Today is Vinnie's 1-year rescue anniversary, which I only just realized makes today Grumble Farm Pug Rescue & Re-homing Assistance's... birthday. I considered making this a happy & celebratory post, but I couldn't find it in me, because I kept thinking about how hurt I was from the grief and trauma of loosing our little Chloe, this time last year. If Chloe hadn't of died, I wouldn't have had laser eyes on Kijiji in a desperate attempt to convince myself that a pug just like her in every way would magically appear for me to save. I was grasping at vapor, in the thick of what seemed like denial fuelled by an overwhelming sense of grief - like what had just happened two weeks prior was nothing but a fucking nightmare, and Chloe was simply out there somewhere, waiting for me.
And that's how I found Vinnie, on August 22nd, 2017, listed for free on Kijiji by a family who didn't love him enough to keep him, a tiny, scared looking little pug with enormous wet marbles for eyes.
Tristan and I drove to a Flying J truckstop (seems to be a popular place for pug drops, I've noticed in the year since) in Brooks, Alberta, nearly three hours from where we were living at the time. The entire interaction lasted less than five minutes as the handle of Vinnie's retractable leash was placed in my hand and the car he arrived in drove away as we stood there together. I picked him up in my arms, took some photos to remember the day I went on my first rescue "mission", and off we went on the drive home.
Vinnie was so sweet on the drive home. Perhaps he was used to transition... I'm not entirely sure how many times he was "re-homed" before we picked him up, but I do know this wasn't his first hand-off. He was calm. Quiet. Oblivious.
I wonder now, after what happened to him in the end, if he was already dying when we picked him up. But once we got home and started loving him with everything we had, he lit up and started smiling. He became a part of the grumble for a while, happy boy.
Vinnie helped me execute my first "pug therapy" session for my then-neighbor and now complete-and-total pug bestie, my very first foster Mom, my very first foster fail, and my very first adoptive Mom to Sanford (Grumble Farm's very first on-record rescue). Kelsey and I met for the first time when I walked Vinnie over to her backyard to smother her with pug love, as she was in the process of healing a broken heart similar to mine after loosing her pug, Ollie Bear.
Oh, Vinnie. You went from not being wanted to being part of the reason that someone's heart started to feel a little bit lighter. You mattered and you made a difference, little one! You did what you were sent here to do. The day I met Kelsey marked a really important turning point for me in my life, and Vinnie was there with us.
Things happened pretty fast, very shortly after introducing Vinnie to Kelsey. Just after thanksgiving, Fern and Ivy found us - the twins, our girls. We took them into our home with the intention of never letting them go. And not long after, I found myself in Brooks again to rescue Sanford & Chelsea from a life of ignorance & neglect. Not long after that, Rocky Bear & Mama Mia arrived before I blinked my eyes and found myself in north Bali rescuing some form of reincarnation of my sweet Chloe at a pair of twin waterfalls (it's a long story) - and when I got home, there was our crazy little puppy Gujju, followed by beautiful Miss Muggles, and then the Bugg Bros from Edmonton, dreamboats that they were. And then Remmy! Grumble Farm's first rescue-to-rescue transfer, and very first Puggle - what a trip. And somewhere around there, before Comet & before Jupiter and Oracle, Vinnie got really, really sick... really, really fast.
I was sitting in a rehabilitation session with Rocky at the Canine Fitness Centre when I got a text letting me know that Vinnie had started throwing up non-stop and experiencing horrific, near-constant diarrhea. He needed help... and he needed it right then and there. I picked Vinnie up from my Mom's, where he was staying at the time, and brought him home with me. I made a post on social media asking for help. I knew things were going to be complicated, and complicated means expensive. I needed to raise some money before I was able to do start searching for answers. I had been so focused on all of the other rescues, I had let little Vinnie fall to the wayside, his meek, quiet, unassuming little personality never asking much. He was easy.
It wasn't until someone reached out and offered to run a tab for me at their clinic in Airdrie that I was able to drive him in to start the diagnostic process, which was only the beginning of a long and drawn-out situation that ended VERY quickly. Wholey, man, was it ever fucked up, but I ended up learning a lot from everything that transpired, in hindsight.
Urine tests, blood tests, x-rays - all of the things, check... check... check. Nothing. The veterinarian who was testing Vinnie told me he would fire off his radiographs to a colleague in Ontario for a hundred bucks and change, and we would take it from there.
Vinnie was sent home with me to be watched and observed, kept safe and warm. He wasn't eating and whenever he tried to drink, he would throw up whatever contents of his stomach were left. I dropped him back off with my Mom for the night, and I told her I'd let her know what we could do next.
Unfortunately, by bedtime, Vinnie's still undiagnosed condition progressed rapidly, as he started to vomit and have diarrhea all over the house.
I drove Vinnie back to the clinic first thing in the morning where he was admitted for hospitalization, and another round of tests and imaging (the same ones he had had the day before). Nobody could come up with any answers, so Vinnie stayed at the hospital for two days and two nights on IV fluids with the clinic staff taking him for walks throughout the day until we figured out a plan.
So much seemingly wasted time passed as I reached out to as many people I could think of that might be able to offer me some help and advice regarding how to move forward. Half of the people I talked to whole-heartedly advised me to cease all testing and diagnostics, and to put Vinnie on palliative care (or, to simply end his suffering and put him to sleep). Everyone, including the clinic staff, thought that it might be cancer. The other half of the people I talked to, including The Pug Queen, encouraged me to do everything I could for him, no matter what the outcome... that Vinnie needed me. I saw both sides of the conversation with crystal clarity, and I couldn't decide what to do. I knew that the odds were stacked against him. I knew that continued hospitalization, additional diagnostic imaging, and what seemed like non-stop blood and urine tests to track his progression were going to run my tab through the roof, possibly for nothing, in the end. The clinic staff had told me straight up to prepare myself for the worst.
It wasn't until I got off the phone with Grumble Farm's previous vet - the one who helped us with Sanford and Chelsea - that I made the decision to do everything in my power to try and help Vinnie survive, or to at least get as much information as I possibly could before giving up on him and simply "wondering" what happened - or assuming without actually knowing the answer.
So, I made some phone calls and had Vinnie's case transferred to a specialist department at VCA's Western emergency center. I had him discharged from the clinic in Airdrie the following afternoon to take him home with me to Grumble Farm for the night, before bringing him in to Western early the following morning.
That evening, before bed, Vinnie threw up everything he tried to eat.
Bright and early, we were off to Western to get an ultrasound.
Those of you who had been following along to this point had donated enough for me to put down $1,400 towards this estimate. At this point, I was running on adrenaline and the encouragement I was receiving from everyone on Facebook and Instagram. I said goodbye to Vinnie, wished him luck, watched him walk to the back, and went home to wait.
A few hours later, to nobody's surprise (especially my own), I was speaking to the veterinarian at Western on the phone about the results of Vinnie's ultrasound, and nobody could figure out what was going on. They couldn't see a tumor, they couldn't see an obstruction, they couldn't see... anything even remotely conclusive. The next course of action? Abdominal surgery, to physically see what was happening in Vinnie's intestines and try to fix it.
I didn't know what to do. The estimate for Vinnie's surgery came to thousands of dollars, which I simply didn't have. Not in the bank, not on a credit card, not anywhere. I asked if they could please go ahead and do the surgery, as I pushed for additional donations that very afternoon. I told them I could have a fundraiser that same month, no problem, to pay off my invoice, regardless of the outcome. I had no idea what I was doing! I was flying by the seat of my pants, trying to come up with a solution. I was trying to make money manifest out of thin air.
The way it ended up happening was Vinnie ended up getting admitted for surgery using the last $650 I had to my name. Money for my own bills, for a few groceries, for dog food... whatever. It's all I had left, to the dollar. After I drained my bank account, they took me back to a room with a single computer and an application form pulled up on the screen so that I could apply for veterinary financing to through a third-party in order to cover the rest. I was convinced I wouldn't qualify under the circumstances, but I did, and just like that I entered into a financial contract with a criminally high interest rate and a never-ending monthly payment that I convinced myself I would deal with later. I just wanted to save Vinnie's life.
I left the clinic in tears with no other option but to continue asking for donations that afternoon, as Vinnie was in surgery. Some did, and my God, thank-you for those of you who contributed in the midst of my panicked solicitation. And so the wait began, but not before one of the techs sent me this photo of Vinnie just about to undergo his big surgery.
When I received the phone call a few hours later, Vinnie was in the middle of surgery, and what they had found once they opened his belly and finally taken a look at his intestines was not what anyone had expected. There was no tumor, and there was no obstruction. Instead, it was explained to me how Vinnie's intestines were covered with lesions of sorts, strange pockets of skin holding fluid and other intestinal matter... a chronic intestinal disease that nobody had a diagnoses for. Once again, there were no answers. The condition of Vinnie's bowels weren't what was causing his symptoms (the vomiting, mostly), as everyone was on the lookout for an obstruction, or something that would at least explain why his food wasn't passing through the other end. As I was on the phone, the surgeon was attempting to re-sect his bowels, but was having a hard time finding enough undamaged tissue to connect back to each other. Even if they were able to, there was absolutely no guarantee that the surgery would even fix his condition a little bit, and there was his recovery period to consider, the next several weeks under observation hoping and praying that there were no complications that would require further emergency surgeries.
Do you want to know what's fucking crazy? I was admitted for a colon resection surgery in May of 2016. My surgery took a very, very long time, because my surgeon had an extremely difficult time re-connecting the tissue once it had been surgically separated. The staples wouldn't hold, and he had to go in the old-fashioned way to sew it up, and hope for the best. Two weeks later, my colon perforated at the join, and I stayed in the hospital for the entire month of June recovering from being on the verge of sepsis, left with an ileostomy on my stomach that I am STILL, over two years later, in the process of trying to have reversed. What the fuck is with Vinnie's story & experience reflecting something to huge in my own life? I can't stop thinking about it.
...anyway. On the phone with the vet, they wanted me to know that if they weren't able to successfully re-connect Vinnie's bowels, that he would (obviously) not survive, but they were going to try their very best. I hung up the phone, and waited.
About an hour later, I received the good news that Vinnie was in recovery and had woken up from anesthesia. His bowels had been successfully re-connected, and he had made it through the surgery. However, it was mentioned that at some point during the procedure, he had vomited up fluid from his stomach, and was experiencing a considerable amount of discharge from his nose. They told me they would call me as the evening went on, and Tristan and I decided to go and grab some dinner somewhere while we waited for the phone call.
Very shortly after I had just gotten off the phone, Western called me again to let me know that Vinnie's condition was declining RAPIDLY. His heart rate was out the roof, he was not absorbing any oxygen from his blood, and all of his other vital signs were completely off. His symptoms were most likely due to contracting pneumonia from aspirating fluid into his lungs when he vomited during surgery. There were things they could try, she told me - additional imaging, another surgery, whatever... but they would be expensive. Very, very expensive, and there was no guarantee. Even if he did pull through, we circled back around to the fact that Vinnie might not survive from his abdominal surgery over the the next few weeks, and even if he did, there was a chance that the surgery might not have helped him, anyway, with their findings being inconclusive and whatnot.
Well, fuck me, right?
Tristan and I immediately left to meet Vinnie & his "team" at Western, knowing full-well that it was time to say goodbye. It was fucking rough, but nothing compared to carrying Chloe's already dead and maimed body into an unfamiliar clinic to have her put in a freezer and sent away for cremation. I tried to stay as present with Vinnie's end-of-life experience as possible. There was some degree of relief in knowing I had made the decisions that took Vinnie and I as far as we could together. If I had come to Western to put Vinnie to sleep without trying anything else, I think it might of been harder. Regardless...
...and that was that. I spent the next 45 minutes sorting out the details of a contract with Health Smart Financial Services Inc, and came home to the rest of the Grumble before crawling into bed trying to convince myself that everything would work itself out in the end.
Well, like I said earlier, things happen fast. Less than a week later, Grumble Farm hosted our very first official Pug Therapy session at Camp FYrefly, an annual summer leadership retreat for sexual and gender minority, and allied youth. Shortly after that, I attempted to foster a fiercely protective husky/lab cross and her four tiny little puppies in my basement through Misty Creek Dog Rescue that didn't work out at all once Lily found her way out of the room and wouldn't let me come anywhere near the stairs. I dropped Remmy off to be fostered at a pig rescue sanctuary, rescued Comet, adopted out The Bugg Bros, had Remmy spayed, and started organizing weekly Pug Promenades - group pug walks that I planned to have take place at various dog parks around the city throughout the summer. And then, "all of a sudden", I found myself driving to Hope to rescue Jupiter & Oracle. Two days later, I was back in Kelowna dropping Remmy off with who I THOUGHT was her new forever family, and getting Comet neutered at a friend's clinic in Nelson on the way home. Shortly after we got back, we took Fern to emergency for severe abdominal pain, hosted my Uncle and his partner for two nights who surprised us visiting from Toronto the same weekend we were pet sitting for Tristan's parents in the south, and the first two people to make donations to secure pieces of flash from Grumble Farm's first Pug Love tattoo fundraiser met me in Cochrane for their tattoos. And then? Jupiter had his first seizures, and I endured the the gut-wrenching decision to transfer his and Oracle's care to AARCS.
I had reached a breaking point. There was too much going on, that I didn't even have a chance to ask for help. Plus, asking for help is mentally exhausting. Since dropping Jupiter and Oracle off, I haven't even attempted to rescue or re-home any more pugs because I have SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ON. I took the time to organize a few group pug walks and enjoyed them without any additional pressure; I visited with Kelsey and Sanford and spent some time with them and Chelsea, who is staying with them temporarily; I met the next couple of people who got tattooed for the Pug Love fundraiser; and then Tristan and I left for Jasper to stay in a cabin with our own pugs and honor the 1-year death anniversary of the girl who started it all, our sweet Chloe. When I got home, I realized I didn't have a job anymore. Perfect.
I'll pause here, because the story of what happened the day we got home from our trip gets too intense, and right now... I need to focus on cleaning up the past before I can move forward with anything at all.
I really need your help. Raising money by sensationalizing an emergency and sharing videos, photos, and updates of an animal who is hurting, and desperately needs help, is far easier than trying to raise money for a dog that has died. Vinnie didn't make it. I wasn't able to raise enough money in a day to cover the cost of everything it took to try and save him. Since the day he died, on June 29th, for the past 7 weeks straight... I've been doing this using the very last of my own resources, and I'm officially tapped out & have fallen behind. The last 40 posts on Instagram, after sharing that I had to give up Jupter & Oracle, have been personal posts that have had very little to do with rescue efforts. Cute, sweet, easy photos, videos, and captions; some information about a fundraiser for a friend's dog; some memories from the past; a few cartoons and illustrations. But nothing in regards to needing help. I'm going to admit something to everyone loud and clear: I've been suffering in silence.
It took me three days to create this GoFundMe campaign page, and I'll push it as hard as I have to, for as long as required. I am in desperate need of your donations to pay off my current veterinary invoice at City Centre Animal Clinic/Hospital in Airdrie; to pay off the total repayment amount with Health Smart Financial Services Inc. who financed the remainder of Vinnie's surgery bill at VCA Western Emergency; to pay for Comet's intra-abdominal cryptorchid neuter surgery, which my friend let me keep on an open tab at the clinic in Nelson; and for the endless amount of disposable supplies & food I have gone out-of-pocket to buy for all of the pugs I've cared for over the past two months... and that's just playing catch-up.
Rocky's foster family has been sponsoring his rehabilitation sessions, buying his medication and CBD oil, and all of his food. They've been taking him for nail trims every two weeks, picking up literally everything he needs. What I'm responsible for is getting Rocky in for his dental, now that his physical rehabilitation & maintenance plan is well underway. Rocky will most likely require close to a full-mouth extraction.
Comet's been neutered, thank the Gods, but he needs to go back in for his dental as soon as possible, as his teeth are in really bad shape (as are most of the rescues I've taken in). Comet will need a handful of extractions and a thorough cleaning now that he's fully recovered from his neuter.
Jupiter & Oracle were lovingly taken in to AARCS once I realized I didn't have the resources to care for a pug experiencing seizures. As it turns out, both Jupiter & Oracle were suffering from ear infections and skin conditions - Jupiter has undergone a FULL-MOUTH extraction for every single one of his teeth, and Oracle will be headed in for dental surgery this week, too. I cannot fully express the depth of my gratitude to AARCS for being able to help them so quickly and efficiently. It's my intention to make a donation to AARCS as soon as I can to thank them for helping me on Jupiter & Oracle's journey so far.
I read somewhere recently that "the only donation that is too small is the one you do not give". Your donations, even the little ones, are crucial to Grumble Farm's existence. They are crucial to any future pugs that are surrendered to me or in need of rescue in any capacity. If you truly aren't able to donate a single dollar, please consider sharing this campaign so it might land on the feed of someone who can. If you really, truly want to help, you can organize your own fundraisers and rally the help of your own network of friends and family. I had someone message me this summer to let me know that their kids had raised $250 at their lemonade stand over the weekend, and that they chose to donate the money they had earned to Grumble Farm! Their donation covered most of Remmy's spay surgery. There are so many ways in your power to help raise money for a cause you care about. Don't doubt yourself for a second.
Aside from donations, Grumble Farm is executing a large-scale bottle drive on Saturday, September 8th, 2018 from 10 am to 1 pm at the River Park Off-Leash Area with Uptown Bottle Depot. Their truck will be parked on the street for us to load up bottle donations and drive back to the depot.
If you are unable to donate, but are able to volunteer your time, this is it. I am eagerly looking for as many volunteers as possible for the following dates:
Sunday, September 2nd: BOTTLE DRIVE FLYERING. I have designed and ordered door hangers for the communities surrounding the River Park Off-Leash Area and am in need of multiple volunteers to help me go from door-to-door to hang them up. We will split into teams and divide a map of the community up in order to cover as much of the area as possible. The more door hangers we can distribute, the more awareness there will be for homes to leave their bottles out on the curb for us the following weekend at River Park.
Saturday, September 8th from 10-1 or 2 pm: THE ACTUAL BOTTLE DRIVE. I will need as many volunteers as possible to help me collect people's bottles from outside of their homes and transport them back to the bottle drive truck, which will be parked by the River Park Off-Leash Area. We will need people with trucks and vehicles to pick up as many bags as possible, and people to hang out near the bottle drive truck for drop-offs and loading into the truck itself.
Until the Bottle Drive: Please share, post, and tell everyone you can about the bottle drive date, time, and drop-off location so those who aren't in the Marda Loop area have the opportunity to meet us at River Park and drop off their bottles to us there!
I am also looking to collaborate with tattoo artists and yoga instructors for a few upcoming fundraisers before 2018 is out, as well. If you are a tattoo artist or a yoga instructor, or know of someone who is and has the means to contribute their time and talent, please send me an e-mail at [email redacted] .
Alright, I'm exhausted and the dogs need a walk. Thank-you for reading this! Please, ANY amount helps. If you would prefer to donate directly to our outstanding balance at City Centre Animal Hospital/Clinic in Airdrie, please, feel free! Our account can be found under Grumble Farm Rescue, but I think Rescue is spelled wrong. If you would prefer to send an e-transfer directly to me, you can send anything to [email redacted] (Question: Farm, Answer: Grumble)... if you would like to mail a cheque, please e-mail me at [email redacted] for a mailing address.
Pugs and kisses to all of you <3
R.I.P Vinnie... and Happy Birthday, Grumble Farm Pug Rescue & Re-homing Assistance!
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