Tadpole helped Murphys recover from pair of pre-pandemic health scares

by Barbara Gaines Winkelman
Posted 6/10/21

During the pandemic, taking care of a dog proved to be a great way of coping. In appreciation to dogs for helping us get through this difficult year, we’re starting “Citizen …

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Tadpole helped Murphys recover from pair of pre-pandemic health scares


During the pandemic, taking care of a dog proved to be a great way of coping. In appreciation to dogs for helping us get through this difficult year, we’re starting “Citizen Canine,” a column that will honor a dog from our coverage area. If you know of a dog we should spotlight, contact us (or Barbara Gaines Winkelman) at ctzncanine@gmail.com

The name Tadpole does not usually refer to a dog. Yet Tadpole is the 50-pound, seven-month-old pup of Chestnut Hill’s Jenny and Martin Murphy.. They rescued him in early January after they both suffered bouts of serious illnesses, one after the other.

First Jenny was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 1, 2019. She underwent surgery and radiation treatment, and her outpatient therapy was completed by September 2019. Currently, she is cancer free. Two months after her treatment concluded, Jenny and Martin visited Jenny’s family and friends in New Orleans.

“On the day we were supposed to leave to go back to Philly, I couldn’t wake Martin up,” Jenny recalled.

Martin had suffered a stroke. He was admitted to the ICU at a hospital where Jenny had worked as a nurse when she lived in New Orleans. After five days in the hospital and then a few more days resting locally, Jenny and Martin flew home.

Back in Philadelphia, Jenny and Martin spent the next 10 months in a morass of medical tests, doctor consultations and insurance runarounds. Covid raged for most of those months, and Jenny and Martin were extremely careful about with whom they met. Doctors found degenerative tissue on one of Martin’s heart valves and a growth hanging off an aorta. They were not sure whether this growth was heart tissue or a cardiac tumor. The only way to know was through open heart surgery. Martin had an operation on September 21, 2020, and the growth was successfully removed.  

In October, while Martin was recuperating with the help of Jenny’s nursing skills, a dog named Birdie gave birth to five puppies in Marshall County, in the northeast of Alabama. Although Birdie was abandoned when her family moved, a woman began to feed her. In November, Birdie turned to this woman for help during a cold snap. She carried her babies one by one to the woman’s house so that she could find warm shelter for them. The woman contacted a local animal rescue, Heart of Alabama, which arranged for Birdie and her puppies to be fostered in Chattanooga, Tenn., and then transferred to Lucky Dawg Animal Rescue in Avondale, Pa., where the puppies would be adopted.

As Martin’s recovery progressed, Jenny and Martin talked about getting a dog. They had had dogs before—two had passed away before Jenny’s diagnosis. Toward the end of Martin’s recovery in December, they applied for adoption at Lucky Dawg Animal Rescue. They noted that they wanted a female dog under 40 pounds.

“We were approved after a virtual home visit, and a couple of weeks later they emailed me to say that they had a puppy named Tadpole that they’d like us to meet,” Martin said. “As soon as I saw the name ‘Tadpole,’ I was sold. I had a dog named Turtle whom I loved dearly, and so a dog named Tadpole seemed perfect.”

Martin made sure that Tadpole became a part of the neighborhood, not just his household. He emailed neighbors ahead of time to tell them of the new arrival.

“Our immediate block community embraced him before we got him and were excited for him to arrive,” he said. “When he arrived, they wanted to know about him. They wanted to meet him. When I walked him, they all lent their dogs to help socialize him. Tadpole has a group of people in the neighborhood, not just us. It feels really good.”

As soon as he arrived, Tadpole was right at home.

“He’s slept through every night at least nine hours,” Martin explained. “He loves his two cats and is very frustrated that they don’t play with him.”

Tadpole has many endearing behaviors. His favorite spot is beside Jenny when she is sitting at her desk. He lies by her and rests his head on her feet. He likes to rearrange items, like socks or slippers, sometimes moving them from the third floor to the first.

“Having Tadpole has been such a distraction in a good way and requires you to be completely present and focused with the here and now and what’s going on with his needs,” Jenny said.

Jenny and Martin may have thought they wanted a female under 40 pounds, but it worked out that they adopted a male dog who will be closer to 55 pounds.

“He is our love!” Jenny said. Martin nodded in wholehearted agreement.


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