Spanish flies, saving Hector and serendipity.

Hector – the (failed) dope-sniffing hound

We’re very glad to have reached southern Spain after a quite arduous journey. As well as not feeling at our best, Murphy’s Law was in evidence with lots of minor but irritating malfunctions, including the total failure of the mobile router, though 3 mobile assure me that it will be fixed. We are on an official site at the moment where the wifi really works. So I’m making the best of it while Tom tries to work out why the electrics have blown on the caravan. Such fun!!

Yesterday, we paid a vital visit to the vet in Ronda, where we were welcomed like long lost pals. When I was last here three years ago, they saw me every day for five weeks as they treated Hector for leishmaniasis. Hector was a large mastin cross (a bit like a great dane) who we had taken on from a Spanish policeman. Hector was a failed drug sniffer dog and was destined for the pound but this policeman knew that he would most likely be put down and so was desperately trying to rehome him. We agreed to meet him not realising how big he was, but he was so friendly despite being pathetically thin that we couldn’t just leave him.  

After a few days, we realised he was unwell. He was very itchy and he had bleeding sores on his ear tips. When he shook his head, he sprayed the walls with blood. So a trip to see Maria at Clinique Veterinaria Velzquez revealed he had leishmaniasis. This is a very unpleasant disease carried by sand flies. The clinical signs include fever, lack of appetite, weakness, exercise intolerance, severe weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding from the nose and ears, and blood in the stool.  About one-third of dogs will develop swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen. Muscle pain, joint inflammation, and swelling of the testicles may also be seen. If untreated, most dogs die of kidney failure.

Fortunately, Hector was still at a stage where his kidneys were ok but the treatment is aggressive and painful. He required daily injections and because the amount required was relative to his size, these were big phials and it was difficult to administer. Impossible, in fact, for me to do on my own so we drove the 50k round trip to see Maria every day for five weeks. For the first three, I could see no improvement – he was still very uncomfortable. But even though the injections were painful, he still greeted Maria warmly every day! A huge testament to the care she gave him. Finally, well into the third week, he showed signs of recovery and from then on he improved rapidly and, at last, was pronounced fit to travel to the UK. He and I drove back together in March 2017. He proved a wonderful travel companion!

Although we loved him dearly, he found our other three too much and eventually he got a wonderful new home – in a way that I still find spooky. I am not a practical nor very domesticated person but while walking around Wells, our nearest city in the UK, I was seized with a desire to try knitting and popped into the wool shop to buy needles and wool. Just as I was leaving, I mentioned that I might try knitting scarves to raise money for rescue dogs. The end result of this conversation was that the owner of the shop fell in love with Hector on sight and he has had a very happy home with her ever since. He goes into the shop and around Wells with her and has a bit of a fan club! What of the knitting? I managed about five holey rows and gave up. Both Shirley, his owner, and I concluded that this was serendipity. Dogs find us, one way or another.

Sadly, many dogs don’t recover and if you are travelling to Spain with your dogs you must protect them from sand flies, ticks and other parasites, including heart worm – a self-explanatory lethal disease. Your vet in the UK may suggest that you have your dog vaccinated but these vaccines are expensive and not proven effective. Spot treatment is best but it must cover all the parasites. We find it better to get it done here in Spain where it is better understood (and also a bit cheaper!). And if you find yourself in Ronda, pop in and see Maria – say Hector sent you!

Published by gilliwolfe

Tom's partner and Chica's mum. And support team (with the other two dogs) for the trip.

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