We might be used to seeing babies eating in high chairs, but watching a dog eat out of one is quite the sight.
Tink, a silver Labrador retriever, suffers from a rare condition called Congenital Idiopathic Megaesophagus. Megaesophagus means that when Tink eats or drinks, the food and water never make it all the way to the stomach.
“There is no nerve-muscle connection between her throat and the nerve cells in her brain,” Tom Sullivan, Tink’s owner, told Inside Edition. The 1-year-old silver Labrador can’t contract the muscles to swallow her food.
Tink has been eating out of a bailey chair since 9 weeks old.
It’s basically a high chair, for a dog.
“When she was 9 weeks old, my brother had watched her and she came home and one side of her stomach was flat and the other one was distended, and that’s when the emergency vet had told us that this is may be megaesophagus,” Sullivan’s wife, Cori, explained.
“She’s a Labrador retriever; she fetches things, she plays Frisbee, she goes on walks, she cuddles, she does everything,” Tom said.
The only thing Tink cannot do is eat or drink like a regular dog.
“My uncle is a veterinarian, and he said it’s not a very good prognosis. So, there were a couple of days of a lot of emotions, a lot of trying to figure out what we were going to do, but there was no way that my wife was giving her up,” Tom explained.
“The esophagus, the way it works, is it kind of squeezes the food and water down kind of like in a motion, we call it peristalsis. But she can’t do that, when she eats or drinks the food just stays in the esophagus,” the veterinarian explained. Tom also added that “when it sits there, her body will reject it, and she will regurgitate it.”
So, the chair keeps Tink in an upright position and gravity does the work her esophagus can’t.
“If she is in an upright position anything that’s in her esophagus is going to want to move downward,” Tom said.
Tink eats approximately four times a day, and after mealtime, just like a baby, the parents have to take some time to make her burp.
“After she sits in her chair, this is a normal thing, for about five minutes, typically we burp her, as crazy as that sounds; and then we do a throat massage too where we dig in deep to the esophagus and just to help her move the food down,” Tom said.
And just like a baby, taking care of Tink is a lot of work, a lot of patience, and most people would just not have the time or the money to do it.
On top of that, Tink needs to take medicine two times a day that costs approximately $100 per month.
“What ends up happening is, the animal might be euthanized because the owners can’t handle or can’t dedicate the time and effort it takes to care for them, or they suffer from malnutrition,” the veterinarian explained.
Sadly, the survival rate is low.
But thanks to the Sullivans, Tink has a second chance at life.
“Not knowing if we could care for her, or even not knowing if we were going to euthanize her…I cried for at least four days straight. I was just trying to figure out what was going to happen and how much money we were going to put into her, but every penny has been worth it. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Cori said.