Rob's Blog Archive

May 31, 2015

As Good as It Gets










Tanner had had a poor month and a half.  It started out mid-April with a recurrence of vestibular disorder, canine vertigo.  Being Tanner, though, his loss of balance had me much more upset than him.  Time and a course of prednisone cleared this and he was eating enough to start gaining weight.  Two weeks later he caught both of the viruses that made their way through my kennel.  As near as I could tell, he had thrown these, too.  Still, with nearly a week from each without eating much more than a couple of small milk bones each day, he had lost a lot of weight.

Lolo had also caught both viruses and had more severe appetite loss than any dog except Tanner.  I had put both dogs on a course of prednisone for this, and it worked.  Both had regained their appetites.  Tanner’s, however, had peaked and started to wane.  By Wednesday, I also had a sense that Tanner was acting a little lethargic, something new.

When he first arrived, summer of 2006, Tanner’s easy going nature fooled me.  However, during his first season sledding here, he seemed to be competing with Quid to see who could hold off the longest before breaking into a lope.  This, along with his tugline slacking the least during the 2007 Race to the Sky, showed me just how good a sled dog he was. 

Tanner never passed Shoshone, but he solidly held the number two spot from 2010 to 2013, four seasons.  It was he and Shone who I hooked up for my return to skijoring in March, 2013.  Having done no more than 18 miles in a run, and that was with a ten dog string, the two boys and I knocked off a 16 then a 23 mile run.

With Tanner’s appetite starting to wane and the lethargy, I put him back on a full dose of prednisone.  This did increase his appetite enough to have him eating about three quarters of the amount he should be, but no more.   By yard time Saturday, it was clear he was deteriorating rather than improving. 

After feeding the kennel Saturday evening, I brought Tanner into the Missoula Emergency Clinic.  Just as I had figured, a preliminary exam showed nothing.  The next step was a full panel blood test.  The good news was almost all of his levels were good.  With all the difficulty I had had in getting him to eat over the previous six weeks, this was a relief.  The bad news was he had liver cancer.  His sire, Sundance, had had very similar symptoms and it was liver cancer that killed him, only a few months older than Tanner was.  The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise.

Sonny’s death was also probably the easiest I have had to deal with.  With the bloodwork that showed Sonny had cancer, I put him on prednisone and this gave him a few more good weeks.  It was while I was dealing with Sonny that I learned the adage saying nothing should die without steroids in its system.  The liver cancer was painless and when Sundance’s final night came, I was able to tell him he was a good boy as he grew weaker and then lost consciousness.  Sonny died peacefully that night. 

While at the clinic with Tanner, I asked the vet what the max dose for prednisone was.  Though still short of the max the vet had told me about, I did up Tanner’s dose a couple of hours before yardtime.   Tanner was on his feet for about half of yardtime Sunday night.  After this, he wandered to his platform and lied down.  Several dogs came by and checked him out.  Tok actually took almost a full minute to exchange tail wags, there were several back and forth. 

Two years ago, I struggled to get Ghost just a couple more hours out in the yard with his buddies where he wanted to be before I euthanized him.  Tanner, too, made it quite clear that he wanted to be in the yard with the other dogs rather than in the house.  Except during very severe thunderstorms, and we had a couple, Tanner was outside every day.  I’d join him on the ground, scratch him and tell him he was a good boy.  He had always enjoyed physical affection and his tail wags, even as he weakened, told me he still did. 

With our nights dropping to near freezing, I had brought Tanner in and left him in a crate to sleep.  It wasn’t being out in the yard with his pack, but at least it was an enclosed dark area, something dogs in general and Tanner in particular like.  Monday, I made a slight change.  I brought Tok in to keep Tannner company.  With this, I think Tanner was happier and even a little stronger on Tuesday morning.  Still, on the drive to the vet, I had him in a crate bottom in my truck, not a full crate, and I never worried about him trying to “get out.”  What it did mean is I could walk him one last time on the lawn in front of the vet’s.  He sniffed everything, and decided not to pee.  My vet opened the side door to the clinic, told me the room was ready, and we walked in.  I walked out a few minutes later with his collar, leash, and a lot of good memories.

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