Cami Anderson and her family spared no expense for their young pup, Holli’s second birthday.
There were matching party hats for Holli and her best friend, Rosko, the family’s 13-year-old Labrador mix; tons of new toys; and even a Starbucks puppuccino.
It was a day the Andersons doubt they would have seen without expert care at Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where less than two months earlier Holli had suffered a life-saving surgery to remove a life-threatening cyst on his brain. Recovery has had its tough and scary moments, but the family is grateful for every day spent with their beloved dog.
“Holli seems to be getting better every day,” Cami said. “Every day I can’t wait to get home and see her. We tell him all the time that we love him so much.
Love at first sight
The Andersons welcomed Holli into their Olympia, Wash., home in March 2020. She immediately melted the hearts of her new family, and her energy and playfulness added much-needed love and life.
The previous two years had been filled with grief, beginning with the death of Cami’s father in 2018. The following year, Cami’s brother passed away, and just a month prior, the mother of Cami’s husband, Kris, died. deceased. And while Rosko was happy and healthy, they knew he was a senior pet.
Cami’s daughter, Cali, began looking for another dog, hoping he would have time to learn from Rosko. She came across an online post for a puppy during a rescue in Texas. Her birthday was December 12 – a date shared with Cami’s mother-in-law.
“Cali felt it was a sign that Holli was right for us, and we finally agreed to adopt her after much discussion,” Cami said. “We now say it was the best decision of our lives.”
A rare condition
There was no sign that anything was wrong with Holli until Cami’s son Zach found her in the basement in May 2021. Holli, in obvious pain, struggled to get up.
“We first thought maybe she was eating something like a mushroom,” Zach said. “It was worse the next day, and that’s when we knew something was seriously wrong.”
Holli’s condition continued to deteriorate, but the cause remained elusive until two days later when an MRI revealed she had a brain cyst, a rare condition called arachnoid diverticula. The condition could be managed for a while with prednisone, but the steroid was not a long-term option as it would eventually weaken his immune system and cause liver damage.
“We didn’t know how long she would survive – the neurologist said it could be days, weeks, months or more – but it was such a joy to bring Holli home after the pain to think that we were going to lose her,” Cami mentioned.
Surgery was an option, albeit risky and expensive, but the family would need to contact a neurologist with expertise in the field. They were referred to WSU.
Hope at WSU
Holli started looking like herself after some time on prednisone, but the drugs were taking their toll by the end of August. At that time, WSU neurologist Dr. Chen-Allen had reviewed Holli’s case and felt that surgery could save her, however, she would have a long way to go to recover and there was 30% chance the disease will return.
“This surgery is an operation that few veterinary neurosurgeons will do, mainly because it can be intensive and the outcome can be very unpredictable,” Chen-Allen said. “Although we knew the surgery could be risky, it was Holli’s only chance to maintain a good quality of life without Prednisone.
In October, Holli arrived at WSU for surgery with Chen-Allen and resident Dr. Carlos Valerio-Lopez. The Andersons were constantly updated on Holli’s condition by her vets and fourth-year student Dane Collier, but it would be a 10-day roller coaster — and several nights in which there were doubts about her survival – before Holli finally returns home.
Initially she was unable to eat without a feeding tube and could not walk, but day by day Holli was improving. Now, several months into her recovery, she can eat on her own and even run. While the future is uncertain, the Andersons are grateful for each day spent with Holli.
“We feel truly blessed to have Dr. Chen-Allen, Dr. Valerio and Dane in our lives to help our sweet Holli – we just can’t thank them enough for the incredible care, compassion, warmth, understanding, positivity, support and encouragement,” Cami said.