Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm a soccer dog!

I decided to teach Lucky to "kick" a soccer ball. It was pretty easy since he loves to "touch" things with his nose and paws. Maybe 30 seconds were spent getting him to touch the ball with his nose and another 30 seconds to get him to touch it with his paw. These dogs are so smart.

Lucky, Kick it!

Dad thinks I'm very funny.

Posing all cute for mom

In other news, we're down to 1.25mg of Prednisone and I think we've found the perfect dose. He's not as frenetically hungry or energetic and he's not as... bitchy. The other day at the park he actually played with a strange dog - something he's not done since he was diagnosed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


My dad used to sing that song at me whenever my hair got REALLY long.

I now sing it to Lucky when he looks like this:


He spent a week turning into Wild Dog of the Woods with his cousin Ozzie while we were on vacation. He gets groomed tomorrow. I'm going to have to tip the groomer really well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's a BBD Sleepover!

BBD = Big Black Dog.

Lucky's "cousin" Ozzie is over for the weekend while his owners are out of town. Ozzie is Lucky's BFF.

So I got home today and let the dogs out to play

They chased each other all around the yard. I ran after them calling "I'm gonna gettcho!"

"I'm on Gool!" (notice Ozzie's paw-touch to the sandbox area)

Then they decided to wrassle for a bit.

BBDs posing by the flower garden.

Politely sitting, waiting for permission to go inside.

Each dog was told to "Go to your bed" for his treat. For Lucky, this trick is old hat.

For Ozzie this was a new thing but he got the idea pretty quickly!

Then Dad got home and treated him to the BBD Stare-A-Thon (srsly, they stared at me all afternoon. it's creepy)

Dad grabbed the Holy Squeaky Squirrel (much like the Holy Hand Grenade)

Pouncing on the squirrel...well... some of us.

Lastly, a WWF wrestling match to quiet them down

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Back to "normal"

Well, what normal is in our house.

Lucky recovered just fine from the kennel cough. He then developed an ear infection, so we had ear drops for that that we just finished up last night.

He had another Percorten injection (still at 1.4. we'll reduce next time). We've also reduced his prednisolone to 2.5mg per day (from 5mg) and he's doing just fine there. In fact, if I could cut these pills in half again, I'd do so and see where that takes us. His appetite isn't quite as out of control but it's not back to normal yet. He's up to 50lbs now.

I need to get him in for another grooming. He's a bit of a mess.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

We're getting low on Lucky's pred and need a refill. However, at our last vet visit for his kennel cough, we had talked about starting to reduce his dose once he's healthy (given the fact that he did not.stop.moving. from 5pm to 10pm last night, I'd say he's just dandy).

So I called the vet (who's number I now have memorized, btw) to ask about the refill and the dose reduction. Their office has 4 receptionists, plus 5 assistants who occasionally answer the phone and work the front office. One of these nine people answered and I said "Hi, this is Catherine Lastname calling."

And she gushes "Oh, hi! I know you! You're Lucky the Portie's mom! He's such a sweetie. How's he doing?"

It's like Cheers, only not. If we walk in the door for his next appointment and everyone cries "Lucky!", I may insist they give me a beer.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Doing much better

Yesterday his bark sounded more like a seal's (which was hysterical!). But today he's not showing any sort of issue. He's not coughed, his bark is normal, and this is even with half a dose of cough suppressant.

He is, however, droozily.

Maaaa... don't take my picture when I'm trying to sleep....

Snoozy pup

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kennel Cough

And, boy, is it bad. I was up all night trying to keep him calm and quiet (because, just like a sick kid, Lucky wants MOM for comfort). If I didn't gently soothe him whenever he started to wheeze, he'd go into hacking fits so bad he'd gag himself. I actually was worried for a while he was blocked, but he ate and drank and had normal bathroom activities this morning. They ran x-rays just in case (I fell asleep in the exam room while waiting) and those came back clear. Another $260 at the vet. Oh de do.

I think I partially blame the pred for this for two reasons. One, it's an immune-suppressant, so I'm sure that's not helping because, in all the years he's been in close contact with strange dogs he's not gotten bordetella once. Two, because it's an anti-inflammatory, his infection went completely undetected until he was hacking and gagging. I don't remember him coughing at all until last night. Neither does The Spouse.

Anyway, we're on more medication (doxycycline and butorphanol). I get to play with the butorphanol dose because it's also a narcotic (whee!), so we need to see what would be best to keep him from coughing but not, you know, comatose. The vet recommended starting him on 1/2 pill every 6-8 hours and seeing how that goes.

Also, the vet mentioned she'd read yet another study on Addison medications, this time on prednisone and that, again, dogs studied could be on a much lower dose than previously thought. So once Fuzzy Face is healthy again we're going to start reducing his dose.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Switching Food

When the whole kerfuffle about Canidae changing their formula and manufacturer came out, I held fast to my guns. He's been on this food almost his whole life, he does great on it, he loves the taste, etc. Plus, while some of the reports of problems came from sources I trusted, the majority were anonymous posts on the Internet. Don't believe everything you read, right? So I thought "Unless he does poorly on the new formula, we'll stick with it." We had the majority of an old bag left, too.

Then a local PWD owner complained her dogs were having serious problems with it. I know this woman. We trained together. She owns 2 of Lucky's close relatives. I'm pretty certain she'd put her dog's welfare above her own if given the choice.

So, while we were at the vet, I took the opportunity to ask her if any of her clients fed Canidae and were having problems. Her response was basically yes, quite a few of them. When I told The Spouse about these developments, he immediately changed tunes (previously he'd been resisting changing foods. if it ain't broke) and said we should switch.

Since then I've been researching food options and there's a lot to consider - Quality ingredients? Grain free or not? Cost? Regional availability? - and I think I've narrowed it down to Nature's Variety Salmon & Brown Rice. Top-notch ingredients, though not grain free. The Spouse said he wanted to try switching to a fish-based formula and it's also the most cost-effective one on our short-list, ringing in at a daily cost of $1.72 (compared to $1.81 for Taste of the Wild, $1.95 for Orijen or $2.13 for Fromm) (those number based on the cost of a 30lb bag on PFD and the recommended feeding guidelines for each). It's also readily available from the two pet stores we frequent the most.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good news on the med front

Lucky went in for his monthly Percorten today and the vet said that she had just read a study that showed dogs were doing well and were stable on a dose of 0.5mg/kg.

This is compared to the recommended dosage of 1.65mg/kg - 2.2 mg/kg that is recommended by Novartis.

Clearly, that's a huge difference.

It means that, provided his lytes are good, we could take Lucky down to 1mL injections every month. That would give us 4 doses out of every bottle, compared to the 2-3 doses we get now. Not to harp on the price tag of his medical care but that would be a HUGE help for us. Plus, the less medication he needs to have in his system, the better for HIM.

All in all, good news.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Found a new groomer!

Not only one who clearly knows how to groom Portuguese Water Dogs - which is rare enough to start with. We've been looking for one of those for over two years now! - but also one who knows what Addison's Disease is and how to properly handle dogs with it.

I was impressed from the phone call when I said "There's just one thing - he has Addison's." and the man said "Ok. That's not a problem. I'll have a few more questions for you tomorrow though." Ok, fine.

So we showed up a few minutes late and he was sitting out front. The first thing out of his mouth was "What a handsome boy!" It never hurts to compliment my dog. Then we started talking about his cut.

I said "I want him taken down to about 1/2"."
"Ok. And what about his head?"
"About as short but not a literal 1/2". Blend it so it looks natural."
"Ok. And his ears?"
"Well, I generally take them to within a fingerlength of the bottom of the leather and then shape them from there, thinning along the side so they're not so poofy."
"Sounds good. And his topknot?"
"Not too tall - no poodle head - but not shaved short."
"Fine. What about the flag?"
"Don't touch it. I'm trying to grow it out from the last person who thought they needed to trim it and took off inches."
"Right. But take the tail down to 1/2" to the base of his flag, yes?"
"Good. SO. On to his condition. How is he being handled in general? Any problem with his eyes or paws?"
"He's fine with both, though he may not lick your face while you're doing it."
"Ok. And how is he with the dryer."
"Well, I don't use one at home, but I've never had a previous groomer mentioning a problem with them."
"Hm. OK, well we'll just play that by ear then."

That has to be the most thorough conversation I've had with a groomer. They've always asked questions about grooming and length, but not quite to that detail. Perhaps because I usually drive the conversation rather than wait and let them ask questions.

So, an hour and a half later they call to s ay he's done. I run over and, lo, there was a handsome Portuguese Water Dog walking towards me! Not a poodle or a schnauzer or some bizarre cross between the two! Not only that but the groomer followed my instructions to the letter. THAT has never happened since we've owned him.

And he really did play the dryer by ear. The first thing he said was "Well, he did fine with the dryer overall. He didn't like it on his face too much, so whenever he started getting too upset, I'd switch it up." Damn. DAY-UHM!

So, here's some before and after pics for you!




Friday, August 1, 2008

I love our vet

Our regular vet called back about an hour after the other vet called. She had come into the office on her day off just to check on Lucky's lab work and call me (how amazing is she? I don't even know a "people" doctor who would do that).

We talked for a long time about the Percorten and Pred. After reading his labs, she had actually called and talked to a specialist about them because they were so, well, normal that she was wondering if he could actually be Atypical, even though his labs at diagnosis showed Primary (if people want me to get even more long winded about the difference, I can :P). The specialist thinks that, because she had caught his Addison's so early that he still has a bit of decent adrenal function. But they still recommend injecting him every 4-5 weeks (about at the 30 day mark) rather than stretching it out more and more because the stress on his glands would eventually wipe out what function he has left and send him into a crisis. Clearly we don't want that. :P

So, instead we're going to work on gradually lowering his dose. He started at 1.6mL of Percorten for the first 2 injections, so we've lowered this dose to 1.5mL. We'll stay at that for a couple of months to see how he does and try another reduction. Eventually she's hoping to get him down to the lowest "recommended" amount which I think, looking at Novartis' website, would be around 1.2 mL. She's leery of pushing it further than that, though I do "know" a PWD who is on 1mL every 28 days and is stable (and he's a deal heavier than Lucky, too).

We also talked about lowering his pred. She said she wants to get his Percorten stable first and then we'll go about playing with his pred dosage. She said the earliest she'd want to consider that would be in a month. I'm ok with that. I just don't want to be staring December in the face (6 months from diagnosis) with him on such a high dose.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lucky's 36-day lytes

Normal Ranges:141-1564-5.627-40
7/29/08 (36-day):1444.929
7/21/08 (28-day):1534.534
7/14/08 (21-day):1494.533
7/7/08 (14-day):1504.434

So, I think he's finally due. Unfortunately our regular vet isn't in today, so I don't know for certain. He had been fasting when this bloodwork was drawn, too, so maybe that explains the low sodium but reasonably normal potassium.

The vet I talked to seemed surprised that we'd gone this long without re-injection. Apparently she doesn't let her Addison clients go more than the 28-day mark.

Not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, his labs showed he was well within normal ranges at 28 days, so it seems silly to inject him. I think we would have seen an over-correction on his next 14-day lytes. On the other hand, maybe that means his dosage needs to be reduced to bring him in line with the recommended schedule.

We're out of town again this weekend, so I'll be calling the doctor tomorrow to see if we should get him in before then.

In other news, he finally had the bloodwork drawn for the Georgie Project yesterday. Poor bug got stuck 5 times in order to get all the vials filled. Good thing they don't really remember that.

I also forgot to give him his pred when we got back from the vet. He was still in fine shape that evening around 5pm when he did get it. I expect this means we could probably reduce his dosage a bit, but I'm really not sure how since the smallest dose the pill comes in is what he's on, so we'd have to get into pill cutting. Hm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lucky's 28-day lytes

Normal Ranges:141-1564-5.627-40
7/21/08 (28-day):1534.534
7/14/08 (21-day):1494.533
7/7/08 (14-day):1504.434

For some reason, I thought I wrote down the wrong number for the Sodium when the vet called. I thought the Sodium levels were supposed to go down as the Percorten "wears off" but this obviously went up. So I called back to confirm, and, yes, 153. So I'm a bit confused at the moment.

Either way, he's still looking good, so we're going to go another week. I'll be watching him carefully this week, just in case.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Well, he IS a water dog!

His first canoe trip

Swimming up north!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lucky's 21-day lytes

Well, one week later and here we are.

Normal Ranges:141-1564-5.627-40
7/14/08 (21-day):1494.533
7/7/08 (14-day):1504.434

I had this whole post written up before the vet called about how I was preemptively worried. We're going up north this weekend and are leaving Thursday and I was concerned about how that would work with his Percorten.

But even to my relatively new eye, these numbers look fantastic. If they'd been mid-range or had altered more than that, I might have had him get the injection before we went. But the vet sounded really happy with them.

I did still mention the trip and she said she didn't think it would be an issue at all with the electrolytes. That the prednisolone dose is what we'd want to watch if he started acting lethargic or not eating, that sort of thing. So I may just look up a vet in the area to keep on file. Because I'm like that.

He goes in on Monday morning for another electrolyte blood draw. But also this time for the Georgie Project (finally got the blood draw kit from them). Fortunately that part will be no-charge.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lucky's 14-day lytes

According to the vet, they're looking pretty good.

Normal Ranges:141-1564-5.627-40
7/7/08 (14-day):1504.434
So, we wait another week and do another blood draw. Hopefully it won't show too much of a difference. Most dogs need injections every 25 days. We're hoping to stretch that out a bit. If his 21-day lytes look good, we'll keep a close eye on him that week and hopefully stretch him to get his 28-day lytes before the next Percorten injection.

He's getting to be a bit needle-phobic now, though. I would imagine getting stuck every few weeks would do that to the best of them. Every time he sees the vet tech enter he knows bad things are gonna happen. :P I need to start carrying boiled chicken or liverwurst or something.

He ALSO has gained a few pounds. When he went in for his Percorten injection on the 23rd, he weighed 46lbs. Yesterday he weighed in at 47.5. That's the heaviest he's ever been! Someone's going on a diet.

Monday, July 7, 2008

14-day blood draw and haggling tonight

We go in tonight to have his blood drawn for his 14-day electrolyte level test. Then again next week Monday. And the Monday after that. This is to determine how often he needs the Percorten injection. Let's all cross fingers, paws, claws, toes, whatever that he's one of those lucky dogs who can go 25-28 days so we stretch the measly 4mL bottle out further.

I'm also going to talk to the vet about allowing us to order thru Drs. Foster and Smith or price matching them. I've never had to do this before, so let's hope they go for it. If they do, it will reduce our annual prednisolone cost nearly $22. It's not a lot, but some money is better than none. I can't imagine they wouldn't let us do that. I'm not as confident about them letting us order or price-match on the Percorten because of how they run things at the clinic with the other ADogs. If they did, though, it would reduce our estimated annual Percorten cost by $54.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

He threw up last night

At 3 or 4am, like all dogs and children do.

It seems he had good reason - a somewhat large chunk of re-hydrated chicken breast, apparently too big to pass or digest. When he came back to bed, he curled up by my chest - usually he hangs out by our feet - so I knew he needed some more comfort/snuggles.

But, even if he had a reason, that didn't mean I wasn't completely freaked out. I spent the rest of the..well, morning curled up around him, half-dozing and debating whether or not to stay home or take him to work with me.

His appetite was perfectly fine this morning and so was his energy level. So he's fine. I just worry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Found Lucky a job to pay for his meds

Stress tester.

I was loading dishes in the dishwasher after dinner. Pushed the bottom rack in and walked away to collect the fifty-zillion glasses The Spouse likes to scatter around the house. I walk back to the kitchen and Lucky's got his two front paws on the door, stretching into the dish washer to lick the plate (apparently he approves of my paella recipe).

So I did what any good owner would do - set the glasses down and grabbed the camera. Snapped a couple photos. A third paw went up on the door, the other paw retaining tippy-toe contact (like "If I keep ONE paw on the ground it won't count."). This was too funny not to share, so I called The Spouse over. He walks over, snorts, suggests I swing around to the side and get down on his level to take the pics.

Paw 4 went up on the door. I snapped a couple more pics

and then whispered "Lucky!"

He jumped about a mile, hitting his head on the top rack. HA!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grooming Counter Conditioning - Day 1

In a follow-up to Lucky's freak out a week ago when at the pet store attached to the groomer's, I decided we needed to engage in some basic counter conditioning.

SO! Yesterday we ran out of food, so I had to go to the store to get more. I decided I would take Lucky with me with lots and lots of treats and a clicker and see where we got. If need be, I would let him go back in the car while I ran in for his food.

We got there and I armed myself with the clicker. I opened the door - click. Picked up his leash and he hopped out - click. I closed the door - click. Then we hung out for a bit, clicking and treating for just being relaxed and calm. I took a step - click. He caught a whiff of the groomer and tucked his tail. We backed up 20 steps until he could relax. I played silly games, clicking and treating. (all the while there's a guy sitting in his car watching us like WTF?) When he had calmed down, I started playing the Come Game, backing up towards the store. With each "Come", we'd pause and play more silly games until he was relaxed.

By the time I got to the door, he was sniffing interestedly at it like "Maybe this won't be so bad." So we went inside. We started walking up the aisle furthest from the groomers, clicking and treating for calm, relaxed behavior. Then down the next aisle. And so forth. We got to the aisle 2nd closest to the groomers and he was loose body and waggy tail. We walked up it. Turned the corner to the aisle next to the groomers. We're walking down it, I'm letting him go his pace. We were about 2 feet from the door when he looked up at it. I tossed a handful of treats on the ground in front of the door. He hoovered them up. We walked past the door.

So I went and got his food, let him pick out a pig ear for later, and we left. The only hitch came at the very end - I put the food in the trunk and turned to walk to the back door of the car and he bucked back on the leash. I think he thought I had tricked him and I was going to take him into the groomer's. So I said "No, silly. Go for a ride!" and he immediately got up and leapt into the car.

So! All in all, a successful first outting. We'll have to repeat the trip again soon. Maybe Friday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sticker Shock

Yesterday was Lucky's 2nd Percorten injection. This time we actually had to pay the bottle fee (our first week they just charged an injection fee). And it's likely that a bottle will last about 2 months - maybe a bit more if his dosage goes down.


Holy mother of God.

So, that's about $90/month for the Percorten. Our prednisone runs about $23 for 100 pills, so that's about $8/month for those. $100/month for just the meds. I'm not sure how much the bloodwork will cost - he goes in in 2 weeks for his 14-day electrolyte test, then again at 3 weeks and again at 4 weeks. Once he's reasonably stable, he'll only go in every 6 months.

I need to get a credit card for vet expenses that has a rewards program attached. This is going to add up quick. It may as well add up to hotel stays or cash back or something.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

First post-diagnosis swimming trip

He had a BLAST. He got to fetch and swim and roll in a dead possum (ew), and fetch and swim some more.

AND! He got to CHASE.DUCKS! He'd been ignoring them most of the time, being focused on the stick we had for him (basically, a cut-down dowel). But then a few of the ducks started causing a ruckus and he stared at them and you could hear him thinking "Wait a minute. That's PREY!" and took off after them. Scattered them all around, splashing after them and generally having a grand ol' doggy time. As I ran over to herd him back, I passed a couple with a toddler - as I jogged by, the woman asked "He's adorable. What breed of dog is he?"

"Portuguese Water Dog," I called over my shoulder.

She started laughing. I rounded him up and we started back to where we'd been playing. He ran up, "tagged" the dad (meaning he planted a great, wet, sandy paw on the guy's midsection), shook the water off his coat onto the delighted toddler, and went tearing over to The Spouse.

In all, it was a great morning. He loved every second of it. I think we'll be regular visitors throughout the summer. Unfortunately, we didn't have a camera with us. Maybe next time.

He goes in tomorrow for his next DOCP injection. I'm sure there'll be a post after that.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Looks like the groomer will be a no-go for a long time

When he was first diagnosed, our vet said that we'd have to learn his big stress triggers and either avoid them or manage unavoidable situations with his medication. We already knew his biggest trigger was the groomer, so I had figured I'd start grooming him at home to lengthen the amount of time between professional appointments.

On Friday I took Lucky to the pet store that's attached to his groomer. And he just absolutely lost it. Took two steps out of the car, recognized where we were, bucked back on the leash and sat down. I tried taking him in the door furthest away from the grooming shop, he dragged me over to the grass along the side, tail tucked.

I finally coaxed him in the store with the promise of chicken treats (what we were there to buy). He did ok, until I tried walking to the aisle with the treats - close to the grooming shop.

I had to leave him in a down-stay while I did my shopping. He was absolutely terrified that I was taking him to the groomer.

I see a long series of counter-conditioning coming up. Driving out to the store and sitting in the parking lot, popping treats in his mouth, driving home. Gah.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One week later...

And he is driving me INSANE!

Which one would suppose is a good thing. It means he's feeling better.

But the energy! He's more crazy than he was a month before diagnosis. He's almost as crazy as he was when he was a puppy.

Another thing is his appetite is out of control. He's getting 2 full cups of food a day. Judging by the noise he makes when any other food appears in the kitchen, I think he is hungrier than that. I'm going to have to start adding green beans or some other low calorie food to his meals just to fill him up (and shut him up).

He had daycare yesterday for the 2nd time since his diagnosis. The first week their report read "alert and awake". This week's was "playing non-stop. didn't want to rest". Then he came home and played for another 4 hours. Oy.

What IS Addison's Disease anyway?

This has been the most commonly asked question we've gotten since announcing his diagnosis to family and friends. I've been likening it to diabetes, to give them the scope of what this means for him and for us. It requires daily medication. It requires a lifestyle change. It requires regular blood draws to determine how the medication is working. Etc.

But, a more technical explanation, for the curious, would be this (as taken from the PWDCA and AddisonDogs websites):

Addison's disease is caused when the adrenal glands deteriorate. These small hormone producing glands are located above each kidney and are important for controlling the metabolism of sugar and maintaining the salt and water balances in the body.

The adrenal gland is made up of two layers, the cortex and the medulla. The outer area, or cortex, secretes corticosteroid hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone. The medulla, part of the sympathetic nervous system, secretes epinephrine (adrenaline), which is generally not affected by Addison’s.

There are three forms of Addison’s disease: primary, secondary and atypical. Primary and atypical Addison’s are usually the result of immune mediated damage to the glands. Secondary hypoadrenocorticism is from failure of the pituitary to stimulate the adrenals with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

As the adrenal glands cease to produce vital hormones, physical and behavioral symptoms develop, sometimes in an inconsistent manner, so an owner might observe one or any combination of signs: depression, lethargy or weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and/or a lack of interest in food. These symptoms may come and go over months, making diagnosis difficult.

Addison's Disease is often called the Great Pretender because it presents symptoms of dozens of other diseases. Many veterinarians spend time testing for kidney disease, Lyme, cancer, blockages in the digestive tract, upset stomach, etc. etc. About 30% of dogs are only diagnosed when they're in a full-fledged crisis. Most dogs aren't diagnosed until they're incredibly ill. The average age of the dog at diagnosis is between 4-7 years of age (Lucky was 1 week shy of his 3rd birthday).

Some breeds of dogs seem to be more predisposed to developing Addison's: Leonbergers, Standard Poodles, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Airedales, Bearded Collies, German Shepherd Dog, German Shorthair Pointer, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, St. Bernard, English Springer Spaniel, West Highland White Terrier, Wheaten Terrier, and Portuguese Water Dog.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And Addison's Disease can develop in any breed or mix. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms on the list above, consider Addison's as a possible, perhaps even probable, culprit.

The good news is that, while not curable, Addison's is 100% treatable. With proper medication, Addison Dogs live happy, full, long lives.

Not quite what we expected

Nearly 3 years ago, my husband and I brought home the most adorable little dog on the planet

His name was Lucky, christened such by our breeder's son. He was named that because he was the last pup of the litter and had to be revived, just like the dog in the movie 101 Dalmations. We thought it was so fitting, so we kept the name.

Lucky is a Portuguese Water Dog. They're an ancient, seafaring breed, a highly intelligent working dog with stamina to work a full day in and out of the water. As an aquaintance described them:
You know how herding dogs are ridiculously smart and energetic because...well...they have to be?

You know how incredibly tiring swimming in the ocean is?

Now imagine a creature that was bred to herd fish.
That should give you an idea of how much time and effort an owner needs to put in to their dog. They're smarter, more determined, more energetic, more clever than any other breed I've met. I love it - it's exactly what we wanted.

We had researched the breed for months, reading books, websites, etc. Like any other breed of dog, they do have their health issues - hip dysplasia, cardio, cancer, allergies, etc. One of the big ones is Addison's Disease, or hypoadrenocorticism. Every line of PWDs is affected in some way. The mode of inheritance is not known. We knew about this going in.

So we brought Lucky home at 9 weeks of age and started life as puppy owners. He was, in almost all respects, a dream dog. He slept thru the night from day one. He was giving reliable cues to go outside at 12 weeks. He picked up the basic commands - sit, down, come, stay - faster than any other dog I've trained. We went took classes in Basic Manners, CGC, Agility - he picked up everything like a sponge.

At home he was sweet, demanding, clever, affectionate, playful. Everything you want in a dog. He'd get the zoomies, woo-woo at the doorbell, play fetch, go for hikes and walks. He loves all other dogs, he loves all other people. He's brave - not storm or sound phobic at all - and brash and amazing. He's the best dog I've ever known.

On May 26, 2008, Lucky looked at his breakfast, picked at it a bit, looked at me, and went to curl up on the couch. This isn't unusual for him when the weather turns warm and it had jumped from 50º to 80º in a day, so I didn't think much of it. However, as the week wore on and he continued to snub food with more regularity, we became concerned. I set up a vet appointment for that Friday. I got home at 3pm and found he hadn't eaten his morning cookie for the first time all week. We went to the vet. Nothing came up on the physical exam. He had been drinking and peeing normally. Temp was normal. Everything FELT fine. So our vet drew blood for some labs and took a stool sample. The results would be in the next morning. She sent us home with some sucralfate (basically something to soothe his stomach) and some bland canned food.

Saturday morning the labs came back. Our vet called and said "I am concerned with his blood work. His BUN is high, and his electrolytes are off. I want to get him in this morning to test for Addison's Disease."

There was much cursing as I hung up the phone. I rushed him over to the vet for the ACTH response test, which would take 2 hours to complete. After the test was over and they'd collected the blood samples they needed, they gave him a steroid injection and some subcutaneous fluids. Basically, they treated him as an Addisonian dog just in case. As the vet said "I don't want him going into a crisis over the weekend and this won't hurt him." The lab would would be back on Monday. He started to improve over the weekend, eating food again and being a bit more active.

Monday morning the vet called back and 3 little words changed everything: "He has Addison's." Even though I had been steeling myself for this diagnosis since Saturday morning, the blow was still crushing. My dog was sick with a chronic disease. He would be on medication for the rest of his life. She asked if we could get him in that day for his first injection. Of course we could.

The medication he's on is a daily prednisone pill, to basically give him the cortisol his adrenal glands don't produce, and also an injection given every 3-4 weeks (depending on the dog), to help replace the aldosterone that is missing. These aren't cheap! The bottle of DOCP is $120 and lasts perhaps 2-3 injections, depending on the dosage. The prednisone costs about $22 for 100 pills. So, every month, we will be spending $50-$70 on medication that keeps our dog alive.

On top of the medication, we have to do our best to keep him out of "stressful" situations. We have to watch his behavior and take any one of the vague signs that could signify an impending problem - depression, lethargy or weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and/or a lack of interest in food - incredibly seriously. It means a lifestyle change for all of us.

Not quite what we expected when we brought that bundle of fluff home.

But, Lucky is still living up to his name. He was lucky to be born. Now he is lucky that we caught the disease before he became really sick or went into a crisis. He's lucky we can afford the medication....with a few budget cuts here and there. We're all lucky to have a great support network in our friends, veterinarian, breeder (who has handled his diagnosis with admirable aplomb), and the extended PWD community.

And, even though this isn't quite what we expected, we're lucky to have him in our lives.