Vets Narrow Search For Service Dog's Illness

Doctors at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital are closer to identifying the mystery illness threatening the service dog for a local disabled woman.

Adrienne Barlow and Haley

DAVIS, CA - The past two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for Adrienne Barlow, watching and worrying over her 7 year old Papillon, Haley.

There's a deep emotional bond between the two that many pet owners would recognize, but there's more. Haley is a service dog able to sense the onset of the seizures that suddenly strike Adrienne, who suffers from a neurological disorder.

When Haley's health suddenly went downhill Adrienne found few answers. She lives on a monthly disability benefit and couldn't afford the tests to diagnose Haley's illness.

Viewers responding to our stories solved that problem and got the two of them here to the famed veterinary hospital at the University of California at Davis.

By then 14 days had passed vets here and there agreed she needed emergency care.

Haley arrived much as we'd first seen her, weak and quiet, but after a night of care, the next morning was showing signs of renewed strength though clearly not her former self.

As a series of tests eliminated other possibilites, doctors were finally had narrowed it down to a scary trio, meningitis, a rare protozoan infection or cancer.

Each sounded more terrible than the last. Were they?

"It's terrible if it's not treated," says Dr. Elizabeth Craig, the internal medicine veternarian who now has her case. "Of all of those scenarios they are all bad because they all involve the brain. "

But there are treatments. So, this is not a death sentence?

There are treatments yes.

"No, not yet."

It was not the answer Adrienne had hoped for, but still not yet the answer she had feared.

"She has a chance because I think she's got good doctors here," Adrienne said wiping tears away.

An MRI is being performed late today. That should finally tell the doctors caring for Haley, what they are dealing with and how to treat it.

"We can direct that treatment to specifically what it is and hopefully get her back to normal function," says Dr. Craig.

And that includes her work as a service dog.

"They're always someone's pet," says Dr. Craig, "but she has this added responsibility in addition to her emotional value and hopefully we can return her to that responsibility."

It is understandably a scary time for Adrienne Barlow, but she carries with her the support of a number of people back home.

"I need their support. I definitely need their support. Haley needs their support."

Estimates of the final cost of Haley's treatment have risen, but so have donations and the UC Davis hospital is covering the cost of the MRI.

A bank account, "Funds for Haley," has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank. Donations can be made at any branch nationwide.

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