The day we met
I had been co-running a rescue for a little while by the time I met Tommy. Prior to him arriving, I had just had my Jack Russell, Sally put to sleep. She was the sweetest little girl who was practically glued to me from the moment I took her in. Although Tommy could no way, shape, or form replace Sally, I did have space at home for a little dog.
Tommy was at a pound in Ireland. I’m not sure exactly why he was handed in, but he was near the end of his stay and at risk of being put to sleep as no rescue had stepped forward to take him in due to his physical deformity, but more about that later. Nothing could bring my Sally back, and what was the point in this little guy dying if I had room, right? I agreed to foster him and over he came on the ferry to England.
I remember the first time I saw him. He was a quivering wreck in the transporters arms and he was thurst into my arms before I had a chance to have a good look at him. My goodness, he stank and his fur was matted. He looked at me with his huge expressive eyes and I just fell in love. He needed me and I needed him, but at this point, I had no idea what a huge impact he would have on my life.
Meeting the rest of the family
I bundled Tommy’s documents together and popped him in my car to drive home. He yipped the whole way, the poor little guy had been in a van for a very long time and the last thing he needed was more time in the car, but it was late and the quicker I got him home, the quicker he could settle so off we went on the short drive home.
At the time I had a collie cross called Jake. I opened the door and Jake ran over the greet me, and when he saw the little fluffball in my arms. He cocked his head – “What on earth is that?!” he must have thought! I popped Tommy on the floor, allowing them to sniff each other. Tommy must have been the size of Jake’s head, but typical Jake wagged his tail and greeted the little gremlin into our home.
I hadn’t told my partner, Lee about Tommy so when he came home from work, I told him I had a surprise for him and Tommy was sat on our bed, barking away at Lee. He just laughed, I am so lucky he loves the animals as much as I do and I know he wouldn’t be without them either.
I fostered for the rescue for around 11 years and Tommy met so many new animals along the way. He was really good with everyone and loved to play (although he did find it fun to chase the cats!) I’m sure he was telling the frightened fosters that they were safe now, and he made everyone feel so welcomed. I also did dog boarding from my home for a while and Tommy would always be so nice to everyone (but he would always bark first!)
Time for a name change!
Tommy came to us with the name Gizmo. Although I liked the name and I loved the film, it didn’t feel right. I thought its a new country, a new start and a new life, so we decided to call him Tommy, although he has now been dubbed King Tommy due to his gigantic ego.
At first, Tommy was a little… how do I phrase this so it’s family-friendly…. frisky with Jake. Tommy knew exactly what his bits were for and although he is deformed, he still tried to hump Jake. As soon as he was settled and the vets gave the thumbs up, King Tommy lost his little crown jewels and he and Jake became much better friends.
Tommy loved to play a lot in his younger days, although he is still quite playful now. Jake was an old boy and never really did play much to Tommy’s annoyance. He would play bow and yip and Jake would walk off – Tommy was furious! I was starting to feel bad for the little guy and did my best to play with him, but he really wanted to wrestle with another dog.
Not long after Tommy arrived, I agreed to foster another dog and when the new dog turned up, an extra dog was put on the transport run in the hope a rescue would take him in to save him from being put down. This little brown, meerkat like creature peered at me and I decided right there and then he would come to me to be fostered and that little boy was Nacho.
Nacho is (I think) a Chihuahua-cross-Daschund and the second he and Tommy saw each other, Nacho sprinted over to him, danced around him and the two chased each other in play. It was so wonderful to see – both boys from a pound in Ireland, both destined to be put to sleep and brought together, in a loving home with a play buddy. They are both a similar size so made the perfect pair and Nacho stayed.
Tommy has had many health scares over the years. There are so many to list, but the mains ones are;
As I have already mentioned, Tommy has a deformity with his back legs. They are both bowed and turned inwards, meaning he walks a bit like a frog. I took him to an orthopaedic specialist in the hope something could be done to right his legs. After much toing and froing to more specialist vets, I was told there was a surgery that may work, but it had a very high risk of failing and if it failed, Tommy would have to be put to sleep.
Tommy could run, he could play, he went on a walk every day, he was (and still is) so happy – I asked the vet if Tommy was in any pain and I was told no, but he may have problems when he’s older. I wasn’t prepared to risk something that had a high chance of failure when he wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, so I opted for making adaptions to my home and lifestyle to make life as easy as possible for Tommy and should Tommy show the slightest sign of pain, I would consult my vet right away.
Fans of Tommy know that he has a collapsed trachea. I won’t go into it too much here as I have written two blogs already on his collapsed trachea (here and here). It is a progressive disease that is common in small breed dogs and is where the cartilage rings that support the trachea wear away and cause a collapse in the trachea – the resulting issue is the dog will honk and cough.
Whilst some dogs are good candidates for surgery, unfortunately, Tommy wasn’t. I took him to a specialist vet where he had a bunch of tests, from fluoroscopes to Xrays to grade the collapse and to see what options we had. Sadly, the collapse is deep within his chest, so he is not a candidate for the stent operation (where they insert a stent to keep the trachea open) due to the location of the collapse.
As the surgery wasn’t an option for us, I manage it as much as possible – making adaptations to my home to make it easier for him to get around (due to his deformity, if walking its too much of an effort, he coughs) and medicating to make sure he isn’t in any pain. I just have to accept that he coughs and keep a close eye on him.
Tommy started having issues with fluid buildup on his chest. We were referred (once again) to a specialist vets where Tommy is under the care of a heart specialist and has had several heart scans. He has a leaking valve and is now on medication to prevent the buildup of fluid in his chest.
When Tommy’s collapsed trachea was really bad and I was working closely with my vet to come up with a plan, Tommy’s mobility greatly reduced as the coughing left him so tired. When he started his new medication, his joints were stiff and his muscles were weak from staying idle for so long. We signed him up with a physiotherapist as well as starting hydrotherapy to get him mobile again.
I’m not sure Tommy was too thrilled with the idea of either of these, however, they made a huge difference and slowly but surely, Tommy regained his strength and within a few months, was back to chasing those pesky cats.
Liver issues, fitting and a stroke
Blood tests showed Tommy has issues with his liver function, so was on medication for that for a while, but recent blood tests have shown his liver function has improved, which is fantastic.
He has also had a few fits over the years too. The scariest was when we were due to go on holiday and at 11 pm the night before we were due to fly out, Tommy had a stroke. We bundled him up into the car and rushed to the vets. We were told that he would either recover or decline. I was petrified and was refusing to go on holiday – I had to stay with my little boy. I’m pretty sure Tommy has a guardian angel (perhaps it’s Sally) and against all odds, Tommy recovered from the stroke, regaining all function and with even more attitude than ever.
Tommy had his first bought of pancreatitis a couple of years ago and it was incredibly scary. I woke up and the room was covered in diarrhoea and vomit. Tommy was flat out in his bed. I scooped him up in my arms and rushed to the vets where he was admitted right away. After a bunch of tests, Tommy was diagnoses with pancreatitis and since then, has had a couple more episodes which have caused him to be hospitalised.
I am now incredibly strict with his diet and know the early warning signs (vomiting, off food, gurgly tummy) and should he show any of these symptoms, I take him to the vets.
You may be thinking “Surely that’s it? Surely he can’t have any more health problems?” and I wish I could say that was it, but Tommy also has kidney failure. Due to pancreatitis and kidney failure, I had a lot of problems trying to find the right diet for him. Usually, dogs with either illness will go on a very specific diet, however, when a dog has both, its tricky to find something that won’t set his pancreatitis off, or make his kidneys worse.
I must have tried a least 10 different combinations – from different brands, I even tried home-cooked diets, but nothing worked and I felt hopeless. There had to be something that suited him. Luckily, by working closely with my veterinarian and Royal Canin, we managed to come up with a plan and found something Tommy could eat. He now likes his new diet – as I said, he no longer gets treats and I feel bad about that, but I know how unwell he can get if he eats the wrong thing so I just don’t want to risk it.
Adaptations we made to our home and lives for Tommy
We had to make a fair few adaptations to our home and lives for Tommy. At our first home, we had a few steps leading to the garden and at this point, Tommy was able to use low steps to go outside. The steps that were there when we moved in were too steep for him, so we had the patio redone and had lower steps put in for him.
We had laminate flooring in the hall and due to his back legs, Tommy would slip and fall. To stop this, we put a load of runner rugs down to make Tommy friendly routes around the house, leading to the carpeted rooms or garden.
Tommy’s pancreatitis means he has to eat little and often, meaning he has three meals a day. This means we can’t leave him on his own for too long, so have to find ways to be out for the shortest amount of time possible.
I wanted to get Tommy an orthopaedic bed for his joints, but all the ones I could find were quite high for a little Tom. To make the bed Tommy friendly, we attached a yoga ramp to the bed with rubber matting so he could grip it and get in an out of the bed with ease.
Tommy’s online presence
I have been lucky enough to work from home, so I have spent a lot of time with Tommy. He is my shadow and follows me everywhere. When I was involved in the rescue, as he has the cute factor, he helped to promote the rescue animals on his own page.
I have since moved away from the rescue but Tommy had such a huge following of fans from all over the world, I kept his page going to make people smile and his wonderful fans have helped to pay for his huge vet bills over the years and I honestly cannot thank each and every one of you enough. He was insured, but after spending thousands at various specialist vets and out of hours vets, we came to the end of his limit and had no choice but to cancel his insurance.
To help pay for his huge vet bills we make a Tommy and friends calendar every year and also have an online shop selling all sorts – from hoodies to t-shirts and even tote bags. All money raised on these platforms goes on his care, as well as the other animals at THOA. If you’d like to make a donation to Tommy, he has a Paypal account and is very grateful for any help.
I hope you have enjoyed learning more about Tommy and why he is so special. We are so touched that so many of you hold him dear to your hearts. He really has changed so many lives and I love him more and more every day. Tommy is on Facebook and Instagram, so pop over and say hi if you haven’t met him already.