The Bittersweet Tale
of Christa's Tail

by Dee and Wendell Marumoto

This is a tale that's strange but true, and fortunately has a happy ending.

Christa (Ch. Crinan Crocus Time) is not your everyday companion Westie. Christa's dam whelped three litters, with an English Champion in each of her other litters, while Christa came to Hawaii and became an American Champion.

When her breeding days were finished we thought that Christa was fortunate to be placed with a kindly retired professor and his wife, who lived in a home on a golf course near the beach. We saw her occasionally right after she was placed, but as time went by, we saw less of her, and we were content with the occasional reports of a Westie on the beach indicating that she was happy, although possibly gaining weight.

Storm Clouds Gather

About a year ago, the owners planned a month-long trip to the mainland and asked if we would board Christa, which we were happy to do. What we were not told was that Christa had become obese from a misguided sense of "caring." She weighed over 25 pounds, up from the 18 that she was when we placed her. She had been put on a reducing regimen to get her back to 20 pounds. It was succeeding somewhat, but the skin stretching that had occurred to accommodate her obesity remained. This resulted in a huge fat roll surrounding the base of her tail. Her tail was covered by about three inches of fat roll that kept moisture in and air away from the "covered" part of her tail, resulting in open sores there that festered and smelled terribly.

When Christa was dropped off, we could not believe her condition and smell. The condition at the base of her tail obviously hurt her. She would jump and rotate her tail away from us, and it was difficult to even get near her. Her owners dropped off some Sebolux shampoo and some vet-prepared astringent solution. Every day, we were to apply the shampoo to the 3-inch deep socket covering the base of her tail, at the bottom of which were raw, weeping, foul smelling sores. After rinsing out the shampoo, the astringent solution was applied daily. In applying the shampoo and solution, the fat roll covered the entire length of the applier's fingers, and the process hurt Christa so much that third-party help was necessary to hold her reasonably still.

In the month that we boarded her, we got her down to a little over 20 pounds and succeeded in healing her sores to the extent that the awful smell and Christa's sensitivity were noticeably reduced. We also had her examined by our vet whose opinion was that the condition had been allowed to fester so long that the only hope of healing her would be to surgically remove the fat roll to permit the base of her tail to be exposed to fresh air.

We related this information to the owners upon their return, who acknowledged letting the condition get out of hand. However, they felt that continued application of the cleaning regimen and keeping her weight down would correct the situation. While we felt that the professor, being of Scottish descent, was inherently frugal and that the cost of the surgical procedure was the actual deterrent, we knew how much he cared for Christa, so gave him the opportunity to deal with her. Upon occasional checking, we were assured that the condition was "under control."

The Storm Bursts

Earlier this year, the owners advised us that they would be gone for about a month on a trip to Egypt and asked if would we board Christa again. We knew that her condition had not healed, although we did not know how bad it was, and since we were expecting a litter about that time, we declined the request.
On the first day that they were gone, we received a call from the party retained to feed and exercise Christa and were told that Christa's smell was so nauseating that she felt that Christa needed immediate medical attention. We were also told that she felt that the owners were obviously aware of the condition, because Christa's crate was placed outside the house and she appeared to be covered with ticks!

We had Christa taken to our vet, who agreed to board and treat her as an emergency case, but could do no more without authorization from the owners, who were unreachable. She was de-ticked and cleaned and whirlpooled daily.

Upon the owners' return, we made it clear to them in no uncertain terms that unless they immediately authorized the recommended surgical procedure, we would take her back and have it done. They really wanted to keep her and "do their best" for her, short of surgery. We told them unequivocally that "their best" was no longer good enough for her and reclaimed her.

We authorized immediate surgery, which resulted in the removal of an approximately 12-inch by 5-inch crescent-shaped piece of coat surrounding the base of Christa's tail. The situation at the base of her tail was so rank that there were open, weeping, foul-smelling sores due to the lack of air and sunlight for more than a year. She continued to be treated at the vet's for four days with 3 daily 15-minute applications of an astringent solution. It took three of the staff to do this, since the application on the open sores obviously stung her. We continued with the astringent protocol for about a week, then returned to the vet's for stitch removal and the removal of her Elizabethan collar.

The Sun Comes Out Again

At the vet's for stitch and E-collar removal, the staff was surprised and overjoyed with the extent of Christa's recovery, which continues to proceed very well.

It has not yet been two months since the surgery, but it is quite evident that her recovery is virtually complete. She has retaken her place in our dog family and enjoys being Aunt Christa to our two new litters of pups, occasionally standing on her rear legs, windmilling her front paws, and roughhousing with the older litter. She participates with the usual Westie push-shove, push-shove action when first let out of her crate along with the others without any evidence of pain or sensitivity in the area of the base of her tail. She is also showing us that she is still the quaint eccentric that she always was - voicing her comments on any situation (with a harrumph here and a harrumph there).

We see her rapid recovery as a testimony to her constitution and breeding, together with her knowledge of total re-acceptance by her family. We are again enjoying Christa's contribution to our joy in experiencing the Wonderful World of Westies.

The lesson here is to be aware of what can result from unthinking kindness (i.e. the fattening of Christa). When all is said and done, however, love always prevails; and no matter how heavy the storm, the sun will shine again.

Dee & Wendell Marumoto
Deeside Westies
Honolulu, Hawaii


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