Duke Junior Jackson CD HS CGC
12/31/1988 - 7/3/2001
Written by Mary Kramer
Jackson was our first Pem. Bred by friends, we brought him home in March of 1989 and he brought out the suppressed dog lover in my husband and introduced us to the magical world of corgi ownership.
Through the years Jackson also led me to learn a lot about veterinary medicine as he was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis following a bout of pneumonia when he was four. That put an end to many of our extra-curricular activities but that was preferable to risking his health further with a condition that discouraged running and dusty environments. It marked the end of his herding career as we opted for giving him the best chance of spending the most years possible with us rather than risk exacerbating his respiratory issues. But he continued to accompany me to obedience classes, and on long walks whenever the weather wasn't extreme, and taught the new puppy how to wrestle and FRAP like a proper corgi.
In June of 1999 Jackson was diagnosed with multicentric lymphoma and began chemotherapy. It quickly put him into full remission and within two weeks he seemed back to full health. We completed the six months of the protocol, then had a wonderful eight months of no drugs and no sign of the cancer! At one point that summer he served as a fill in demo dog for a beginner obedience class and they were shocked to learn he was eleven. I don't think they would have believed me if I had told them all he had been through but was gratified to hear that he could still hide his age so well. But in August of 2000 that first remission ended and we began another six month course of the drugs.
It was as this was coming to an end early in 2001, just after Jackson turned 12, that I recall first noticing his rear nails beginning to scrape when he walked and that when he came to stop he often stood with his hind feet nearly touching each other -- oblivious to his hips gently swinging back and forth over this poor support base.
I had begun subscribing to the PWCCA Newsletter while he was still a puppy and had seen references there to degenerative myelopathy, and also knew someone from my obedience club who had lost a GSD to the condition after a long battle. In 2000 Jean York had authored an article in the Newsletter on her experience with the disease, as well as a request for others who might have seen it in their Pems to contact her with their experiences and the pedigrees of the dogs involved. Her followup in a later edition reported receiving 51 case histories and submitting a report to the PWCCA's Genetics Committee with a request for research.
So when I told my own vet what I was seeing with Jackson during one of his appointments, he first noted the uneven nail wear on his rear feet, then went over back and rear, and then stepped back regarding him with a puzzled frown. Didn't present like IVDD, no pain, his hips had OFA'ed good just a few years before, and it would not be a typical side effect or progression of either the cancer or the chemo. So I asked if he was aware there was DM in this breed? His eyebrows went up, he paused for a moment, and then started to nod. He also suggested I call the GSD owner (he had been his vet as well and knew we were acquainted) and compare notes on early symptoms. I did that and she confirmed that this fit with what she had seen early on in her dog.
That was the closest we came to a diagnosis, but over the next months I watched as Jackson began to struggle more with his uncooperative rear and began stumbling when he tried to go up stairs. That June he came out of remission again and, while the chemo did put him back into remission for a third time, it was taking it's toll as well, and we lost him three weeks later.
That September, I was able to attend Dr. O'Brien's presentation on DM at the PWCCA National Speciality in St. Louis and all that I heard and saw that evening cemented my belief that that was what I had been seeing in Jackson's final months. I remember asking how much longer it might be before something was published in a veterinary journal so vets like my own would know that hind end issues in older Pems were not necessarily IVDD.