“When we bring a pet into our lives, we are completely committed to them…”
“It’s Sunday and our day to reflect, recharge and prepare for the week ahead; it’s gearing up to be a big one. So for this “feel good Sunday” we share with you a story about a California couple that struggles to do their level best for the animals that they have rescued and share their home. They are special people when it comes to their care and concern; their story hits home as Terry and I experienced the same struggle and emotions as we fought to save one of our canine children just one year ago this time. Likewise, this story touches us deeply as it is about our animal law attorney for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Bruce Wagman and his lovely bride Deborah. Bruce is not only a business associate but a very close friend and advocate, indeed.” ~ R.T.
Recently, DR. Marcella Harb-Hauser and the nursing team at Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin, CA met Zuri, an adorable 17-year-old mixed-breed dog. Zuri lived with a family of seven other rescued pets and was dearly loved by its guardians Bruce and Deborah Wagman, who brought Zuri in after the animal quit eating and urinating.
After evaluation, Zuri was diagnosed with sudden kidney failure. Typically an age-related illness, kidney failure can also be brought on by infection or toxins. At Zuri’s age, the situation was dire.
“Initially she had a 10 percent chance of survival,” says Harb-Hauser.
But Zuri was a fighter and the Wagmans were passionate about helping the animal through this illness as they had many times before — as long as the dog could maintain a high quality of life.
“When we bring a pet into our lives, we are completely committed to them, through thick and thin — we treat our pets as if they are members of our human family,” says Bruce Wagman. “We asked Harb-Hauser and the incredible support staff at PESCM to help guide us. We wanted to know whether she could be happy and pain-free again if she made it out of the hospital.”
“Considering quality of life during and after treatment is one of the first conversations I have with pet parents going through an illness with an aging pet,” says Harb-Hauser. “It’s different with every family. Some families are satisfied hat their older pet has had a long and fruitful life. Others, like the Wagmans, would do anything in their power to prolong life, as long as the pet is comfortable. There’s no right or wrong answer as long as your pet isn’t suffering.”
With high-quality medical care by a team working around the clock, Zuri was kept as comfortable as possible. Day by day, the dog got stronger and, after 15 days in the hospital, Zuri was able to return to home in Stinson Beach.
“Those were easily 15 of the longest days of our lives together. We knew her illness would eventually be terminal, but we asked the PESCM staff to help us get Zuri back home for continued care,” says Bruce Wagman.
So the Wagmans began a daily regimen of giving Zuri fluid injections beneath her skin and special diets through feeding tubes. They provided Zuri with around-the-clock care in her familiar home environment.
“But it wasn’t like she wasn’t having her Zuri life in her Zuri house on her Zuri beach with her Zuri family,” says Bruce. “Her quality of life was great — she was bounding around the beach again like she always had! We considered every extra day we had with her a success and a promise.”
“By looking at her, you wouldn’t even know she was sick,” said Deborah Wagman. “She was walking up and down the stairs again and running the beach as its mayor — just like she used to. She was happy and pain free and we just knew we’d made the right decisions for her.”
Sadly, Zuri did pass away from the disease, but the animal had another four months of life at home.
“I knew Zuri was a special dog because I’d seen her fight and fight,” says Harb-Hauser. “The Wagmans made the right choice for their family, and it gave them extra time with their beloved Zuri that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Her advice to guardians of aging pets: “Carefully consider their pets’ quality of life, pain levels and what they can financially and emotionally afford. The answer is uniquely different for every family,” she says. “If you are uncertain about how to care for an aging pet, your trusted family veterinarian can often help guide you in finding the right balance.”