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(Warning: this account contains confronting medical procedure images)

Meeting Flossi

Three years ago, in June 2017, we said a sad farewell to our Maltese-Shih Tzu terrier Topsy at the age of 17 years. Since then we had been thinking seriously about getting another dog but there were no rescue dogs that appealed to us. The alternative seemed to be to buy a dog at a cost of over $600.

Just before Christmas 2019 a friend told us about a situation in which a man had a Maltese Cross terrier that he could no longer look after. She asked us if we would be interested in visiting the man’s home with a view to adopting his dog.

She said the female dog was about six years old. Her name was Flossi.

We asked if there were any photos available so that we could get some idea of what she looked like.

The images showed a small dog that was almost entirely covered in long, thick hair. In one of the photos it was difficult to say which was the head and which end was the tail.

Flossi before we saw herFlossi before we saw her

We said we wanted to see her and it was arranged for us to visit on 27/12/19.

At our meeting I asked the owner why he wanted to give Flossi up and he said he didn’t have time to look after her. This surprised me because he appeared to be capable of caring for a dog, not being obviously unable to care for a dog.

Initially we offered to take her for a few days so that we could see how she reacted to us and if we thought she would be happy with us.

However, as soon as we patted her and she rolled over to be stroked, our minds were made up. We would take her there and then.

As we had no collar or lead I said I would go to buy a few supplies and be back as soon as I could. When I asked if there was a Council registration label the owner said that Flossi had never been registered with the Council as she spent all her time at the house.

A short time later I returned to the house. The family said their goodbyes and I put Flossi in the car and we left. Even at that stage she was docile, not barking or appearing to be stressed in any way.

During the next few days I tried to get the previous owner to write a letter to us that confirmed our ownership of Flossi but that never happened.

The Operations

The first thing that occurred on getting home after feeding Flossi was that Suzanne clipped some of the long hair away from Flossi’s face and cut off some of the worst matting. This made a huge difference to the way she looked. We were surprised how small she was under the thick coat.

Flossi after 1st clip

On 28/12/19 we took Flossi to the veterinary clinic where she was examined.

The vet was able to establish from another vet that a period of six years had elapsed since Flossi’s last visit, with no subsequent evidence of any vaccinations having been administered. He also informed us that Flossi was actually almost 11 years old, from information supplied by the previous vet, not six as we initially believed.

Our vet was shocked to discover the extent of tooth decay in Flossi’s mouth.

He also established that she had never been de-sexed or microchipped and she had a heart murmur.

We immediately booked her in for a major operation on 31/12/19 to treat her rotten teeth, perform the de-sexing operation and implant a microchip. The vet who extracted Flossi's teeth said she had never before seen such a severe case of tooth decay.

Flossi's Bad Teeth-1Flossi's Bad Teeth-2Flossi's Bad Teeth-3Flossi's Bad Teeth-4

We also asked if an attempt could be made to cut more of the matting away and to trim her claws while she was still under the anaesthetic.

We collected Flossi later that day and were shocked to learn that all of her teeth had been extracted, except for the two lower canine teeth, such was the extent of decay. The vet said the diseased teeth could have caused a major infection that may eventually have led to her death if not treated.

It was obvious to us that Flossi had been suffering severe pain for a number of years and would have had major problems eating. When I saw the images provided above I was brought to tears.

As Flossi had been diagnosed with a heart murmur I found some information on a veterinary website that indicated:

"Signs of congestive heart failure include cough (especially a cough at rest), a fast breathing rate, difficulty breathing, fainting, weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance and abdominal distension".

Over the following months Flossi exhibited all of these signs. We knew we would need to treat her very gently.

As well as a supply of Cardisure tablets to treat her heart disease we were provided with a course of antibiotics to assist with infection control while Flossi recovered and a supply of Pred-X to help reduce inflammation.

While Flossi was still unconscious some scans were done and a blood count was carried out. The vet diagnosed a mass within her abdomen and gave us the sad news that Flossi would probably live for only another three weeks or so.

During the subsequent few weeks we were informed by the friend who initially told us about Flossi that she had never been allowed inside the house, but was kept in a shed, never walked and was basically a neglected dog, the floor not having been cleaned up from her toileting. Her food was apparently dry food, topped up whenever the bowl was empty. I should point out that the comments about her treatment by the previous owner were not verified but her overall condition indicated that she had been very badly treated.

Flossi quickly became a much loved member of our family. She had a lovely, calm personality and was never any trouble. Fortunately she had been taught to do her toilet functions outside. She was also very well socialised with both people and other animals. We made the assumption that this training must have occurred during the first four years of her life.

I registered her microchip with Pet Chip Registry and with Clarence Council.

Life with Flossi

When we rescued Flossi the previous owner provided us with three fabric and foam beds that were in a filthy condition. I washed these thoroughly but Flossi seemed to be a bit reluctant to use them, preferring to be cuddled on the couch or on our laps. She never refused a cuddle and slept on our bed near our feet.

Flossi on CouchFlossi with ToyFlossi with Tony

He also provided us with a large bag of dry food. When I checked the Use By Date it was about eight months past when it should have been used. There was also a selection of dishes,  soft toys and shampoo.

Following her recovery from the trauma of her operations, we decided to spoil her with soft food - sometimes cooked or raw chicken flesh (no bones), My Dog or Optimum small trays or rice and carrots that we chopped into very small pieces.

We quickly discovered that Flossi had been deprived of exercise and game-playing. She had no interest in fetching a ball, but this was probably due to the fact that she quickly ran out of breath and coughed and choked with any quick activity.

Between Suzanne and I we took Flossi for short walks, either on Lauderdale Beach or around a 300m square near our home. She enjoyed these new experiences but never showed any interest in playing in the water.

Flossi on the beachFlossi with coat on beachFlossi out for a walk

On 13/4/20 a new phase of Flossi's life began.

During the evening I was sitting on the couch and Suzanne was sitting on the floor. Flossi walked towards Suzanne and suddenly stopped and collapsed onto her side, went limp and stopped breathing. I immediately checked that her heart was beating and, as there was no breathing, I commenced mouth-to-nose resuscitation. After five or six breaths she started breathing again but let out some awful-sounding wails as she came round. We kept her calm and still and she eventually recovered.

This was the first of five more such episodes. Fortunately, they occurred when I was close by and each time I succeeded in bringing her back from what I think might have been certain death. Her breathing seemed to be very laboured and raspy. She frequently choked but was able to clear her throat. Suzanne was very stressed whenever I was away from home but fortunately no such incidents occurred while I wasn't at home.

We took Flossi back to the vet after the first of these attacks. He prescribed two more medications, Lasix to help with her congestive heart failure and Fortekor to help in treating heart failure due to mitral regurgitation. From this point on Flossi was on four medications daily until she was put to sleep on 11/8/20.

One incident stands out for me as slightly amusing, but which could have had more serious consequences. Suzanne had invited a friend to coffee and had bought a plate of Chocolate Royals from a charity group. As she was bringing them upstairs two of them must have fallen off, one downstairs and one in our loungeroom. The first we knew of a potential problem was when we saw Flossi with one of the treats completely filling the front of her mouth. She obviously had no idea what she should be doing with it, having only two teeth. I quickly took it from her. She didn't object.

Five minutes later when Flossi and I were downstairs, she having gone outside for toileting, I saw that she had another Chocolate Royal in her mouth. I repeated the removal of it from her mouth and gave her a more appropriate treat for having calmly accepted the withdrawal of her prize.

From time to time we would find Flossi under our bed. We thought this was possibly her "safe place" so did not interrupt her rest. If either Suzanne or I needed to attend meetings or to be away from home we always arranged things so that one of us was at home. We never left her alone for more than one hour at any time.

Because I wanted Flossi to have as normal life as was possible, I booked her into Just Dogs Grooming for a light clip and to have her claws trimmed. There were two appointments, 30/4/20 and 11/7/20.

On each occasion I explained Flossi's problems and offered to stay with her, if that was allowed during this COVID-19 pandemic. It was not possible. The next best option was for me to wait in my car near the front door, just in case there was an emergency and I would be able to respond quickly. Flossi handled the process very well, with no dramas. A big "thank you" to the grooming staff for taking such good care of her.

A further set of worrying incidents occurred when, for no obvious reason, she suddenly collapsed, with her body as stiff as a board. At these times she did not stop breathing but made terrible crying noises until maybe one minute later she revived and lay very quiet and still. We gently cradled her head and talked quietly to her. I believe she had had a seizure. Since reading about these events it is probable that she was not in any pain as, at the time, she was unconscious. It still worried us enormously.

As we neared the inevitable decision to end Flossi's life, but not being able to make the necessary decision, we carried her up and down the 16 internal stairs at our home in order to avoid putting any more stresses on her little body than were necessary whenever we thought she might need to go to the toilet. In order to prevent any catastrophes we placed barriers at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Flossi's Life Comes to an End

In the last few weeks we noticed her breathing was becoming a major effort for her. Her abdomen was becoming distended and this must have impacted on her ability to breathe properly.

On the final day of Flossi's life (11/8/20) she had two seizures in fairly quick succession and did not show any interest in living. We took some final photos of her. My son, Matthew, kindly visited us and when he saw her he assured us that we were doing the right thing and Flossi's suffering would soon be over. 

Flossi Last Day-4Flossi Last Day-3Flossi Last Day-1Flossi Last Day-2

After making an appointment with the vet for that afternoon, we took Flossi in to Hobart to be euthenased. It was heart-wrenching.

At the vet's, an assistant kindly gave us a small bowl of cooked chicken, which we fed to Flossi while we waited in tears.

When it was time for the final procedure and the injections were given, we cradled Flossi's head in our hands and I whispered to her that I was sorry we couldn't help her.

This was the end of a beautiful life. We brought her body back home to be buried next to our other dog, Topsy.

On Wednesday 12/8/20 my son visited me to help bury Flossi.

Friday 14/8/20 came and I found a lovely bunch of flowers that had been left outside our front door. They were from the staff at the vet's, with a card expressing their heartfelt feelings at our loss.

We were so touched by this gesture that I prepared a thank you card with a photo of Flossi, that we delivered to the vet staff on Saturday.

Flowers for FlossiCard with FlowersThank You Card

A second surprise - a lovely card, also from the vet staff arrived today, Thursday 20/8/20.

Card from HAHCard from HAH

We both consider ourselves to have been fortunate that Flossi came into our lives. We loved her dearly. I have planted two French lavender plants near the graves of Topsy and Flossi.

Rest in peace lovely little pet.


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