As some of you may know, my ambition when I was small, was to be a vet. This wasn’t possible but writing about my character, Phoebe Dashwood, who’s a vet at Puddleduck Farm, is the next best thing.
I have dogs and ex-battery hens and so spend my fair share of time at our vets. Thankfully it’s usually routine. But fiction tends to be more dramatic.
Fortunately, my vet, Rhian Rochford, is very obliging and happy to answer questions on all things vet for my novels. It’s uncanny how often reality echoes fiction though. Recently I had an out-of-the-blue veterinary emergency of my own.
One Friday afternoon, one of my dogs, Ella, came in from the garden with what looked like a scratch on her nose. I wasn’t unduly concerned. Ella’s prone to getting into mischief, but the next day the scratch appeared to be spreading. On Saturday afternoon we rushed to the out-of-hours vet, who prescribed antibiotics and took blood tests, which showed something slightly awry.
We were confident the antibiotics would cure things but by Sunday morning, Ella’s nose was considerably worse – it was as though a wound was opening up in many different places. Both the vet and I suspected Alabama Rot, a life-threatening, but very rare condition. This terrifying disease affects dogs. There is no cure but it usually happens after walking in muddy woods between November and April. Which we had been doing. It presents as lesions usually on the paws but occasionally on the snout, so similar to what Ella seemed to have.
By Tuesday morning Ella was booked in for a biopsy and more blood tests. I was frantic. Rhian was very concerned. Was my beautiful dog going to survive? There was a ray of hope though. Dermatology was Rhian’s area of expertise.
“I promise you, we’ll get to the bottom of this,” was the last thing she said, as I left Ella with her. “I don’t think it can be Alabama Rot because if it was she would be dead by now.” Her eyes darkened. “Although we can’t yet rule it out.”
On Tuesday afternoon Rhian phoned me. “We have the answer,” she said. “It’s an incredibly rare autoimmune disorder.” She reeled off an unpronounceable name. “The good news is that steroids will cure it completely.”
I could have hugged her.
Ella was on steroids for several weeks but I’m happy to report that apart from some scarring she is now back to full health. I’m so grateful to Rhian, not just for her help with my Puddleduck Farm series, but for her help in my real-life emergency. For saving my beautiful Ella’s life.
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