Dog trains man

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Viva Sunday #10: Searched & Rescued

As soon as we dropped the leash on the deserted camping place, both Kenzo and Viva dashed into the falling darkness. "Kenzo! Viva!". The silence of the evening was clear. They were gone.

"I told you it was a bad idea", my wife said. I agreed. This can't be happening. What an idiot I am, Viva had been spotting rabbits the whole day from the window of our holiday cottage. Of course she took the first opportunity available, to start a chase. Great. Leo ... what were you thinking.

I hate not to give Viva at least some off leash time every day. Would it this time be my biggest mistake? Soon a minute passed, and then another. And another. We called out, but there was no reply. No happy Hovawarts returning while saying, "Here we are, we had a blast!".

I seriously started to worry now, and we agreed to split up. I would try to search in the direction they disappeared, while my wife stayed put, in case they might return to the same place.

Fighting my way through the forrest, branches were whipping in my face, and I felt my panic rising. I wondered, why Kenzo didn't listen to his recall and set an example. Viva would have probably continued without him, and she wouldn't stop for nothing, too exciting for her not to give chase. And Kenzo would never leave her side. Damn me.

Suddenly I bumped into something solid, and I could tell with the help of the remaining moonlight, it was a fence. A sigh of relief went through my body, they couldn't be miles away, "Thank You O Thy Fence, for being exactly here!".  Looking to the right, the forrest was engulfed in darkness, but to my left I could see some shadows, indicating there was light, and I instinctively went that way.

I didn't have to go far, before Kenzo and Viva, with my wife behind them, came running as dark shadows through the narrow corridor along the fence, "There you are dad, you been on a rabbit hunt as well? how cool!".

I was so happy to see them. "Where have you been?" my wife asked. "They have been back for ages. We worried something happened to you".

I guess I just got searched & rescued.

Viva spotting juicy rabbits ahead!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Viva Sunday #9: Improved Treatment and Diagnosis of Cushing's Disease

The treatment and diagnosis of Cushing's disease is under constant improvement and research. During the years Viva had Cushing's, a lot already changed, and more changes are ahead. If there is one thing Viva and me learned, it is that this is not not a disease you can manage by sticking a pill, but you have to be constantly on your toes, and take the clinical signs you notice very serious.

Cushing's is caused by a tumor in the pituitary or the adrenal gland, causing an over production of ACTH hormones which in turn triggers an overproduction of cortisol. A life threatening condition affecting inner organs like kidneys and liver. Some of the most common signs are hair-loss, a pot-belly, lethargic behavior, incontinence, and being overly interested in food and water. Cushing's is many times mistaken with normal aging signs of dogs, making it a silent killer.

This is what we learned along the way:

Back in 2011, Viva was diagnosed with Cushing's based on a urine test and a ACTH stimulation test. During her life, she continued to have ACTH tests quarterly to measure her cortisol levels for possible adjustment of her medicin dosage. Although the test is reliable to measure levels for treatment adjustments, it proved unreliable for the diagnosis itself, when the results are negative. Negative test results should always be followed up by at least an LDDS test, and even better, by an ultrasound, to indicate the type of Cushing's which is significant for what treatment options are available.

Large dogs
The recommended dosage of Trilostane (Vetoryl), the medication for Cushing's disease, was set too high for larger dogs. Something Viva found out the hard way. But thankfully our vet read the signs correct and adjusted her doses far below the recommended dosage for a dog of her size. Later, in 2012, research was done that confirmed that at least dogs weighing more than 30 kg. need a significant lower dosage of Trilostane, maybe even dogs weighing more than 15 kg.

Once or twice a day administering of medication
The last has not been said on this subject. Basically Trilostane works up to 8-10 hours, and that might require a twice-a-day administration, instead of an only once daily which is standard. Research is still being done, and some vets are already recommending twice daily administration of Vetoryl. At least some research here and here has shown, there is hardly risk in trying. We never got that far with Viva, it was something I was discussing with our vet, as I could see she consistently was showing more lethargic signs during the end of the day.


A dog with Cushing's requires continuous research, together with your vet, and to be vigorous about measuring the clinical signs of your dog. We always kept a Cushing's diary, and it was a great help in supporting Viva in her battle against Cushing's. Whatever research was available at the time, or not, the diary was always right.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kenzo's Hopes

We went out the back for Kenzo's first 15-minute walk of the day. I already had him leashed with his "Halti", to prevent him from dashing through the garden, and thereby risk a new injury to his tendon. Especially in the morning it is difficult. Both Kenzo and Viva always launched themselves as rockets through the door, straight towards the bird-house, in an attempt to surprise attack a squirrel that might be in it. They found out if their attempts paid off, once they reached the bird house. But usually it was empty.

Kenzo never caught one, but Viva caught two squirrels this way.

The squirrel family in the back garden have already gotten used to the new situation, and when I get out with Kenzo, they won't move until we literally are only feet away. They are getting more and more bold, and we have a visitor nearly every other day. They will come to regret that later on when Kenzo is fit again, I thought when we passed the bird-house. 

Suddenly a squirrel jumped from the bird-house, and Kenzo launched himself towards the speeding creature. Instinctively I loosened my grip on the leash attached to Kenzo's "Halti". That's how dogs get hurt. But Kenzo made an abrupt stop, and watched back at me. I was still standing, looking horribly worried what he would choose to do next, and still faced the backyard's gate.

He took one last look at the squirrel, and quickly returned to me, in hopeful anticipation to get through the gate, and start his walk. "That's how much you miss your walks, huh. You would even give up a good squirrel hunt for your walk, big guy?". I talk to him a lot more these days.

He must know it only will take 15 minutes before we are back again. But he never stops hoping. Every time we leave for a walk, "Maybe this time you will take me for a good walk!". I hate to disappoint him. Four times a day. Every day. For the last three months. "Well, we can have some extra sniffs this time, Kenzo!", I say, while I repeat in my thoughts a hundred times, it is for his own good.

When we reach the point in our walk where Kenzo notices we are on a path that would return us to the house again, he brings on the charm. With excellent heel-work, glued to my side, face up, looking at me, "See dad, how much fun we are having?". He is cunning, and proves me wrong again, when I said, he wasn't a pleaser.

The closer we get to the house, the more slow we go. Kenzo's head goes down. He is alerted by branches that move in the wind. Grass is sniffed extensively, and he points in different directions in an attempt to suggest alternative routes. He is trying to avoid the unavoidable. The walk is already over.

Almost back, Kenzo gives up and we quickly make it to the driveway and through the gate. At the door, Kenzo takes one last look at the bird-house. Maybe next time. Maybe the next walk, will be a good walk again. "It will, big guy. It will".


Saturday, March 15, 2014


Three months into Kenzo's physical therapy to recover from a tendon injury, the side effects on his mental health are starting to show. Being leashed since December, his frustrations are mounting rapidly.

Physically he is doing great. Recovery is slow, but we are making progress. We do our exercises and a lot of extra training and activities to tire him out. People that already went through this, warned me how difficult it could be, but I underestimated it. What he lacks from walks, being social around other dogs, and expending his energy, can't be compensated by upping in other area's like training and nose work. At least, in Kenzo's case.

The first signs came when he started to misbehave when spotting other dogs - which I avoid as he is not allowed to play. Then the other day we met one of his long time favorite girlfriends, a nice calm girl, called Frida. I shouldn't have gone up to let them meet. I expected them to turn around each other with tail wags, as they usually do. Instead, he harassed her on a very rude way.

Kenzo and Frida last December, before his surgery, best friends
Kenzo is no saint, and he can be a bully on occasion, but this was past all limits. An explosion of cropped up energy and frustration.

We will have some serious re-socializing to do. I discussed it with our trainer from the club, who knows Kenzo since puppy hood, and his vet team. There is not much more we can do at this time. We have to finish our physical therapy first, before we can repair the mental damage. The only thing we do try is some damage control. After I tire him out with nose work, we go for a walk - on a short distance - with another girlfriend of him.

So far, it doesn't help, and his frustrations are very visible during those walks.

I am sure he will return as the Kenzo we know, but all of this is going to take a lot longer than I could ever imagine. Still 3 months of physical therapy to go. After that, rebuilding his social skills for an unknown time to come.

But we are in good spirit. We will get stronger out of it when we reach the other end, whenever that might be.

Monday, March 10, 2014

About Hovawarts, inbreeding, and Crufts 2014

It started with a moment that made me feel proud. The Hovawart winner of Crufts 2014 wasn't inbred. The "mate select" from the Kennel Club showed an "inbreeding coefficient" of 0.0%.

It just took 5 minutes before a friend with access to the Swedish Kennel Club database could prove, this wasn't true at all. The winner was inbred. His coefficient was 5.1%.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Viva Sunday #8: The Dream

We had a dream. When we learned how much Viva loved the Danish West-coast and its open spaces, we laid down a plan to change our lives. A plan to sell the business and create more time, and move with the family to the West-coast.

It was a dream where Viva could dash through the dunes and heath fields of the West-coast together with Kenzo, free of the day-to-day fears she suffered from a life in the city. We even dreamed of spending our holidays traveling along the whole length of the Wadden Sea shores, from the north in Holland, through Germany, to the south in Denmark, with its amazing nature, wild-life and abundance of open spaces.

We thought we had time, but as you know, we ran out of it far too soon.

The master plan, Viva's plan, was set in motion long before she passed and is rolling still, up to this day. My business is sold. We are looking at places to live. It is bitter sweet. We measure homes up to Viva's standards. She would have loved that view... She would have loved to have those heath fields in her "backyard"...

Was it Viva's gift to the family to guide us down this path? Or are we trying to live a life that is no more? I believe it was Viva's gift but I am aware I still can't see clearly. The family is split. And I am told it would be a real possibility I'll find myself waking up every day, not on the West-coast, but in a place that will only be a harsh reminder of the fact Viva is no longer with us.

It is difficult to see how much of the plan was for us all, and how much of it was for Viva. Our lives were so intertwined, it is impossible to dissect what part of the dream was for who.

I am told too, I need more time. More time to see clearly. More time to figure this out. But my relationship with time is tensed, because of Viva. Those three years we were given were over in a heartbeat. Isn't time measured while you wait, and seem to play no role when you move ahead, follow your instincts and your heart, bringing you to places where things happen you never expected.

Still, the doubts I have do show, I am slowly waking up from my dream, the dream I had for Viva. Waking up I hope, will give room to a new dream.

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