By Nicolas Fernandes
A dog who couldn’t swallow due to a ONE IN A MILLION disorder defies the vets who advised putting her down by helping over 100 people as a therapy pet.
Lily, a three-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever from Southampton, Hampshire was born with Congenital Cricopharyngeal Asynchrony, an incurable genetic disorder in which muscles in the digestive system do not work properly.
She has been living a healthy life ever since her owner Laura Hamilton,72, decided to not listen to doctors who said she needed to either be euthanized or spend the rest of her life attached to a feeding tube.
The retired English Teacher, who lived in Tacoma, Washington, USA from 1975 to 1983, found that keeping her pooch hydrated would help her swallow her foods.
She began mixing her meals with excess water three times a day, while also feeding her small pieces of frozen dog food called lollies.
The golden retriever has even become a Pets as Therapy canine and has visited 125 kids and adults in hospitals.
Laura said: “It’s such a rare condition that most of the vets I spoke to had never even heard of it. The fact that she’s alive is quite extraordinary.
“There was no way I was losing her and I wasn’t going to hook her up to a feeding tube either. I would have compromised her fun and she most likely would have gotten infections.
“When I started feeding her, sometimes the food would go down all the way, sometimes she would swallow it and it would sit in the esophagus and sometimes it didn’t go down at all.
“It was trial and error until I found something that worked.
“I prepare the three bowls of food every night and put them in the fridge so that they’re moist enough for her the next day. Then I make the lollies and freeze them overnight.
“She’s really thriving. I was advised to put her to sleep at ten weeks old and I’m glad I didn’t.
“Now she’s paying for her miracle by enhancing the lives of all these kids and adults.”
Lily does experience some side effects, but they are not at all life-threatening.
The canine still has swallowing difficulties from time to time and winds up coughing up food about once a week.
Laura also has to be careful of what her pooch tries to eat because anything other than moist food can kill her.
While she is fully grown and turning four-years-old in May, she only weighs 23.5 kg (52 lb.), 4.5 kg (10 lb.) less than her mother Pilot.
Laura said: “I always have to listen to the noises she’s making because she’ll usually cough something up once a week.
“When people ask how old she is and I tell them she’s almost four, they don’t believe me.
“It’s scary when she tries eating something on the street. If I don’t get it out of her right away, she can die.”
Because of how impressive Lily had been, her owner knew that she would make a good therapy pet, just like Pilot.
During the test to become one at the young age of nine months, she did even better than her mother, which Laura was not expecting.
For the past three years, she has been working with children and adults with disabilities.
Laura said: “Knowing her as I do, I expected that she would pass the assessment with flying colors and she did.
“She works incredibly well with the patients. When they see her, they are delighted.”
The miracle story has inspired Laura to write a book entitled Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival.
She hopes the work encourages pet owners to not put their animals to sleep, even if they are suffering from a horrid condition like Lily’s.
Laura said: “I think this story will give hope to those who are thinking of euthanizing their ill pet.”