Alfie beats the odds to return home

VSOS - a white dog walking into the water

Alfie is your average nine-year-old Golden Retriever. He has always been healthy, with nothing more than an annual visit to the vet.

But one sunny Sunday afternoon in November, he collapsed after an action-packed day out with his family.

We had spent the day out on the river on our barge,” explains Alfie’s owner, Philippa Tapfield. “Alfie had been swimming, fishing and running around the bush.

By the time we got home, he went really quiet. I initially thought it was exhaustion after such a big day… but then his tongue turned white and his breathing changed. I knew there was something seriously wrong.”

VSOS - the white dog sitting on the sofa

Racing the clock

Philippa and her husband Todd very quickly bundled Alfie into the car and took him to a vet in Kirrawee. Being a Sunday afternoon, they couldn’t go to their regular vet as they weren’t open.

After a quick assessment the vet advised that Alfie would need emergency treatment and referred him to VSOS.

We are so fortunate that VSOS was there. Alfie was in a very serious situation, and if we had to drive any further, I don’t think he would have made it.”

VSOS - white dog resting on the ground

A grim prognosis

When they arrived at the VSOS Emergency Hospital, Alfie couldn’t walk.

He was stretchered into the hospital where the team quickly got to work assessing him.

Dr Rachel Reynolds came out to tell us that Alfie had fluid around his heart,” recalls Philippa. “The fluid was restricting his heart so they had to drain it. In fact, they had to drain his heart multiple times during his stay at the hospital. He ended up having a transfusion where they were draining the blood from his heart and pumping it back into his body.

His blood also stopped clotting, so they couldn’t operate on him. Dr Karina Graham later told us she didn’t expect him to pull through.”

Alfie was that one in ten-year patient that you never forget,” explains Dr Karina Graham. “He needed to survive as he had a very important job to do at home. We had multiple tubes in his heart sac and chest, draining the continuous bleed, and then needed to transfuse it directly back, like we were the bypass machine.”

VSOS - white dog and a toy laying on bed

Compassion and care

All up, Alfie stayed in the hospital for five days. Phillipa spent all day Monday and Tuesday crying, admitting that she’s never been as upset as she was during those few very difficult days.

But the compassion and understanding the VSOS team showed not only to Alfie as their patient but also to Philippa and Todd were incredible.

We were truly devastated,” explains Philippa.

Our daughter has special needs and we got Alfie nine years ago to become her companion. Alfie is also a friend to our son… he means something different to each and every one of us. It would have been such a shock to the whole family if he hadn’t made it through.

We were able to sit with Alfie all day on Monday, even with everything going on around him with his treatment. I really can’t believe how much compassion the whole team showed us. The nurses were very reassuring when we left each night and, in the morning, we would wake up to text messages with pictures showing us how Alfie was doing.

Every member of the VSOS team treated Alfie as a loved pet, rather than just a patient. We are just so grateful that he is still here with us.”

VSOS - white dog road to recovery

The road to recovery

While Alfie still has some recovery to do before he can get back out on the barge, he’s really happy to be home after his five days with VSOS.

He still has some healing to do, however this next phase can be at home,” says Dr Karina Graham. “He needs his bed, his family and his purpose to fulfil.

Alfie is still very sleepy, but we are so happy to have him home,” adds Philippa. “Every day we have with him is a bonus and we couldn’t be more grateful to the VSOS team for giving us this time with him.”

24/7 emergency care for your precious pets

We have a team of talented veterinary specialists on hand 24/7 to provide emergency care at our state-of-the-art animal emergency hospital located in the Sutherland Shire.

While you can never plan for an emergency, if the worst was to happen, know that we are here to help.


Patient stories

“Karina, and all of the vet nurses and vet specialists at VSOS, have such incredible empathy."
On the hardest day of Jimmy Barnes' life, the VSOS team was there.

Contact us

for specialist veterinary treatment