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 Created: 03/29/04


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– Luna's New Life –

March 29, 2004 – Nine weeks ago we met Luna, a victim of horrendous abuse. In mid-December, 2003, Luna was delivered to an emergency vet clinic in Michigan. She was close to death due to extreme starvation and neglect. Four days later, Luna was reluctantly surrendered by her owners – under order of the Michigan authorities – and immediately adopted by Jackie Overbeek, a vet assistant who had fallen in love with her. Jackie was determined to nurse Luna back to good health and give her all the love and affection she deserved. (If you missed it, please read Luna's story before continuing.)

Heartworm Disease
Luna's road to recovery was complicated by the fact that she had an advanced case of heartworm disease. Treatment would have been risky even for a healthy dog, but for a dog like Luna, starved to the brink of death and weighing only 65 pounds, treatment had to be deferred until she gained at least 35 pounds. After just five weeks with Jackie, Luna had put on enough weight to begin heartworm therapy.

Jackie wrote, "Granted, heartworm treatment is horrible, but much less so than death by heartworm infection. Luna's treatment will require 2 to 3 injections spaced out over 1 to 30 days. The injections are given with a long needle in the lumbar muscle in the back. The patient must then be kept quiet for 30 days while the heartworms die and are absorbed by the body. Otherwise, the dead worms can cause blockages in the pulmonary arteries or embolisms in the lungs."

Jackie has been sending regular updates on Luna's progress, along with some photographs:

February 21
Luna had the last of her heartworm treatment series on the 19th and 20th. The treatments are extremely painful, both during and after. They involve long needles in the lumbar muscles, resulting in much pain and stiffness afterwards. Luna has had a little coughing and vomiting, too. However....she is doing VERY WELL. She loves to take long walks and exercise those long legs and her incredible sniffer. Right now she's restricted to shorter walks around the yard and the neighboring woods. She continues to be her happy, silly self, and she really wants to chase our local squirrel population. She doesn't understand, though, that she has to remain physically quiet for 30 days after the treatment. Too much physical activity can cause serious pulmonary complications from the dying heartworms.

Luna weighed 120.2 pounds on the 20th. That's 55 pounds higher than when she was admitted to the hospital on December 18! As much as she loves food, we don't want her to get any heavier. The chest x-rays taken prior to her heartworm treatment show significant arthritis in her spine; and as she has gained weight, we've noticed that she struggles a bit to stand. We're keeping her at a lean, trim 120 pounds.

March 23
We are doing pretty well. Luna went through her heartworm treatment with flying colors. After 2 months of being forced to be sedentary, we took our first long walk on Saturday. We walked about a mile and by the end, my big girl was VERY tired. She was still smiling and trotting and using that big sniffer with gusto, but she was panting, drooling and quite thirsty.

The next day we went out to do the same route. About a half mile into it, Luna started to limp. After we got home, she wouldn't even bear weight on her right front leg. I gave her a dose of aspirin, but it didn't help. I looked her over carefully and couldn't find any injuries, so I took her directly to my clinic, where the doctor who first treated Luna happened to be on duty. She did a thorough exam and ordered X-rays. The radiograms showed nothing significant. I was terrified that they might show osteocarcinoma, something I understand Danes are prone to get. We went home with pain medications and instructions to take 3 enteric-coated aspirin a day.

March 26
After 2 trips to the clinic, we have good news about my Luna girl. She doesn't have any nasty syndrome or disease. ( I was thinking wobblers or osteosarcoma.) The bad news is that she does have some significant cervical spine issues. The points on her vertebra are starting to bridge together and fuse. This might be the result of age, but the doctors think it's mainly due to malnutrition and neglect – fundamental lack of exercise, non-existent preventative medical care, and poor quality food. Her spinal problems are progressive, but we can slow the damage considerably with anti-inflamatory medications, moderate exercise, and doggie glucosamine. We've increased her dose of coated aspirin to 2 a day and after another week of rest, Luna can start slowly exercising again with short walks in addition to her daily sniffing patrols around the yard. Because of her neck problems, she can only wear a light-weight collar to display her ID tags. For walks we've been using a harness. I bought her first one last night only to have her chew through one of the straps while I was not watching her. Sheesh! She LOVES to chew, especially things like pillows, stuffed animals and comforters. Fortunately, she doesn't try to swallow the stuffing. She has mauled several sofa pillows and her favorite afternoon napping comforter. Soft doggie toys last only about 3 or 4 minutes. I hate to see her so destructive, but she gets such JOY out of it. It's hard to scold her when she's got a piece of stuffin' hanging on her lip, some on her head and such a goofy look on her face – while the family room looks like a blizzard hit.

How about a crate?
Crating might help alleviate the chewing problem, so I asked Jackie whether she has attempted to crate Luna. She replied, "Unfortunately, Luna suffers from SEVERE crate anxiety. A crate was the first thing I purchased for her before I brought her home. It's one of those super-strong gorilla models and she's managed to bend one of the wires. She barks and whines and digs until her feet are bloody, and gets so upset she vomits. During her heartworm treatment, she couldn't be stressed like that, so we gated off part of the family room for her. This has now become 'her' room. We refer to it as "Luna Land". She is very content there. It overlooks the lake (with many geese and critters by it) and the bird and squirrel feeders. Now that her heartworm treatment is over, I'm planning to start reintroducing the crate to her. I truly believe that dogs are happier when crated. I've started crawling into the crate with her favorite treats. Luna follows me in and then we cuddle (she sits on my lap) and she gets a good scratch and some treats. Then we get out. I try to stay in there for 5 minutes or so. Gradually, we'll start increasing the time spent, so hopefully by summer or fall, she'll have fewer issues with it.

Luna's abusers want her back!
Jackie tells me that Luna's former owners want her back and they've talked about trying to get her returned to them. Jackie's response? "Over my dead body!" She says Luna is hers now. "Legally, spiritually, and emotionally. There is no way they can legally get her back." She goes on to say:

"I feel so incredibly blessed to have her. I love her dearly, and can't remember what my life was like without her. She is joyful, loving, playful and very mischievous. She always makes me laugh, and offers great comfort if I've had a stressful shift at the vet ER clinic. No one, human or 4-legged, has ever loved me as fully and totally as Luna does. Don't get me wrong, my other pets and family members love me, but not like my Luna girl. She loves me with her entire heart, mind, soul, and (considerable) body."

Jackie enjoyed hearing from everyone who contacted her after Luna's story first appeared on DaDane of DaWeek. You can write to her at

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