‘Strong will to live’: Rescuers try new treatment for severely ill street dog Daniel

Daniel battles starvation, mange, and the involuntary jerking movements left behind after a bout with distemper.
Photo: Yvette Holzbach

By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris

It’s a wrenching decision. You live in a city where thousands of homeless animals struggle to survive the nightmare of the streets. You work hard, spending your own time and money, and sometimes risking your health, safety, and sanity to catch, nurse, and find homes for as many of the desperate creatures as you can. But some of them are in such bad shape—racked by disease and starvation—that the kindest thing you can offer is a painless death in a veterinarian’s office.

Kelle Mann Davis recently faced such a decision. Volunteers in her group , which cares for dogs and cats from one of the most deeply impoverished and crime-ridden areas of Houston, had found an extremely ill dog they named Daniel.

Starved nearly to death, rendered almost hairless by sarcoptic mange, and suffering from palsy—the involuntary jerking movements often left behind after bouts with distemper—the wretched dog seemed to be in need of euthanasia. His myriad problems included the fact that the jerking and his stiffened jaw made eating difficult. And when he tried to drink the palsy caused him to accidentally inhale the water.

The two vets who examined him said there was nothing to be done.

But something about Daniel made Davis want to wait. “Just two days,” she told Animal Issues Reporter. “I want to give him a chance, just to be sure.”

Deserves a chance at life

During those two days, Davis said many well-wishers sent her advice and information, and some of them suggested she contact Dr. Michael Huddleston of Westheimer Animal Clinic, a Houston vet who specializes in distemper cases.

“I felt that before we ended Daniel’s suffering I should call and speak to him,” Davis said. “I described to Dr. Huddleston all of Daniel’s symptoms, all of his problems, his starvation and his furless body ravaged with mange. He told me that it didn’t sound good at all and that the treatment usually didn’t work in such advanced cases. But then he said, ‘I don’t like to diagnose over the phone. Can you bring him in today?’ So off we went with Daniel.”

When they arrived at the clinic, Davis said, “Dr. Huddleston was so very compassionate, and kept saying, ‘poor, poor boy.’ I could see him struggling with his decision but finally he told us that he only gave Daniel maybe a 30% chance at very best, but he would try and do a spinal tap or infusion of proteins that cross the brain barrier and has worked for some dogs [Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) serum].”

[Note from Animal Issues Reporter (AIR): The production and use of “NDV serum” is controversial, with supporters as well as opponents. AIR’s post of this article reflects neither our support of nor our opposition to the treatment. Please return to AIR for a future article about NDV serum.]

Davis continued, “Dr. Huddleston also said that if we didn’t do it then we would never know if it would have helped. It is expensive, and we are raising money to cover, but we all did agree that Daniel deserved a chance at a life without having to struggle every single day to survive, and deserved to have someone love him.”

Daniel’s appetite is good.
Photo: Yvette Holzbach

Loves to eat

Daniel has now received two of the “NVD serum” spinal infusions, and has been dipped for mange.

“I am so glad for the mange dip as I can’t imagine the torture he is enduring, itching and not able to scratch due to the jerking,” said Davis.

Daniel’s condition is precarious, so he is staying at the vet clinic for now, but in one of the front kennels where he gets lots of attention, said Davis. Forgotten Dogs volunteers including Linda Sullivan visit him almost daily.

The good news is that he loves to eat.

“Although he is still very weak and still has the involuntary jerking, he is alert and eating very well,” Sullivan told Animal Issues Reporter.

‘Making up for all the petting he missed out on in the past’

In recent Facebook updates, Sullivan wrote as follows:

“Daniel continues to fight each day. His condition is much the same as it has been. Good appetite and he is alert and quite aware of what is going on around him.”

“Dr. Huddleston says his mobility issues are directly related to the encephalitis, that the messages from his brain are not firing his muscles right now. It is a waiting game. He added he has worked with dogs that have these same issues and they have walked again on their own. So keep those good wishes, prayers and healing thoughts and energy coming Daniel’s way. Thank y’all for caring so much about this little guy.”

“Daniel continues to have the involuntary jerking motions, but doesn’t appear to be in any pain. The most noticeable change this week has been in his alertness and awareness of what is going on in the clinic area.”

“Dr. H has him in a kennel up front where he can be watched throughout the day, and staff and visitors can interact with him. He is bundled up with layers of blankets so he seems pretty comfortable.”

“Daniel has such a strong will to live. He is holding his own. Today he held his head up and was alert and very aware of everything going on in the clinic area. In spite of being weak he is quite a congenial little guy during our visits, putting up with all my petting and telling him about all the good folks who send love and healing thoughts and energy his way. Don’t think he minds a bit. Making up for all the petting he missed out on in the past. Baby steps… “

To donate toward the care of Daniel and the many other costly cases taken on by Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward Project, please go to the following ChipIn:

Contact to learn more about their work or to help with donations or volunteering.

Read the previous article about Daniel.

Read next article about Daniel:

In memory of ‘Forgotten Dog’ Daniel, let’s get animals on the agenda (Opinion)

by Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward along with partner groups.

Thanks to Yvette Holzbach of Yvette Holzbach Photography for the use of the photos in this article.

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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for  outlets such as National Geographic TravelerThe San Francisco ChronicleTravelers’ Tales, NBC’s , and Examiner.com (), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for  magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.

Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue,  (The Lyons Press).

Please respect copyright law. Sharing AIR links really helps! But copying more than a couple of paragraphs of content without permission is a no-no. If you’d like to use one of AIR’s articles or one of our photographs, kindly contact us at [airinfo AT yahoo DOT com].

Copyright © 2012 Animal Issues Reporter and AnimalIssuesReporter.org.
All rights reserved.

6 Comments on “‘Strong will to live’: Rescuers try new treatment for severely ill street dog Daniel”

  1. linda badham says:

    wow what a sad sad life daniel has had. thank god he was given a chance to servive and thank god he was given love . i will send healing and prayers for this boy and just pray he will recover and have someone to love him for ever.

  2. Dogtown Ranch says:

    wow, another miracle, Thanks to Kelle for believing anything is possible!!! Hugs Girl to you and Daniel!

  3. Kaye says:

    I am rooting for dear Daniel. I am in Temple, Texas, but would be visiting Daniel regularly if I were closer. I’m unfortunately unemployed right now with 6 dogs of my own so I can’t even contribute towards his care, but I will be praying daily.

  4. Allen Atkinson says:

    Reblogged this on .

  5. [...] Sponsor AIR? ‘Strong will to live’: Rescuers try new treatment for severely ill street dog Daniel [...]

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