Monday, May 1, 2017

My Best Girl

It's been years since I've posted an update here.  This blog started as a way to keep track of Iris' training progress after I adopted her and turned into the story of our growing relationship.  She always made me smile and sometimes drove me to tears, but I wouldn't trade a single day with her.  For nearly 10 years, she was my very best girl.

(May 6, 2003 - March 15, 2017)

To a Life Well Lived

She lived her life fully, intensely, and without apology. From agility to herding to hiking to keeping my feet warm at the office, she was ready to conquer anything and everything (including the UPS truck). She was my constant - moving twice and traveling more, changing jobs, losing jobs, and creating our own opportunities. She inspired me and made me laugh. She taught me patience and the importance of having a good pillow to come home to after every adventure. And oh how we did adventure. We saw sunrises and sunsets, played in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, climbed mountains, and slept under the stars. We spent days curled up on the couch, watching the world through the window. We got stuck in the rain and mud a few times too, but no journey is really complete if everything goes according to plan. She was my muse, my protector, and my shadow. My life will never be the same without her.

To the best little red dog, I love you. I miss you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

History Lesson

When I adopted Iris, the shelter actually had her registration papers, so I knew her breeder's name.  I was able to track her down years ago and talked with her briefly, but then contact after moving a couple of times.  She recently got in touch with me again through Facebook, and I've learned some really interesting things about Iris' past.

First, here are Iris' parents - Shamrock (black tri) and Joli (red merle).

Sadly, Iris is one of three puppies from the litter with epilepsy.  The breeder had kept two girls from the litter but spayed them both after the first male started having seizures.  Neither of the parents ever had seizures, and spaying the two girls from Iris' litter basically ended the breeder's line.

But on a lighter note, Iris' breeder also sent me one of my favorite photos ever - the baby red dog!!!  Can you guess which one is her?

If you guessed the one on the right with her mouth open, you're right!  Isn't she the cutest thing ever???  I knew which one was her immediately.  Her ears stick up more now, but her face and expression are exactly the same.

I've also learned a little bit more about the first four years of Iris' life.  Her first owner was actually the breeder's sister.  Sadly, her first owner passed away from cancer, so the breeder placed Iris in a new home with the friend of someone who had one of her dogs from another litter.

Iris' second home was with a woman who kept her for about 9 months.  When that woman got married, her new husband didn't want any dogs in the house so they kept Iris outside in the yard.  The young, bored Aussie barked all day and drove the neighbors crazy, so they couldn't keep her any more.  She contacted the breeder who began searching for a new home for Iris.  When the breeder contacted owner #2 a week later, the woman said she'd already found a new home for Iris.  That's when the breeder lost track of her.

After that she ended with family at some point (not sure if they were home #3 or #4).  They kept her for about 6 months, but she was chasing and nipping their children.  After she got out and killed a few of their neighbor's ducks, they surrendered her to the NHSPCA.  And that's where I found her!  She had just turned 4 years old.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Poor Iris has been limping off and on for about a month now.  We've already been to see the vet once and he felt that it was just a pulled muscle in her right front shoulder (of course when I brought her in, she was prancing around showing no symptoms at all).  He gave her front leg and shoulder a really thorough exam and she showed no sign of pain, so we decided to wait and see instead of doing x-rays at the time.

Over the last week, her limp had almost completely gone away, but of course after traveling for the holidays, it seems to have gotten worse again.  She really only limps at night, and it's definitely worse on days that she does a lot of running around.  Now I'm debating about what to do next.  I could take her back to her regular vet for x-rays and bloodwork (she hasn't been tested for lyme recently), but it just seems to be acting like an injury or maybe arthritis.  She is 9 1/2 years old now, and her balance really isn't what it used to be before she started on phenobarb.

I am going to make her an appointment with the chiropractor next week.  I probably should have done that weeks ago, but I've been so busy with work before the holidays that I just haven't had the chance to get her in.  She already gets glucosamine and fish oil daily.

I miss being able to take my girl out for a walk.

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from me and the red dog!

photo of Iris wearing reindeer antlers

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Long Overdue Update

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I've posted an updated about the red dog! Is anyone still following this blog?  Both the summer and the fall flew by.  I've actually been quiet busy with my photography work, especially this fall. Things are starting to get quieter now with the holiday right around the corner. Unless it snows, winter isn't the prettiest season for photography so I expect the next couple of months to be quiet too.

Things with Iris have been so uneventful, I haven't even thought about writing. However, we did just pass a big milestone for my girl - she's been seizure free for seven months!  I actually meant to post when she passed the six month mark, but I forgot.  Although, I don't mind celebrating seven months instead!  I'm not really sure why she's been able to go for so long, but I'm certainly not complaining.  We did increase her Pb after a bad episode last February.  She still had an episode in March and one in April, but nothing since then.

black and white photo of Iris sitting in a chair

Other than that, not much else is new.  Iris is enjoying the cooler weather because it means I'll let her ride in the car while I visit all of my dog-walking clients.  Even though my roommate has been working from home for the last few months, Iris would still rather spend the afternoon in the crate in car with me than be left behind.  Silly girl.  But who could say "no" to that face?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Annual Blood Work

May is always a big month for the red dog.  May 6th was her birthday - my girl is 9 years old!  That I can't believe.  When she hits double digits next year, we're having a party.  Since she's sometimes a bitch, she probably won't want to invite any of her friends.  She'd rather keep all of the cake for herself.  Oh well, if she wants a cake, she's going to have to wear a party hat too.  And I'll probably invite her friends anyway.

May is also when Iris is due for her annual exam and blood work.  Her vet said she looked great although she is starting to get some tarter on her teeth.  She'll probably be due for a dental next year since I'd like to clean her teeth before they get too bad.  Dr K thought her corneal dystrophy looks a little worse, but still not bad enough to affect her vision.  Other than that, she's looking good!  Got her blood work back today and everything was normal.  Hooray!  Even though I had no reason to think that she'd be anything other than normal, I still worried and worried.

Her phenobarbital levels are right smack in the middle of the therapeutic range, so we're where we should be on her pb dose.  We did talk about whether we should make any adjustments to her meds given that she's still having 4-6 seizures roughly once every 4 weeks.  The next option would be to try switching her from keppra to zonisamide (we'd have to wean her off keppra gradually).  It's a gamble (she might do better on zonisamide, or she might be doing better on keppra), and weaning her off keppra could trigger more seizures even if the end result could potentially be an improvement.  Her vet doesn't feel it's a necessary switch to make right now, and I don't feel like it is either.  In terms of quality of life, she has four weeks where she feels completely fine, one day that she's miserable, and then four more weeks of being totally ok.  It is nice to know that there's something else we can try if she gets worse.  We've been adjusting her dose roughly annually, so maybe we'll have to revisit this in the fall.

But for now, Iris is a (mostly) healthy nine-years-young crazy dog.  And now, we're off to enjoy spring!

Photograph of Iris standing under the cherry trees.  The trees are covered in pink flowers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Epilepsy Update

I've tried a few times to write a "seizure update," but it seems like I only think of writing one after Iris has had a couple seizures.  Problem with that is I am tired after "seizure day" (or two days, as has been her recent pattern).

At the end of 2010, Iris went 15 weeks without any seizures.  I was hoping she might do the same this past winter, but unfortunately, that was not the case. She continued right along on her every-four-weeks schedule.  Even more stressful is that her clusters had been getting gradually more severe. Rather than having 3-4 seizures per episode and being done after a few hours, she was up to around 10 seizures over a 24-36 hr period. I talked it over with her vet and we made the decision to increase her phenobarbital dose (again) on Feb 7th.

Iris' seizures almost always start in the middle of the night, although lately they've been starting closer to morning.  In the past, she would have one bad night of 3-4 seizures and then by the next night, she'd be starting to feel better.  Starting last November, she's been continuing into the second night.  She was up to 4-5 seizures during the first night, maybe 1-2 over the course of the next day, and another 2-3 the following night.  Which means 48 hrs or so of postictal crazy dog.

After increasing her meds in Feb, it seems like the total number of seizures she's having is better.  Yesterday she had 4 seizures starting around 5am (all fairly close together) and then had one more around 6am this morning.  Definitely better than the ~10 seizures she was having before increasing her meds.  But two nights of seizures means two days of postictal dog.  And honestly, I'm more worried about her doing something crazy and hurting herself when she's postictal than hurting herself during a seizure.

Sometimes I feel like it's hard to determine what is an "acceptable" level of control for Iris.  Ten seizures is definitely unacceptable.  Is 5 seizures per episode ok?  Is two nights in a row as "acceptable" as we're going to get?  She's due for her annual exam and bloodwork in May, so I guess we'll reevaluate then.