Tuesday, February 11, 2014

House calls and Haifa - São Paulo

Haifa last week at the fazenda
It turns out that this is going to be animal week. No, not really. I was about to post political observations that always get me into trouble, but then yesterday happened. Yesterday, my 11-year old labrador fell down the stairs after losing control of her hindquarters and is in some weird state of neurological no-man's land. She is now sleeping at my feet--so I have decided to tell you a little bit about her, and the spectacular veterinary care that my dogs both get here in Brazil. Back to my political meanderings tomorrow.

I have two labradors. The first, named Caju, has been with me since he was a tiny puppy. He will turn 14 next month and has all the ups and downs of a senior dog.  In early 2012, he was losing his mojo. I thought adopting a canine companion would help. I didn't think a puppy would work (attention diverted from Caju), and with two small kids, I did not want to get a street dog that might have a history that involved kids torturing it and he might turn on them. I wanted a senior girl.

I called the vet who had sold me my first Brazilian lab, Chopp. Audrey knows well Caju--mostly because Caju has had every single problem known to doggie-kind (cancer, pancreatitis, canine tick disease, arthritis, various varmints living in his skin). She was no longer breeding dogs and did not want to give up any of the 9 seniors currently living at her home. She suggested I contact Brazil's largest labrador kennel, called Tokay.   

I sent a note to Tokay and three days later I heard back. The owner said she had never heard of anyone wanting to adopt a retired breeding lab but yes, she had three females, all age 9, all retired. She suggested I look at their photos on the web, which I did. And I saw one, Haifa, was related intergenerationally to Caju. Her grandfather was Caju's father.  Haifa came home with me.

The story gets too long about her arrival here. She was not in good condition, is partially deaf, and needed minor surgery to fix a number of issues. But she is a complete love. She is my shadow now that Caju can't walk so well. She wants nothing more than to be with someone, principally me, all of the time.

Yesterday, she was behaving strangely. We had gone for a big hike at the ranch on Sunday, and she had exerted herself more than usual--jumping a creek, uphill and downhill on various trails. Still she was fine on Sunday. On Monday, she fell over when she got up. She tripped and fell into her bed. She crashed into the door when trying to get out of the house. At one point she got up and ran for the back door and seemed not to hear me calling her. Even yelling and whistling. Her eyes are more than a little vacant.  She is having accidents all over the house.

I called Daniela, who is the vet at PetHelp, the closest vet clinic to me, and who always comes in on the senior dog emergencies. She makes house calls--and when you have two elderly dogs, you need house calls. She has pulled bernes (fly larvae) out of one, cleaned and cared for wounds, assisted on eye surgery, etc. She said that she suspected some kind of neurological problem, some pain in the spinal column, and said that we should start with painkillers and then move to anti-inflammatories if things didn't get better. The worry was brain swelling. The worry really is a brain tumor. The neurologist she recommended can only see Haifa on Monday.

After Dani left, I called Audrey. I love a second opinion. This is at 6 pm on a Monday afternoon and Audrey picks up the phone, and I explain and Audrey says that she'll come by after her last patient--around 8:15 pm. The diagnosis is the same--anti-inflammatories, pain killers--and monitor. At this moment, Haifa has taken her first pills and is sleeping at my feet after face-planting into her water bowl. I am hopeful that she will get better.

As I tell you this dog soap opera, I will tell you that Haifa and her survival are not the points of this story. The point is that I have spoken often about bad customer service in Brazil and not enough about great customer service.  So here it is, another reason why I love Brazil:

I have two extremely competent vets who come when I call--I don't mean that in a "come-hither" way. I mean, these are two dedicated knowledgeable women who come to my house and see my old labradors when they have an issue--and they have them fairly often now. When I don't understand a medication, I can ask either one and the response is immediate through text or facebook or phone. There is no "after-hours" charge. There is no "I'm on my way home so just bring him to the emergency room." There are two vets (and three with Audrey's husband Gilberto who has also come on a Saturday for dog care) who I will place at the very top of the list of best client care experiences anywhere, anytime.  

For those of you in Brazil with fluffy folks at home, I highly recommend Pro-Cão (Audrey) and PetHelp (Dani). 

And keep your fingers crossed for Haifa.

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