Sometimes a patient enters a hospital and touches the hearts of everyone on the team. For the doctors and staff at Animal Urgent Care in Arvada, CO, that patient was Rocko, a four-month-old lab mix with floppy ears.
Rocko was initially admitted to AUC with vomiting and anorexia. His family had adopted him just a few weeks prior, so Rocko and his pet parents were just getting to know each other, but it was clear to them that Rocko was suffering.
Dr. James Haught diagnosed the puppy with parvovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes gastrointestinal illness in young dogs and has a fatality rate of as high as 90 percent if not treated.
Luckily Rocko’s human parents brought him in at an early stage of the illness. But Rocko underwent a grueling course of treatment, including feeding tubes and IV fluids. At one point, the team even discussed whether to consider a fecal transplant.
Kate Parker, AUC’s hospital manager, discusses the toll Rocko’s illness took on the doctors and staff members who cared for him over the course of his stay.
“We were all struggling with how long the case was going, how much it was costing the owners, and how Rocko was doing in terms of quality of life [when] there were some trying days that we felt he was so depressed.”
Due to the volume of pets the AUC team sees regularly, emergency veterinary doctors and staff members don’t often encounter cases that allow them to connect with clients on a more intimate level. But with Rocko, there was an instant bond: One of Rocko’s owners was the brother of Kate Smith, DVM, one of AUC’s own doctors.
“It was especially difficult having a family member’s pet be so sick; we love all of our patients, but we knew how much Bret and Lo (his owners) were infatuated with this brand new puppy,” Parker says. “Because he was an inpatient for a week and a half, he interacted with every single member of our team, and every single member of our team fell in love with him.”
The team at AUC pulled together, encouraging each other through their tears and keeping faith in their medical abilities while continuing treatment of the sick pup.
“We took turns supporting one another through this and helping to see the small improvements he was making, not just the things that were not improving as quickly as we would have liked, “ Parker recalls. “We brainstormed together and talked through how we were feeling throughout the process.”
After 10 days — the longest stay for a parvo patient at AUC — Rocko was well enough to go home and rejoin his furry sibling, a four-year-old lab mix named Mina.
A few weeks after his discharge, the team at AUC received a message “from” Rocko:
“Hi AUC gang, Rocko here. Today my aunt got to spend a whole afternoon with me. Because of you guys. Because of you all I’m learning how to be a dog from my big sister Mina and I bring dad a new pine cone every day. I’m learning lots. But I haven’t learned how to control my ears at all. Thank you to all of you for your care, love, support and for fighting for me. I am the reason you do what you do. When it gets busy and hectic and you want to quit, please remember me. And thank you.”
Parker reports that Rocko is now a healthy and happy ball of energy, as well as an incredibly lucky rescue dog.
“This was deeply personal for all of us and was a labor of love,” she adds. “When we have difficult days or months (which have been plentiful lately), we try to remember these positive cases, and I believe Rocko was one of our most fulfilling wins in 2020.”
At NVA, we love a happy ending. Check out more feel-good stories on our News page (such as this roundup of good news from our NVA practices).