Tuesday, 29 May 2007

My "Amazing" Louis

"Tell me, I think that cupid was in disguise
The day you walked in and changed my life
I think it's amazing,
the way that love can set you free.
So now I walk in the midday sun
I never thought that my saviour would come
I think it's amazing
I think your AMAZING"
(George Michael)

Monday, 28 May 2007

She’s got Masticatory Myo-What?

Photos of Kiri during her illness and now in remission

It was a Monday evening and Kiri was sitting in her usual place, her bum on the sofa and her front legs draped over Steve’s lap. I turned and looked at the happy couple. Something about Kiri was different. Was there a swelling around her eye? Maybe not! Tuesday evening and she’s sitting once again in the same place. Today there was no doubt - something was different. Her face seemed puffy and swollen and she seemed reluctant to open her mouth.
By Wednesday morning her face was so badly swollen that she had no stop and indeed from a side profile she looked more like a Borzoi than a GSD. Though she managed every last crumb of her breakfast she seemed to be having difficulty opening her jaw and she was coughing whilst eating.(Let me point out at this stage that the meaning of life for Kiri is food; she would have sucked it up through a straw if necessary)
The vet’s earliest available appointment was for early afternoon and initially the young vet seemed baffled at the symptoms. Kiri’s temperature was normal, her colour was good and her eyes bright and healthy, but by now she showed signs of distress if any one tried to open her mouth and the swelling on her face was hot and painful. There was also a strange smell on her breath. The vet reckoned that there was a possibility of a foreign body in her mouth or throat and suggested an X-ray. Because she had eaten that morning she was given a “rimadyl” injection and an appointment was made for the next day.
Kiri looked pretty much the same on Thursday morning, though she objected loudly to being left in her cage as the rest of her family had breakfast!
A different vet called us into the consulting room and offered me an alternative diagnosis; possibly Kiri had suffered a severe allergic reaction to something, or it could be a condition called “Masticatory Muscle Myositis” (MMM). They could proceed with
X-rays or give her a large dose of steroids and wait for 24hrs to see if there was any improvement. Convinced this was an allergic reaction I decided to wait.
By Friday morning the swelling on Kiri’s face had reduced dramatically and she looked almost her usual self; there was just a slight dip on her temple that bothered me somewhat. The vet suggested this could be a reaction to the high dose of steroids, but felt it necessary to give her another injection and tablets to carry us over the weekend. With an appointment made for Monday we set off home.
This was not the weekend I had been expecting. Kiri spent the entire time on a chair in the computer room and when I finally managed to encourage her into the living room she sat behind the sofa. She was quiet and distant and the only time she showed any enthusiasm was when she heard the rattle of dinner bowls! By Sunday night there was a drastic change to Kiri’s face. At the time it appeared as if the swelling had gone down but hadn’t known when to stop, giving her head a skull-like appearance, and by now the front of her mouth would not open more than an inch or so. (But yes she could still eat).
When I took her to the surgery on Monday I felt sick with worry. What on earth was going on with Kiri? She was then taken in for X-rays on her throat and mouth to see if there was anything untoward causing the problem but nothing had been found.
The diagnosis following this visit to the vets was MMM. (Chronic form) They hadn’t even been able to open Kiri’s mouth under anaesthetic. They informed me that it is an immune mediated disease found in many large breeds of dogs, but especially GSD’s. Then why had I never heard of it, and what can be done about it?
Kiri was prescribed a course of steroids, starting with 60mg to be reduced over the next 6mths. I was also told to provide her with bones and chew sticks as physiotherapy for her jaw. As MMM is a disease that only goes into remission and never really goes away long term use of steroids may be a necessity. (But I am looking for alternative medicines). After the 6mth course we will have an important decision to make. If we take her off the steroids we could risk her having another episode and apparently each one increases in its severity. But I don’t relish the thought of putting a 5yr old bitch on steroids, with all their side affects, for the rest of her life.
Over the next week Kiri’s face deteriorated, the condition affected the muscle behind her eyes giving them a sunken look and I suppose due to the pressure on the tear ducts, her eyes where also weeping. On a good note after spending a day on a chew stick about the size of a stick of rock (normally would have been demolished within an hour), there was a drastic improvement in the mobility of her jaw. We continue daily to provide her with something to chew. As regards to eating, throughout these last few weeks Kiri has never stopped eating. I realise this could have been the downfall of many a dog as at times she did find it difficult. A less food-orientated dog may not have made the effort and long term not obtained enough nourishment to maintain his strength.
Kiri is responding well to treatment to date though on the advice of a specialist 10 days after starting her steroids the dose was cut in half. This was because she was losing muscle tone on her limbs and it was felt that the steroids themselves were causing this problem. We always had a bit of trouble with Kiri’s weight; much to my husband’s disapproval I affectionately called her “fatty.” Now she seems only half the dog she was and though she has eaten well throughout these past few week she has lost about 6kg in weight, or maybe partly muscle.
This chapter is by no means closed; we have to take each day as it comes. There has been a lot of stress and tears in this house over the last few weeks, partly due to the “not knowing.” On our part we have to learn to accept that our lovely girl doesn’t look the same any more; we will get use to the new face that greets us daily; after all the dog behind the face is still the one we love so much. For Kiri herself, well, we just want her to feel well and be happy. At least she won’t go into the bathroom in the morning, look in the mirror and ask “why?” We are the ones doing that!
May I also take the opportunity to thank all of the people who have helped us throughout this; without their friendship and support this would have been much harder. Kiri would also like to thank everyone who turned up with bones and chews; she really doesn’t mind if they keep on coming!!!!!

Sunday, 27 May 2007


Is this man the sexiest man alive or is this the sexiest man alive? Thank you George for keeping me sain and happy and thank you for the precious, emotional moments. My darling George, My love, my sanity, my Greek God.

Stick it in a Kennel

This was the advice given to me when I attended one of my first breed shows in 1992; I refused to do it then and I still refuse to do it now. I don’t consider my views to be extreme, hell I have four kennels and use them daily. Our young dogs spend up to five hours a day in them, whilst I’m at work it seems the healthiest most sensible solution. But the idea of my dogs spending all their days, apart from an hour or two for exercise, in a kennel is a definite no no!
I have dogs because I love them; I have this breed because I think they are simply the best. My dogs are my family, my pets and not just a hobby to take out at weekends and put back in the cupboard during the week, What are they to you? Are the show wins simply a way of boosting your already large ego? Do you come home from the shows, put your Champion dog back in his kennel and sit all evening looking at the rosette YOU won today?
We all agree (don’t we?) that dogs are pack animals, social creatures that thrive on companionship. Is it not therefore unnatural for a dog to live alone, or away from its pack leader? Surely being in a kennel for 22hrs a day is like a severe form of punishment for a social animal. A dog left alone all day must have long boring hours and will do anything to make himself feel better. Excessive barking, tail chasing, pacing and circling, all considered behavioural problems could stem from this boredom. Maybe you should consider getting a garden gnome or two, they’ll be quite happy sitting in the yard all day, and they don’t even need feeding. (Maybe you could start a Gnome club of GB…… If there isn’t one already!)
Our puppies are born in the house and during their 7 or 8 weeks here they hear the Hoover, see the T.V and socialise with the cats; and yes they spend some time in the kennel and some time alone, all important parts of everyday life. What about your puppies, do they ever come out of the kennel other than to be stood or studied for “show potential?” What about the puppy you kept until he was 5months old and decided to sell as a “pet” because he would never make the grade? Did he ever watch Eastenders or get tangled in the vacuum cleaner lead? Now the socialising period is probably over, will he ever really be a confident acceptable member of society?
Having your dogs in the home with you for at least part of the day must surely deepen the bond between you, you learn so much more about the individual by spending quality time together. Also by watching the interaction between pack members I learn daily about my pack’s behaviour. Youngsters learn quickly from older pack members, much quicker than I could ever teach them.
I just don’t get it. What is the point of owning a clever social creature and leaving it out in the kennel all day? If you’ve never had your tea knocked out of you hand, your dinner pinched off the table, a soggy wet nose in your face first thing in the morning or been knocked on your arse going through a door, then consider this; have you ever really “lived with” or “loved” a dog?
This article was written in memory of Nikki (Lledfegin Camri) 1RCC, Breed Survey class 1, Graded “V”. Who always lived in the house, slept in the bedroom, and trained all the youngsters, and was first printed in The German Shepherd National Magazine.

This Is Me.....

I'm such a pretty Girl

A Dog Called Grani

It’s the 20th of April 07 and I’ve just come back from the vets. I sat out on the grass with a 16 yr old dog in the sunshine as we said our last goodbyes. She was still bright and alert but her body had just had enough and had given up on her. What a way to go though, lying in the sunshine in the arms of someone who, for almost 4 yrs, had grown to love her like one of her own. Someone who remembers so clearly the day she came into her life.
It was June/July 03 and I’d only been working at Freshfields Animal rescue since the beginning of April that year. I turned up at work on a lovely sunny Monday morning to find the Kennels full to bursting, yet again, of unwanted working sheepdogs/collies. Anyone who knows me knows that they are not my favourite breed, and knows my reason for feeling this way is simple. Briefly in many cases I feel they do not make good pets. As a dog trainer and a person who is involved in rescue I’ve seen far too many of these intelligent dogs unable to adjust to a “pet” dog life. The situation with the collies had got so desperate at Freshfields over the weekend that Lesley had put one of the dogs in the caravan. And that, was “her.” I was told that her temperament was awful with other dogs and to exercise her alone. Having finished the kennels I got her out of the caravan and I clearly remember thinking, “what the hell is that?”
No, our Grani was not your average looking collie. She was a short-coated blue merle bitch with 2 blue eyes, and I thought at the time anyway, a rather hard expression. Dew claws stuck out terribly on her hind legs and there where obvious arthritic lumps on her joints, particularly her elbows and hocks. She stood out at the elbows, almost like a bulldog and ran everywhere, never walked. What the hell would we call this peculiar creature who was almost emaciated and surely didn’t have a hope in hell of a new home. “After all” I remember thinking, “with all the nice looking collies here, who would want that?” I think someone suggested we call her Merle or Mabel but somehow it didn’t sound right. You know when the name just doesn’t fit the dog. Over the following week she was referred to as Granny Grump in the Caravan. Grani it was to be!!!!
Within no time Grani was in season and “slapper” was one word I would use to describe her, this was the only time that she forgot just how much she really hated other dogs. If it moves, bonk it…..and that included me….no fun for me I assure you, though certain other members of staff thought it was hilarious!! Shortly after this I carted her over to the vets to be spayed, they thought she was too old and frail and the operation was not carried out. I would be the object of Grani’s lust many times over the next 4 yrs, well at least somebody loved me!
Around this time Nebo kennels was closed down and another “unhomeable” collie’s life was hanging in the balance. Tara had been re-homed several times but was unpredictable and was sent back to Nebo. At the time of their closure another rescue centre offered her a place, but due to her temperament they decided to have her destroyed. When Lesley was informed she made immediate plans to bring her to Freshfields and Tara became part of our family, and my other closest of friends. Through the caravan window Grani took one look at the glamorous B/W long coated collie and decided her mission in life was now to kill Tara…and no I’m not joking. I’m sure her hatred for Tara was her incentive to keep going for so long.
Grani’s physical condition improved beyond recognition, though the arthritis in her joints caused her to have a very strange gait. The vet reckoned that some of her joints where completely seized and on further investigation it was obvious that she had had a serious back injury at sometime in her life, this also contributed to her “individual” gait. Luckily Metacam had amazing results for her and her quality of life was excellent.
Grani stayed in the caravan for some months but had to be moved out when the hole she chewed through the aluminium was big enough for her to get her head through. Before anyone gets worried, no she didn’t hate her caravan, far from it, if the door was open she more often than not sat inside.(I think giving us all a false sense of security) The chewing was just sheer temper and frustration when Tara was out in the yard and she couldn’t get to her. When the caravan was scrapped she was moved into the Kennel kitchen unit……..And Guess what? She moved in next door to Tara!!! No, not the cleverest of moves, but luckily there was a brick wall between them!
Over the years Grani had become my shadow, following me from the cattery block to the kitten unit and waiting patiently outside the doors for me. I even gave her a job, it was her duty to make sure the cat bowls got a “pre-wash” before they went into the kennel/kitchen to be washed. A job she completed to perfection, though we did argue about the tins she regularly pulled out of the bins and scattered along the cattery floor.
I seriously thought about bringing her home to live with me. But with her aggressive nature it simply would never have worked within my “pack”. When there was room in the car she came with me on vet trips, just for a change of scenery really. We occasionally went A.W.O.L and had a little walk, it was our secret, but I reckon “management” knew about it really!!!
Recently the geriatric hooligan started on another mission. If she could eat through the kitchen door from the outside inwards she could then get to Tara, and then only the mesh would separate them, a minor detail. After all on a couple of occasions when the door hadn’t been closed properly she’d got hold of Tara’s nose through the mesh and refused point blank to let go. Old, worn teeth can still hold on for dear life, believe me. The hole in the door is now big enough for a man’s fist to fit through I would say.
Our choice of name for her turned quite a few heads over the years. Many a time we had to explain the situation to visitors When they heard a member of staff ask if Grani could be shut in the kennel, or why it was not a real problem that Grani had ripped the bin bags and was licking the cat food tins.
Today I am so sad, I’m going to miss my vocal work-mate so much. Freshfields I doubt will ever be the same for me without her. I wish I’d known her longer, I wish I’d seen the young dog and got to know why a 12+ year old, emaciated collie was walking through Llanllyfni in the Summer of 2003? I have no doubt the young Grani would have been absolutely everything I dislike in a collie all rolled into one, but my God, I wish I’d had the opportunity to find out, what a dog she must have been! My life has been touched by her, I feel privileged to have been at her beck and call over the last 4 yrs; privileged to have been her friend. I’m sitting here now listening to my darling George singing the lyrics of a haunting ballad, one he wrote in grief after the death of his partner. The tears flow, the lyrics of “You Have Been Loved.” are so apt, We’ll never know what happened to Grani in those early years but one thing is for sure, over these last four years she has known and given great love, yeah, for sure “She has been loved.”