Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Last Entry

This probably won't really be the last page as I will use this blog to rant about DM and breeders who don't test for it. But it is the last entry in Merlin's journey.

Just under a week ago he started refusing to eat. THe previous two posts cover that. Now he is still not eating, we switched to Baytril and still no appetite or improvement. He seems congested, isn't breathing well, and has little energy. Every so often he rallies enough to bark but he will only drink water and he looks miserable. His eyes are telling me it is time, and this afternoon at the South Whidbey Animal Clinic Dr. Patrin will humanely end his life.

Just over 13 years ago, Christmas vacation 1997, I brought Merlin home. In November of 97 my Labrador Brother had died and for my birthday my dear friends surprised me with the tri puppy from their litter.

But I actually met Merlin the day he was born. My daughter had been home from college for the weekend and I was loading up to drive her to the train when my neighbor's husband ran over. "Linda needs you, it looks like Lily is having the puppies." He drove Melia to the train and I got to Linda's just in time to see Lily pick up Merlin, still in the sac, and deposit him in the litter box. It was the 57th day and I was worried when I saw him that she had gotten bred by some stray dog. I had never seen a newborn tri and did not know they were all black and white!

As soon as finals were over Merlin came home to live with me and our last Lab Pippin and our older female corgi Dolly. He quickly became a little terror. He and Dolly frapped non-stop and when Dolly took a moment off to recover Merlin tortured Pippin trying to get her to play. He started to show his extreme stubbornness even then.

Merlin proved to be a heroic little fellow, at the age of just about six months he scared an intruder out of our house. I heard him snarling and growling at about 6 one morning and came to find him holding off an intruder who had started to come through the back door. The guy backed out and said he was looking for this guy's studio (at 6 AM?) and Merlin got lots of extra treats!

Over the years our dog family changed, Pippin and Dolly were followed by Luka, Wesley, Abby. Janine,. Jack, Teddy. and Candy. Now besides Merlin we have Candy at 10. Janine 8. and Jack 5. Merlin liked our cats but Hobie and Casey have both since gone, not to be replaced.

Merlin had a few injuries in his youth,. at two, one CCL ligament ruptured, the second one at five. He recovered from both surgeries but always had a bit of a funny gait after the second. Despite that, at 7 he started agility, competing in his first trial right after his eighth birthday. He was never fast because he insisted on running next to me and watching me the whole time, but he managed to reach Enthusiast Level 4 in CPE before his retirement.

At the age of almost ten Merlin started to have seizures. It took quite some time to get them under good control, and by then he had begun to walk even funnier. He retired from agility in April of 2008 and by September the DM was pretty obvious. The rest of his history can be found in this blog, thanks to the suggestion of Millie Williams that I keep one.

Merlin's journey is ending today, but the fight against DM has to go on. Puppy buyers, PLEASE insist on buying only carrier or clear puppies. Breeders, PLEASE be responsible, test your stock, and breed to lessen the incidence of this terrible disease. No person and no dog should have to go through this.

Rest in peace, Merlin.

Epilog: we left early and took a long drive since Merlin can usually sleep peacefully in the car, and he did. Stopped for a bit and he woke and his breathing was terrible. I know I made the right decision for him but my heart is breaking.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Thoughts

Merlin is still under the weather but I hope he is improving. He is sleeping a lot without any yowling for attention,food, water, etc. The only barks today have been to ask to go out to the car and then after he came in, to go to bed. Now he is sleeping. He ate one piece of liverwurst with his pills and drank some water but no real appetite. It could be the antibiotic keeping his appetite down but the quietness is so out of character that it is pretty clear he still feels lousy.

The good thing about this is that it tells me he isn't barking because he doesn't feel good. He barks when he feels good, to get things. So while the barking is pretty annoying I don't think I need to worry about his well-being just because he is doing it.

The bad thing is that his being sick like this brings quality of life into question. Believe me., this is nothing new., quality of life is an issue that the owner of every dog with DM lives with most of the time. When is it time? Should we let him go now or treat this illness? A couple of years ago two owners of DM dogs both found out their dog also had lymphoma. Lymphoma can be treated and will go into remission sometimes but usually for a year, rarely more than that. One felt the quality of life with DM was too poor and let her dog go, the other opted for treatment and had another year of relatively good quality life,. though the DM of course proceeded. Who was right:? Both of them. Every owner has to make these decisions and believe me they are very hard.

My rule of thumb...what would I want? There was an episode of ER in season 13 in which Abby treats a former professor who is in the late stages of "human DM", i.e., ALS. They do flashbacks to earlier visits to the hospital, in all of which he wanted to fight whatever brought him in. In this final episode he is getting to where he would need to be intubated to continue breathing, which would compromise his ability to communicate via an electronic device. He opts for no treatment.

Thinking of Merlin, he can still communicate, even though he needs a lot of care and isn't very independent. He still- when he is well- enjoys car and stroller rides. He usually likes his food. So if what is bothering him now can be cleared up so that he feels good again, I'm all for doing it.

If he continues to get UTI's and keeps feeling crappy a majority of the time, though, my choice might be different.

There is also always the underlying, paired thoughts: if he is gone I'll be free of care taking him, and feeling guilty for thinking the former. I am reminded of the story of the great cellist Pablo Casals smashing his fingers when mountain climbing,and his first thought being , "I never have to play the cello again. " And his next thought was certainly, " I hope I can play again!"

The other thought is that maybe this illness will make the decision easier. Because without a sudden change in health, DM is insidious. Here you have an alert, aware, and often happy corgi, and you are expected to end his life at a time of your own choosing, with no definite indication that the time is right. In most illnesses, you know it is time. With DM that may not happen.

I know Merlin's time is limited, I don't know by how much, but my decision this week was based in part on not wanting to lose him right before
Christmas. I don't have a definite cut-off for him, it just depends on quality of life and his attitude. I want him to feel better and enjoy the time he has left.

RIght now we are hoping the antibiotics work and he is his noisy, barking self in a day or two.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Heart, lungs, blood work except WBC, normal. He does have a UTI which is weird as no signs of one at all. So that is a relief!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merlin isn't eating...

Merlin is under the weather. He would not eat this morning. Later I took him for a car ride and a walk on the ADA trail and he perked up and ate a few small milk bones. But now no dinner.

Merlin still isn't eating more than a few nibbles of liverwurst. At least I can get his pills into him.  Tomorrow we will go to the vet if he is still down and see if it is anything there is a magic bullet for, but I am worried this may be it.  If it is, better now than Christmas Day.  So think good vibes and pray good prayers for him.  I won't let him continue not feeling good so if he isn't better or there is no quick fix...

He did go right to sleep when I brought him into the bedroom and sat down  with him,. which as you know is completely out of character... he should be barking up a storm!

As he is no longer walking at all I know his time is short but I had hoped not before we get back to California, especially since he enjoys the car trip so much. So send him your vibes and prayers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Knuckling/loss of proprioception

I wanted to include a photo showing what I meant in the previous post.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I decided the airbag was the least of Merlin's worries, so fixed him a better spot in the front seat. He likes it!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos