One day several years ago, I was working when our Director of Shelter Operations came into my office in tears. She was horrified about a small hound that had just been brought to us by an owner for relinquishment. The little female hound was horribly emaciated and Angi believed that she had been intentionally starved. We agreed to set aside any other admissions review of the dog and simply take her into our care immediately to remove her from what we believed to be a situation of horrific neglect. What we found in the succeeding weeks was that Astrid was emaciated because she had megaesophagus. That is a condition in which peristalsis fails to occur properly and the esophagus is enlarged. Normally, the esophagus acts as a muscle that pushes the food down the esophagus and into the stomach. However, with megaesophagus, the esophagus stays enlarged and does not push the food down to the stomach so the food often stays in the esophagus and is eventually regurgitated. It results in an animal essentially starving even though he or she is being fed food. It also causes the esophagus to become terribly inflamed due to the constant regurgitation back through it.Despite how hard her life was, Astrid was always sweet, affectionate and gentle with such a pretty little face.
Remarkably, we found a very kind elderly man who took Astrid into his home and his heart. For several years, he gave her the care she needed. But the time came when his age and his own poor health prevented him from continuing to do so. Then, we took Astrid back into our care. Astrid’s condition had significantly worsened over the years. But, our staff and volunteers loved her so much, and we knew that Astrid would probably have to remain in our care for the rest of her days. Barclay Finck built Astrid a sort of chair in which she could sit upright to be fed, making the experience more comfortable for her than trying to stand up on her back legs. Our staff members fed her numerous times a day in the chair. Jamie Campbell took her home for a few weeks, including Thanksgiving to give her a happy holiday in a family setting. Volunteers Donna Halasz and Marge Arrighi loved Astrid and walked her and showered love and attention on her.
This continued until a few weeks ago when the time came, as we always knew it would, when Astrid's problems could no longer be managed. She no longer could keep any food down, not even baby food, no matter how long she was kept upright. She became terribly thin and famished all the time. Her esophagus was so inflamed that she cried out at the pain of it. We had her on pain medication but it soon became clear that she was in pain and starving and there was no hope for anything better in the future.
During her last days and hours, Astrid was lovingly cared for by Brittany Pierri and no one could ever have given more focused, tender care, hour after hour, to anyone than that Brittany gave to Astrid. It finally was clear to our veterinary professionals as well as to Brittany and all of us that Astrid was truly suffering and had no hope of any further quality of life. With many tears, she was lovingly helped out of this life and into God’s hands by Dr. Rosalie Gibson and Brittany. I could never adequately express to our staff and volunteers how much it meant to my heart to watch their loving care of Astrid over such a long time. She had years of love, happiness and security that she would never have received without their devotion to her. They make me so proud of what a truly remarkable organization the Richmond SPCA is. There is no other organization like it on the face of the earth and that is because of its remarkable people whose hearts are committed to the animals who need us and who show that commitment in their daily acts of kindness. I thank each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.