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December 2016 we got a call asking for help an owner could no longer keep their borzoi. Babs was surrendered, along with a cock and bull story which turned out to be absolutely fabricated, but unfortunately, this rescue game means biting one's tongue until it bleeds. The condition she was found in was far from ideal.  She had difficulty in walking due to the loss of muscle mass, along with a broken pelvis that had repaired with no veterinary care, she has just one eye, apparently the missing one “popped out” whilst playing like a puppy, and she was very “foggy” her demeanour was one of vacancy, quiet and very sweet, but too quiet, almost closed down.  

We did not have a foster home available for her as all our careers have borzoi from the previous rescues that had come through.  Babs coming to us happened all at the wrong time, Christmas was looming, always a bad time to home a dog, I was going to New Zealand for a month, and various other things, but thankfully we have the help of a dear friend in Norfolk who is always on hand in an emergency.  Babs was there for a couple of months.  

I put up a short video of her on Facebook and within minutes I had an offer of a foster home for her, it sounded ideal so we arranged a visit and on the face of it all, it was a perfect home.  Babs went to stay for a few weeks.  Babs was failing to thrive and was constantly in a state of “fogginess” after 5 weeks she came back to me whilst her foster career was going away.  Which was the best thing that could have happened. She could never be returned to her foster home because her health had  deteriorated so dramatically

I noticed Babs was drinking a lot, losing weight alarmingly and having small fits, I took her to my vet who ran some blood, her liver enzymes hit the roof, so he referred us to the Veterinary college in Cambridge for a scan, because his scanner was not good enough to see what was going on. The results were the worst they could be. Babs had a right side inter-hepatic liver shunt.  This means that her blood was not being filtered correctly and that her blood was basically toxic.  How on earth she had survived all this time with this condition was mind-boggling.  I was told that she must have been on a very protein-poor diet but now she is being fed good quality fresh food this has caused the problem to compound and caused massive problems.  

There were three options, the first do nothing and she would slowly waste away and die, the second have her put to sleep,  and the third operating.  Before I go any further I must point out that this girl, in spite of her quietness and zone outs, was full of life, she had become a happy social dog that was full of love and gave it freely, she was not ready to die, she had an iron will.  After discussions, asking for advice from the Irish Wolfhound fraternity and talks with people who had first-hand experience with this condition, all the advice, was that, we should have her put to sleep.  We are a very very small rescue in the terms there are just the two of us running it, paying all vet fees out of our own pockets.  Although we have some great supporters who donate to us and I have done a fair bit of fundraising, but the bank balance was under £1,000. Babs’s operation would cost in excess of £6,000 and that if it was straightforward with no complications.  We just don't have that kind of money.

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I took Babs back to my GP vet, Stuart De Wolf of Hitchin Vets, to discuss what we needed to do. He took one look at her and said, “No I am not putting her to sleep, I am sure we can find a way to help her”.  I was taken aback, he is not a vet who pulls punches and he calls it how it is, this time I misread everything and he was adamant that this extremely skinny bag of bones and love should be given a chance.    I let all our supporters know what was happening via social media, the reaction was overwhelming, donations poured in, I started a Just Giving page and some generous person donated £200, my husband said that he was prepared to cover any shortfall. Unfortunately, the Just Giving page was a short run thing, someone complained that the cause was not genuine and within two days and after raising £1200 it was shut down.   I spoke to my vet and told him that we had very little money for this operation. He said he would find someone who could do it, Davies Veterinary Specialist was the first choice for this operation but their price tag meant we could not use their services.  Our budget was £5000. 

Stuart was not to be defeated, he spoke to the head of Davies, talking them into taking Babs as a Pro Bono case, I was over the moon, Babs is going to have a real chance, although the operation would not be without its dangers.  Carolyn Burton was the vet who performed the operation, she is top of her field in the UK so we felt confident Babs was in the best hands whatever the outcome.   The shunt was massive, the size of a walnut, it was closed down to pea size. the left side of her liver was shrunk almost to nothing, it was a small miracle this girl was still alive, but she needed the will of the Gods to pull through this massive trauma to a very sick liver.  

Her recovery was quick, but her appetite, though, high, she could not face the hepatic diet I was told I had to feed her, I tired three brands both wet and dry but she was not interested, so I devised a low protein diet, consisted mainly of pasta and veg, along with cottage cheese, eggs and fish, but she soon got bored of this, so I researched cans with low protein, I found a couple of products that had a senior range that had the same % of proteins, ash, fibre etc as the hepatic diet. So now she can eat meat.


A month after surgery she had a liver bile test to see how things are healing, this is a simple blood test, one on an empty stomach and another two hours after feeding.  I am delighted to say that, although her liver enzymes are a little elevated, basically due to the trauma of the operation, her bile acids are normal, this is the best news, she will have another test in a months time, but it looks like the operation was a massive success.

Sometimes going with your heart, ignoring what sense tells you, can sometimes pay off, from day one there was something special about this girl, I believed in her and trusted my vet. I am lucky to have a vet like Stu, he has proved to be a rock at the most difficult and heart-wrenching times.

This goes to prove that miracles do happen and the generosity of her fans who have donated money to her vet bills, Stuart, my GP vet, Caroline, the surgeon and the CEO, Clive of Davies Vet Specialists and the team there, have made this miracle happen.   I cannot thank you all enough for giving this wonderful sweet girl her life, the first time in her 4 short years she has felt healthy and happy. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Babs was adopted by a lovely lady with years of borzoi experience, sadly two months after being adopted Babs suffered a fatal stroke and passed away.  For 12 months she lived a normal life, relatively healthy, she knew love and what it was like to sleep on a sofa and walk on the beach.