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Like Pup, Like Owner: how having a dog with stomach issues has helped me overcome living with mine..

My daughter, the animal lover, had been begging my husband and me for a dog for years. We said no for years. Then COVID and quarantine happened. We made it 8 months into quarantine and finally broke down. Maybe having a furry friend around would put a smile on our faces and give us something new to focus on besides the doom and gloom of COIVD, which seemed to captivate the world.

Like the newbie dog owners we were, we searched online to find a pup. There was only one problem – everyone else obviously had the same idea about quarantine and puppies because there were none to be found, at least not in Washington State. Bummer.

I had my mind set on a Bernedoodle for two reasons. The first being we met one at the park one day and she was the cutest thing in the world. The second being I read they were good with children and had a calm demeanor. Since my 4-year-old son was a maniac, I needed to find a dog that would tolerate his craziness. My daughter didn’t care, she just wanted a puppy.

After hours of scouring the internet on some shady breeding sites, I found Odie. He was a ten-week-old Bernedoolde from Utah and ready to take home. In hindsight, the whole operation was super shady but I had blinders on and just wanted a puppy. We paid a little extra to have a “flight nanny” fly little Odie over from Utah so he didn’t have to ride in the cargo hold.

We picked Odie up from SeaTac Airport on November 1st, 2020. The lady who met us didn’t speak English, handed us a quart sized Ziploc bag of dog food and pulled a scruffy looking pup out of a large cat carrier. She had no paperwork with her and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Whatever.

She had a puppy and at that point, that’s all that mattered. We scooped Odie up and took him to the car.

Side story: of course, he was too scared to go to the bathroom on the airplane so the minute we put him in the crate in our car he pooped. It smelled AWFUL. This should have been our first clue.

My daughter immediately sprang from the car and leapt into the parking garage at a full run (not safe). My son started gagging profusely, so much so that he threw up on the parking garage floor. My husband stood holding the poor puppy as far away from him as he could, not smiling at all, and all I could do was stand there with an uncontrollable case of the giggles. Welcome to puppy life.

I knew after about a week something wasn’t quite right. Odie wasn’t eating or drinking very much and when he had to go to the bathroom it wasn’t pretty. At first we thought it was just the transition but our very smart puppy trainer told me to take a fecal sample to the vet to check for parasites. By that point Odie was really sick. He was panting a lot and he was obviously uncomfortable and had stopped eating. Turns out he had several parasites.

After multiple trips to the vet and four rounds of fluids and antibiotics we thought for sure Odie would get better. And he did, for a little while.

Odie would start eating for a few weeks, but he was still having on/off diarrhea. After several months (and several thousand dollars later) it was determined that Odie had food sensitivities and would need a special diet for at least the next 8 months. I remember the call from the vet. My husband and I were driving to Alderbrook Lodge for one night away after a very long year. The look on his face when I told him the vet said Odie needed to be on a special diet for the next year was priceless. I thought he was going to lose it but he held it together really well. Thank god I married a saint who takes every challenge thrown his way with a grain of salt and a foamy beer.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know I’ve been battling Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) for over three years now. It’s a horrible stomach bug that it very hard to get rid of. It causes bloating, burping, stomach pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and all sorts of other fun issues. I’ve been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, thousands of dollars in herbal supplements and remedies and every diet imaginable to try to get rid of this bug. And I’m still battling it (but not giving up).

Like pup, like owner they say. I was never a big believer in fate or the universe and I’m not an overly religious person, but I do think there was a higher power at work when Odie was brought into our lives. We’ve had him now for 7 months and we’ve spent a good portion of that time at the vet trying to figure out what’s wrong. I can imagine after what we’ve been through some dog owners would give up and either send their pup back to the breeder or rehome them. It hasn’t been easy and it’s cost us a lot, but he’s part of our family and I refuse to give up on him, because I can 100% relate to what he’s going through.

As it turns out Odie has pretty severe food allergies and a sensitive stomach. We’ve finally figured out that a combination of a good probiotic, a ridiculously expensive hydrolyzed protein dog food diet, sweet potatoes and marshmallows are the only things that Odie can eat without returning to his old symptoms. If he deviates from his diet at all, whether he jumps on the counter and devours the last half of my Chicken Pho or eats a pile of goose poop on our walk, it’s three to four days of pure hell for him (and us).

Do I regret getting our puppy? Not in a million years. When I’m not feeling well, Odie lays by my side. When I need a laugh, I just have to watch videos of Odie running through the snow during our winter vacation. When I want someone to snuggle with and neither of my kids are around, the 45lb fur ball puppy is happy to oblige.

Would I do things differently next time? Probably. Seriously, do your research, find a reputable breeder and get on their wait list. A wait list is a good thing.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I'm going to update you on my progress with my COVID Long Haul and SIBO. I'm at the end of my functional medicine treatment and will be sharing with you what the outcome was.

Until then,

XOXO Carri E.

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