the towell! When there is no more we can do for her and when her health deteriorates to the point that Twiggy loses the quality of life she has now (what I would call the minimum acceptable level) then that is when we have to do what is right for her.

More news on Monday hopefully but if you have an image of Twiggy in your head make it one of a little girl with the strength of an ox, a very happy and gentle disposition and the spark of 500volts!

Friday 24th November

The support and help Twiggy has received from people has been absolutely outstanding. I have had some faith in human nature restored I can tell you.

Twiggy's appetite really is going through the roof, I even think she would eat a tablet. Actually I might just try that - hate to be mean Twiggy dear but mommy can put anything in your food bowl now.

I am very much hoping that the vet on Monday can help us understand what's going on a bit better and try and explain the rapid change in clinical symptoms. I am also hoping he'll tell me that the polyphagia is nothing more than a symptom of the shunt (insert fingers crossed icon here!).

But, she's still "grrrrrring" with the others and doing ok otherwise so that's much better than where she was.

Will you let you know what happens. I am expecting "Odd" to come up in conversation on Monday! Twiggy's story is fast becoming a 1000 pager!!

Saturday 25th November

Twiggy had a very special day today. She met up with some other dogs and their humans and went for a walk in Cannock Chase. This was the first time she has been out for a proper walk and she also went off lead - I was so proud of our little girl, there she was trotting about with the group of big boys (and gals!). She was actually living and being just how she should.

She ate lots (and pood lots after but all good) and she even got a present of a brand new coat - a very posh red one.

I'm really pleased that she got to meet some new friends and have a day out, here's to many more....

Monday 27th November

As you know, Twiggy has already been to a specialist at the AHT. The last time I spoke to them I was basically told that they'd done their bit and it was a question of time as to when I would need to call it a day. Twig's has been very up and down and a couple of weeks ago I thought that the time had in fact come. BUT she has done a complete U turn and we now have different symptoms and a different dog altogether (for the better I might add!!).

I checked with our local vets and they were happy to refer Twiggy to Oakwood. Our vets are helping however they can but without the operation they know more than I do that time is against us. Anyways, to me the operation was out of the question as Twiggy's levels were so very low and it was a very negative picture from the AHT. I'd also already decided in my head that the risks were too high for it to be worth putting Twiggy through. Keeping her well and comfortable, even if for a short time, was the option we chose.

Enter our arrival today at Northwich and a second opinion. He was interested in Twiggy and what I had to say about her, he was open about his views and all the procedures and past case outcomes.

What made me smile was that he was optimistic about Twiggy's chances of a successful operation, but more than that, he was honest about all that it could mean. He explained how with some dogs they can tell just by looking at the size and colour of the liver, that it was not likely to rejuvenate and withstand the surgical intervention. When that's the case they just close them back up again or let them go if owners do not want to treat medically. 'If' Twiggy did go forward for surgery then I left with the Trust that they would only proceed if they honestly believed she had a chance. The risks were all explained but not in a doom and gloom way, just honestly.

Now this is probably still all academic as even if we managed to fundraise the £2000 needed, Twiggy's blood albumin levels need to be a minimum of 15 in order for post-surgery healing to be possible. At best so far, Twig's levels have been 12 so even if that level has been maintained, they still need to climb quite a bit higher. This is also of course all assuming that there is nothing else going wrong inside her that we don't yet know about. She had her bloods taken again today though and we will know on Thursday what, if any, changes there have been.

We also learnt something new. Although controversial, the vet told us how the opinion amongst nutritionists was that for dogs with protein levels as low as Twiggy's, an hepatic (low protein) diet might actually be too restrictive. It is now suggested by some that ordinary dog food/average protein levels are what is needed in order to simply get that protein into her. To balance it out of course, the medications would need to be increased to fight the additional toxins but that the aim was to just get the protein levels up.

I'm sure it'll be dashed but having dashed hope is better than not having any hope at all.

Thursday 30th November

I spoke to John the specialist this morning and we have some good news: Twiggy's albumin levels have come up to 14 which is the highest they have ever been, and she has gained .2 kilos so is up to 6.4. No other changes to suggest anything else going on which is a relief.

He has recommended she be fed a different food (Royal Canin Sensitive) which has a medium protein level as Twiggy's protein malnoursishment is still a great concern.

We are to up the lactulose if needed (to compensate for the toxins from the higher protein food) but to leave her off antibiotics for a week and see how she goes. If there are new symptoms to suggest she is getting worse then he will prescribe a different antibiotic to try but if she's ok then to leave her off them for now.

It is too soon to discuss the merits of the operation as in John's own words, her protein levels are still "through the floor". Same as the AHT vet, we need her levels to increase to a safer region before anything more can really be looked at.

I am really pleased with the results, I know that we are more or less in the same boat as before but at least the vet is hopeful for Twiggy and hasn't written her off as dead already. It is now looking more positive for her to be maintained successfully by diet and lactulose.

No illusions though, I know she can go down as quickly as she went up. If that happens then I am prepared to face the worst and will not let her linger.

At the moment though Twiggy is in the best health she has been since she arrived so I think we can celebrate that and enjoy this time right now.

Friday 1st December

Following the success of Twig's 'First Walk', I took her out to Sutton Park with Teddy and Annie today. Apart from a few looks of disgust about the mud, I think she quite liked it. Took loads of photos but most of them are blurred and they're all a bit naff to be honest so here are the least bad:

Friday 15th December

We have just come back from another big boys walk and that now includes Twiggy!

Nearly an hour and a half on one of the most hilly walks we do over Cannock Chase. Off lead and she was incredible. She was even bold enough to have a little run down some of the hills - only a short way before she put the brakes on and went back to trotting, these were serious descents!

She still hates the mud and puddles and getting her paws dirty in gooey, sticky, yuck stuff so she has to go the long way round the muddy bits.

She was really good though, came when called and never tired, even joined in on one of the squirrel hunts (no squirrels are ever caught but there's an awful lot of running, deer style leaping and yapping that goes on!)

I am really proud of her, it was a proper big walk and she tackled it with her usual guts and energy which if I could bottle - I would be a millionairess by now.

Now all she needs is a running suit instead of a coat!


Twiggy has had a few weeks of being very up and down. Her albumin leels appear to have reached their peak, and have begun dropping again, and her vomiting has increased slightly. We have had many discussions about Twiggy, and as it is clear she will never be a candidate for surgery we have to face the fact that all we can do for Twiggy is to ensure her comfort and quality of life until such time that a decision has to be made to let her go. Lindsey is doing a wonderful job, and we know that Twiggy is in good hands. Love, cuddles, walks and fun are what are on offer and Lindsey keeps us up to date with Twiggy's situation regularly.

There is an ongoing need for medication, and regular tests which will help us monitor Twiggy's condition so donations towards these costs are still important.

Any change in Twiggy's status will be carefully monitored and discussed, and should the decision be made to let Twiggy go peacefully we will of course update this page. Thank you all for your ongoing support, concern and prayers for Twiggy. She is a happy girl, enjoying life, and we know she is as special to you as she is to us.

Thursday 1st February

Writing about Twiggy is harder than it sounds. She is without doubt a bit of a puzzle! By any medical sense she should probably not be here right now. Sadly she is still living with severe protein malnourishment and her weight is much lower than anyone would like. Last months blood results showed disappointing news. Her levels had not increased and her weight had actually dropped slightly. This in effect signalled the end of our hopes of improvement for her.

Luckily though her diarrhoea and vomiting seem to have ceased so we are on a little reprieve from having to make the decision to let her sleep. It's a case now of monitoring her and making sure she doesn't start to suffer. Her next weigh in will be in a few days time and that will be the next result to go by.

As far as Twiggy is concerned though she is the original Iron Lady and nothing is going to get her down or get in her path of FOOD!!!! At meal times she turns into a whirling dervish and does a very good Michael Schumacher impression around the living room - with sound effects!! She still sees it well within her rights to bite Ted's and Annies bottoms if needs be and her vocal range increases every day. I now call her a little tigress as the sounds she makes when excited really have to be heard to be believed!

Twiggy is very bright and perky despite her bodily condition and she should next be appearing at the Wiccaweys wellies and paws walk. We hope she'll have a few more days out up her sleeve but we know that each day she has is a bonus. Whatever it is that she is running on (and no-one has any idea what that is) may it continue to keep her strong and may we all have a little bit of it too!!

Sunday 4th February

Twiggy met up with a group of people from a dog related forum today at Marlborough Downs. The sun blessed us all and although it was a couple of hours away it was worth every second. It's a beautiful place with rolling green hills around the gallops and the perfect pasture for our Twiglet. She stayed with us most of the way although she does still like her little stops to sniff and going the Twiggy route.

She also found another couple of children to take home but I had to tell her that they wouldn't all fit in the car so she gave them back to their rightful owners.

She did lots of sitting and looking pretty for treats and her little black prick ears were at full mast as she ran back to us after a wander.

She was a very well behaved girl and had a little canter around the horse field on the way back home. I think that was just to prove that she wasn't too tired for dinner mind you!


March 1st: Twiggy was sick again today and has had stomach upsets for the last 10 days. She's also not quite so bright in herself and is sleeping and stretching more. She was ok yesterday and Lindsey thought it was just another bad patch but she was sick again today and still has digestive upset (that's been continual lately).

March 2nd: Lindsey feels that Twiggy's health and well-being have deteriorated. She's always (pretty much) had the sickness yes, but things have changed a little. She seems uncomfortable in her tummy most of the time now. Her bowing and stretching are throughout the day as opposed to a one off on the odd day. If she goes on the meds. then she has bad diarrhea as well as the sickness. Without the meds. though she has nothing to help her digestion (or lack of). The sickness is full blown vomiting.
These last couple of weeks have seen a change for the worse. Given her trend to go down and then be ok but always going down again, we think the spiral is tightening. The key factor is the discomfort and her not being able to eat properly. Her physical bodily state does seem to be affecting her overall well-being now.

UPDATE FROM RDR: Wednesday 14th March 2007

At the moment Twiggy is doing quite well, eating and drinking fine with no sickness or diarrhoea. She has been out for a short walk with her foster sister Annie. As always Twiggy's spirit and determination seem to have pulled her through her latest bout of illness, and she is still enjoying life.


We are sorry to have to say that Twiggy passed away on the morning of 16th May 2007. She died peacefully at home, having had the most loved and cared for 9 months a dog could wish for. We know that Lindsey is devastated at her loss, and we wish her and her family strength and support. We also extend our heartfelt thanks to Lindsey, as well as all of Twiggy's online and real life friends and supporters whose generosity and concern has enabled Twiggy to receive the care she needed to ensure a wonderful quality of life.

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