Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quality of Life

This Quality of Life Scale got me thinking it would be a good way to keep track of Merlin's state. DM is insidious- it slowly advances and it can be hard to know when the end is coming. I thought if I used this scale every few months or so, I'd see when his quality of life decreases.

So here we are in November, 2009.

H: 0 - 10 HURT - Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet's pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?

I'd give Merlin an 7 here. I don't think he IS in pain but I don't know for sure. He can certainly breathe but he does whine a lot and I don't always know whether he wants something or if something else is going on.

H: 0 - 10 HUNGER - Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?

8 here. He IS hungry because of his medications. He eats well and has no problems, but he is hungry, which isn't a great thing.

H: 0 - 10 HYDRATION - Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.

A 10. A 10 plus; he is, if anything, too hydrated!

H: 0 - 10 HYGIENE - The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elmination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.

I'd say a 7 here. It's harder to keep him clean and dry as he won't or can't go outside when he needs to. He's had more baths in the last three months than the rest of his life put together.

HAPPINESS - Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet's bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?

This is a hard one to answer. He's not responsive to toys but hasn't been in a long time. He loves me, has never been responsive to the other dogs or other people. He likes to go for walks. But he IS anxious and bored or lonely or both, and he won't stay close to me if I'm in the bedroom. So I'd give him a 6.

MOBILITY - Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g. a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)

He's pretty mobile in his cart and out of it. Another 8.

MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD - When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.

Definitely more good days as he has only had a couple of bad days when he wouldn't eat and didn't want to walk. 8

So that gives him a 54. A score of 35 or higher says your "Pawspice" is successful.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mr. July

Merlin is Mr. July in the 2010 Corgis on Wheels Calendar available at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why would I want to know my dog is At Risk?

I had all of my dogs tested for the DM gene, and except for Merlin, none tested At Risk. This was a great outcome, and has already been helpful. For example, Janine had a few issues with her back earlier this year and we could immediately rule out DM since she is a carrier.

But what if you do the cheek swab test on your corgi and he/she does test At Risk? Are you doomed to a lifetime of worry or is there anything good about knowing? If your dog is At Risk (carries two copies of the DM gene) what can you do to prevent DM or slow its onset?

Well, we don't really know the answer to that, but here are some things I would consider doing. First, weight! A fat dog is going to have problems with all its joints, and if he develops arthritis before the onset of DM, DM may create more problems. Dogs need their front legs for a traditional cart. If he has developed shoulder problems due to excess weight, he'll have problems with a cart.

Second, train your dog. Obedience commands (and competition in obedience and rally) help prepare your dog to LEARN to use a cart. If he has a good heel command, he'll heel in the cart- and be walking in it.

Also train him to use a ramp. He'll need to use a ramp if he gets DM and you have any stairs. So train him now and make that an easy adjustment.

Make sure he is used to having his feet handled. If he develops DM, you will be lifting him into and out of a cart; this is much harder with a corgi that does not like to be handled or touched in certain places.

Make sure he is happy to go to the vet's office. If he's exceedingly healthy and never needs to go, take him along anyway and feed him treats while you are there. (Always a good idea, anyway, to socialize all your dogs to the vet!)

Get him used to medical equipment. If you don't, as I do, have carts lying all over the house, borrow a walker and stick it somewhere. Take him to places where people use walkers and wheelchairs. If he is touch-sensitive, get him used to a harness to help desensitize him.

And make sure you teach him to pee and poop on command! This isn't as hard as you may think, just give the commands at the time when he normally goes, and reward appropriately. A clicker can help with precise timing. Some people use commands such as "Hurry up" or "Make" but whatever you pick, make sure you are consistent and that you won't be embarrassed to say it in public. Later, if your dog ends up in a cart, you can command him to go and he'll quickly learn to pee and poop in the cart.

Can you prevent DM? Right now no one knows. But start with a healthy diet, maybe add some antioxidants, avoid noxious chemicals like herbicides and pesticides (particularly things sprayed in the house or yard), and who knows, maybe it will help your dog dodge the bullet. We just don't know yet.

I don't have any dogs likely to get DM. I do have two younger dogs that have possible back issues (IVDD) and I'm following my own advice for them as many of the issues are the same.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not a great end to a birthday...

Poor Merlin had a seizure about 9:45 PM. As it lasted over a minute I gave him rectal valium and within another 90 seconds or so he came out of it, but it took awhile. Now he is doing his usual barking and demanding food despite a bowl of yogurt I gave him (he wouldn't eat dog food.) Don't know what brought this on but maybe the burger? Sulfites on the lettuce? Excitement? Vibes? He didn't act too weird before hand but normally he doesn't until right before the seizure.. this time I think he was actually sleeping when it started.

His back legs don't kick anymore.

Happy 12th Birthday, Merlin!

Twelve years ago Merlin entered this world, the firstborn puppy (on the 57th day!) He arrived in front of the refrigerator, looking like a little wet skunk. (All black and white stripe; tris don't get their brown until later.)

As a young dog he had two personalities- the one for show to the public (well-behaved, quiet, heeling like he'd actually been trained, staying down off furniture and people) and the one at home (loud, stubborn, wild, crazed.) As an older dog he merged the two and became a grouchy old man both in public and at home.

He survived two ACL ruptures and three surgeries (ages 2 and 5) and started learning agility at age 7. His first trial was just short of his 8th birthday, and he got his first two legs in CPE Level 1 on that day. It wasn't to be a very long agility career, as he had reached Level 4 and was doing great when he started to slow down and knock jumps.

At the age of almost 10 he started having seizures (suddenly, clustered together) and was put on medication. Sometime later that year I started suspecting DM, but it took another year for it to become obvious. By September 2008 he was dragging a foot, and within six months was in a cart.

Today, he is happy to use his cart if food is involved, loves to ride in the stroller or car, and of course, still loves to eat. His front end is still quite strong, and the seizures are under control finally. Will he make 13? I don't think so... I think DM is going to catch up to him if nothing else does, but I didn't think he'd make 11 so we'll just see what life brings!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Walking the dogs

Often I take Merlin by himself, but just as often I take four corgis, two carts, and a stroller.

The first challenge is getting everyone "hitched up." This means putting Merlin in a cart (Candy is usually already in his) and leashing up Jack and Janine. Jack wears an EZ-walk harness which is connected to a two-fer (coupler) and that snaps to Janine and to a leash. Sounds simple, but Jack is leaping around, barking, snapping (not aggressively, its just what he does) at Janine, Janine is barking, and Candy is barking.) Once everyone is finally leashed, the next challenge is to get out the door and lock the door behind us. This involves letting Jack and Janine go out on leash, letting Candy out off-leash so he can go down the steps, and pushing Merlin out far enough that I can, while still holding Jack and Janine, lock the door behind us. Then I let them go down the three steps, wheel the stroller down, and help Merlin down.

Now we head down our narrow walk to our hill. Too many steps to the street, so we take the steep lawn down. At the bottom we reconnoiter. Candy's leash in hand, Merlin's wrapped around the posts of his cart so I can grab it easily, Jack and Janine's looped over my hand so they can't easily bolt.

And off we go! Sometimes Merlin makes the decision as to which way but usually, when all of us go, I make it. Today we head up Van Ness towards the main road; four blocks there is a good walk for Merlin and there are no curbs as the road is at sidewalk level.

Now it is time for Merlin to stop and sniff and finally, when he finds the right spot, pee. We have to wait patiently. Usually Janine poops, too, early in the walk (and sometimes two or three more times.) Our progress is very slow during the part of the walk where Merlin walks. When he is alone with me I can speed him up with carrots, but in a group walk he brings up the rear.

Next, Janine has to find a place to roll. There are some beautiful green overwatered lawns on our route, and she likes to find a slightly odorous spot to take her roll. She has perfected the art of doing this while on a two-fer with Jack, who just waits patiently, his eyes peeled for the big three: squirrels, cats, and birds.

On we go. Jack and Janine hear a squirrel or even better, spy one, and both freeze, staring at it as if they think they can use their telekinetic powers to make it fall from the tree. If they see a kitty, they lunge. Kitties beware! Birds, Janine ignores, but Jack becomes intensely distracted as he watches them fly.

Candy, on the other hand, is enamored of one thing: people. He wants to be patted and admired. A walk is not complete without the chance to greet at least one stranger like an old friend.

All three are delighted if a corgi stalker appears and flags us down, because now they don't just get sedate pats, they are allowed to fling themselves on the friend (what corgi stalker can be a stranger?) and enjoy unlimited admiration.

All four dogs are also intent on finding lawn fudge, or kitty krispies. Enough said about that- we avoid several streets where the kitties apparently lack litter boxes or flower beds, and stay on the main street.

Somewhere around midway or near the three-quarter mark, Merlin fades, and is lifted into the stroller for the remainder of the walk. Jack is also tiring by now, and walks as slowly as possible in front of the stroller, getting bumped in the rear periodically as he fails to move. Non-plussed, he strolls along.

Finally back at our home, we climb the neighbors driveway to our lawn, and roll up to the front door. I unleash Candy and lift his cart back so he can climb the steps, unlock the door, and loop Jack and Janine's leash on a doorknob. I go back to the stroller and roll it up a board to the porch, the lock the brakes and lift Merlin out. Another walk is over!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Corgi puppies

Whenever I read a litter announcement I look at OFA records to see if the parents are tested (usually I recognize the names if they are.) Usually they aren't, or if they are, came out carrier or At Risk and the breeder didn't want the results made public. This is WHY puppy buyers need to ask about DM testing- because it may have been done and hidden, which is just as bad as not doing it at all. Remember, if the parents haven't been tested, you can have the puppy you plan to buy tested, it only takes a week or so and costs $65, which I can tell you now is a LOT less than the cost of dealing with DM.

What are your chances that your At Risk puppy will get DM? Nobody knows, but somewhere between 10 and 20% is my best guess right now.

If your breeder of choice IS testing, and discloses the results, and the puppy comes from a "good" breeding (no worse than carrier to carrier) I would probably take a chance on the puppy. That breeder is trying to help the breed, and as a responsible, caring breeder is also likely to help you if, in ten years, your dog is showing signs fo DM. But by 2012, I wouldn't buy that puppy, either- if by then there aren't clear and carrier puppies available the breeder isn't doing her share to remove DM from her line.

Remember the breeder should also have tested the hips of the parents. You can also ask about health of siblings and half-siblings and other dogs in the puppy's line. You can never get a guarantee of perfect health, but if your breeder has 12-15 year old dogs running around in good health, its a good sign!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monthly update on DM Dogs

Merlin has been kind of up and down this month. The heat was not good for him or for getting him out to walk, and the last few days he has been much more active. That has its downside, too, as he tires out quickly, but I'm hoping with two good walks a day (which means about 4 blocks each) he will regain some endurance. Sometimes I think he is ready for a counterbalanced cart, but other times he seems just fine. We go about four blocks, then he quits and rides home in the stroller.

It's a challenge with four dogs and the stroller; once I put Merlin in it we can speed up and I just have the other three to worry about.

Today was tricky as Jack was fixated on birds and not at all watching where he was going so kept getting in the way of the stroller.

Last night he did wake up at 4:30 to pee, then pooped at 5 (due to
eating something that didn't agree with him, made a big mess) and then barked until 6:30 when I gave up and got up. Other than that the GABA has worked and he's been sleeping all night for a couple of weeks now. This morning he didn't have to poop early, but since it has cooled off he has been taking himself outside in the morning again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Merlin is barking. I don't know if he barked while I was swimming laps; if so, he has been barking non-stop for 75 minutes. If he stopped it has only been 35 minutes non-stop.

He wants food. He will bark like this until I either get the spray bottle and zap him or give him food. He has had dinner. This is not a DM thing; he has always been willing to bark for up to two solid hours to get what he wants. He'll do it for longer now because I can't ignore him so I have to check more often (sometimes he is barking for a legit reason.)

I'd be tempted to let him eat all he wants, except I have to be able to lift him, and I don't want his front legs collapsing under the weight of his own tummy.

Pretty soon I will wait for a lull in the barking and then give the bedtime snack. Or maybe I will let him go for the record.

Another friend gone

Another one of Merlin's virtual friends has lost his life to DM.

There have been so many this year I can't name them all.. Guido, Yogi, Einstein, Dylan, Georgie, Liz, Serene, and so many more. Some old, many too young.

Yes, we've lost other friends to other diseases. What makes DM so hard is that we have to make the decision to end the life of a dog whose mind and spirit are still intact but whose body is failing. What makes it even harder now is that it is now a preventable disease, and while more and more breeders are beginning to test, too many more are not. The SOD1 gene is so thoroughly entrenched in the Pembroke breed that without some aggressive action the numbers lost to DM will only increase.

Goodbye, Beckett.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DM a geriatric disease?

Someone on Performance Corgis asked about how late senior dogs were competing in agility. Here are some responses.

Senior corgis competing in agility

I'm doing agility with a pair of 8.7 yr olds.

Ringo is over 9 and going strong.

My Pem, Mandy is still doing agility at 10 1⁄2 years old. We have been at it for
a long time and she loves it and hasn't shown any sign of slowing down yet. She
got her MXJ last April and has 5 more legs in Excellent B to get her MX title.

This subject is a fascinating one, I retired Shadow at the at of 11 1/2
(after his last run at the AKC agility national this past spring).

Trystan will be 12 years old in a couple of weeks and he is still
competing. He finished his MACH5 in August and has 7 more QQs. And he's
still often in the ribbons 'cause "speed kills" ya know . Last year
was his best year competing - earning a MACH3 and MACH4 and 38 QQs.

Allie finished her MACH3 in mid-May, and turned 12 on June 4.? In December last
year she completed her APD.

You can do this! My Angel (bridge last year at almost 16) finished her MACh at

Merlin retired at 10 1/2 when he started showing signs of DM.
He wasn't headed for a Mach; he'd have been lucky to make it to his C-Tatch (Enthusiast CATCH) in CPE as he was just going into Level 4 when he stopped Q'ing. But he loved it and I loved it and DM stopped us from doing it- and moreover, is stopping me from taking Jack to agility trials even though he is young and healthy. (What do I do with Merlin who needs lots of care if I go off with Jack?)

Update on sleep

Ellen C. has been trying GABA on her reactive Pem, and I looked at the research for its use in dogs, and found it looked hopeful for nightime barking in dogs. So tried it with Merlin, and have now had three good nights of sleep! I hope it keeps working. Right now he is barking but it is daytime and he wants dinner.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Sleep is still an issue. Or barking instead of sleeping. Merlin doesn't act anxious or unhappy when I come see why he is barking, just glad that I've finally done his bidding. I can't ignore him because he barks when he is stuck, or wet. But mostly he barks when he wants something like more food (which is always.) Since we've been doing para-agility in the living room in the evening when it is too hot to walk, he'll go out there and bark for me to come do it with him. He's always been willing to bark like a mad fool when he wanted something- the problem is now that I can't ignore him so it gets worse and worse. But he ought to be sleeping some of the time!

I am working on wearing him out so he will sleep at night, but I may try some supplements that are supposed to help with sleep. Complex carbs supposedly help, and this got worse when we went to a grain-free food, so I'm also going to supplement with brown rice for awhile and see if it improves.

He's been better at night since I shifted 3/4 of his pb to the evening pills, but that may also account for not sleeping at all during the day, at least, not from when I get home until bedtime. When I'm home his mission in life is to try to get more food.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

6 AM

Merlin slept through the night! Well, almost, at 11, Jack and Janine were madly barking at joggers on the street, but Merlin was sleeping. At six I awoke and was going to go back to sleep but then I freaked out- why is he still asleep? Is he dead? and jumped up to check, and woke him up.

So even when he sleeps in, I can't!

He did go out and pee and poop all on his own. Thank heavens for cooler mornings and the ribbon door (it keeps flies out but lets carts roll through.) I wish I could afford a wheelchair doggie door. I found a company that can do one, through a wall, but no way to do that here and not worth the investment when we expect to move soon. It's cool, though, they can make a very wide door, and although it normally has a lip, setting it just below floor level would allow a roll-out door. (or you could do ramps to and from. It would cost about %600, though, and no where in this house to put one.

But at least in milder weather I can use the ribbon door. It won't work for cold weather and won't work for hot weather. I may look at industrial ones (they are called strip curtains and you sometimes see them on loading docks or freezer doors) to see if I can get something that works more of the year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Goodbye, Merry

Merlin's friend (well, not really because Merry didn't like other dogs, but our neighbor) Merry died four weeks ago of DM. "Dying of DM" is a mis-statement as she didn't reach the point of being unable to breathe. A 90 lb GSD, Merry was put down when she could no longer stand at all. A cart had given her two years, counter-balanced for the last six months, but when she could no longer move on her own it was time to let her go.

I dread having to make that choice for Merlin. While we are lucky with our smaller dogs that we can lift them easily enough, I don't know how he would handle being a quad. Some dogs stay cheerful and connected, and he might be that way, or he might get depressed and be ready to go. I don't know, and I don't want to find out any time soon.

For him, since he is almost 12, it is probably a race of DM with Time and other illness. I'm not sure which is worse... sudden loss due to illness, or having to choose the day he dies. Neither is good, but I hope in my lifetime we see the end of death due to DM.

Goodbye, Merry. That you could manage so long with this disease is a testament to your owner's love and care and strong back.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cost of DM update

Recent expenses: new crate, with side opening, so I can lift him out now that he can't get out himself: $90. Two Palace bedding mats from Scout's house: $24. Cool bed, $35. Two boxes of 54 each Huggies overnites: $19 each (plus tax- each box lasts about ten days.)

Coming soon: front wheels for his cart or a new counterbalanced cart. I hope he stays strong enough for a few more months but sometimes I think he is getting weak in the front. (I hope it is just the weather tiring him out.) Cost, $150-$500.

Merlin himself is sometimes happy, sometimes frustrated. He will sometimes move on his own and sometimes wants to be carried. Sometimes he'll walk in his cart and sometimes he'll just lie down in it and bark. Sometimes he smiles and sometimes he looks unhappy but that's usually because I won't feed him any more.

Another DM discussion shut down

Not long ago it was on the "Mycorgi" site, where we were asked to step to the back of the bus.. .oops, I mean, keep our discussions to ourselves in a special group for owners of disabled corgis. The site owner refuses to understand that the discussion is VERY relevant to every corgi owner.

This time it was Corgi-L, because one breeder (and I use the term loosely) decided to flame anyone who believes in DM DNA testing. She succeeded in what I'm sure was her intention- shutting down the discussion. Well, I don't think the anti-testing faction is going to succeed for long.. this time on ShowPem she has no defenders. Other breeders are coming around to understand that right now, this is what we have, and using it will lead to better health and longer lives for their dogs.

Ironically, the same "breeder" refuses to participate in the research because no one will pay her to submit her samples.. but says she won't use the test until research has proven it to her satisfaction. My guess is that as long as they aren't going to offer her free tests and free shipping she isn't going to test. So we are back to my premise that educating puppy buyers is the way to go.

Luckily there ARE conscientious breeders out there who are doing what they can to defeat this miserable disease. I know that if I want to buy a clear or carrier puppy in the future I can. If every puppy buyer demanded the same thing, the demand would exceed the supply, but not for long.

What's frustrating here is that no one who does not have a dog with DM wants to talk about it. It's as if they believe that if they don't discuss it the disease will disappear. People, that's WHY it is so prevalent in Pems.. because people didn't talk about it. And until last year, couldn't test for it, so no one knew how to reduce its incidence. Now that they can test for the gene, they still don't want to talk about it.

The dynamics of this are hard to understand.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in Fresno, the routine

It's harder when I have to be gone a lot. I get up in the morning and walk at least Merlin, usually Jack, and sometimes all four. We can't walk later as it gets too hot before I get home- highs are in the high nineties to hundreds. Then I put Merlin in a diaper in a crate to sleep as if he is loose he drags around, loses the diaper, and floods the floor.

I come home at noon on my long days and take care of him and then go back for late classes. On shorter days I leave later and come home earlier. I do most of my prep at home so I can have more time here- its great that I can be flexible, but I do have to spend a fair amount of time at the college. I didn't do orchestra this fall because I felt it would take too much time from Merlin and make things more stressful, but I miss it.

After work, in the evening, we try to do something physical. I moved the agility stuff to the living room so I can run Merlin through that for some exercise and mental stimulation. Sometimes I hide treats for all of them but Merlin isn't very good at this game and loses interest.

The worst is nights as he doesn't sleep through the night. Some nights he wants out, some he pees and wants a diaper change, and some mornings he wakes hungry at 5 AM. He whines or barks when he is hungry. I'm trying to give him his pills late at night so he sleeps until 6 am.

Life should be easier when we can take walks in the evening, but that might not be until October.

We go through diapers like crazy because most of the time he won't try to go out. Poop is worse as he makes a mess if he does it inside and even more so if he isn't in the cart at the time.

The good thing is cart use- he's using it more in the house and navigating pretty well. I worry he is weakening in the front, though, and am going to start looking for an Eddie's cb cart to fit him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer on Whidbey

Merlin has been up and down this summer. Some days are really good and he sleeps well, is happy, and goes outside when he needs to pee or poop. Other days he whines, pees in his diaper, and won't relax.

He's using stirrups some of the time now as his feet are mostly just dragging and not trying to walk anymore.

The good news- if you can call it that- is that he seems to recognize now that the cart is what he needs for mobility, and wants to use it when he wants to get somewhere. The downside of that is two wheel corgis in the same house tend to get wheels caught and block each other's way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whidbey Island

Merlin is definitely happier up here on Whidbey. He goes for a long walk on the dike each morning, and gets to sleep out in the car during the day (his favorite thing) and is sleeping much more at night as a result of being more active. He is quite willing to use his cart now. He's pictured here with his new beach wheels which make going out on the sand easier (still not really easy, though.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Merlin and I went over to his birthplace for Mother's Day dinner. Now, I've been watching Merlin's ability to walk disappear over time, but his breeder's family only sees him on occasion, and as I took him out of his cart during dinner, they were quite upset to see him barely managing to crawl around. I forget that what has become normal to me is devastating to them.

When they bred Lily they of course had no way to know that she carried the gene for DM, and neither did the stud's owner. If they had, that breeding would probably not have been done, even though, as it was probably carrier to carrier, it was a better breeding than many are doing. They couldn't know.

Breeders today CAN know, and those that don't have their big Ostrich heads stuck in the sand do know, and can do something to prevent this heartache for future corgi owners. If you are looking for a corgi puppy, ask the breeder what the DM status is. If the breeder isn't testing, or tries to tell you testing isn't important, look for another breeder. Unless you want to have a dog that can only drag himself around, that is. Remember that that cute little puppy that you fall in love with today, you are going to love 100 times more in eleven years when he starts to show signs of DM.

Day at the Beach

Yesterday two friends with DM dogs and I took our dogs to the beach near Santa Cruz. The dogs had a ball, and the three of us spent a lot of time explaining about DM and IVDD. The usual reaction to seeing a dog in a cart is "Does he have hip dysplasia?" so it is a good chance to educate about DM and explain about genetic testing for it. It's also good for people to see the dog in the cart- later, if their dog ever needs a cart, hopefully they will remember the image and instead of euthanizing, look for a cart. We also hope that if they buy a puppy of a breed that has a lot of DM, they will ask for evidence of testing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


No, this isn't a post about diagnostics. It's about which disease is preferable. We would all rather corgis got neither- or at least, that's what I would have said before I found out how many corgi breeders are unwilling to test for DM. I am sure when the test for IVDD is available they'll be equally unwilling to jump on that bandwagon, but for now they argue that DM is a disease of old dogs and that there are other, more important problems (such as IVDD.) So read the following and make your own decisions. These are from emails I received today.

From the owner whose dog has had surgery for IVDD:
Maggie had another physical therapy session last night. She walked on the underwater treadmill for 25 minutes and she was walking with her back legs!!!! Her right leg is stronger than her left leg, but she pretty much hit with her paws each time. She didn't knuckle like she did last week. I was so excited at how much she had improved since her last session. The PT was pretty excited

And from another corgi owner:

My Pembroke has DM. She always loved her walks in the park, but with one leg cooperating less and less, she barely wants to walk more than 30' from the car.
Can you please advise me as to when I can determine that she needs a cart? She does wobble and the leg goes under her causing her to lose balance. Should I wait until the other leg is not fuctioning too? This is such a heartbreak, but I'm determined to work through this as we love her so.

You be the judge. Why is owner number one happy that her dog can barely walk and number two is heartbroken when hers is just barely knuckling and can still walk?

DM robs dogs of more than their ability to walk. It takes their stamina, their strength, their youth, their independence, and ultimately, their life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Babies and Merlin

I've become like a mother of a newborn- if he's sleeping I don't disturb him, because if he is sleeping he isn't barking! We had a nice drive over to watch a friend do agility yesterday (friend from Indiana with her Rottie) and he was as good as gold, had a nice nap in the car, behaved nicely at the trial, rode home nicely. Then he barked non-stop from 3 PM until his walk at 7 PM, then again until he went to sleep around 10. He's asleep now- I'm not going to wake him!

New Merlin breakthroughs

This morning Merlin went outside in his cart to poop, then later barked to go out to pee, went down the ramp with a little guidance at the corners, peed, and came back up. Then on his own he made his way into the bedroom to find me. Yay, Merlin! Maybe the cart is becoming more second nature to him.

Or maybe its because he had a seizure early this morning (6 am) and it rewired his brain.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Corgi puppies for sale? Looking for a Corgi Breeder?

Do NOT buy a puppy unless you see the OFA results for DM testing for that pup- either the parents should be tested resulting in it being impossible for the puppy to be at risk for DM, or the puppy should be tested.

Safe breedings are: At Risk, Carrier, or clear in one parent to clear in the other

No other breedings are guaranteed to have puppies that will not get DM, so don't believe the breeder who claims she has never had DM in her lines. If you cannot go to the OFA website and see for yourself her test results, do NOT buy a puppy from her. You are better off with a backyard bred pup as DM is much more prevalent in show lines.

There are some responsible and caring Pembroke Welsh corgi breeders, and I can help you to find one. These breeders are testing their breeding stock for DM and attempting to lower its incidence. The majority are NOT TESTING. To quote one breeder, "There are enough pets out there." (As in, it doesn't matter of a few get DM.) To quote another, "DM is a disease of geriatric dogs." (Geriatric at 8 years old?) These are direct quotes from corgi breeders, who will try to tell you they are doing health testing. My friends, since July 2008, health testing in dogs includes testing for DM, and if they aren't doing it, you could end up with a dog that slowly and irreversibly goes down, becomes paralyzed, and dies of this disease.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back to agility..

Basement para-agility is a great way to work out in the cart, especially when it is 90 degrees in April. Sorry the quality of the video isn't very good, but here it is anyway.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Diaper difficulties

Merlin won't or can't go out to pee any more and/or is leaking. He pees a lot of very dilute urine as he gets very thirsty due to his anti-seizure meds. So I've started keeping him in a "male wrap" with some kind of pad.

And there's the difficulty- finding a pad or diaper to work! I tried a sample pack of male incontinence products and found Prevail Guards for Men which are very good and a good size for the diaper wrap, but I had to order them as no one locally carriers them. So in the meantime I'm experimenting with diapers. I buy a size 5 or 6 and cut the tabs and elastic off and put them in the diaper cover. I tried Pampers size 6; they are only good for one pee. Working on Huggies Overnights next. Poise ultra plus don't do it- they're too long and narrow so just absorb in the middle of the pad.

I also ordered another type male diaper- it is supposed to absorb all by itself but I figure with a liner it might work. Oh, and ordered some pad "boosters" which are a flow-through pad like a diaper doubler (which I've sinced learned may be found at BabysRUs... I haven't been up there to check yet.

At least at such a dilution Merlin's pee has almost no odor and I'm sure it won't burn him. So the problem- too much pee- is also a plus in a way.

Update: Merlin's incontinence usually clears up with Proin, and it did again. But I also found that the combo of a Huggies Overnite, size 5, and a Depends Booster Pad lasts him all day, and a Prevail pad plus a Booster Pad lasts for shorter times. The Pooch Pad male diaper does work for smaller amounts of pee- I'll probably use it for Teddy when he is visiting and might mark- but it isn't any good for Merlin.

Monday, April 6, 2009


We were at an agility trial this weekend and Merlin, out of necessity, peed and pooped in his cart. Hooray! Then this morning he asked to go out, rolled down the ramp, and did his thing at home. Then we had a nice walk around the block.

However, this afternoon he was being a poop- he wouldn't step on the grass or into the sun (it is warm) and is whining at me to feed him. Candy joined in the general obstenancy and rolled to the stairs to ask to be helped up instead of using the ramp (I did that the other day when I was helping Merlin up the ramp and I knew Candy was going to try it again and he did- this time I refused and after sitting outside for ten minutes he decided it was in his best interest to use the ramp.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back to normal..

We took a walk tonight and Merlin did his "usual" detour down the alley! Back on to leashes for walks, I guess. He does that at Whidbey when he's off-leash, too. So now I guess he is comfy enough with the cart to act like Merlin.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Anger and Frustration

I've seen several Pem litter announcements lately- in neither case were the parents DM tested, and in both, at least one parent was a definite DM carrier (and possibly At Risk.) These are litters conceived AFTER the test became available. It makes me angry and frustrated and sad.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Tonight Merlin wanted to go out, and when I got his cart, he got excited to go! Yay!

I also went to click/treat mainly after crossing streets. That way he will hurry up the block and not dawdle in the middle of a street. It worked very well and he is enjoying his walks now.

Merlin's lift

It is often useful to have a sling or lift for a dog with DM, so that one can help them move without putting them in the cart. I've tried several such slings for Merlin, from a harness-type, to a Bottom's up leash, to a towel, and all have one thing in common- he refuses to move.

This is the only lift he will accept (although he will also let me bend down and lift his back end.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Some good news...

Janine, Merlin's "sister", is not At Risk for DM. She's a carrier, which doesn't matter as she has never been bred and is spayed. So now we know none of the rest of the dogs (Teddy, Janine, Jack, and Candy) will get DM.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good days, bad days

Merlin had a couple of very good days earlier this week. He walked 1 1/4 blocks on his own, and walked around the house, not knuckling. Then yesterday morning he was back to knuckling. It seems to have a lot to do with how weak his "good" leg is. (The right is weaker, the left knuckles more.)

He had a very bad night last night. His anti-seizure meds make him hungry and he kept crying for food. (I know that is why as he sits by the food and stares at it.) When he finally stopped doing that, he had to go out, and then he barks to come in, but it was 6 am and after letting him in I was still exhausted and went back to bed for an hour. If I let him eat when he's hungry, he'll weigh too much to be lifted, and I frequently have to lift him. (Candy can climb our hill in his cart but Merlin can't.)

Listening to him last night I was glad I opted out of the family cruise in June- no way can I leave him alone at night or with someone else. Tonight he gets an antihistamine to help him sleep.

I got him a bike trailer but am taking it back- the front window is too high for a corgi who can't sit up (as eventually will be the case.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Walking with the cart

Merlin's walks now are all in the cart as he completely walks on the front of both back feet. I've been using clicker and treats to motivate him and reward him for handling challenges in the cart. He's doing very well with it but won't use it in the house.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March 14 update

It's Pi day. Merlin woke me at 5:45 to go out- he wouldn't walk at all so I put him in his cart and bribed him to go out, then he wouldn't pee in the cart so I took him out to pee, then put him back in it to come back inside. Later on he was walking again without the cart- morning stiffness may make things harder. He needs booties on the cement but I think they do make walking harder. I need to try the Transderm tape again.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Merlin's walk and agility

Merlin did agility in his cart this morning, using Candy's agility equipment (see )

He will do pretty much anything for treats so he was happy to trot around the agility course in his cart.

Then later we took a walk to his birthplace across the street (one block each way.) He was more comfortable in the cart but still wanted bribes to move. But eventually he was running for the treats, a happy look on his face, so maybe he realized he can run in the cart.

He still has not figured out he can pee in the cart because he hasn't tried.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some signposts

This morning Merlin barked to go out instead of using the dog door for the first time. But then he came back in on his own (he usually wants the door opened for him on the way back as it is a higher step.) So who knows?

He has also started needing some help on stairs. He can do them very slowly but would prefer having help or being carried.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good and bad

Merlin had a seizure tonight, second one since we got back from Christmas, only 10 days apart. Definite aura preceding it (if dogs have auras) but I wasn't quick enough to jump up and give him a Valium- I'm not sure it would have acted fast enough, anyway. The seizure was different, less of the bicycling and more shaking, but he snapped out of it just the same as usual, and ravenous. Sometimes I wonder if the hunger center of his brain is stimulated by the seizure.

The good is that I got him Paw Pads, and he can walk on the kitchen floor without slipping. They are like little corn pads but non-skid and go on the pads of his feet. They stayed through the rain today. He's still very weak in back. I would do PT like Lila does with Jack but because of Merlin's arthritis I don't like to do anything that might make him hurt.

He' still doing well walking in a straight line, even trotting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today's walk

Merlin was really dragging after a block so I went back home and got his cart. He didn't want to walk in it so I took him out and carried the cart for three blocks. By then he was really tired so I put him back into it and again he refused to move. I left him and Teddy and I walked down the sidewalk to sit and wait. He came running. Then refused to move again. So then Teddy and I walked to my corner, again, Merlin came. That worked all the way into the house, where I bribed him with treats to come.

He does quite well in the cart when he wants to, but then, he can trot along pretty well until he gets tired without it. I like him to walk as normally as he can so I may do the cart-carrying thing for awhile and finish up walks that way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A short walk with Merlin

I should probably call this an evening with Merlin. First, I tried to practice the cello. I haven't done this much lately and had forgotten how much Merlin hates it. I don't think he hates the music (except dissonances) as much as he doesn't like that it takes attention away from him. So he barked while I practice. He likes to bark in no apparent rhythm so that it will mess me up.

Then they got pills. Then Merlin sat in the kitchen and barked for about an hour to complain that he hadn't also had all the biscuits.

Finally I took him out alone for a short walk (very short as we met Jennifer, her sister, and Kane and stopped to chat. They thought Merlin was a very sweet, well-behaved dog! He demonstrated his increasing disability but didn't bark and was, in fact, very sweet. Now he is lying on the bedroom floor barking again.

Life with Merlin!

Monday, January 12, 2009

More ups and downs

Merlin is doing great walking on the sidewalk, he did great on the beach in Washington. The house continues to be a struggle as he can't handle slick floors, drags on the carpet, and falls when he turns.

He's had a couple of seizures, usually about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 weeks apart. No major changes in those.

We got his cart adjusted up in Washington but then he hasn't needed it. The deep snow there was the only thing that gave him much trouble.