As part of RROC's anniversary month and our miracle theme, we would like to share with you our special feature story of "A Soldier to Fight for Taylor". Please read below on how one of our very own U.S Army soldiers contributed to one of RROC's special needs dogs. Taylor is not available for adoption as she is a permanent foster for RROC, but any help is appreciated. PLEASE READ THE STORY BEFORE WATCHING THE VIDEO.
"A Soldier to Fight for Taylor "
"Taylor, settle down, and I am not going to tell you again young lady!"
From the sound of it, these words may come across as a mother scolding a young child who is presumably misbehaving.
However, in actuality, these are the words of a foster mom and Intake Coordinator for the Retriever Rescue of Colorado. Marina Macolini walks over to her spunky 11-month old female yellow lab and pets the top of her head. Just glancing at her, this young lab seems like your typical, loveable and playful canine. To the average person, feeding and caring for this new member of the family wouldn't sound like such a stressful task.
After all, many of us view puppies as indestructible and anyone visiting Taylor in her permanent foster home could tell you that the near-white colored young pup is nothing less with a full future ahead of her.
If Taylor were eligible for adoption her RROC description would safely be able to boast that she is a spunky, friendly, and silly gal, who loves to welcome each new foster dog. This energetic pup plays for hours and tires out the scared or hyper newcomers.
"She gorgeous and happy and she's even beginning to learn to behave when visitors come over," says her permanent foster mother.
However, on the inside, Taylor's body is another story. Diagnosed with a disease known as Megaesophagus, food becomes a virtual enemy with every swallow.
"She doesn't even know she is sick," Macolini said. "She is just like any other vibrant, young puppy with the exception of this disease she suffers from".
The disease, known as Megaesophagus, is no walk in the park for Taylor and her permanent foster home; nor does it have a cure. The esophagus, is the tube connecting the throat to the stomach. When Taylor's food is perceived in her esophagus, neurologic reflex causes a muscle contraction.
In short, the relaxation leads to a rapid transport of food into the stomach. Other reflexes prevent breathing during this swallowing process to protect the lungs from aspiration. Basically, anything that Taylor eats without proper upright positioning of her body, she regurgitates it back up.
The threats of this disease are many including a fatal pneumonia which can develop with increased presence of aspiration. Feeding her even once without using the upright position could cause aspiration into the lungs and cause Taylor to succumb to a number of deadly symptoms.
Unfortunately, most cases do not have a clear cause and must be managed as they are. Still, even with the latest advances in technology, this disease, even in early stages, leaves few eligible for surgery. Taylor is currently one of the ineligible. So where is the success story in all of this?
"It's interesting because when I talk about Taylor to anyone it sounds like a nightmare instead of a miracle," Macolini explained. "When in fact, the miracle is simply that she is alive."
That's right, it's considered a miracle. When Taylor first arrived at RROC she was accompanied by two littermates, Sandy and Anna Belle. Sadly, Sandy died within a week of arriving to the rescue and Anna Bell made it to four months before having to be let go. With Taylor's form of the disease, more common than pneumonia as a cause of death is starvation.
"Both her littermates were sweet, loving little girls who were in an astronomical amount of pain from this disease, I was certain that it would only be a matter of time for our Taylor." Macolini said.
While many cases of megaesophagus have been documented, there are few cases of survival and success among those candidates ineligible for surgery. While Taylor is considered ineligible, she continues to beat the odds. Methods to prolong life include monitoring eating habits and have proved successful for Taylor. Eating each of her meals in an upright position assists the flow of food down Taylor's esophagus. Additionally, Taylor is restricted to eating only wet premium canned food as part of her program to stay healthy.
"It's difficult because she eats about 4-5 cans a day of wet food," Macolini said, "There is no price tag on saving her life but as a non-profit, her disease is very costly to the rescue."
Only one other case has been reported of lengthy survival for a canine. The story includes a purebred Beagle who lived to be 9 years old after being diagnosed with the disease as a young puppy just like Taylor. The owners reportedly fed the dog in an upright position and carried the canine around a front pack traditionally used for human babies. While that time and commitment is extensive and admirable, many owners are not afforded this time and are usually forced to have to put their beloved pet down from the disease.
Although Taylor is considered one of the lucky ones, her care is constantly being monitored by Macolini. With just one simple misfeeding or accidental ingestion of any foreign object, Taylor's progress could be erased. For Macolini, this is a tiresome and time consuming role which will most likely be a routine that will not alter despite Taylor's improvement.
"She has to be monitored quite often," Macolini stated. "She's such a stinker so I really have to carefully monitor all meals, watch anything that she picks up or any possible item she can chew and swallow."
RROC's previous feeding method included stacking cardboard boxes and placing her food bowl on top which forced Taylor to stay upright while eating and slightly reduce her chances to feel immediate affects. After personally visiting Taylor when she was a young puppy, this method appeared solid and literally one which was prolonging her life at the time. But, as every animal lover knows, these wonderful creatures do not stay puppies forever.
"She was getting so big so fast that she was literally plowing into the boxes to get her food and we needed to improve our methods quickly" her foster mom said.
As usual, the Retriever Rescue of Colorado sent out an urgent email plea for a creative-minded volunteer to build Taylor a new feeding station. Not only would this take some creative skill but also some carpentry. By this time, Taylor had gained almost 20 pounds, was 4 inches taller and outgrowing her boxes at a rapid pace.
If you thought the story was simply a miracle for the animals, it does not stop here...
Less than 5 hours a later the email made its way to Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs where 2nd Lt. Lindsay Leskanich received the email. A stationed nurse at Fort Carson, Leskanich read the email and passed it on to fellow soldier 1st Lt. Galen D. Peterson
"I received the email plea from a friend who volunteers for the Retriever Rescue of Colorado and immediately thought of 1st Lt. Peterson, " Leskanich said. "He can pretty much build anything from scratch and it was for a good cause so I knew he would be interested in helping."
And help he did. 1st Lt. Peterson answered another kind of call for assistance, purchased the materials, built a brand new feeding station and was shipping Taylor's new contraption up to Denver Colorado less than 2 hours after receiving the email.
"I forwarded the email to 1st Lt. Peterson as soon as I read it," Leskanich said.
The solid oak adjustable table arrived in Denver just 72 hours after the email was sent out and arrived just in time for Taylor's evening supper. Emails began circulating throughout the organization of the new arrival and the true miracle of the story seemed as though an author couldn't have written a better tale of this "random act of kindness".
"I saw the new feeding station and I just wanted to meet this young man, give him a hug , tell him thank you for serving our country, and for helping our little girl live another day, " Macolini said.
However, Macolini's plan would not become a reality. Four days after the delivery of Taylor's new lifesaver, 1st Lt Peterson departed from Fort Carson Air Force base for his 3rd deployment in Iraq. Despite emails full of thank-yous from well-wishing volunteers of RROC, unfortunately, not one RROC member was afforded the chance to meet 1st Lt Peterson. Currently, 1st Lt. Peterson is serving in Iraq with 10 months left on his overseas timetable.
Co-founder and President of RROC Julie Cox, realizes that finances for Taylor's food have and will continue to be costly, but stands firm that it is worth it, especially with the help of the new feeding station.
"It has been very tough to cover her costs, but we really wanted to put something out there to raise some awareness on the disease and hopefully have some premium canned food donated specifically to her care," Cox said.
Today, 5 months later, Taylor is feeding at the highest level on the feeding station and continues to be a medical mystery. Taylor regurgitates her food often, but her foster mom has found that incidents are less frequent when she is fed premium canned food. As a result, Taylor's meal bills run close to $12 per day at 4-5 cans a day.
"Taylor just loves her feeding station and she goes over to check it frequently in case some extra food has magically appeared," Macolini said. It never has but this doesn't stop her from checking!"
While Taylor is considered a permanent foster for the organization, 1st Lt. Peterson is considered a permanent hero to the Retriever Rescue of Colorado.
"People who have seen her recently have all commented that she's actually putting on weight!" Macolini boasted. "I attribute much of this to the feeding station which allows me to feed her multiple meals a day instead of just two."
A soldier's selfless act off the battle field, a young pup's will to survive against all odds is a true example of the miracle RROC experiences everyday. If you would like to donate to help finance Taylor's care or even donate canned food, please contact RROC at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on how to help option on our website menu.
To read more about Megaesophagus on the web, please click on this related link. Taylor's movie can be found below.
Interested in sponsoring Taylor or leaving her a message for her page?
WE DID IT!
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