MerlinChris is a veteran of the Gulf War who lives in a converted bus in southern Oregon with her assistance dog, Merlin. She got Merlin from a non-profit organization where he was specially trained to retrieve her inhalers when she is suffering from a debilitating asthma attack. Many Gulf War veterans attribute their post-service asthma to the hundreds of oil well fires that blackened the skies of Kuwait in the early 1990s. Chris also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Merlin is her only close companion.

Last year, Merlin developed Aspergillus, a fungal infection in his nose and sinuses. Merlin’s veterinarian treated him by flushing his sinuses with an anti-fungal but the infection proved stubborn and repeat treatments were needed. Then Chris went in for surgery and developed a serious bone infection that kept her in the hospital longer than planned. Worried about her dog and with no one to turn to, she called a former neighbor, Kim Haines, and asked her to check on Merlin.

Kim Haines is one of those warm, friendly people that you like immediately. When she checked on Merlin, he was so happy to see her, she decided to take him home until Chris could be released. She also administered his fungal medication and kept his next appointment with Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialists. There she received some bad news: Merlin’s veterinarian was concerned that the treatments might be causing sinus damage that could eventually compromise his brain. She suggested Merlin go to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU for a CT scan.

With an unreliable car and not much money to spare, Kim was determined to find a way to help Merlin. When others suggested she euthanize him, Kim said, “No way. I know he is just one dog but he’s really important to me and I will not have him put down. Chris will need him.”

So Kim contacted Pets of the Homeless, a non-profit organization that provides veterinary care to the homeless. They helped her find the Tails of Hope Foundation who provided half the cost of the CT scan. The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital agreed to provide the remaining money through their Olive Britt Fund.

Next, Kim had to find a way to get Merlin to Corvallis, 300 miles from her home in Brookings. Another big-hearted person, Kim’s friend Jennifer Ralston, agreed to drive them to OSU. With the dog and a car full of kids, they made the long trek north.

Merlin’s veterinarian made a good call: his CT scan did reveal bone damage in Merlin’s sinuses. “It was very obvious to see the voids in the skull,” says Kim. Dr. Jana Gordon also advised that he have the fungus scraped out and the holes in his skull repaired. In the meantime, Merlin is on a regime of anti-fungal pills which take longer to be effective, but won’t harm his brain. “It will be a long process and probably costly but I am doing what I can to find funding to help pay for his treatment,” says Kim.

Chris has had a long recovery but is expected to leave the hospital soon. Thanks to Kim Haines, she will come home to her best freind. “I let her know Merlin is being cared for by some wonderful people who care equally for her,” says Kim. “A disabled U.S. veteran and her loyal companion should never feel unloved!”

If you would like help pets like Merlin by donating to the Olive Britt Fund, contact the OSU Foundation at 1-800-354-7281.

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