His name was Hunni―yes, his name―and he arrived in a Louis Vuitton pooch bag.
My sister had bought him thinking he was an expensive ‘pure-bred Pomeranian’, but it turns out he wasn’t―he kept growing. After a few months of raising Hunni in the family home, my sister left and Hunni stayed. This wasn’t the initial plan, but something happened that changed our lives, something that taught me just how much it means to love pets.
We weren’t a pet family. Growing up we had few animals―some goldfish, a cat… but we certainly didn’t have any experience of owning a dog. Caring for Hunni was a huge learning curve. But if we thought fleas were bad, we had something else coming.
As a puppy, Hunni was insane. He would get out of the gate, and we chase but he’d run off, looking back at us and laughing. He was a ball of fluff and energy! There were only two things he didn’t like in life: the postman, and being picked up―which is interesting, considering that he came to us in a bag. Oh, and there’s a third thing he dislikes, and that’s ‘bathies’.
One day when Hunni was about one, and he just stopped being himself. Over the next few days he started to slow down, then stopped eating and wasn’t fazed by the postman’s daily rounds.
We took him to the local vet―whose clinic was stuck back in the BC era. He prescribed some medication and said, ‘Come back in a few days if he doesn’t improve.’ A day or two passed and Hunni really wasn’t getting any better. I knew something was up when he couldn’t even climb the stairs. My sister and I took Hunni to another vet, one from this epoch, and within seconds of walking in the front door the receptionist had pulled a fully-fed paralysis tick off his chin! It was in the most obvious place―it wasn’t hidden under his fur but somehow we had missed it. The first vet clearly was looking at the wrong end.
Hunni was immediately put on medication. We worked out this grey thing on his chin, the paralysis tick, had been on him for ten days. The staff at the clinic were extremely surprised he was alive―their shock was no comfort to us. What we thought was a round-trip to the vet turned out to be a real wake-up call as to how serious this situation was.
Hunni had to stay at the animal hospital overnight, at a cost of several hundred dollars, which was nothing compared to what was to come. We were advised not to move him or do anything that would increase his heart rate, as this would further distribute the paralysis from the tick.
The next day he was given a haircut to check for more ticks and placed on a life-support machine. There was a 50/50 chance he would survive. The cost at this point was $2K a day while he was on life-support with staff watching him. That would come down to $1K once he was off life-support―not easy to digest without pet insurance, but we hoped he would recover quickly because he was young.
The only thing that could go wrong at this point was if Hunni were to vomit―it would be quite toxic and leave him with little chance of survival. Unfortunately, this is what happened. Hunni vomited and within minutes we had and we had to decide whether or not to switch off his life-support. This was the moment when I realized how vulnerable life is―whether human or animal, it is all the same. But nothing could be done. My dad said we had better say goodbye―I literally dropped to the ground and wept.
In a darkened room, Hunni lay on a stainless steel table with a blanket over all but his head. It was so shattering to see him there, all because of a tick, all because we didn’t know what that grey thing on his chin was. We weren’t able to ‘cheer him up’ because that would raise his heart-rate and spread the toxins, putting him in more pain. But we asked him just one thing: ‘Hunni, is it walkie time?’ His tail spun like it always did and I knew we couldn’t let Hunni go without trying to save him once more.
At this point we didn’t care about the cost, I just wanted to know that we had tried everything to save our precious Hunni. Once the decision was made to put Hunni back on life support he was ‘suited up’ and given another go. Looking back, I remember thinking, ‘Everything is absolutely worth it if we can save Hunni.’ We realized how much of an impact he has had on our family―the one and only dog we have ever had.
The first days were pretty touchy. I couldn’t go to work. My daughter couldn’t go to school. We were getting hourly updates from the hospital, even at night. The vets would send me little snapshots of Hunni just so I knew he was okay. They say to never blame yourself, but you just do.
Hunni slowly started to show signs of recovery. He ended up being on life support for about 4 days, and in the hospital for eight days in total, with a total bill close to $10K.
Through it all Hunni was still his unusual self. As he got stronger he even pulled out his tubes (he says they were annoying him.) The day we were told we could bring Hunni home, we were so relieved. The week in the hospital felt like a lifetime, and it could have been the end of Hunni’s lifetime.
Even though he was home, he was still in recovery. We couldn’t have people over because we couldn’t risk an increase in his heart-rate. It was hard not to play with him like we used to, but he was safe and recovering.
Hunni eventually made a full recovery. Well, to a degree. I think a small part of the tick stayed with him because he has a grumpy streak now, but we accept that.
Fast forward and Hunni is now five and living the dream as a beach boy on the Sunshine Coast. He still doesn’t like the post-man and we still don’t really know what his breed is, but that’s totally okay with us.
He also has a thing for the ladies and loves to visit the local shops because he’s always getting attention. Hunni really is the highlight of our days and an absolute member of the family― the one we love the most!
Words and pictures: Shannon Stone
Editing: Sharnon Mentor-King
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About the author
When she’s not basking in the sun with Hunni, Shannon Stone is making fur-friends with the other dogs at the dog-park. Shannon is an animal-lover, mum, and marketer who passionately thinks everyday should be bring-your-pet-to work-or-school-day because of the joy they bring everyone.