Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top Dog of the Kennel

Cowboy has found his place in our kennel, and surprisingly enough, he is top dog.  Even Moony and Samantha back down from him!!!  He is a real sweetheart though, and one thing that has endeared him to all the dogs, is that he loves to play with everybody.  He's not vengeful or angry if he doesn't get what he wants, but he will playfully mouth the object of his frustration, play-growl , and play-bow until he bugs them into giving him what he wants, or they both go off and playfully forget whatever it was.  It is the oddest mode of domination I've ever seen from a dog, and the most wonderfully pleasant way to make it to top dog.

In all my 35+ years of being a dog listener, this is the first time I've ever seen a dog use this method of gaining community/pack support.  It is a pleasant change from fighting, intimidation and bullying.  He is an unanimous, elected by the pack, leader.  Who would have thought dogs could be diplomats?  Kudos to you Cowboy for showing our dogs that you don't have to be mean to be Top Dog.

Finally starting to breathe again

After holding our breath for so long.  Technically there are two more days of danger, but I'm almost certain all the dogs have already been through what they were going to go through.  I am ever so grateful to all our FB friends and those following this blog.  Your prayers and well wishes have been heard and I am more than sure made a difference.  With your help and that of the Parvaid and Vibactra remedies, our dogs have only had one instance of vomiting, some of them had spotty diarrhea, but all continuously eating and drinking normally.  In other words we have not had another acute case as yet and hopefully won't.  The fear is beginning to ebb, and this coming weekend the disinfecting will begin again.  After four more weeks will be the final disinfection before the virus is no longer commutable and we can lift our self imposed quarrantine.  We continue to watch and pray that none of the dogs has a relapse, our last remaining fear.

Cowboy will be neutered mid to end of September, with Velvet to be spayed shortly thereafter or at the same time.  We are waiting until we are sure the virus is completely shed from every dog before any sort of procedure that could potentially lower their immune response.  It has been a trip through one hell I hope I never have to see again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cowboy vs. Bucky

In case you ever wondered where the term pissing contest came from, I can tell you first hand.  This morning while feeding the dogs, Cowboy and Bucky were in my room awaiting their food while Ghost was in his crate chowing down.  I come back in only to find Cowboy and Bucky taking turns trying to pee in Ghost's food and claim it for their own.  Needless to say, this did not go down well with me or Ghost.

Annoyed, I went to get the cleaner and air freshener, but when I came back both Cowboy and Bucky had been at it again, this time, claiming my computer chair.  Seriously boys!  Take your pissing contest OUTSIDE!!!

Ghost on the other hand was being cuddly and playful, so I threw the hexhedral rubber ball.  He is such a good boy, and bounced around with it as he brought it back to me.  We played some tug-o-war before he let me have it to throw again.  His happy play does wonders to help heal the wounds of my heart.

But as I go to get breakfast for myself, my eyes catch on the wooden box on the mantle.  Bandit, how I tried to give you the best life you could have!  It seems so unfair to fall victim to epilepsy, and just when things settled down again and you were stable on your meds to be so cruelly ambushed by this horrid disease!  We still are mystified as to the source.  Nothing makes sense any more. 

Freya nudges me, and woos at me, trying her best to get my attention, and I sit with her on the floor, rubbing her belly and hugging her.  I know she misses her boy.  She would normally be in the yard playing with him.  I couldn't help the tears.  The aching in my soul as I held her brings more tears, but a warm tongue licks them away as Yukon give me his little high-pitched "OH!"  He wants in on the hugs too!  I'm soon buried in a sea of warm fuzzy bodies, and somehow my heart feels better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weary but hopeful.

There is a bone-aching weariness that sets in after several nights spent only dozing lightly listening for the unmistakable sounds of a dog wretching.  Every cough, every slight wheeze, each little sneeze has me awake and on-edge.  I lie awake for an hour or more after every time, afraid I might miss the actual heaves and one of my furry kids perish before I can get to them.  Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and call each one by name to reassure myself they are still there, alert, alive.  The stress has played havoc with both my physical and mental health.

At work, most don't understand what these dogs mean to me.  They are essentially my furry god-children.  I was there at most of their birthing, raised them from their first breath of life.  They are my companions, and for my team, we share a one-ness of soul.  No one will understand our bond unless they too have felt the call of the pack, run with their team, gloried in the poetry of motion to the rhythm and beat of padded feet.  There is something wild, primal, exhillerating in the comradarie of a musher and their dogs.  Off the trail, they speak to me, comfort me, tease and play like any good friend.  I delight in their antics as they delight in my attention.  They are my heart and soul. 

The thought that I may have to stand by and watch them die an agonizing death before my eyes is beyond horror, beyond the scope of my worst nightmares.  I would gladly face a deadly torment of a thousand terrors before seeing harm come to my pack, but in this I am near helpless and at the mercy of fate.  Even so, I search daily for the miracle, the key to safeguard that which is so dear to me.  I beseach the winds, the waters, the fires and the earth to be kind.  I pray to our creator to spare them, and try the remedy that others have found helpful that my scientific mind tries to reject.  My heart knows not the logic, only the fear and pain of losing those in my care.  The aching hole in my heart where Bandit so recently warmed it is like a howling wind that whispers my name.

A day passes, then two, each odd behavior, each quirk magnified a thousand times as I keep my vigil.  Days pass in a blur, the fear clouds everything, always lurking.  One dog is sluggish and my heart accellerates as adrenaline flows through my veins.  I check them carefully, their eyes, their gums, their belly temperature, their smell.  Though some seem slightly warm, they are still eager to receive their food, and I sigh as I let the high alert slowly drain from me.  I watch them carefully to be sure they are taking in water, and follow them outside.

After seven days it is still hard for the reality to sink in that Bandit is gone.  We have given the Parvaid remedy to our remaining dogs for five days, the recommended time period.  Their last dose was administered this morning.  It has become a waiting game as we have done all we could.  It remains for us to keep vigil for another five days to be on the safe side.  I don't think we will ever be able to relax again.

This morning all the dogs were frisky, alert and happy, almost enough to make me think the danger has passed, but I know in my heart it is still lurking like a monstrous predator waiting to strike.  That monster will be lurking for another 7 years minimum, hiding under the surface of the soil laughing as we lower our guard.  It is patient, merciless, relentless and without remorse.  It is a cold hearted killer.

Jim has picked up Bandit's ashes and my heart aches anew.  I know when I see them, it will finally release a tide of pain and anguish that has been kept at bay.  At home I have some mulberry saplings that I am raising from the seeds of a mulberry I picked and dried.  When I transplant them, some of Bandit's ashes will be with them, giving his spirit a place to return should he wish, an anchor in the tides of forever.  They will be his trees, his fruits, his love returned to us.  Two of them will go with our orchard, and the rest will be planted in front of our home.  They will be a living monument that will hopefully stand for many generations.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Vigil

The Parvo horror has us all on edge, and interfering with our ability to grieve for our beloved boy.  As with anything that crosses our path, I've tried to put together as much research as possible as well as doing all we can to prevent a re-occurance.  This disease is probably the most horrible to ever have to deal with.  It is incredibly contagious, is active in the soil for at least 7 years and has a very high mortality rate in the young and old.  If this was a human disease, it would have been worse than the 1918 flu epidemic, but like flu, the parvovirus is a constantly evolving virus that defies the complacency of vaccination.  Since 1970, there have been 4 known mutations, the base virus, strain a which primarily attacks the digestion (the most mild version still breaks down the walls of the intestines and causes severe hemorhaging in the young and old.  It is the blood in the intestines and stomach that causes the 'parvo smell'), strain b which primarily attacks the organs and bone marrow (the most deadly strain prior to), strain c which does both and defies previous vaccination, is virulent in adults as well as the young and old, though is still considered more mild in healthy adults, it still has an unacceptably high mortality rate.  Like too many of the folks I know that own kennels I found myself horrified over the lack of information that was passed along to me regarding Parvo.  This disease is far worse than I had ever imagined, and should be required research for everyone who aspires to own a kennel. 

What I find is shocking that not very many people know just how utterly contagious this disease is, how long it can contaminate the very land on which your kennel stands, and just what can be done to help these poor animals that contract the disease.

For instance I had never heard that there is as big a danger of overhydrating a parvo dog as there is for dehydration!  This makes me wonder how many dogs died because of overhydrating and were mistakenly assumed it was because the virus made the heart too weak to continue!  I've agonized over this fact for many hours.  In my research I learned that yes, the virus does attack the heart, but heart failure can be prevented if, after a bowel movement and the dog becomes very weak, no fluids are given for 4 hours because the excess fluids strain the heart to collapse.  Was this what happened to Bandit, or was it truly the virus that stopped his heart?  I've also learned that simple things like anti-inflammation aids for the intestines can mean the difference between life and death.  A very simple solution like Tamiflu can save your puppy or dog, yet how many vets know and prescribe this?

There are so many things that even people with experience with Parvo didn't know that I've found in researching this virus that it makes me very sad this information isn't general knowledge.  If it were, there might be far less deaths with this terrible disease.  I've also learned that only two things can kill the virus, one is bleach and the other is a product called Kennel Klean.  But even with these aids, cross-infection is nearly inevitable.  Flies, clothing, skin contact, birds, small animals, other insects etc can all carry the virus and deposit it where it can be ingested in addition to contact with an infected dog.  The incubation period can be as little as 3 days or as many as 16, and any time during incubation your dog will not test positive on a parvo test, but may still carry the virus.  It will only show up once they start throwing up and having diarrhea, and by then it is almost too late!  Every second counts.

I've found a product I am currently using to help the rest of my pack ward off this terrible disease and praying this is going to work.  I've done a lot of herbal remedy research in the past, and the contents of this concoction appear sound to my research, mints to aid digestion, anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, essences to help with diarrhea, etc.  The stuff is called Parvaid, and is used in conjuction with another product Vibactra both manufactured by Amber Tech.  I found out about this product from recommendations from a few kennel owners who have used it not only to nurse several litters of parvo puppies back to life, but to prevent secondary infections in their kennels.  So far this stuff appears to be a godsend.  The dogs I feared were acting as if they were coming down with it/had a temperature and beginnings of lethargy appear to have shook it off in a matter of hours after the first dose.  After the fourth dose of parvaid and 2nd dose of Vibactra, all our dogs appear to be bright eyed and energetic again.  After all my looking in to this horrid disease, I was skeptical this stuff would help, but now I wonder why its use isn't so widely spread?  How many dogs might have survived had the owners had this stuff on hand?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heartache and Fear

Saturday, July 28th, all was right with the world, Bandit had been microchipped and a small portion of the burden of fear of him being lost without meds was lifted.

On August 1st, our beautiful, wonderful gentle giant Bandit passed away.  Somehow, unknown to us, he was exposed to the Parvovirus and his compromised immune system could not cope. 

On the 30th he didn't eat all of his fish at first, laid down for a couple of hours, but was up again after that, eating and playing with the other dogs.  It was some unusual behavior, but he has at times not wanted to eat in the mornings.  I mentioned this to Jim and told him he might want to call the vet and see if he could be scheduled for a bile acid test to be sure he was not suffering from liver or kidney damage because of his meds.  He seemed fine the rest of the day. 

On the morning of the 31st, at breakfast and morning meds time, he went outside and hid in a doghouse.  This was completely not like him at all, and I woke my husband and told him to take Bandit in.  I had no reason to suspect Parvo, he had his puppy shots and a one year shot, he was just due this month for his booster, plus he was an adult.  He was not throwing up, no diarrhea, just unwilling to move, but this was alarming enough and completely unlike his happy go-lucky self. 

I went to work and Jim called the vet and they told him they didn't have an opening until late afternoon.  Jim called me from the vet and told me he tested positive for Parvo after having diarrhea at the vet's.  The news went through me with a shock of fear.  We have 12 other dogs that may have been exposed!  In rising fear and panic, I begged leave from work and drove home.  Bandit was put on IV fluids and kept overnight at the vet, and I began a disinfection of our house and dogyard.  Our greatest worry was Ghost, our show pup as though he had all his boosters, he was still at the greatest risk.  We were worried about Bandit, but as an adult dog, we thought he would be strong enough to pull through, and indeed after an hour on fluids he seemed to come around and was partially alert.

Jim went off to his classes, and James was a great help cleaning up the dogyard and putting down disinfectant on every place he could find.  Fear for our other dogs and worry for Bandit kept me from sleep.  Ghost seemed a bit lethargic in the morning, but then sometimes he is, but this scare had me doubly worried that this time it wasn't from him being a laid back personality.  Eager to get news of Bandit and to schedule Ghost for an exam/Parvo test, I called our vet.  Some instinct told me that something was wrong when I didn't get an answer.  A nagging fear began itching at the back of my mind.  I tried to call again a half hour later, and then again after another 30 minutes.  Meantime I was busying myself cleaning, but just before another 30 minutes passed, I received a call from the vet. 

She told me Bandit had passed away.  He had been fine when they checked on him at 3:30am, but sometime between then and 6am he had passed on.  Run Free my wonderful boy!  Somewhere on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge I know you will be leading a team of huskies, running like the wind and playing hard!

Ghost came up negative on the test, and even though it is good news, it only means he has not begun to shed the virus (if he has it).  So now we are on a constant vigil for up to 10 days to be sure none of the other dogs contract the virus.  We ordered a product on-line called Parvaid in hopes the testimonials and anecdotal accounts from known kennels in favor of this product are true.  Our hope is that if another dog appears to show the signs, we can begin their treatment with this product while awaiting vetrinary assistance. 

Fear is at an all-time high, fear for our furry family which makes you question all your decisions and philosophies.  Was I right to get Bandit micro-chipped?  Was it a good idea to have free association among all the dogs?  Would they be safer in divided quarters?  Would they still be happy?  All these things and more keep plaguing me as we watch and clean while we wait.