As pet owners, we all have had (or have) that special pet that has just captured our hearts. They are a part of everything we do/have done, we can’t imagine life without them, & when we scroll through our photo galleries on our phones, there are about a million photos of said pet. No matter if it was/is a cunning canine, a crafty cat, a radiant rat or a brilliant bird, we all have our “Heart Pet” that is imprinted on our hearts. For me, my Heart Dog is 100%, without a doubt, my 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier…Hope. And this is her story up until now.
Hope was born bright & early on November 9th, 2008. She was the second born out of a litter of three. Her mother, Gracie, was my first Jack Russell & her father, Bandit, was my second. Sadly, her father passed away before Hope was born due to a misdiagnosed medical condition. Bandit was my best friend & I was devastated by his death. When he passed away, I was not even sure Gracie was pregnant, but had hope that she was & that one of the puppies would come out just like Bandit. Sure enough, around 3 a.m. this little peanut came into the world. She may not have been tan & white like her daddy, but she definitely grew to have his facial structure & smile, not to mention his personality. I was in love with her from the moment she was born.
Hope’s first year of life went pretty uneventful. I took her everywhere, trained her, & did all the usual stuff you do with your dog. We went to the Rescue Round Up in Flagstaff with our friends in, I believe, August of 2010 right before Hope would have turned two, & she was perfectly healthy. She did the lure course, some barn hunt, we let a balloon go for her daddy & had all sorts of fun. About a month later she started having diarrhea. Loose, clay colored, greasy looking diarrhea. All the other dogs wanted to eat it, which they never had before, & no matter what I fed her, she had the same nasty stool. Even with the diarrhea, she had a vivacious appetite, was happy & wanted to play ball all the time. After about a week of that, I decided to take her in. We ran some blood work, sent out a fecal test, all of which came back normal. We tried several different bland diets, grain free diets, adding probiotics to her food & nothing worked. On top of that, she was losing weight & as a small breed dog, losing even one pound is a lot. She started bowing a lot, which I thought was cute, but looking back now I know that was a sign of abdominal discomfort. After many days of looking on Dr. Google (I didn’t work at an animal hospital at the time!) I found a condition called E.P.I. which stands for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. The symptoms of this condition matched Hope’s symptoms to a T. I called her vet, asked about the test (Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity Test) & scheduled Hope for a blood draw the following morning.
**But WAIT! What Is EPI & That Blood Test With The Long Name???**
In a nutshell, E.P.I. is when the Pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes to break down starches, fats & proteins in a patients diet. Humans can develop this condition as well. Thus, causing the pet to have chronic diarrhea & severe weight loss. It almost seems as if the patient is starving to death. Thus explaining Hope’s insatiable appetite. The TLI blood test measures the enzyme Trypsin itself. In healthy pets, a small amount of Trypsin escapes into the bloodstream & can be measured by the TLI test. Patients with less than the normal amount of Trypsin are usually diagnosed with E.P.I. There have been occurrences of false negatives, but they are very very rare. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
When the blood test results came back a few days later I was SO relieved to find out that Hope indeed had E.P.I. It is typically an incurable disease, so I was told she would have to be on medication for the rest of her life to help her pancreas produce those much needed enzymes but she would be back to her old self soon enough. After picking up the eighty dollar, four ounce size jar of Pancreazyme Powder, treatment began. I would have to soak Hope’s food in warm water, mix the powder into her food & let it sit for 15 minutes then feed it to her. Letting it sit was the most important part because those enzymes in the powder actually start to break down the fats, starches & proteins in the bowl, before they hit the patients belly. It was quite the process, but it was all worth it to see my girl start gaining weight again, & her diarrhea ceasing. Somehow, after several months on the Pancreazyme powder & eating a raw diet, she was able to pull herself out of EPI & no longer needs the powder on her food! She amazes me!
In the spring of 2011, we started attending a Flyball (a relay type dog sport where teams of 4 dogs each race to a spring loaded box while jumping over 4 separate jumps, jump on the box to launch the ball, catch the ball, then return to their owner with ball in hand. Once they pass the start line, the other dog can go!) class with the Blazin’ K-9’s of Chandler, AZ. Hope had such a drive to catch ice cubes out of the fridge when she was younger & then it switched over to tennis balls, odd right?! From the first class, Hope was a natural. She had her hiccups when it came to the box, like bobbling the ball &/or not picking her back end up & pushing off the box when she would turn to come back to me (hence the reason why she has some gutters to jump over in the photo above) but after several weeks of class, she was asked to join the team. We were more than happy to accept the invitation.
We participated in flyball for a couple years, winning multiple titles, traveling to many tournaments & pet expo’s as well as performing in a half-time show for the Phoenix Suns! You can watch the video of the demo on YouTube by following THIS LINK. Hope’s team is in the farthest lane. It was her first even like this & I was SO proud of her even with one or two bobbles with the ball. I am such a nervous person by nature & it always amazes me how less nervous I am when I have my best furriend by my side. After all our fun experiences with Flyball, we had to discontinue it by the end of 2013. Not only was I having financial problems but I was going through a divorce & had a new baby in May of 2014. We miss it so much to this day!
For the next year & a half or so things were pretty quiet. With a newborn baby, moving into a new rental home, & trying to just juggle life, we didn’t really have a whole lot of time for anything. We took an occasional walk or hike but most of life was spent either at home or at work. I was able to bring Hope to work with me but I still felt so bad that my life was so busy & we went from having such a fun centered life to just work, work, work.
We had always kind of casually hiked, but thanks to life, we let our hobby fall by the wayside. So when we linked back up with an old friend from high school in the fall of 2015 & she invited us to hike with some new friends she met through Instagram, we were more than happy to join! We met our friends in the Superstition Wilderness right at sunrise. Little did I know, Massacre Falls was roughly 6 miles round trip with more up’s than downs! We were also being led by the crazy conditioned, hiking queen, Katie Pollak of @trustyourtrail. I was SO unprepared, but little Hope just kept trekking on, pushing me to go forward. When we got to the half way point, I remember being asked if I wanted to stop or continue on to the falls. I could hear my heart in my ears, my legs were jello, & my mouth was dry. Turning around and going back felt like a fabulous idea. That’s when I looked at Hope. Her little face, urging me to go on. So…we did, & it was totally worth it. We felt accomplished on that day, made some new friends, & were inspired to start hiking more & more. On following hikes, we were inspired to start our own Instagram feed & adventure blog & that is when Prospector Pups was born.
One of our favorite adventures thus far was to Webber Creek near Payson, Arizona. We backpacked a little over 5 miles in & back in over a 2 day time period. Hope had an absolute blast playing in the creek with her new brother, Chappie, romping through the lush forest during the day & cuddling with me in the tent overnight. I was SO proud of her for trekking that whole way especially when she almost died a month earlier from a Rattlesnake bite while we were out on a relaxing, morning hike to the Salt River. Hope is truly my motivation & proof that you’re only as old/sick as you feel & to not let life’s obstacles hold you back.
Did I say Rattlesnake bite? Yes, unfortunately I did. Last August, we went out to catch the sunrise with our friends Kerri & Goose of Dusty Desert Dogs. The sunrise was an exceptionally beautiful one as it rose over the mountain ranges & river in front of us. We took photos, shared Zuke’s treats, & had some laughs. It started to get warm so we walked down a steep embankment to the river to let the dogs play after all their hard work posing for photos. Hope got stung by a bee but brushed it off & still wanted to play. After about 30 minutes, the bees got really bad so we called it quits & headed towards the trail head. We were walking through the deep sand, about to make our climb up the steep hill we had come down earlier, when we heard it. A quick hiss, pop & rattle told us there was a snake. We did not see it, as it was buried in the sand. Goose had stepped on it but was not bit. Hope was not as lucky. She was bitten in the muzzle & I knew the time on the clock was now counting down until I might not see my best friend alive again. Kerri & I took turns carrying Hope out of the canyon & to the truck then I sped off to the closest emergency animal hospital as it was too early for my hospital to be open.
I think I broke every traffic law getting Hope to the hospital. I talked to her the whole way there, trying to keep her & myself calm. I called the hospital to let them know I was coming in & text Hope’s doctor, Kristin Fornara, to let her know what had happened. long story short, Hope was stable, her doctor offered to purchase the anti-venin from another animal hospital, & I drove her to my hospital when her doctor got in. By the time anti-venin was started, her face was 3 times as swollen & she was panting non stop. All this time, I never heard a peep out of her. No whining, yelping or anything…not even when she was bitten. Her body accepted the anti-venin without any issues (it can sometimes kill a pet) & she remained on fluids the remainder of the day. The photo below, was where I spent almost the entire day. If it weren’t for my co-workers urging me to go home, shower (I was covered in dirt & blood) & eat, I would have stayed all day.
Hope pulled through, despite crashing the following night from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic injection she had been receiving throughout the day prior. The whole event brought us so much closer than we already were & made me realize how life can change in the blink of an eye so to not take these times with our pets for granted. Hope also taught me how to be strong. I could not believe her little body made it through all that it had. The only times she whimpered or whined was when I was out of the room, & when I would return, she would calm right down. It still brings tears to my eyes to this day. I think she was strong for me, & I was strong for her. Our bond kept both of us going when in reality, we were both a hair away from completely falling apart. Today, Hope is happy & healthy thanks to quick thinking, amazing co-workers/her DVM, & our bond that is apparently strong enough to beat a Rattlesnake bite.
Since that fateful day, Hope has added many more miles under her paws & she never ceases to amaze me. She has helped us to become ambassadors for Dog Is Good & Hikers Brew, influencers for Chewy.com & product testers for Hurtta. We recently went on a trip to the Mojave National Preserve & she climbed the Kelso Sand Dunes like they were a mere boulder to scramble on. Once again, she would turn & look back at me to keep trekking on. See how far ahead of me she was in the photo above! I did have to stop without reaching the top because my daughter was red as a tomato & exhausted. Hope came back down the dune to us & we all enjoyed a fabulous sunset together. The little things in life are what are so important & that is why we try to get out on the trails & spend as many precious moments together as we can.
Hope & I are best friends. She is the one I can trust with all my secrets, the one I can count on to always be there when I am upset. She follows me into the bathroom when I get sick & am vomiting just so I won’t have to be alone! Hope has taught me so much in the 8 years of her little life & I just can’t ever imagine life without her. Unfortunately, I do know that day will come & I am not entirely sure how I will even begin to prepare myself for it. There are some days I just sit back & stare at this beautiful creature that God has blessed me with & think how thankful I am for her & how blessed I am to be given the job of being her hooman. Hopefully, her story has many more exciting chapters to write & I get to watch them all unfold. (Our next big adventure is a **partial** cross country road trip this summer) Hope is MY Heart Dog & I am so lucky she’s mine!
So what about you? Who was/is your heart pet? What is your favorite thing about him or her & what have you learned from them? I would love to hear about them! Tell me all about them in the comment section below.