Hipster Harrison: The Lyme Warrior Pup
by: Heather Anderson
Lyme Disease is on the rise, not only in the U.S., but across the globe. More and more people are becoming aware of the effects of those tiny little tick bites, even in places that were previously believed to be safe, like Canada. But it’s not just humans who are effected. Harrison’s family members aren’t strangers to Lyme disease. His mom and siblings all have it. So when Harrison came back from a friend’s house with a red ring around a small puncture, his mom knew right away what was going on. So what makes Harrison different from the many others suffering from Lyme disease? He was able to get treated right away. He’s also a dog.
Harrison is an urban Bichon/Shitzu mix living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Harrison’s role in the Lyme world started at home. Shannon, his mom, has suffered from Lyme Disease for most of her life, his human siblings all have it, too. It’s partially because of Lyme that Harrison got his spot in the limelight. During a particularly tough time in her battle, Shannon decided to try to cheer herself up by dressing Harrison in hipster-chic clothing. She took pictures and posted her photos to her online profiles. It worked, it gave her something fun and creative to do that distracted her from her own struggles. What she didn’t realize was that the therapeutic release she got from being silly with her dog, made a huge impact on her friends and other Lyme sufferers. When her friends online started commenting that they looked forward to Harrison’s posts, it gave her a purpose and she decided it was time for Harrison to have his own page on Facebook and Instagram called, “World According to Harrison.” That’s when his time in the spot light began.
Harrison’s role at home is that of the laid back, family dog. Online, however, he’s an urban hipster dog who has not only helped his mom, and other Lyme Warriors, find a bit of cheer in their days, he’s also become a loyal Lyme awareness advocate. He has been a “Pawster dog” for a pet expo, has taken a Bite Out of Lyme for the Lyme Disease Challenge, and he’s even the doggie model for the month of May (Lyme Awareness Month) in the Paw’s for Lyme fundraising calendar. In fact, he’s even named after his family’s Lyme Literate Doctor! But it wasn’t always cool glasses and bowties . . .
The Discovery . . .
In 2012, Harrison’s family often had to travel out of the country for their treatments. While they were away, some family friends offered to take care of him. It also happened to be the home of one of Harrison’s K9BB (K9 best buds). After returning home from one of his week long visits, Harrison was acting a little strange. He would typically mope around due to missing his K9BB, but this was different. He was more lethargic than usual. Trying to cheer him up a bit, his mom scheduled him to get a new do. It was at the groomers that they noticed a swollen cyst-like puncture wound. When his mom got there to pick him up, she noticed the red ring surrounding the wound, and that his fur was falling out around it, as well. She knew exactly what was going on.
With his family’s history with Lyme disease and navigating a medical system that often overlooks Lyme disease symptoms, Harrison’s mom was curious about how the veterinary world would respond to Harrison’s “classic” Lyme symptoms. She didn’t say anything about Lyme. She just described the symptoms: puncture wound, the lethargy and the fur falling out. To her surprise, they diagnosed him with Lyme and said they needed to treat him right away. When she asked the vet about a possible test for Lyme disease, the vet admitted that there was a test, however it was unreliable. They recommended just treating him so he didn’t get full blown “chronic” Lyme.
Treatment & Recovery
Harrison’s mom finally let the vet in on the family history of Lyme and a great discussion ensued. Harrison got 14 days of oral antibiotics and made a full recovery, because he got treated right away. When Harrison’s doggie cousin was bit by a tick several months later, his cousin suffered more severe symptoms and collapsed due to paralysis. Harrison’s cousin’s vet wasn’t as familiar with Lyme and was among the masses that believed that Lyme disease was rare in B.C. However, with some persistence, his cousin was put on intravenous antibiotics and has since made a full recovery.
While Harrison was able to get the care and attention he needed, one of his human brothers was experiencing an especially difficult relapse and was having a much more difficult time getting the acknowledgment and quality of treatment that Harrison had just received. Shannon wrote a blog post called “Bittersweet Juxtaposition” where she says, “the humane display of compassion, concern and immediate action that i encountered in the vet's office is in stark contrast to what we've experienced countless times when the patient is a human one.”
Unfortunately, this is a common truth. There is much work to be done, across the globe, in the acknowledgement, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease patients, both human and animal. Shannon and Harrison have documented their journey’s on their blog, http://ticksandtrust.blogspot.com, To see Harrison’s fashion forward posts, find him on instagram and facebook at @worldaccordingtoharrison. Thank you Shannon and Harrison for sharing your story with us.