The Day I Retired My Dog’s Swimming Suit
Photo Thanks to Wayne Ramsay
I want to start this post off to say, this isn’t about dog training or working toward specific behaviors, or avoiding certain behaviors. This is about the day my dog almost died and I realized how important our relationship is in my life and the odd genetic condition that almost killed her.
It was almost a year ago that I decided to get my highly decorated dock diving dog her own swimming suit.
Many of you who know my writing and have taken my courses here, through TheDogTrainingSecret.com know my sweet Fury!
She is a long haired Dutch Shepherd, which is fairly rare in and of itself, so I wanted a swimming suit that would set off her stripes and accentuate her beautiful flight.
So I opted for a stripey suit with a purple cape.
Over the years she has gone from about 8 or 9 feet to over 22 feet with great precision.
She has also gone from the place and send technique where the dog simply chases the toy out into the pool; to catching the toy mid-air!
By the way, this isn’t easy! It is difficult to gauge the speed of the dog running as fast as possible down a 40 foot dock and then toss a toy with enough accuracy that the dog can actually catch it in the air.
She has also taught a great number of handlers and dogs to use these techniques to boost their distance and exactitude.
Fury was known for running down the dock so hard and so fast that you could literally hear the dock POP when she finally took flight.
She has always embraced everything that she encounters with complete eagerness and excitement, which makes me an extremely lucky dog handler and owner. Not every dog is as apt to take to any training presented to them.
Unfortunately, she was born with a condition called “Ciliary Dyskinesia”, which took years and thousands of dollars to finally diagnose.
I used to carry a note from my veterinarian in case she blew snot in the ring at an obedience trial. It would state that her condition was not communicable. I was always afraid we would drive thousands of miles to a competition and be kicked out because she looks so ill.
She came to me as a sick, snotty puppy and despite all of the efforts of several vets and the help of different kinds of antibiotics nothing seemed to help; hence the eventual diagnosis.
In effect, her nose and immune system has never really worked. She can walk past a piece of chicken and not realize she is walking past a piece of chicken because she simply can’t smell it.
And, unfortunately I believe when she dock dives, she aspirates some water into her lungs.
The average dog can clear this water easily, but due to her age and her condition she has gotten to the point where she no longer can.
I Didn’t Even Know
Because she has been sick to some degree since she was born, she shows little signs of distress and is
extremely stoic when she can’t breathe.
So I came home one night and she didn’t eat dinner.
Anyone who knows my girl, knows she has never skipped a meal. Later that night she was elongating her neck in an attempt to breathe.
The next day we were all amazed and horrified at the x-rays that showed how little function her lungs actually had. It was a feeling and moment I will never forget. The reality that she could easily die of pneumonia hit home in a big way for me.
And my veterinarian and friend searched furiously and spent hours on VIN to try and find a sufficient treatment for this disorder.
Don’t worry, this particular disease is very uncommon!
Interestingly enough, it is also something that humans can suffer from which helps to give more reliable information and treatment when it comes to treating our canine friends.
Only 1 in 16,000 or 20,000 people suffer from this debilitating and incurable disease.
More About The Disease
Primary Cilliary Dyskinesia is the result of a autosomal recessive genetic condition in which the microscopic cells and hairs in the respiratory system do not work.
This prevents the clearance of mucous from the lungs, sinuses and ears.
- Lung collapse
- Chronic sinus, ear, and lung infections
Which all leads to irreversible scarring and of the bronchi and lung damage.
Interestingly, cilia is also present in the ventricles of the brain and reproductive system.
I have always joked that we veterinary technicians end up with the weirdest problems with our dogs. My last dog had meningitis and another had 2 spleens!
She is Back to Normal
Thankfully she is back to her normal self; thanks to a great vet and an even better treatment program.
I spent 3 weeks nebulizing her and administering aerosolized and oral antibiotics, steroids and bronchodilators.
And, honestly, I don’t care about her swim suit or having to retire her from a sport. Her life is much, much more important to me!
I am glad at her last event we had a wonderful photographer, Wayne Ramsay, that took many shots of her catching her toy in flight.
The Long and the Short of It?
Life is short!
My dog almost died of pneumonia with little to no warning.
The most important thing is to spend quality time with her, finding something else she likes to do and build memories.
The truth is, she won’t live forever. I wish that she could.
The hard truth is, she will probably die of this disorder at some point.
So I am going to cherish every moment we have together, whether we are watching TV and she is in my lap while I nebulize her, or if we are playing Frisbee at the park.
Every moment we have together is priceless!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.