When our Friends of Emma volunteers picked up Oakley in mid-December, on the day of — and just miles from — the devastating Sandy Hook shootings, I was certain that this tiny 17-day-old pink-pawed, freckle-nosed Labrador mix was the only good thing to come out of Connecticut that week. Now, nearly four months, 1,700 miles, and thousands of touched hearts later, Oakley continues to fight a seemingly hopeless prognosis.
People are always asking me what exactly is going on with Oakley. She’s so mixed up inside that it’s difficult to explain — I’m not sure I even understand the combined aspects myself.
She was born with no anus, so her colon expels waste through an open hole in her abdomen. She also has no bladder; her urinary tract somehow runs along the same “central line” and expels from the same opening, in a type of cloaca like that of amphibians, birds, and reptiles. She also has megacolon.
Oakley has myriad uncertain anomalies, so we knew her struggle would be hard — but she’s doing so well. She’s growing and thriving, reaching all of her puppy milestones, and enjoying life among our little crew of rescue pups here at Friends of Emma. Our hopes for a surgical resolve and full recovery for Oakley have grown with her.
Our goal with Oakley for her first few months was to get her to a weight approved by her surgeon before she could undergo further diagnostic testing to gain a better knowledge of what’s going on inside.
That day finally came last week — and the results were devastating. “There is absolutely nothing that we can do for this little dog,” the surgeon told me. My heart sank. But I refuse to accept it.
In the time I’ve had her, she has gone from weighing one pound at 2.5 weeks to 16 pounds at 16 weeks, and she continues to thrive, despite her afflictions. Oakley’s condition is not new to her. It’s not something that is evolving or has recently come about. She was born this way, and she is living this way.
We are not “keeping Oakley alive,” as some have suggested; we’re helping her to live better.
She is not wallowing in pain, and she is not experiencing “extraordinary suffering.” Yes, she has some tender spots and the occasional bellyache. Yes, I have to constantly intervene to keep infection at bay, but we address and resolve each of these issues immediately.
The vets we’ve talked to have never seen Oakley’s precise combined conditions before, and because they don’t know exactly what they’re dealing with, they don’t give her any kind of positive outlook. They can’t even tell me for certain whether she is female or male, because she has some hermaphrodite issues going on as well.
Oakley really is a mess inside, but she is growing, thriving, and nearly as content as any other pup. I just can’t fathom that there is no help for her.
I know that our current methods of caring for Oakley won’t sustain her forever. She needs surgical intervention if she is to survive long-term. Eventually she will develop “superbugs,” and the constant rounds of antibiotics will no longer fight off her recurring infections. Eventually, her megacolon will become unmanageable, especially since it cannot be relieved with enema treatment, because she has no anus. There are just so many “eventually” scenarios — but the NOW is what we’re dealing with at this point, until help can be found.
I cannot deny that I have serious concerns regarding Oakley’s future, and I certainly don’t claim that she is living the doggie dream. At least for now, though, she is playful, spirited, and alert — and I won’t steal her life away without a good hard fight!
I realize that the complexity of Oakley’s combined conditions is something that has never before been documented in veterinary medicine — but simply because of that, there is no way to predict the outcome if something were to be done to help her.
Surely there is a medical professional out there who encompasses the knowledge, skill, and passion to save Oakley. But we need your help, because we can’t do it on our own. Can you help us help Oakley? Please share her story wherever you can.
The outpouring of love and support from our online community has kept us going, not just with Oakley, but with all of our rescues. We couldn’t get through a day without you. Time and time again, steady friends and complete strangers have been there for us.
Here’s a video we made of Oakley’s progress:
We are blessed to be at the core of such an exceptional and powerful support system. We love and genuinely appreciate our Dogster family and each and every one of you joining us in support. Visit our Facebook page and share Oakley’s photos and story. Let’s do what we can to give Oakley a shot at a long, fulfilling life!
Read more about the special puppies Elizabeth and her group are helping:
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.