Dog trains man

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Little Tree On The West Coast

We laid Viva's ashes to rest under a little tree we planted on the corner of our property on the West-coast, overlooking her beloved heath fields. The West-coast, with its rough and harsh nature, was contradictory the only place where a vulnerable soul like Viva could feel genuinely safe and be happy, all day long. I couldn't think of a better place, as the West-coast was where she thrived most.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Viva Sunday #11: One More Easter Egg

I couldn't even have imagined adopting a dog, just a week ago.

When I rewind to the week just before Easter, instead of looking forward to some time off during those public holidays, I was bracing myself.

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.


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.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Viva Sunday #7: Incoming!

Kenzo was the only dog in Viva's life, she trusted enough, to engage in some rough play. He was her favorite wrestle partner and body-check victim. But he was hard to knock down. The absolute premium was when she occasionally managed to let him tumble, by using strategies to ensure Kenzo either didn't see it coming, or to add some downhill advantage:

Down slope + midships! the perfect body check

Bracing for the upcoming opportunity...

Other then those perfectly timed attacks, it was a whole lot of hard work, to bring her pal down to his knees, even if she tried to seek it higher up:

Puf, puf, it's a lot of work

Maybe try from higher up

She didn't liked when he played rough in return, it was most fun when Kenzo was on the receiving end. He gladly played the victim part though, and if he would get too aroused by all the action and was looking to return some cookies, Viva send him the "off-switch look". When that didn't help, the last resort always was to come running back to me and hide under my skirts:

Enough I say Kenzo! I am pressing your "off" switch now

Dad! Help!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Viva Sunday #6: Snowflake

I lay down with Kenzo in the snow, while children shout in excitement around us. The chilling air feels clean and fresh. The bright sunlight reflecting on the white landscape forces me to shut my eyes. And there she appears, being silly and romping around. The first snow was always our highlight of the year, and I squeeze my eyes even more to hold on to the image before it will fade, and I have to open my eyes again.

Life has returned to its regular routine almost three months after her passing. She visits me still, in waves. I don't know when she will come next. This time it just took a snowflake. Sometimes she comes during the day, and other times in a dream. I am thankful for each visit. Cherished as an unexpected opportunity to again feel that love that once was. Promise me, soon to visit again, Viva.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Viva Sunday #5: Problemsolving

Viva watched in horror how I threw a ball into the surf. While Kenzo was already breaking the waves to get it, and swam back with the trophy in his mouth, she looked surprised and a little despaired at her best friend. I realized she worried for him, and didn't like the idea he was in the mids of all that splashing evil. She protested loudly in an attempt to herd Kenzo back to the beach, and on arrival he received one of his regular Viva spankings.

Like a mother, punishing her kid for doing something stupid, while hugging him at the same time, glad nothing bad had happened.

The spanking never stopped Kenzo from charging the waves. Neither did his continued surfing efforts make Viva less reluctant of a roaring and foaming ocean. Her mind was made up, this was not a good idea. It would have been easier to try and convince the late Margaret Thatcher to spend a little more on welfare.

Although she got used to the fact Kenzo did return unharmed, and started harassing him instead to surrender the ball over to her as soon as he got it out of the water, she still never ventured further than the occasional wet paw. Thinking over what to do now, a genius idea suddenly struck me. In an attempt to challenge her, I threw in two balls. Kenzo would get one, but the other one would stay adrift. Kenzo couldn't care less about the second ball, just as I expected, "just throw this one I returned again, dad"!

Viva, with excellent accounting skills, naturally did notice the remaining one and so far the plan worked. But even with a floating ball in sight, she was still firm in her decision not to go in. I continued throwing two balls, in a solid belief I could be more pig-headed than Viva, and while we waited for the balls to return either by the tide, or by Kenzo getting the picture to retrieve the lost bounty, I suddenly realized ... I had just lost the final battle.

Noticing how the ball could return itself by the tide, solved the dilemma for Viva once and for all. From now on she would keep her eyes on the ball from a safe distance as it floated on the waves, and pick it up as soon as it washed ashore, if Kenzo didn't get it first - in which case she could still refer to Plan B, to steal it from Kenzo.

Problem solved.

Come to mama...

Got it, works every time!

Eek! Alright then, most of the time ... those waves are fast!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Viva Sunday #4: Waiting For Patience

Kenzo can be patient. I would even brag about, I taught him, if it wasn't for Viva to prove me wrong.

When we train patience excercises, Kenzo could hold utterly still, look in my eyes with that serene look of a dog that understands that if he would wait long enough, the reward will come. And when it did, he celebrated his accomplishment.

Actually Viva could do that too. Technically. She would also, unlike Kenzo, do it under loud protest. She would snort, sneeze, growl and bark in frustration, in an attempt to convince me she was being patient, and her reward was already long overdue.

In Viva's world there was no room for a patience game. If you know what you want, go for it. The direct approach. All else made no sense to her.

Her goal-oriented attitude was a big plus in other forms of training. It took her maybe half a year, to be just as good a tracker as Kenzo was, and has since, by far outperformed him. She would have been a great dog to compete with, would her environment not have stressed her out. Viva was always "on" and ready to track. Although waiting for me to lay out the actual track, was again something she never took for an opportunity to train her patience, and was done under loud protest - see picture.

Many of the cues I used with Kenzo and hadn't come around yet to teach Viva, she learned herself by observing what we did. One of those was "search", which I asked Kenzo to do if either one of them had dropped their ball and I couldn't find it.

After she observed many searches, she started to recognize the cue, and one of the times I asked Kenzo to "search", I noticed a click in Viva's look. A split second in which she froze, looked at me with big eyes, and then stepped forward in a way that expressed purpose.

She soon became an excellent searcher too. When a search was too difficult or took to long, Kenzo lost interest, but Viva always continued until she found it. She never let a mission go unaccomplished and proved she could exert patience where Kenzo couldn't. Just not the waiting kind of patience.

It is one of the things I remember to be such an unexpected gift, of having two dogs at the same time that were in many ways each other's opposite. Recognizing those differences helped me in understanding each of them better, and to appreciate their different personalities.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Viva Sunday #3: Supermodel

The photos from Viva I like best were always taken by mistake. I am a bad excuse of a photographer. I go armed with a smart-phone, only to take it out to capture some type of action like swimming and playing, or a funny moment.

Those few snapshots I have where Viva sent me that sweet, loving and also somewhat dependent look are therefore rare, and were all taken by sheer luck. Like this one:

She just had a bath, which she loaths, and I was actually in the process of capturing her post-bath-scorned look, which looked like this:

She looks so regal when she lays down with her front-legs stretched, and I remember it as a moment of being forgiven by her Royal Highness, as I kneeled down before her to take these shots.

And then there is this one where I actually was taking photos of Kenzo playing in the surf, and Viva got in front of me for some attention:

Together with this one and this one, which you already have seen, those are all I have of the "Viva look".

Although it is the look I have seen her give me most, my response was always to immediately start a cuddle or a hug, instead of reaching for my camera. It's that decision that defines if you are a good photographer or not.

Getting a better camera will probably not help me, as I obviously will continue to forget to reach for it. Allying myself with somebody that has those skills, is probably a better strategy to deliver that quality I can only dream of. Someone like my dad, who made superb photos of Kenzo and Viva, during those few visits in which we met. But living 900 km apart, could complicate that plan.

Either way, I am going out to get that camera, study all the technicalities and indulge myself in a lot of photo projects, and pretend I am improving. It is a good thing to do, it will take my mind away from the grief. I might find a photographer friend along the way too, shooting those good photos for me.

To achieve that, I will wear my soon-to-find camera in full sight for everyone to see, as bait, during the walks with Kenzo - when he feels better - pretending to be a very active and skilled photographer. We will see who will approach me and begin to talk about the camera instead of the dog. Or even better, both.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Viva Sunday #2: Shark Bait

On a normal day, my wife would make herself an "ostemad" for breakfast, the Danish version of a cheese sandwich, with cheese on rye-bread. She would sit down, eat it together with a cup of coffee, and try to wake up. Both Kenzo and Viva would beg, as she occasionally would drop something "by accident". It is as uneventful as it sounds.

We also have a tornado version. When my wife wakes up to a busy schedule ahead, she hits the ground running right out of bed. While I am downstairs waiting with coffee, we can hear her dash down the stairs, already talking, and giving orders suggestions.

Viva immediately spots the upcoming opportunity and makes herself ready. I turn my chair, to ensure an unobstructed view of the spectacle to come, although I have seen it many times before, how Viva earned her nickname, the Shark.

A woman in full multitasking mode is an impressive sight. While holding the cheese sandwich in one hand, she uses her free hand to pick up bags, open cupboards, scramble with papers, you name it. In the mean time, her temper is rising, as I fall behind more and more and are unable to guess what she wants me to do next. Her arms join in on the talking, and start pointing the cheese sandwich in all kind of directions in a rapid pace.

Viva is following the movements of the cheese sandwich with every fiber in her body. Waiting for the moment in which it is being pointed in her direction. Or, when my wife bends over to reach something in a low cupboard and the sandwich is on eye height. Or, when she needs both hands and temporarily lays the sandwich down on the edge of the kitchen counter. Or, when ...

It just took a fraction of a second. Viva always wins. With two bruised fingers, my wife shouts, tramps angry on the floor, and just before I expect all hell to break loose this time, she sits down, exhales, and starts laughing.

Viva never let my wife start a day in stress.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Viva Sunday #1: Reflection

It's that time of the year again where we reflect and give it some thought on what to do with the blog. Usually I would have made a list of "The 10 most ...whatever... posts of 2013" and had a go at staring into the crystal ball, together with other bloggers in the "Pet Blogger Challenge" - which I just heard is going to be organized this year again by Amy and Edie.

Obviously, looking back at the blog, or 2013 for that matter, always ends at that same focal point for me. Viva. What is left, after our road-trip in her footsteps, are the memories about her. She will therefore still be a part of this blog in the time to come, as she still is a part of our life. I couldn't continue the blog otherwise. It would become a stranger to us if we didn't.

During the holidays we went through the hundreds of photo's we have of her, fueling the memories we have. And we thought it would be a good idea to share something about Viva each Sunday to remember her by. Maybe just a photo, or just a short story, I haven't given the format a lot of thought and let it allow to go where it wants to go. I promise it will be positive though.

For our #1 post, this photo which I used as our Twitter badge a long time ago, and I am sure many of you have never seen before. It is Viva, giving me that special look she had a patent on, that always melted me from day 1 - although Kenzo is doing a good job as well:

Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true, and hope to see you in 2014 !
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