From the moment my husband and I saw Rooster Cogburn at Clay County Animal Control, we knew our lives had been forever changed. In front of us, we saw a dog who had been through unimaginable neglect, but whose spirit—despite the onslaught of medical diagnoses waiting to be found—was not broken but alive and well.
The day we rescued Rooster, three different veterinarians advised that it was not likely he would make it through the week, let alone, the night. “He is past the point of treatment,” the third vet said, and we left the doctor’s office feeling defeated and not knowing what to do next. Despite the very grim prognoses he had received, Rooster was full of life and thrilled to be in our home. We kept a close eye on him over the next few days and our good friend (also a vet tech) urged us to take him to a specialist. Rooster was beating the odds. Having made it through the week, we decided that if Rooster was strong enough to fight this battle against heartworm disease, then we would do everything that we could to help him!
Soon after rescuing Rooster, we started a Facebook page. We immediately saw an outpouring of support from the animal-loving community. People sent donations to help with Rooster’s care and prescriptions, items to raffle in exchange for donations, care packages for Rooster and kind words and well wishes for our sweet boy. We are so thankful for all of our supporters!
Upon speaking to the specialist, we were referred to the Small Animal Hospital at the University of Florida where Rooster was admitted at once. The ER veterinarian was shocked to see the severity of the advanced stage of Rooster’s heartworm disease; he had a heart murmur, was in congestive heart failure, and had fluid collecting on his abdomen and in his limbs. The hospital wanted to keep him overnight to run a battery of tests. The hospital was unsure if Rooster would make it through the night. The little engine that could made it and when we returned the next day, the head of cardiology at the hospital examined Rooster and remarked that he had never seen an advanced case of heartworm disease such as Rooster’s in a dog that was still alive. The doctor was pleased, however, with Rooster’s progress on the medications administered to him in only the short 24 hours Rooster was with them. The hospital ruled out the surgical removal of the worms as Rooster would not be able to survive undergoing anesthesia due to the damage the worms had done to his lungs. They also deemed giving him injections right away an almost certain sudden death given the worm burden he was carrying. Rooster and I left the hospital with an arsenal of prescriptions (NINE different medications, including Viagra) and a mission to try to save his life!
We returned to the hospital three short weeks later and the staff was astounded at the progress Rooster had made with the help of the medications. Gone was the heart murmur! His fluid build-up and retention were being managed adequately by the medication. They agreed that Rooster had made such a vast improvement that he would be cleared to receive the immiticide injections. One month later, Rooster spent the night and received his first injection. He was doing so well and was getting so strong following the first treatment. Of course, he had to be kept quiet and relatively still. For those of us who knew “Mr. Sassy Pants” the quiet part was particularly difficult!
Sadly, when we brought him in to receive his second heartworm treatment injection it was discovered during preliminary testing that Rooster had developed a very aggressive form of cancer which had not previously presented itself in other tests. Because of the severity of Rooster’s heartworm disease and his resulting weakened state, he was unable to withstand any treatment for the cancer. Additionally, the severity of the cancer prevented Rooster from receiving any further treatment for his heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is 100% preventable. Rooster’s family and friends were devastated to learn that he would inevitably pass away and that there was nothing more that they could do. Had he not been suffering from heartworm disease, he could have been treated for cancer. We vowed that although Rooster’s life would be lost it would not be in vain. We made a commitment to help other dogs like Rooster. So, the idea for Rooster to the Rescue, Inc. was born. Rooster stood by and watched as the incorporation documents were completed and he even helped put them in the mail.