By DIANA WALDHUBER
Welcome back to PetMD's DogTown blog, and step into the world of Zambi, the black Lab mix.
Her tale was something right out of one those terribly exciting and heart-wrenching medical dramas they always show on TV. But this was real life. You can’t get better (or more nail biting) than that!
Zambi came to Dogtown after she was whisked away from certain death at another shelter. But Zambi came with a big, worrying problem.
She had a huge, strange growth on her lower jaw. It caused her tongue to hang out strangely, too.
Upon examination, Dr. Mike was officially worried. Not only was the growth big, but it smelled horrible and had eaten away at the flesh on her lower jaw.
Basically, he’d never seen anything like it before.
Zambi had no medical records, and she’d probably had the growth since she was a pup. No one had treated it. Concerned it could be life threatening, they decided to do a biopsy.
I’m pretty sure at this stage, only a heartless person made out of stone would’ve remained dry-eyed, especially when you saw what a sweet, happy, loving dog Zambi was. This dog deserved everything good, but she’d been handed the rough life, instead.
Dr. Mike feared it was cancer and even trainer John Garcier was upset. The dedication these people have towards these animals is nothing short of beautiful and amazing.
If Zambi’s test results came back positive for cancer then they would probably have to put her down, because if a growth that big was cancer, then it meant there’d be little chance of recovery or quality of life.
While they waited for the results, trainer John marveled at Zambi’s zest for life. She might not be the prettiest dog to look at with the deformity, but she was beautiful because of her personality and willingness to please and just live.
She managed to work out a way to eat from the side of her mouth and then lift her head -- the only way she could swallow. It was amazing a dog that had had such a hard life could remain so innocent and happy and loving.
While waiting for the results to come in, I know I was about as anxious as a little school girl, and I bet you were been, too. This was real life! I loved this dog!
Luckily for Zambi, there was no cancer. They did, however, need to excise the benign growth to stop it from spreading. And to get rid of it, Zambi needed intensive surgery.
The infuriating thing was the fact that if she’d received medical treatment as a pup, then she wouldn’t be like this today. No tumor, no facing radical surgery. And the decision to operate wasn’t a light one. It might not make a difference. In fact, putting her to sleep might be the kinder option.
Dr. Mike had to make the decision for Zambi, because as we know, pets can’t talk. She was facing removal of half her lower jaw if she was to be given a chance at a quality life. The decision of whether to operate or to put her down was a big one.
But given her zest for life, Dr. Mike decided she deserved the chance.
Calling in a specialist, they began the operation.
The proposed three-hour operation turned into a grueling eight hours, as the tumor spread had dispersed into a wider area than was first thought. It had spread to the other side of her jaw; to prevent any chance of recurrence, they had to remove almost her entire lower jaw.
The vets were devastated by this revelation. Only time would tell if Zambi would ever be able to eat and drink on her own. Did they do the right thing?
For three weeks, Zambi lived with a feeding tube, but finally, miraculously, she started to eat and drink on her own.
Angela, a Dogtown caregiver, fell for this remarkable dog and is fostering Zambi at her home. Somehow, Zambi has bounced back, adjusted to life with no lower jaw, and is still as sweet and happy and loving as ever. I just hope you had the tissue box at the ready for the “Fresh Start” episode; I know I did.
Before I go, I’ll give you a quick update on the three dogs so far…
Casey piqued viewer interests after the show, but is still awaiting the right fit. Bingo is making progress. And Zambi … there’s an application pending on her adoption!
See you next week.