This is such a heavy text to write that I have postponed it for months. But owning dogs is truly a rollercoaster ride. I love my dogs deeply, and I dream of doing a lot with them; hunting, competing in trials – evolving together in what both they and I love most of all. Every little puppy is loaded with expectations and dreams. Now I may sound bitter, but I’m not really, I’m mostly pragmatic: But things rarely go as planned.
All my dogs so far have been sick, injured, or shown serious issues with their bodies. Yes, all except the last two – Flippa and Stomp. But Flippa is only 2.5 years old, Stomp is barely six months, and there’s time for them too… (I admit to some catastrophizing…)
Totte was one year old when he was diagnosed with chronic intestinal inflammation, and a severe allergy emerged. We eventually got his stomach sorted out after a few shaky years, and he’s actually completely fine now and no longer needs medication. The allergy is usually under some kind of control, but it has its ups and downs. But my idea of competing with him was quickly shelved, even when he was young.
Then came Tassla onto the scene. With her, there has been something “off and on” for a while, and a few years ago, it was confirmed that she has patellar luxation in both hind legs, but it was most severe in the right hind, which was then operated on. She underwent rehabilitation for a year, and then we were back at it – at first, everything felt fine, but then an uneasy feeling that something was wrong started creeping in. But it went back and forth, and I couldn’t figure out when it was worse and what it was. However, I waited (too long) to book an appointment with the vet because I was preoccupied with Quling at that time.
Quling is a sad story in itself; so many things went wrong with him that I don’t know where to start. Nothing is really anyone’s fault (read: mine), and I’ve done what I could (though I wish I could have done more), and now, in hindsight, many explanations for his very peculiar behavior over the years may be related to pain.
The first year with Quling was one of the worst years of my life. My father unexpectedly passed away, which was a huge shock, and I stumbled around in it for several months. My ex and I got into a legal battle with the previous owner of our house due to a hidden defect that almost caused the house to collapse. It became a long, grueling, and financially devastating process. I went through a separation, and one thing after another happened in a very short time; I did a lot of strange stress-related things in a short period, like driving too fast and getting hefty fines, reversing the car straight into a container and smashing the entire rear window and tailgate, and so on. It literally felt like I was falling apart for a six-month period. At the same time, I had a little puppy – poor little, lovely Quling. I was not at all in a condition to take care of him properly. He got some kind of parasite in his stomach that required several deworming treatments, and eventually, his stomach crashed, taking a long time to recover. He was obviously affected by the stress we were going through; anything else would be strange. In the midst of the chaos I was experiencing and while he was sick, he was supposed to have a hip x-ray. I postponed it because I didn’t want to stress him at that moment and thought I would do it later. About a year ago, I was so convinced that I had done the x-ray “later” that I went to check on the Swedish Kennel Club website because I couldn’t remember what he got on his hips. And then I discovered that I had forgotten to x-ray him… This is the hardest part for me to accept about all of this; it is simply incredibly painful. If I had x-rayed him then, I probably would have stopped trying to “fix” him in training and started rehab. That x-ray would have shown very, very bad hips.
When Quling was about six months old, he developed a hunting obsession that was way beyond the ordinary. He was really challenging to train because, on the one hand, he could completely shut down and just run into the woods, chasing game like a blackbird that he could smell from 75 meters away. He constantly escaped from the garden to go hunting. “Quling-safe” is now a term in my circle of acquaintances. On the other hand, he was so cautious and afraid of everything that he could just shut down completely and literally crawl under a bush and hide in the middle of training. He was afraid of loud noises, afraid of men, afraid of children, afraid of groups (I had to gradually train him to be able to train with more than one person),… If I frowned during training, he would just stop.
Now that I think about it, and with what I know now, I wonder if there wasn’t already some pain involved back then. That his behaviors were two sides of the same pain coin, so to speak. But I’ll never know. The only thing I’m sure of now is that last winter he started feeling worse (I had suspected pain in him from time to time, but physiotherapists and masseurs hadn’t found anything alarming until now when he suddenly showed great seriousness during a treatment). So we visited an orthopedic specialist, which led to an MRI and a regular x-ray. Both of his hips are very bad, and one is terribly bad. The hip socket is flattened, and it’s full of arthritis. I was shocked to see the x-ray image. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of it; they also made a “finding” in his back. It turned out he had osteochondrosis in S1 (the spinal vertebra leading toward the tail). Both of these issues would require two major, painful surgeries with a very long rehabilitation. I decided on the spot that he should be spared all of that – he, who is so afraid of everything and especially the vet. There was NO WAY he would be subjected to that! I was completely devastated by the news, and even though I can forgive myself a bit more now, I still blame myself for not doing the hip x-ray from the beginning. I have a very “hard” stance on this – dogs should be x-rayed, PERIOD. But I missed it.
Even before Quling was diagnosed, I had realized that I would never get where I wanted with him – he would never become the hunting dog I wanted. And he handled the life I was living very poorly. So he moved back home to his owner who lives in Gothenburg, where he gets maximum attention, cuddles, and leash walks in Slottsskogen Park.
When we got the news about how bad things were with him, I was completely sure that euthanasia was the only option. But the orthopedist had a different opinion. He said that there are plenty of good pain management options that can give Quling a good “family dog life” for several years. So now we are in the middle of it – trying different pain management methods, he gets laser and massage treatments for arthritis and to relieve tension. He is currently doing well. My condition is that he shouldn’t be in pain, and that’s also the vet’s condition. Taking leash walks is absolutely right for his body, not racing around in the garden and playing is absolutely right, and he is truly the biggest sweetheart you can imagine. We continuously evaluate, and right now, he is happy, cozy, content, and playfully mischievous in a good way. I see him from time to time, sometimes he stays with me for a few days so I can keep an eye on him. I still have the main responsibility for him, and I know we have him on borrowed time. ❤️
So back to Tassla. When we got the news about Quling a few months ago, I also booked Tassla in with the orthopedist for an examination. Tassla is a dog with great integrity, so it’s difficult to find out where she hurts if she doesn’t show it clearly, for example, through limping. She is nine years old now, but she didn’t start hunting until she was three, so I hoped to hunt together with her for a few more years. When the orthopedist checked her back, neck, and knees, she moved on to her paws. And heavens, what a reaction! Tassla had severe pain in two paws, specifically in the Sesamoid bones of two toes, one front and one rear. So, she had an X-ray as well. I was hoping for inflammation in the Sesamoid bone joints, something that can be troublesome but can be treated with some success. However, it turned out that she had several Sesamoid bones that were malformed. So, she has a disease in her Sesamoid bones that will likely lead to changes in all of these bones.
Tassla’s hunting career is over. I find it difficult to accept, but that’s how it is. Little Tassla, who loves hunting so much – she spins in front of me when we’re heading into a wetland, intensely focused, and the best game finder in the world. She and I are a super team most of the time, a feeling that’s hard to describe. She’s my first hunting dog, and yes, I’ve made mistakes with her, but oh, what we’ve learned, what she’s taught me, and how much fun we’ve had. ❤️
Now she has received treatment with cortisone in her joints, and she takes Gabapentin, which keeps her pain-free. Consequently, she’s feeling better than she has in a long time. At first, she was under strict rest for a month, then it was leash walks for up to 30 minutes for a month, and so on. Then we started gradually increasing her activity to see what she can handle. I have no idea what kind of life lies ahead for us now, but we’ll probably manage some sort of retirement life. Fortunately, Tassla is quite adaptable, even though she doesn’t get along well with our pack (she doesn’t like other dogs) and would be best as the only dog. My heart aches when I think about her not being able to join us on hunts anymore.
Suddenly, three out of my five dogs are retired. Twelve-year-old Totte is where he should be (completely deaf, stubborn, sleeps a lot, a bit restless at times, and his health has its ups and downs, but usually nothing alarming), but Tassla and five-year-old Quling shouldn’t be there quite yet. But that’s dog ownership, and perhaps especially when you have dogs that are “elite athletes.” I just feel a bit knocked down right now. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. ❤️