Saturday, August 13, 2011
Annette Sheppard wrote about her corgi Beamer.
"We had Beamer since he was a pup (born 4/15/1997, came to us 6/21/1997)--14 years +. Formal name: Sports Beamer Extraordinaire. He was diagnosed at age 13.
"Beamer had the DNA testing done in August 2010 but was exhibiting symptoms for some months already--we just did not realize what it was. My local vet had done x-rays in June 2010 and had given a diagnosis of arthritis, or possibly IVDD. The next stop was Gulf Coast Veterinary Neurology & Neurosurgery, for a possible MRI. However, he had the DNA test instead, with the result: at risk/affected.
"Knowing the symptoms as we now do would have been helpful in spotting the
development of DM. My daughter recently came across a short video made at
our lake house about 2 years ago. Beamer was tethered to a post on the porch
when a deer approached. Beamer tore off down the steps toward it and was
jerked to a halt by the tether. After that, Katherine said she observed his
hips beginning to give way when he walked. It was a momentary gesture at the
time, but one which would recur at a later time.
"Beamer went on walks with me in our neighborhood and occasional playtime at a nearby bark park. The last time he was at the bark park he slipped into the pond and was unable to get out--it had sloping concrete sides and he
could not get enough traction with his rear legs to push himself out of the
water. He never liked going into the water and was most likely just getting
a drink when he slipped in. I had turned my back on him to look after
Tigger, our latest rescue, who was attempting to leave the park with someone
else. This was the last time we went to the park.
"We got a loaner cart from a friend and adjusted it for Beamer; however, we
were not able to win him over to using it. We live in a one-story home, so
there were no stairs to contend with. The kitchen tile was another obstacle,
as he slipped on the smooth surface until we put down rubber matting--the
thick kind you use in the garage, that fits together like puzzle pieces. He
could seal-walk on this and the carpeting in the rest of the house until the
last few months.
"A friend had loaned us a small stroller--tiny, in fact, so that Beamer had
to be somewhat stuffed into it. Then I found one on Craigslist and bought it
from a young woman who had used it only once or twice--a really nice
3-wheeler made by Solvit Products. This allowed us to take him for walks again, though the Texas heat (in the 100s a lot lately) restricted walks to early morning or after dusk, when the mosquitoes took over. That afforded us the opportunity to explain DM to people we met along the way who had never heard of the disease.
"Beamer never became incontinent to the point where he needed to be
expressed; he wore diapers for some months because he could not go out the doggie door, though we took him out several times a day. We tried various means of carrying him and in the end just picked him up. He generally let us know when he had to poop by somewhat frantic whining. He actually barked, whined and cried A LOT, as he was not content unless he was in the same room with one of us.
"Beamer was not totally paralyzed at the time of his death. His front legs
were weak, but he could still raise himself a little and swivel around.
Knowing that the eventual outcome would be inability to breathe and/or
swallow, I could not bear to have him come to that point. He was already
suffering anxiety--and thereby raising our anxiety level--by needing to be
with us and having us carry him in and outdoor, and from room to room. He
was beginning to awaken during the night, either to be taken out or just to
be repositioned. My husband fell once on the patio while carrying him in,
which could have caused more damage than the scrape on the arm that he
sustained. We had doggie beds in nearly every room of the house and would
keep a water dish close enough for him to reach. He slept on a bed in our
bedroom so we could hear him and take him out or reposition him if he cried
during the night.
"The mental anguish was a deciding factor in letting Beamer go at this time.
I began searching in June for a vet who would be able to harvest his organs
for the research program at the U of Mo, since I had contacted Dr. Coates and
received the kit back in March. However, without a vet who could/would
perform the necessary necropsy, I felt Beamer's death would be a total
waste. Going back to the Gulf Coast Vet clinic, I found that the doctor who
did his DNA was on maternity leave and may or may not return. I got an
appointment with another vet there, who said he usually declines "that sort
of thing" because it "takes too much time." Now I was getting upset! So he
offered that he WOULD do the necropsy ("Let's see--we're looking at about 6
hours at $115 per hour. . . .")
"At that point I left and emailed Dr. Coates, asking if she knew anyone else
in the area. I then called a vet clinic in Sugar Land, asking for The veterinarian recommended by Dr. Coates. Left a message and faxed the 6 pages of protocol required. Waited for a call. Talked with the vet and again faxed
the protocol. Played phone tag and never got a definite response that he
would do it. Busy man. By this time it was nearly August, when they had told
me at Gulf Coast Vet that a new doctor would be coming on board, one who had worked with Dr. Coates! Called Gulf Coast Vet again and got an appointment with Dr. Vasquez. Received a call that she could not actually perform the euthanasia until she had the Texas license in hand, and she had just taken the test in Austin on Monday of this week. However, Dr. Giovanella was back from maternity leave and would be able to do it. Meanwhile, I had sought out funding for this little project and was given a grant of $250 by the PWCCA, which covered part of the cost.
"My husband Chuck and daughter Katherine were with Beamer and me when he was taken. The staff was wonderful, giving us time and space to say goodbyes and even providing some chicken tidbits as a final treat for my Little B. He went quietly, just falling asleep and drifting away. My only comfort is that he is at peace.
"I just never want to deal with DM again, and really hope that none of the
rescues we have come down with it. But if they do, we will be able to
recognize it earlier."