Readers share why pets are so special

Pete Keesling

Some of you sent in your “favorite pet story” in response to our last column. I gotta say, your pet tales really stirred our emotions and reminded us why we love our pets so much.
Margie told us how Millie, her cocka-lhasa-poo (that’s a mouthful!) sat by her side throughout the six weeks she was taking chemotherapy for cancer. Her cancer is still in remission, more than two years later.
“I couldn’t have survived this without Millie,” she writes. “She had always been a little independent, but when I was sick, she changed. She stayed with me nearly round-the-clock, sleeping on my bed, and sitting by me while I watched TV. She was my strength that helped me endure that awful time.”
Bob told us about his cat, Shamus, who he described as “a fluffy alley cat with no personality whatsoever.” But that all changed when Bob’s wife, Emma, suddenly fell ill and passed away. All at once, Shamus became the best companion a guy could ever want.
“He wasn’t in my face, but he was around all the time. And all I had to do was look at him and he’d respond with a soft voice and walk over to me. He knew I was suffering. And he was determined to keep me company all the time.” That’s quite a testimonial to a loyal kitty-cat. “Before my wife died,” Bob notes, “this cat wouldn’t give me the time of day. But that all changed. Now we’re best friends.”
Recently, you may have heard about Kabang, the dog that purposefully ran in front of an oncoming motorbike to protect two little girls from serious injury in the Philippines. Kabang suffered for her heroism, losing most of her upper jaw.
But the story gets better. Some Good Samaratins heard about her injuries and set up a fund to have her flown to the UC Davis veterinary school for reconstructive surgery. Donations were nothing short of amazing and she recently arrived in Davis for treatments.
Unfortunately, preliminary exams showed she’s infected with heartworm disease as well as a sexually transmitted disease. Both of these require treatment before she undergoes any surgery. But she’s a tough dog, and my bet is that she’ll do just fine.
By the way, her story prompted a few readers to ask the first question for this week’s column.
I was unaware that dogs have sexually transmissible diseases (STDs). Do these exist in this country? How common are they?
Canine sexually transmitted diseases show up occasionally in this country. Brucellosis, a bacterial disease that is easily passed during breeding, causes infertility and abortion. It occurs in both dogs and cattle. But this disease can also be transmitted to humans who come in contact with infected urine or other body fluids. And in people, the symptoms are much worse. Undulant fever and malaise can last for months in some patients, causing severe weakness and weight loss. Veterinarians are keenly aware of this and are very careful handling patients they suspect may carry the Brucella bacteria.
The venereal tumor that Kabang contracted is a different STD. Like humans, dogs can be infected with venereal tumors. Kabang’s mass is in its early stages, and specialists think it will respond to chemotherapy. Let’s hope so. This is an amazing story about an incredibly brave dog.
I heard you talking on the radio the other day about HIV virus infections and lions. Is it true that wild cats can carry this virus?
This is an intriguing discussion, because the FIV virus (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is similar in structure and effect to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Research has shown that a genetic sequence in the HIV genome may have descended from an ancient form of FIV in cats. So scientists think there may be a relationship between the two diseases.
The theory is this: FIV could have been transmitted to monkeys that were bitten by infected cats. The virus then mutated or evolved to the HIV virus that we know today. Lions can be infected with FIV, but not HIV. And fortunately, FIV is not contagious to humans.

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