Kathleen and Fern
Before I found Fern at the rescue agency in the late summer of 2011, she, 6-7 other pups and their mother had lived with an extreme hoarder in the mid-west whose neighbors finally convinced to release many neglected animals. Fern and her litter mates along with the mother dog were then fostered on a farm until the pups were old enough (8 weeks) to cross state lines. Next the dogs were all transported to the northeast where there are better chances for adoption. Fern settled easily into our home from the first day. She curled up on the soft round dog bed of my previous dog and slept through the night with no sound or movement but for her quiet breathing. I was astonished.
When Fern was 8 months old, she suddenly experienced extreme digestive issues. This change happened overnight, out-of-the-blue, with no lead-up symptoms. Our veterinarian suspected right away that she had an auto immune condition known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI.) For reasons not well understood, when an animal has EPI, the body attacks the pancreas (all important for the powerful digestive enzymes it produces) and no signs show up until it is too late to reverse the damage.
Thankfully there is a treatment, which involves using porcine pancreases and enzymes to pre-digest all food (the powdered enzymes are mixed with kibble or other foods ahead of feeding to incubate/marinate before the dog ingests the food.) Without the added enzymes, EPI dogs will starve as they cannot digest food. Most dogs with EPI live long, active lives; though for some, replacement enzymes don’t work well or stop working eventually. The enzymes are shockingly expensive. However recently a few dog owners with EPI family dogs have founded co-ops to serve others with EPI animals by providing access to more affordable porcine pancreatic enzymes.
Connecting with the rescue community and the EPI community has been life-giving for me and of course especially for Fern. Although we live in a world where animals are mistreated or even thrown away, networks organized against those circumstances are strong and developing well. Navigating the EPI health hurdle was tender and frightening. Now Fern visits the vet only once a year for her annual check-up. And every day she runs exuberantly across fields near our home, even faster than a rocket, creating huge joy for both of us along the way.