Bill Bugenhagen grew up with dogs, and loves them. But, he says, “I’ve never been a pet-dependent person,” and hadn’t as an adult had dogs of his own.
Then in 2001, he says, “My girlfriend had a co-worker with an 11-month-old puppy he needed to sell due to life changes. She talked me into it.”
“He was an adorable little guy — a beautiful purebred —and we became best buddies right away. Three months later, the girlfriend was gone, and it was just Scooter and me. I had the house and the yard. . . .”
Scooter had been “raised well,” says Bill, adding, “he even knows commands in English and German, which is pretty cool.”
Scooter’s first 10 years were happy and healthy. “Just routine checkups is all,” Bill affirms.
Then, in 2011, Scooter scratched the cornea of his right eye. Referrals ultimately led Bill to Dr Susan Kirschner, “The Animal Eye Doctor,” in Beaverton. And, as Bill says, “She fixed it.”
Later Scooter would develop a deep ulcer in his left eye, which in 2013 resulted in in ocular prosthesis surgery — i.e., he received a false eye.
“It looks like a real eye,” says Bill. “A lot of people think the left is his real eyes, especially now that his right eye has cataracts.”
“So 2011-2014 was all about eyes,” says Bill, “which by September were calming down. Fast-forward to January ‘15, and, during a routine checkup, Scooter’s average weight of 18.3 pounds was down to 14.5 lbs!” During that time Scooter’s red blood count, which should average above 30 percent, measured 25 percent, indicating anemia. A week later he was down to 18 percent.
Here Bill pauses, choking up. “When the doctor panics, it’s scary,” he says quietly.
Bill took Scooter to Dr. Donovan at CVRC. “She explained that in order to find the source of the anemia she’d have to do some tests,” he says.
A cyst was found on Scooter’s spleen, but to do a biopsy would require its removal. “The tests on the growth didn’t look malignant, so I said no — I didn’t want him to go through that.”
The next step was testing Scooter’s bone marrow via a procedure called a bone marrow aspirate, which proved not only to not be functioning, but to be shutting down. The doctor’s first step was to do a blood transfusion, and “it worked!” Bill exclaims.
“For four weeks he was like four years younger,” says Bill. “Then it became a roller coaster. He’d get a boost from a transfusion, which he was getting every four weeks, and then the benefits would fade.”
The doctor decided to introduce anti-immune drugs to help stimulate the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells. From February to September 2015 Scooter had seven transfusions, with progressive improvement. “I got a lot of praise for doing so much for him,” says Bill, “but he was a fighter and deserved the effort.”
Eventually the benefits of the transfusions lasted up to six weeks. “Dr. Donovan kept increasing the anti-immune dosage, but eventually the side effects began to offset the benefits of the transfusions. We were in the ER a couple of times.”
“The doctor had expected results in two and a half weeks,” says Bill. “Seven months later, I’m wondering, is this ever gonna work?” Researching the matter, the doctor found a patient whose case was similar to Scooter’s. That patient had responded to treatment after three months.
In September, after Scooter’s seventh transfusion, Bill and the doctor agreed to stop the drugs. “As of December 8th it’s been 12 weeks, and his blood cell production is damn near normal!”
Scooter has also gained weight, and is now back up to 16 lbs.
“And on the way he turned 14!” Bill says happily. “He’s got me under his thumb. . . he’ll go into the kitchen and just stand there until he gets a treat.”
After all they’ve been through, Bill says, “I have no regrets. I couldn’t say anything better about the folks at Cascade. They have the best overnight care. . . I can call anytime of night and they’ll send a photo and let me know how he’s doing.”
Explaining that when Scooter gets transfusions he stays at CVRC overnight, Bill says, “They’ll call twice a day and let me know how he’s doing — even before leaving for the day, as late as 8 o’ clock.”
Bill happily recalls one checkup that happened to coincide with Scooter’s birthday. Dr. Donavan had gotten him a gift basket. “They’re just great people.”
“It’s just one of those lucky stories, after all that,” Bill smiles. Then he shared one last bit, clearly tickled: “After Scooter was declared to be in remission, the doctor told me about another patient who had a similar response. She wanted to get them together.”
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