“That’s a weird looking Beagle” is something we often hear when we’re walking our dog Hank.
Who doesn’t love Beagles? The truth is, his breed is Treeing Walker Coonhound (quite a mouthful I know). Most owners just call them Walkers. You may have heard of Bluetick, Black and Tan, or Redbone Coonhounds, all of which are pretty much the same dog with different color markings. Coonhounds are known for their ability to track raccoons and big game like bears or mountain lions. Coonhounds also have that distinctive hound style bark, but enough about the technical specs… I am starting to sound like a character from the movie Best in Show.
We found Hank when he was “locked up” at a high-kill animal shelter in Manteca, California (good news, this shelter has since lost its high-kill status). Manteca is about a two-hour drive from where we live, but a dog saving group had posted a picture of him on our local craigslist. My wife (Debi) and I drove the two hours to meet this incredibly photogenic dog who was in need of some help.
The shelter was a cold and sterile place that echoed the sad sound of dogs barking. It was as if each one was calling out for a home. They let us take Jake (Hank’s shelter name) out of his “cell” and into a sort of meet and greet room. Once in the room, with some coaxing, he sauntered over to us. I petted him and he was so dirty my hand was instantly covered in thick oily dirt. His ribs were showing and he weighed around 50 lbs… he now weighs around 63 lbs. I remember trying to get him to play with some toys and he just acted aloof, marking a couple spots on the wall of the room… uninterested. We continued to pet the filthy hound in an attempt to get him to show some emotion. He seemed a little institutionalized or maybe just jaded from living a hard life. After a while I stopped petting him and at that moment he looked back and scooted closer as if asking for an encore… that’s when we both knew there was no way we were leaving without him.
On his first vet check up they guessed he was around 3-4 years old (he is 8 years old as I write this). He had fleas, tape worms, and tested positive for heartworms. Heartworms live in the blood vessels of dogs and are spread by mosquitos. The worms grow and grow inside the heart and vessels and over time, if not treated, the parasites slowly kill the dog as if it had heart disease.
Side note: One vet I spoke with said the cases of heartworm in California spiked after Hurricane Katrina. Alot of displaced dogs were brought in for new homes and with them came an influx of the worms. Once introduced, it didn’t take long for the disease to spread.
Unfortunately the veterinarian that diagnosed Hank didn’t have the medicine we needed to start the lengthy treatment process. Honestly, she didn’t seem all that familiar with the disease/parasite either. She said she could get the treatment meds but it could take 8 weeks. 8 weeks! No way were we going to wait for the worms to grow another 8 weeks. After many calls, we found a vet that not only had the medicine but also had experience in treating heart worms… the bad part was it was an hour drive from our house. Having already fallen in love with our new family member, we went forward with the long distance vet.
I should also note that the treatment itself can kill a dog. The bulk of the treatment is injecting a series of arsenic type poisonous shots. These shots kill the worms and they slowly break down, absorbing into the dog’s body. After receiving the shots the dog must stay very calm. If he gets too worked up, he can basically have a heart attack or stroke from a dead worm particle floating inside his vessels. Did I mention that the treatment cost us $1,200.00 bucks!? So all that money, time, energy and stress, and the poor animal can still die. However, the only other choice is to let the dog die slowly of heartworms.
Needless to say heartworms are a big deal. I will take this opportunity to remind you to give your animals the monthly preventative medicine.
Good news… a few months after Hank went through the treatment, he tested NEGATIVE for heartworms! He is healthy and happy and loves his daily (almost daily) walks, runs in the park, and hikes. He fits right into our family, I really can’t imagine our life with out my little coonhound sidekick.
Follow Untrained Life on Instagram for more pictures of Hank.