Falling in love is a sure way to tempt fate. I had no choice from the moment I met Copper; it was love at first sight. Here was this big, intelligent, muscular guy with soft brown eyes, and a big heart.
A week later, against protests from family and friends, Copper moved in with me. Family were outraged; friends were shocked; but we were committed to making it work. Later that summer, he was brave to spend a week’s vacation traveling over two thousand miles to meet the family at a reunion. One-by-one, my big, ruggedly handsome guy won them all over.
Last May, just after our first anniversary together, Copper went in for his annual physical. It was a new clinic that an acquaintance of mine had recommended. Copper was the first to try it out. He came home with a clean bill of health, and although we were waiting on a few routine tests, we had no reason to believe that anything was amiss. When the call came with his results, I took me a moment to realize what tests they were referring to; I had completely forgotten about them.
I crumpled into a chair trying to process what I was hearing. Even his doctor said that she was stunned. Copper, took it in stride, comforting me instead.
It was his heart. His big, loving, kind heart was choked with a parasite snaking its way through his heart and his blood vessels, multiplying wildly. It was rare, almost unheard of in our region. The origin is still unclear, but it likely came from a painful childhood spent on the precipice of abandonment, an adolescence spent shuttling between foster home, building scars, both inside and out. Yet Copper never let any of that affect him, even after his diagnosis.
We were told that we had caught it in time. We were told that the prognosis was good with treatment, but there was a problem. The medication that he needed was unavailable. The doctor told us that the demand was so great that it was on a “nationwide backorder” and hopefully, would be available within two to three months. Two-to-three months is an eternity when your heart is filling with five-inch-long parasites choking off your blood supply and multiplying faster than bunnies in the springtime.
Later, I came to understand that what little existed, had been doled out on a quota system. Our state had run through their entire quota for the period. His doctor reassured us that he would receive alternate forms of treatment until the medication became available, but at the same time, she acknowledged that his blood counts fell into the “significant” range.
Copper’s heart was the one in trouble, but mine was the one that was breaking. In desperation, I e-mailed the same doctor who referred us to the new clinic, hoping to get some insight on this disease. Even though this man was away on his own vacation, waiting for his first grandson to be born, he checked his e-mail and wrote back to me, telling me that he had called the drug manufacturer. He had learned that, while my state had used up their quota, his had not. He had already placed the order enabling Copper to begin treatment once the doctor returned home. Though it required us to travel, Copper would be treated months ahead of schedule. Thanks to Dr. Bob, my newly-made friend, the love of my life had a chance!
The morning of July 5th dawned. Copper and I skipped the Monday holiday festivities to drive north for his first injection the arsenic-based medication which, if he limited his movement, would slowly work its way through his body killing off the parasites plaguing him. We returned home the following day, to wait. Copper spent the next thirty days resting, often on the bathroom floor, letting the medicine do its work. He never complained, but I knew it was miserable: he moaned in his sleep. Dr. Bob called to check on him, treating my worries alongside Copper’s heart.
July became August and it was time to return. Tests showed that his heart was mending, so Copper received his second injection. Yesterday morning, he received his third, and final injection.
I went to see Copper after the second treatment. He put his head on my lap and sighed. The injections were taking a toll on him. We sat there together as his doctor dropped by between surgeries, checking on him periodically, and later, even sharing the homemade pasta from his lunch with Copper. While Copper dozed, Dr. Bob told me that the blood tests still show that the heart worms have yet to leave his bloodstream, even after all that arsenic. Thus, there is still more to do, but his prognosis is a good one.
What would have happened to Copper’s heart if I had not met Dr. Bob? What if Dr. Bob had not cared enough to look into locating the medicine for Copper, a dog that he had never met before? What if he had decided that he had no interest in taking on this patient from another state?
We will never have to find out, thanks to Dr. Bob’s quick actions and his unfailing kindness. Dr. Bob’s big, kind heart saved Copper’s, and along with it, he saved mine.