Last December, FTF rescued several dogs from an overcrowded (more than 600 dogs!) partner shelter in Texas. Among the group was sweet Ricky Bobby, a 3-year old Lab mix who was temporarily housed at the Hut. His photo went up on our web page, and meet & greets were quickly scheduled and completed. Several people were interested in adopting the fun-loving pooch, but before FTF could choose the best fit, Hut volunteers noticed that Ricky Bobby was having problems keeping food down. Megaesophagus (ME), an enlarged esophagus that lacks muscular tone, was suspected.
When a dog with ME eats, food backs up in the esophagus rather than moving on to the stomach, leading to regurgitation. The condition is often treatable and may resolve. But it was clear that if Ricky Bobby suffered from ME, he would need an exceptional forever home to care for his special needs. Potential adopters were advised of the possible diagnosis. Only 1 couple remained interested in moving forward, and it seemed as if fate had selected them. Because Brittany S. and her fiancé Nick H. are speech-language pathologists with expertise in swallowing problems in people that would help them manage ME in Ricky Bobby.
Brittany and Nick agreed to a foster-to-adopt arrangement and brought Ricky Bobby home. During the fostering period, X-rays taken by an FTF vet confirmed the diagnosis of ME. Brittany and Nick didn’t hesitate to follow through with adoption, renaming the new member of the family Rigby. FTF provided a Bailey chair, a device designed for dogs with ME that makes them sit in an upright position when eating, allowing gravity to move food from the esophagus and into the stomach. But Brittany says the chair didn’t seem to make a difference in Rigby’s symptoms.
“Currently, we are managing his ME with a raised feeder and small portions placed in a slow-feeder bowl. We also have Rigby sit for at least 15 minutes following each meal, giving gravity time to work,” she said.
One of the biggest concerns with ME is aspiration, where food goes down “the wrong pipe,” ending up in the lungs and resulting in infection (pneumonia). Brittany says that her and Nick’s training in preventing aspiration and recognizing its warning signs in their human patients helps guide the strategies they use with Rigby. Once in a while, they listen with a stethoscope to make sure his lungs don’t sound “wet,” which may be an indication of aspiration. So far, so good!
When asked what she’d like to tell people about adopting a special needs dog like Rigby, Brittany says every dog deserves a chance at a warm and loving home.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ dog, but those with special needs are often overlooked. Why not open your heart and home to one of these dogs? They’ll love you and be so thankful.”
Is there any doubt that this adoption was meant to be? Thank you, Brittany and Nick, for using your special talents to give Rigby the best life ever!
Written By: Michele G.