The Haggis Disaster! 
30th November 2016

The content below includes and overview of what happened to Haggis over an incredibly traumatic week for her earlier this month, starting on 31st October when we were having a Halloween party, when she ate a bin full of rubbish and poisoned herself very severely. She was in the ICU at the Royal Dick for seven days and nearly dead for at least four of them. The full story is contained within the text below, which is the content I wrote for the fundraising page that I created in order to try help pay for her treatment. At present, we are still fundraising, so if you have followed our journey, have met us on our walk, have had your life enriched by Haggis or are inspired to donate for any other reason, then that would be very gratefully received and you can find the page to donate here: 

Thank you! The story goes as follows...

Above: First day in ICU. Very critical.

4th November 2016 (morning, before seeing Haggis):

Haggis has become a wee bit of a celebrity dog over the last few years and has contributed lots to lots of people's lives. She dragged her butt around Scotland with me on our 550 mile trip over two and a half months in Scottish winter raising money for charity and is also a Therapet dog who visits vulnerable people in their homes to help cheer them up. She visits charities related to our adventure, has had several TV appearances and generally loves everyone and has lots of Haggis friends and fans!

Last Monday night, however, she poisoned herself by secretly decimating a bin and has been a very poorly doggy ever since. She was very critical and was having repeated seizures so was completely anaesthetised for several days to prevent these causing brain damage. Eventually, she was able to come off the anaesthetic and has been slowly improving over the last few days but her body is incredibly tired and weak. She is being looked after by the amazing staff in the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Dick Veterinary School in Edinburgh and she needs the help of her Haggis fans to help her get better. A (much) fuller story is detailed below...

By way of an overview for anyone who doesn't know Haggis personally, she is a big, floppy, cuddly, stinky black lab who I re-homed when she was three a few years ago. She was pretty fat and unfit and had huge stress induced alopecia patches on both hips. She was also very under confident and unsure of herself and had not seen any of the world whatsoever! After lots of love and trust building, she came into character, became completely people loving and now has lots of friends through the various things we have gotten up to together. She came to me at a pretty hard time in my life and I feel we have an understanding that we both rescued each other.

Earlier this year where we walked from Gretna Green to Cape Wrath camping out in Scottish winter. The trip took 10 weeks to complete and Haggis managed nearly all of it. Towards the end she was very tired and ended up with an overuse injury in a front paw, meaning that I had to bail her before I finished the last nine days on my own. She tried so hard on the last few days and I've felt closer to her than ever since. The tracker for our route as well as a blog about the first half (I'm still working on the second half!) is here:

After the trip Haggis became a van dog and we toured around everywhere together for six months, before moving into our new house in the country just outside Edinburgh. What has happened this week made me realise that for the last year at least, Haggis and I have been together pretty much 24/7.

Then, on Monday evening, at around 9pm, Haggis started acting strangely, jumping out from underneath the table and acting as though she had a wasp stuck in her fur and it was irritating her. She then started to shake and became very scared and also seemed to be hallucinating. After sitting with her for an hour I rang the emergency pet hospital who advised me to sit with her to see how symptoms progressed or to take her in. Shortly after, the symptoms seemed to subside a little so I decided to sit with her at home, suspecting she had eaten something funny but the effects of which were now passing of their own accord.

By the morning, however, when she took herself out for a wee, and although the stranger symptoms seemed to have passed, her back legs were not functioning properly and she still looked very frightened and confused. We took her into Lamond Veterinary Clinic who advised us to leave her there for monitoring through the day. At this point, there were many suspected causes but we also knew that the previous the evening she had gotten into a bin and as time went on it became the more compelling prognosis that she poisoned herself with something.

Her symptoms were not critical however and at this point the level of concern was reasonable. At 2.40pm, however, she started to have seizure like episodes. Andrew the vet called us to let us know and we went straight in to see what was happening. By the time we got there, she was in a darkened room in front of a fan to cool her high temperature and was having her vitals constantly monitored by vet nurse Gillian as they had been to dangerous levels over the last hour. She had been hyperthermic and had been cooled with wet towels and her heart rate and breathing had also got very high. They had put her on diazepam to stop the seizures so she was now in a half awake state. Each hour the diazepam would wear off and she would start to tremble again and was given another massive dosage. As time went on, the window of effectiveness reduced in length and eventually was not having enough effect to stop her from being subjected to seizing, which was a horrific thing to watch her go through.

We knew we needed to move her as Lamond was due to close at 6pm and would have no staff in after 11pm. We had originally expected to be able to move her to the emergency night time PSDA hospital in Edinburgh on diazapam, but she would now need to be sedated using propafol, a much stronger and more aggressive sedative, meaning that she would need to be accompanied by a medical practitioner and monitored constantly as she would under any anaesthetic situaiton. This was something Lamond had never had to do before and caused a lot of problems, but in the end, Andrew and Gillian decided that Gillian would accompany Haggis in the back of my van to the new hospital and Andrew would follow so that he could take Gillian back to the practise afterwards. They had also both finished their shift at 7pm and were due to work again the following day. They left the hospital in Edinburgh at 10.30pm and still had to travel back to West Lothian and then home before they could sleep.

When we arrived at the PDSA centre in Edinburgh, Haggis was heavily sedated and so the our new vet had not seen the extend of the seizure symptoms until Andrew and Gillian left. Soon after, when she realised how critical Haggis’ condition was, she was concerned as there was only herself plus two vet nurses on shift overnight and she may need to go away for hours at a time to operate if more road traffic collisions came in. By this point, Haggis was coming off the propafol after anything between 5 and 10 minutes and needed constant monitoring and we were having to watch her ourselves and go and grab the vet nurse each time she needed a top up. Apart from Haggis beginning to suffer during these moments, there was the risk that she would hit her head on the wall whilst having a seizure and I would be holding her body down whilst Doug went to get someone for 10 to 20 seconds before the drugs got into her system. There was also the factor that any time being exposed to seizures carried the risk of causing brain damage, so the situation was far less than ideal.

We decided to move her again to the Royal Dick Vet School just outside Edinburgh. Again, Haggis would be accompanied, this time by our new vet and with the vet nurse following. One of the warming realisations that came out of the situation was that as soon as Haggis was travelling in the back of the van, which had been a source of concern due to the effects of any stimulus having the potential to wake her up from the anaesthetic, she seemed much more relaxed and didn’t need a top up for the entire 30 minutes that it took us to get her there, suggesting that she recognised her familiar environment of bobbing around in the van together! Bless her!

When we arrived at the Royal Dick, she was put onto an emergency trolly and rushed off to the Intensive Care Unit. It was now about 1am and having to stop and let her go through the double doors on her own after having watched her every move since 3.30pm earlier that day was difficult.

We were met by Juan Carlos, a hilariously camp, amazingly compassionate and highly entertaining Spanish vet who took us through hall his thoughts about Haggis and extrapolated information from us. He had initially interpreted from the chaos of notes that she had been exposed to seizures over the last four hours and was very concerned that this would almost certainly mean that she would be brain damaged. This, however, was not the case, since we had prevented that by anaesthetising her each time she started to tremble, so the total exposure time to seizures was more like a few minutes, which encouraged him greatly. She also now had one vet and one nurse all to herself as a minimum and often more caring for her. Things felt much better and I immediately trusted Juan Carlos, the staff, the equipment and ICU to be on it entirely.

We were allowed to go see her and left the Royal Dick at around 2pm. Haggis was being kept asleep for a few hours at a time, with short windows of slightly reducing the drugs to see if she would still seizure. By the morning it was obvious that this was to continue and, with the added risk of brain damage given after even just a tiny amount of onset, JC decided to keep her under for a further 24 hours before trying again.

At this point, everything looked very bleak indeed. There was still a strong case for brain damage and at one point she had lost her responsiveness to light stimulus in the eye, which could be an indicator. She had also had a period of exposure to increased blood pressure and constricted pupils, being an indicator of high brain pressure which could also cause damage. Blindness and other nerve damage in her body was also possible. A tracheal tube had been taken out after the first night and was covered in a green mucus, indicating a bacterial infection of stagnant fluids from having no gag reflex and therefore not swallowing whilst in a flattened position for an extended period of time. She was on antibiotics for this, had had diuretics for any brain swelling and was also given some intravenous protective agent that I have never heard of after having black poo, suggesting possible bleeding in the gut. As well as all this, she had been subjected to the aggressive sedatives for a very extended period, which would also stress her organs. For the last two days she has also been clinically anorexic - something I never expected Haggis to be!

Irrespective, there was still a total chance that she could recover and it was a kind of 50/50, or rather, completely unknown prognosis. Impossible to really assess the likelihood of all of the above with Haggis so heavily sedated, the focus was still just to keep her alive and comfortable for long enough that her body could flush out the toxin that was causing the seizures.

Above: Seeing Haggis a day before we were allowed to take her home. Still very wobbly but amazing to see her on her feet! 

After the 24 window, JC started to VERY slowly reduce the propafol again, substituting them in with another, less aggressive barbiturate based sedative along with anti-convulsants. Amazingly, the seizures did not return through the course of the day and by the evening she was on a very low dosage of both. Not wanting to risk going any further overnight, she was kept stable at this level to continue reducing things in the morning. The realisation that the story no longer seemed to be practically certain that Haggis was gone completely blew my mind.

Overnight she developed a fever and became hyperthermic for a second time. Apart from this, however, things were still improving and through the course of yesterday, JC had taken her off the propafol completely. He also found a swelling around one of the needles that had been feeding Haggis with her concoction of party drugs for now four days, which could account for the increased temperature, which was being controlled again with wet towels and fanning. Late in the evening, being last night, I then got a very excited call from JC. He had gone downstairs to give Haggis a cuddle and say goodbye to her before finishing his shift and had decided to put a biscuit close to her nose to see if she would respond. She eventually caught wind of it, sniffed it a bit, licked it and then gobbled it up enthusiastically! This was amazing news. Haggis is eating? What?! He had also reported earlier in the day that she had lifted her head to look around the room, had wiggled her paws just a wee bit during what seemed to be a dream and had started whimpering when she heard people talking, until he went to comfort her. Although she couldn’t see, she did seem to be able to acknowledge people, and of course a biscuit, so the signs of Haggis having an awareness were all starting to look unbelievably good!

I am allowed to go see her again for the first time today, as previously smelling me may have caused an adverse reaction on the propafol. There are remaining things that need to be investigated, such as scanning her liver and kidneys to check functionality after being subjected to so many sedatives, as well as waiting for her to become fully awake to assess for signs of other damage. And, of course, the other remaining hurdle I need to get over is in funding all her treatment.

There was a distinct point in my mind on the first day when any principles about money were disregarded and I decided that whatever money I had in my account could be used up, which is about 3k. At the point that the bills went over this amount, however, things were starting to look up, so there was no way that we were going to bail on her then! So now I am left with the problem of finding the funding for the rest of the care that she needs. I expect her to potentially be able to leave the hospital tomorrow and I am expecting based on their estimates for the bill to total around 8/9k. I have put in the maximum that we will need on the page but if this turns out not to be the case then I will edit accordingly and will stop the crowdfunder as soon as we have enough.

So I am calling on all Haggis fans, associated charities, sponsors, contributors to the expedition we did together last year and friends of Haggis to help us out. All our trip sponsors have agreed to share this post on their social media platforms and Ruffwear have also offered to donate a box of goodies that I can pass onto people who help. I will also aim to get some form of stuff to everyone involved, whether something donated, a visit from a happy, healthy Haggis in the future, fingers massively, tightly crossed, or anything else I can think of!

So, if you are able to contribute and / or SHARE the post in any groups, contacts, or organisations you have access to it would be HUGELY appreciated. A big, massive THANK YOU from me and Haggis for anything you can do to help. And for Haggis updates if you follow the campaign you will get email notifications as I post daily so everyone can find out how she is doing. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!


4th November 2016 (evening):

Wow, thank you so much so far everyone, Haggis and I are definitely feeling the love and awesomeness of amazing people right now!

I went in to see her today for the first time in three days and I almost couldn't believe it (I couldn't see her before as it could detract from the sedatives if she got over simulated). It was incredibly emotional seeing her USING HER EYES to look around the room and once she realised it was me she definitely got very psyched and did her best to lift her head to lick my face! Aaawwwww! I also got to feed her a bit of food!!

Her body is still pretty limp but she is also completely exhausted, so we have to wait until she is more awake and rested to be able to assess any damage properly. More updates to follow! Thank you again everyone!!

9th November 2016:

Haggis has made amazing progress over the last few days and is now walking on her own. She is still a wee bit wobbly and has a funny head twitch and is also shy about looking people in the eye when they are close to her face. It seems she may be a little PTSDish but she is getting better all the time, which I almost can't believe having seen her a few days ago. Things are looking very positive and it is predicted that she will l make a full recovery - hardcore!

The help of everyone involved so far is HUGELY appreciated. Haggis rounds all round! :)

10th November 2016:

Haggis is now home and is getting better each day. We were able to pick her up on Monday night and she was still pretty wobbly and is showing some strange behavioural habits but in general symptoms are subsiding. 

She still has very swollen legs from some kind of inflammation that appeared there towards the end of last week and we are icing and sudocreaming these each day to help take it down. Since her platelet count was still low when she left the ICU, these were initially a source of concern but her platelet number should now be increasing and the temperature of her legs is decreasing. 

She has problems making eye contact when your face is close to hers. I have been advised that this is likely to be mild brain damage caused by the high intracranial pressure that occurred a few times when she was critical, but it will hopefully also be transient and she will get back to her old self again with some time. It is a bit sad to see her struggle with this. She has a habit of moving her nose towards you at the time when she would usually then give you a big, slobby kiss, but then seems not to know what to do and hides her face from you. Having said this, through encouragement and also just general improvement, she does seem to be getting less awkward with it and there have been a few sideways licks over the last day or so.

She also seems to have some kind of anxiety / nightmare type symptoms. She will go to rest her head before suddenly bringing her head up again and looking around the room in a confused / scared way. This seems to occur in episodes and only when she is not distracted. She also sometimes starts to whimper when she is going to sleep but this stops if she is comforted and she is seemingly snapped out of something when this happens. 

On the upside, when distracted and none of the above applies, she is getting increasingly energetic and is awake for longer through the day. She is also getting away with a lot of soft treatment like sleeping on the bed and getting instant attention if she squeaks, obviously, which I'm sure will mean that she ends up having trained us to be at her beck and call by the end of the ordeal but we'll work that out then! :)

16th November 2016:

Over the last fews days, and distinctly yesterday, Haggis has come back into character and the weird head stuff seems to have passed. She has had a sore abdomen and has just started having Metacam for this, which has made her a bit more bouncy and means that she is not avoiding stretching as much, although she's not quite up to a full stretch just yet. If the problem persists then there is the potential for some scans / chest X Rays to check it out, but in general she is seeming like old Haggis again. 

The whole experience has been absolutely mind blowing and I suspect life changing as I'm thinking about adapting some very big plans as a result, but I will process all that and write a full blog about it once I'm done! I am amazed at Haggis' effort at staying alive. She really was at the pearly gates and it feels as though she has come back from the dead! Top effort Waggles! Make me feel so proud! :)

And house rules have changed a wee bit since she got back...

Since the time the last update was written, Haggis has gotten more and more Haggisy ever since. She seems completely back to normal, which is amazing, and it's given me a lot to think about. I am still left with a monumental vet bill to raise money for but that is just a problem that needs solving. Some interesting things have fallen out of the combination of the Haggis disaster as well as a whole load of other stuff that I have experienced this year, and actually, the blog would be so long that I have actually realised that it is a book, so work on that has commenced, hence the relevance of the image at the end! 

Above: One of my favourite pics of home time recovery.

Below: The start of book writing!