Just a week after losing little Pip, we lost another recent arrival, blind Sparky.
I had mentioned in his introductory blog post that we suspected he had hip dysplasia because of the way he walked with his hind legs. Our primary care vet thought at the time that it was from lack of muscle tone, since Sparky had been tied up most of his life and was also emaciated when he came. I mentioned then that Sparky was in constant motion, always cruising the dog yard and rarely resting. We thought that might have something to do with spending his life tied up, too. He was also incontinent, both with pee and poop, though yet again we initially attributed this to simply having been an outside dog, tied up and forced to live in his own waste, so he had become used to going whenever he had the urge.
But as the weeks wore on and we finally began getting some weight on him, his hips seemed to deteriorate. At times he seemed fine, but other times he didn't have a normal gait in his hindquarters.
Then, in recent days, he suddenly took another turn for the worse -- he began dropping his hindquarters to the ground, yet he continued to try and keep moving. Then he began crossing his front legs over as he walked. And if he stopped moving, he'd sink over to the right. That's when we realized this was something far beyond a hip issue, and was neurological.
On Friday, Alayne took Sparky to see our internal medicine specialist, Dr. Tanya Donovan, at Burlington Emergency and Veterinary Specialists. That's when we learned Sparky had both a brain tumor and lumbosacral disease. What we thought originally was hip dysplasia was in fact his lumbosacral disease, which that write-up says "is often confused with arthritis of the hips as the signs may appear similar." It also explained his incontinence.
Tanya said the brain tumor was causing the forelimb involvement, the general weakness in gait, his sinking to the right, as well as his need to be in constant motion. She said it's a perverse but often classic feature of brain tumors to cause an animal to keep moving, even if physically they can barely do so. All the signs we were seeing were consistent with an advanced brain tumor, Tanya said. We could try some medical management, but it would buy us at most a few days. In another week, Tanya told Alayne, we would probably begin seeing Sparky start having seizures.
We've been through two brain tumors -- blind Pepper in 2008 and blind Callie in 2010 -- and these never end well. Although radiation therapy gained us an additional 18 months with Callie, for nearly a year of that she wasn't her normal self. The treatment had taken a real toll on her, and the tumor came back anyway.
With Sparky suffering from both a brain tumor and spinal disease, we decided to let him go and not put him through any more. Tanya euthanized him Friday afternoon while Alayne held his head in her hands.
Like so many of these dogs who come to us, life had been so unfair to this boy. Here Sparky had a miserable life, finally found his way to a safe and loving place, and dies less than three months later.
He was such a sweet boy, too. On Friday morning Kate and I had been grooming him before putting him in the truck, and he was licking both her and me as we brushed him. He really had become very affectionate.
My favorite memory of Sparky was from a couple of weeks ago, when I saw him rolling in the green grass in the dog yard, stretched out on his back, front paws up by his face. He rolled and rolled and rolled. It was the happiest I'd ever seen him. At least we were able to give him that.
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The latest Shelter Challenge started Monday, July 9 and ends at midnight on September 16. Grand prize in this round is $5,000, plus $1,000 for weekly winners and $1,000 for state winners. There are also other categories ... please see the Shelter Challenge website for details.
*** We are now LISTED UNDER OUR NEW NAME, ROLLING DOG FARM. State is still NH for New Hampshire. ***
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We just won $1,000 as a weekly winner in the last contest, and thousands more in the previous contests. The Shelter Challenge really does bring in a lot of money for the animals here!
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