By Marcia Hill Gossard, College of Veterinary Medicine

A series of tests in January revealed that Murray, a once playful corgi puppy, had a cyst and infection in his brain, causing a loss of sight, balance and feeling in the dog’s face. In June, WSU Insider ran a story about how his owners Kristy and Jim Fiorini, found amazing help and compassion at WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. But the journey wasn’t over.

The tests revealed two abscesses and an abnormal pocket of fluid at the base of Murray’s brain. WSU neurologist Dr. Hillary Greatting and Dr. Sandy Chen said they had ever seen infection that extensive in a dog’s brain.

The following day, Greatting and Chen performed surgery on Murray to remove the infection from the abscesses, which they suspected was causing the blindness and a lack of feeling in the dog’s face.

To help fight off further infections, Murray was given a stout, steady regimen of antibiotics. And, with time, the infection cleared up.

A follow‑up MRI in February showed no change in the pocket of fluid, or cyst, at the base of his brain.

Suffice it to say the veterinary hospital and Kristy kept close tabs on Murray. The doctors wanted to drain the fluid and remove the cyst, but couldn’t until the puppy had more strength and endurance.

Fast forward to October

“After we brought him home last January, Jim and I decided that whatever the outcome, we couldn’t put his little body through another surgery,” says Kristy Fiorini. “We just hoped and prayed that he would continue to get better.

“But as time went on, his head tilt came back, and it was obvious that the cyst was the culprit.”

Murray had been on prednisone, a steroid, for months to slow the growth of the cyst and the medication had taken a toll on his body. He got weaker and sicker. When they returned in September for an MRI, the news confirmed their worst fear: Murray’s cyst had grown.

The cyst was compressing the cerebellum in the back of Murray’s skull, which caused the head tilt. But it also was pressing on more than half of the brainstem that controls walking, breathing and heart rate.

“My fear was that if we didn’t remove this cyst soon, Murray’s quality of life would worsen and that he could lose his ability to walk or even breath,” says WSU veterinary neurologist Dr. Annie Chen‑Allen.

On the drive back to Seattle, Jim turned to Kristy and said, “Well we can’t just do nothing. He needs surgery.”  And on Oct. 18, Murray returned to have the cyst removed.

Second surgery

Immediately after surgery, Murray couldn’t walk or see very well. And he had a difficult time eating. Kristy and Jim had to leave him at the hospital and go home for the week.

An MRI of Murray's brain along side a healthy dog brain.
MRI of Murray’s brain and cyst on the right. A normal dog brain on the left.

“I kissed his nose and told him to fight hard because we are coming to bring him home so soon,” Kristy said. “The very next morning I got a call saying that when they went to get him he hopped out of his bed and walked down the hall and waited at the door to go outside. And the change in him from after surgery to the following Saturday when we picked him up a week later was nothing short of a miracle.”

Since he’s been home, Murray has been improving every day. “His eyes are so bright and so curious and so happy now. They gave him a chance to finally be the puppy he’s never gotten to be.”

“He’s walking better every day, and his head tilt is gone,” says Dr. Chen‑Allen. “What is even better is that we are able to take him off prednisone, which was causing him so many unwanted side effects. Murray has been through so much for such a young dog and all I wish for him now is to live a long healthy life from this point forward.”

Kristy says she finds it hard to express just how deep their gratitude and admiration is for the hospital, and for Murray’s doctors and team. “You don’t find many neurology surgeons who will devote their weekends to their patient’s successful recovery, and you definitely don’t find many who will stop on the way to work in the morning to buy that patient a rotisserie chicken every day because that’s the only thing he would eat,” says Fiorini. “That is the level of care you receive here.”