My Dream of Having a Dog
Did you ever have a dream as a child? Did that dream include one day having a dog that you could snuggle up with and watch movies, take for long peaceful walks and play fetch at the local dog park while being surrounded by a bunch of other exhilarated fetch-playing dogs? Mine did. I even day dreamed about competing in agility, barn hunts and other dog sports and being a part of this fantasized dog training community.
I never had pets growing up. I did however have a hamster when I was about 4, another hamster when I was 18 and an abandoned dog I found when I was 20. This didn’t last long as my boyfriend at the time wanted to keep her when we broke up. It had always been a dream of mine since I was a very little girl to one day own a German Shepherd. Not just one, or two…. but three! How oblivious I was to the fact that these dogs have enormous amounts of energy, are too smart for their own good and probably eat more than a horse. But I was convinced that one day I would have my German Shepherds.
Fast forward to September 2011. Atlas, I had finally taken my dream puppy home. My boyfriend Mike (now husband) and I had decided to get a puppy and I had convinced him to get my dream dog! Words could not describe just how happy I was on pick up day, but little did I know just what we would be in for.
The Problems with Having this Dog
Mike and I lived on the 29th floor in a tiny two-bedroom condo at the time. Logan came to us with parasites… can you see where I’m going with this? It was a disaster. He was having uncontrollable diarrhea IN the condo, on the balcony and even crapped in the elevator twice! At the same time, we were feeding a raw diet. This was also a disaster in a tiny 800 sq ft condo. Not only did we not have the freezer space to build up a supply, it was messy to prepare in an almost non-existent kitchen. Not to mention he would take the food out of the bowl and bring it to different spots until he found one that pleased him. We also thought that Logan may have a chicken allergy or sensitivity because his ears and paws would get all red after eating it. This was all around the 12 weeks of age time…so many disasters in such a little bit of time. But we loved him. Have you seen his puppy face!?
For months the diarrhea and red ears and paws continued. I think I had seen two different vets at this point as well as asked the breeder for feedback and guidance. We had no clue what to do. Eventually the loose poops came to an end and we found a good rhythm, but throughout his whole life he has suffered from ear infections and bouts of itchy red paws. I lost track of all the food trials we’ve done and all the vets we’ve been to throughout his short almost 8 years so far. We’ve also seen multiple dog trainers as his behaviour has been less than desirable. Granted we understand that us as “pack leader” should have had better control…but let’s be real. We were not aware of what we were truly getting ourselves into. A wise therapist once told me… “you don’t know what you don’t know”. This phrase can be applied to so many aspects of life, Logan being one of them.
Fast forward a few years. Logan is 4. We moved to a cookie-cutter house in Barrie, ON where I now must start picking up poop in the back yard regularly again after two years of our backyard being forest…he would just go there. I notice bloody mucous periodically around some of the poop. Let the vet visits and food trials begin again. For his sister Khaleesi that is. She was the one that ate socks and panties if you left them laying around, so I automatically assumed that the blood was coming from her. I spent the next year doing tests and switching up her diet trying to solve the problem. It wasn’t until we moved to our current house where I could view them going to the bathroom in their dog pen. There it was. The revelation that the blood was coming from Logan, not Khaleesi after all. Enter more tests and trails and food elimination and the like.
After the first year of problem solving for Logan now, his condition seemed to worsen. More blood in mucous, loose stool and more frequent bathroom visits. Is trying to poop 10x a day normal? I think not. And that is NOT an exaggeration. The vet concluded after we seemed to exhaust all other possible causes that it must be IBD and offered his solution. I didn’t feel right about it and tried a new vet, a holistic one this time, for a second opinion. Waste of time and money seeing this vet. I begrudgingly went back to a messy, time consuming raw diet for him and Khaleesi as my last option. I almost gave him back to the breeder (who feeds raw) to try and ‘cure’ Logan of IBD because I didn’t know what else to do and had next to zero knowledge and time to learn it. But through yet another diet change, I met the man who would eventually lead me to yet another holistic vet who would find out the true cause of Logan pooping blood.
It was Paul at Raw4Dogs a raw diet food and supplement supplier, who suggested to me that his symptoms sound like those of a possible Polyp. I had never heard of this before, so his description to me was basically that it’s something like a skin tag but on the colon and that the vet would need to do a rectal exam (stick a finger up his butt and feel around) for one. Having nothing else but more money and time to lose, I took his vet recommendation and ran with it.
Upon our first visit at the clinic, and less than 5 minutes of meeting Logan, Dr. Chidiac of Chidiac Animal Hospital in Waverly, ON had her finger up his butt. She was very concerned with what she felt. Not one, not two, but about 6 Polyp-like bumps. She kept the rectal exam short as I’m sure you can imagine Logan’s discomfort. She recommended a biopsy under sedation which would allow her to get a better look at what else may be going on in there. I booked the biopsy appointment, which was nothing short of a nice All-Inclusive vacation for one to a nice sunny beach somewhere warmer than here, for the following week. The results came back a week after that.
Results: INVASIVE RECTAL PAPILLARY CARCINOMA – just like that in big capital letters on the report.
After years of trying to find answers to these symptoms, I must admit that I felt relief to finally have it. I was devastated that my once longed for dream dog had cancer, but felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had spent the better part of the past year leading up to this convincing myself that there was something seriously wrong with him. Pooping bloody slime 10x a day is no joke. It was easier to accept the truth of the biopsy results since I had basically already accepted his fate months ago. Still sad nonetheless to know that one day very soon, I would have to make the decision to put him to sleep forever.
I wish I could say that getting my dream dog meant that he came with all those expected dreamy “Good Boy!” behaviours…but I can’t. Maybe my expectations were too high and my training effort a little too low? German Shepherds are supposed to be the smartest dogs ever though right? So how much training did I realistically have to do with this dog for him to be what I thought every GSD naturally was anyway? Clearly, more than I believed. I took him to 4 (almost 5 had the trainer showed up to our appointment) different dog trainers. With each trainer basically having different methods, I can see in hindsight why they never really stuck. He wasn’t an aggressive dog or anything major like that…he was just an annoying dog.
He listened when HE wanted to. He barked at everything that had legs. He feared machines for the longest time. Think treadmill, hairdryer, vacuum, blender and Robbie (our Roomba-yes, we named him. Anything that cleans around this house is part of the family and deserves a name). He didn’t even like to be snuggled. He attacked his sister Khaleesi when other dogs were near, and he pulled the leash while walking. He was house trained…. but for most of his life, he would still have “accidents” or just down right be an asshole for some sort of payback to me. He was also a Runner. With a capital R, he was a Runner. If he saw an open door, good luck getting him back. I wont even get into telling the stories of his escapes here. They deserve a whole book dedicated to them. Just imagine Mike diving into home plate trying to catch Logan as he darted away near a major busy street. He would chase after my ferrets as a puppy. Never did get used to them so I had to give them away for their own benefit and freedom. He would periodically chase our cats too. Still to this day at almost 8, he just can’t leave the alone.
Granted, some of these behaviours don’t seem too bad. But combine them with his health issues, his sister from a second litter with her own set of issues and then two kids of my own a few years later? I’m just about ready to lose my shit. Feeling like I can’t handle the chaos anymore, I start thinking about how freeing it would be to not have to “deal with this shit” anymore. Feeling guilty for thinking that and then feeling ashamed that I felt that way in the first place. I didn’t want to give him away to anyone else though because he was MY dog. He was my dream dog. At least he was supposed to be. I held onto the vision I had for me and him and fought hard to attain. Even at the suggestible subtle hints from some close to us that we should give him to a better home, someone who will have more time and the ability to train him well, I held on to him and our imagined ideal life. I even feel guilty about that. Looking back on it all now, would he have been better off? Would his new pack leader have found the cause of his bloody stool sooner and be able to prolong his life by means that I now could not?
Now that I know that Logan has cancer and there really is zero hope in him recovering from this, I now feel guilty for keeping him alive. Shocking right? I know. But every time I see him going to the bathroom and struggling, every time I see him refusing to eat (on the daily now), to only then if he does throw it up…I feel sad. In every other area of life though, he seems fine. He still wants to play and brings us his ball. He still wants to go for walks and be around us. He seems happy and wags his tail. I guess only time will tell us when it’s time to say goodbye. Until then, we will continue to love on him and be grateful for the years we’ve had with him and try to let go of the guilt.
Moral of the Story
I spent way too much time trying to figure out what was wrong with Logan. But I’ll repeat it again. You don’t know what you don’t know. I believed I was doing it all right. Vet visits, food trials and everything in between. Let me save you some time and reiterate the very simple action that I wish a vet had done for Logan three years ago. If your dog is pooping bright red blood, ask your Vet to do a Polyp check. They will stick a finger in their bum and feel around for a skin-tag like bump. If the blood in their poop is dark red/brownish in colour, it’s indicative of a problem coming from the digestive tract. I didn’t know what a Polyp was, therefore didn’t know to ask. Now I’m forwarding this information on to you in hopes it could save you time and your dogs life.
Love your dogs hard and appreciate them for all the good they bring into your life. Logan brought us problems, but he also brought lots of love. He reminds me on the daily that just because you may not get what you want, that doesn’t mean you won’t get what you need.