June 4, 2013 update: Shayna’s emergency heart surgery

June 4, 2013 | By | Add a Comment
June 3, 2013: Greetings from Shayna the "miracle dog"

June 3, 2013: Greetings from Shayna the “miracle dog” (Shayna says, “See all those dozens of toys, behind me?  Dad and my doctors say that maybe in a week or so, I’ll be chasing after them again, just like I have been for many years!  Woot!  Thank you all for your love, support and donations to my Health Fund.”)


  • On May 29, Shayna underwent emergency surgery to cut away part of her heart sack, hopefully adding several healthy, happy years to her life.
  • The urgency was brought on soon after we were both shocked in near-death traffic situation.
  • She is doing very well, and should be fully recovered within another week or so.

See here for background of Shayna’s health condition, and how amazingly active and happy she has been, and soon will be, again.  More here and here.

Since our May 6 consultation with Dr. Anna Paling, a veterinary cardiologist, I’d been working to keep Shayna in good health and spirits, while I raised money to pay for her upcoming surgery, to remove or cut a large hole in her periocardium, via Shayna’s Health Fund (below is a poster I put up at a nearby off-leash dog park):

12May13 SaveShayna at DardenTowe 3

Shayna did very well until May 28, when I could see that her fatigue, which had been growing since one week earlier, had reached a critical point, and her stomach began to appear slightly bloated – a telltale sign that her heart-based tumor was bleeding again. A weight-check at our regular veterinarian confirmed she’d gained a few pounds since the previous week.

250+crash+mondayNote: This occurred one week after we were involved in a near-fatal traffic incident.

On Monday, May 21, we were driving at night along a very dark, quiet road when, out of the blue, an SUV traveling in the other direction jumped the median, flipped on its side, and was rolling side-over-side directly towards us.  As I first noticed the SUV when it was only about 120 feet ahead of me, and as I was traveling about 40-45 mph, there was no time for me to react, except to panic.  It passed by my driver’s side door by about 18.”  I immediately pulled over and called 911.

It was clear that Shayna had also suffered an enormous shock to her system. Both our hearts pounded like locomotives for the next few hours.

See video of the resulting scene, and info on the allegedly reckless driver who caused it, here.

On May 29 I brought Shayna back to see Dr. Paling, who confirmed via ultrasound imaging that there was a significant amount of fluid in her periocardium, and she was on the verge of congestive heart failure. Dr. Paling presented us with three options: (1) to re-extract the fluid, and continue planning for her upcoming surgery, (2) to do the surgery that day, or (3) to say goodbye – because we couldn’t leave Shayna in that condition. It was my understanding, however, that the surgeon, Dr. Kevin Stiffler (a colleague of hers, who operated on Shayna last September), would require two weeks advance notice to schedule the procedure.

Incredibly, once I gave them the go-ahead, Dr. Stiffler got her into surgery within four hours – and was able to remove approximately 45% of her periocardium via endoscopy (probes), rather than through full surgical incision, which would have required cutting open her ribcage, etc.  I will be forever grateful to Dr. Paling, Dr. Stiffler, and their amazing support staff at Virginia Veterinary Specialists, for this rushed treatment, provided with a spirit of professionalism and compassion that one can only pray for in a situation like this.

Shayna stayed in the hospital for two nights (only the third and fourth nights we’ve ever spent apart, in eleven years). Here is a little slide show, starting with pictures I took the morning after her surgery (May 30), and extending to June 3:

I took Shayna home on the morning of May 31 (a date of extremely special significance, for other reasons, as I describe in my upcoming book). She’s been making a very steady recovery.

June 3 update

Until today, Shayna only went outside to do her business, then came in to rest. This morning, however, Shayna enjoyed her first walk in the woods behind our place since her surgery.  Here’s video I took of how great she looks, and how happy she was to venture out and enjoy the wonderful feeling and scents of a walk in the woods, soon after a rain:


June 4 update

And here’s a video from last night, of us beginning to resume Shayna’s toy-retrieval training, on a very limited basis:

Within the next 7 days or so, Shayna should be fully recovered from surgery, and we will be able to resume all of our normal activities.

One thing I am particularly looking forward to is seeing Shayna swim. Given what happened in October, and her short life expectancy prediction, I never thought I would again see her delight at swimming.  (This is an especially poignant aspect of our lives, as it took us 18 months to help her overcome her fear of water.  As I describe in my upcoming book, Shayna and her twin sister had been rescued at 10 weeks old from three days in a storm drain, without their mother, and she had severe water-phobia for the first 18 months of her life.  Since then she’s become a swimming maniac.)

Shayna and me, May 9, 2013

Shayna and me, May 9, 2013

As Dr. Paling described, it is hoped that Shayna will enjoy 1, 2 or more happy, healthy years, as she’s observed in other dogs of Shayna’s age, in her otherwise excellent health, with this condition, after having this procedure done. Of course, there is no guarantee. But we’ve done everything possible to realize this outcome. Judging from how quickly Shayna’s recovering, and the fact that we have resumed (on a limited-exertion basis) her daily training sessions, all we can do is hope.

We owe Shayna’s life to Drs. Paling and Stiffler, and our wonderful holistic vet, Dr. Janice Raab. Their knowledge, skill and dedication to Shayna have enabled her to live on far past what was originally predicted – and not just exist, but to thrive, and enjoy every day, to continue her trick training, and hopefully resume her near-daily visits to the Senior Center.

I could have paid for this surgery on my own, but it would have practically wiped me out financially (background here). It is for this reason that We also owe Shayna’s life largely to several amazing parties who acted in haste to ensure that we could have this procedure:

  • Fetch-A-Cure is a Richmond, VA charity that donates to help pay for cancer treatments for dogs in Virginia. Although I’d applied for aid in advance of what I thought was going ot be Shayna’s upcoming surgery, Fetch-A-Cure’s Companions In Crisis program jumped into action, and within 24 hours had processed my application, reviewed Shayna’s medical condition, and donated more than half the cost of her surgery.  If you can, please donate to help support Fetch-A-Cure here.
  • Another source (who will remain anonymous for now), who’d been considering hiring me to develop a website from the ground up for his business, decided to move forward, and advanced me the entire fee for this work. With his permission, and once his site goes live, I may post the specifics.

A number of other family members and friends made hasty donations, every cent of which is deeply appreciated.

So as of today, June 3, the future looks amazingly bright.

I ask that those who love Shayna to please send her warm, healing thoughts – and that if you’re a religious person, that you please pray for her.

Lastly, if you know anyone who might be interested in making a donation to Shayna’s Health Fund, please share this link with them.  I’m raising money to help enable me to pay for her ongoing medical expenses and medicines, which are currently running about $500-$600 per month, until I secure new work (detail).

Thank you.




Filed in: Shayna's medical condition

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