Everyone: “How’s your family?”
Well, we’ve got massive generational issues with substance abuse and impulsivity, known neurobiological variances in our genes, and seemingly systematic domestic violence. But, you know, it made me a pretty good dog trainer and a published author so I guess we’re cool.
Honestly, I don’t know. Ask them.
I really shouldn’t have a blog because I never update it. Anyway, Ender got his BH back in September. He looked outstanding. It was 96ºF this afternoon. I am really pleased with this dog’s performance and I can’t wait to do his IPO routines.
I don’t normally do things like this, but Conan eats The Honest Kitchen and it is pricey. We’d totally appreciate if you voted for him in The Honest Pet Contest!
He has had two chemo treatments so far. We decided to go ahead with the aggressive but widely successful Madison-Wisconsin, or CHOP, protocol. It’s a 25 week treatment program with a 92.5% remission rate. Conan has B-cell lymphoma, which is the more treatable type, and the average remission time is 12-18 months. He’s only halfway through the average Corgi life, and so long as we can keep his quality of life excellent, I couldn’t bare to let him go without a fight.
So far his quality of life IS excellent. He still wants to train, go for walks, ride in the car and only lost his appetite for two days post the initial chemotherapy treatment. His last treatment was yesterday, so we’ll see how he holds up this time. Even still, he was active and alert and would take treats no problem.
He seems happy and completely normal so far. There are so many incredible support groups out there and so many stories of dogs never coming out of remission, even 3 or 5 years later. In 5 years Conan will be nearly 13, so I’d call that an incredible feat. Time will tell how things go. For now I’m reading, talking to oncologist, other people with cancer dogs, making notes in my journal and enjoying every moment of every day we have left together.
I’m not sure where to start. Some people like hearing bad news first, and others are the opposite. At this point, the bad news is so bad I think I’ll save it just to make it easier to write about the good stuff.
About a month ago Ender passed his TT, which was really neat because we don’t have a lot of ATTS tests out here. The evaluator loved him. He’s doing very well in life and training. He’s certainly a blessing and even though training agility with him can be a nightmare he’s so exceptional at everything else I don’t really care. I hope to go for his BH this fall. Believe it or not, he’s going to be 2 years old tomorrow! It’s amazing how time flies. I still call him “baby puppy” and he still responds like he’s 8 weeks old. The other day he play-bowed at a Japanese beetle.
Sally is a whole new dog since she first came to live here. She’s still got her strange quirks, but her temperament is definitely breeding worthy and her soundness and health seem to be on par. I’ve showed her a bit now, and on July 4, 2015 she had her first win going Winners Bitch, Best of Opposite Sex and Best of Breed in Owner-Handled series all in one day under the wonderful judge Ms. Kimberly Meredith-Cavannah. Not a major, but a 2 point win and both of our first wins ever. Since then she’s gone WB three more times and has 4 points toward her championship now. She is a pleasure to show and train and she got her Herding Instinct Test through the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of Southern California a few months ago. She is also featured in Vanity Fair’s video/article about Queen Elizabeth and her Corgis. We’re having a lot of fun together.
I’m not sure how to transition to the bad news, so I’ll just go for it.
This past Monday, August 10, 2015, I was petting Conan while he was in bed with me. I noticed that his lymph nodes were gigantic. My heart sunk. I almost cried then and there. I knew what it was. I took him in that day for testing, and during agility class last night the results came back exactly as I thought they would – lymphoma. I’ve spent the past three days in and out of tears and inconsolable grief. Of all dogs, why Conan? Conan is my heart and soul. There are few things, and people, in this world that I love as much as I love this dog. He is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s my heart dog, my soulmate and my once in a lifetime training partner and companion.
We saw our oncologist today, Dr. David Heller over at California Veterinary Specialists. The department head is Dr. David Ogilvie, a renowned canine oncologist. We sent out testing to find out which type of lymphoma Conan has, so we can better plan for treatment. There is no positive outcome to this, other than one or two more years together. But, we’ve decided that as long as Conan maintains an excellent quality of life (he has no symptoms outside of his lymph nodes) we will likely do one of the chemotherapy treatment plans. Which plan, we haven’t quite decided. I’m still talking to many people and doing my own research. This is not a cheap venture, and a part of me is ashamed that I would spend this kind of money on a dog. If he were older, I probably wouldn’t treat him. If he were solely a working dog, I probably wouldn’t treat him either. But he’s Conan. Conan is in his own category. It’s very “pet owner” of me to do, but if I have the means to keep him happy and able to train on for a few more years, then why not?
I would like to thank everyone who has contacted me with support for Conan. I can’t tell you all enough what it means to me. We’ve hardly started this journey, but I already have so many people to thank.
…for an update.
It’s been busy! After Conan’s BH in November, Ender got his CGC. I showed Sally at the Palm Springs shows where we got totally dumped, but that’s okay because it was her first show and she was not at all pleased to be there. We then showed over Valentine’s Day weekend at the PWCCSC Specialty, where she came in 2nd in her sweepstakes class under the famed Tim Mathieson and one of his beautiful Nebriowa girls. She came in second in her regular class behind her older half sister. We showed again one day at the Industry shows just two weeks ago and she came in RWB! I am super proud of how this girl is doing and she gets better and better every show we go to. So do I, for that matter.
Conan has been training in agility and he absolutely loves it. I think he just needs to learn the teeter a bit more (he doesn’t like it) and we might be ready to go for our novice titles soon. Sally went herding for the first time about a month ago and did very well, so I plan on taking her back more when my schedule can be more consistent and we’re start working towards at least her HT. Ender went herding too, and he did great, but it’s too expensive to do two dogs. Ender is doing super in IPO. He’s ready for his BH, I’m just waiting on a trial.
That’s all folks!
Here’s Conan at an agility sho & go:
Here’s Sally taking RWB at her last show:
Sir Conan of Stubby Legs BH CD RN HT CGC!
Yesterday Conan passed his BH test at a local Schutzhund trial, and he came in first place above four German Shepherds. It was a rainy day but he did very well and passed with flying colors, even after a trip to Flagstaff and nearly a week without any training. People loved watching his routine so much there were even posts on Facebook before we could get to it! I’ll add the video here later. It was good times.
Edit: You can watch our BH routine video now!
On our way to Flagstaff to visit Garrett’s parents for Thanksgiving, we stopped at the Amboy Crater in Amboy, CA. Here’s Ender looking regal for a snapshot. He’s the best active travel dog I could have ever asked for. He’s ambitious. He’s courageous. He’s hilarious. And he’s definitely indefinitely wild.
It’s been a long time since I’ve run. I mean a really long time. I also mean a real run. Not a little jog around the neighborhood that I’ve been doing. I mean a hard, heavy breathing, sweat dripping down my face run. A run where even the dog looks up at me in surprise as we pass the regular mile marker and we’re still going. Thirty whole minutes. Sure, there was some brisk walking in between, but I’m trying not to break my already broken knees. It was only a mile and a half, but we did it. In fact, I’m shocked how naturally Ender ran with me. It was our first run. It was in the neighborhood, because I wasn’t sure how he’d do running with me. He actually runs better than he walks, probably because the run speed is more his pace. I have to admit though, even he was tired. Plus, it was 84ºF out at 7:30PM. Pretty hot still. But it’s nice how much easier it is run in 84ºF at night than during the day. That sun, man. It kills me.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to start running, and tonight I did. Since Ender did so well, I’ll feel a lot more motivated. It was harder with Danni when I had to actually teach her not to crash into me. Ender naturally doesn’t do that so I got to skip that step, and it’s enjoyable from the get-go. I think our next run will be on a trail. Easier on the joints, that’s for sure!
Conan finished his Novice A today with a second place score of 189.5! Hooray for ribbons! He’s now formally Sir Conan of Stubby Legs CD RN HT CGC. Considering he really does the groups with disdain, we might forgo further AKC Obedience titles and focus on agility. I’m also going to work on getting his Schutzhund BH as well. Good times!
It’s been a rough time training these past few months, although Ender has made the most incredible strides. He’s such a fun dog to train, and I really couldn’t really ask for anything better. We often have struggles in training, whether it’s related to the dogs or not, and I think I’ve really come a long way in terms of learning from myself and my own methods. Conan has one more leg of his Novice A, and although I had great plans for him it may be time for him to retire. He just doesn’t really have the trial gusto that he used to. It’s no big deal. We’ll still train, we just probably won’t keep trying for titles. At almost 7, though, he’s allowed to get bored. He’s slowly turning into a crotchety old man, but he’ll never be far from perfect in my eyes.
Ender is now almost 13 months old and his heeling is better than I ever thought. There are still problems and it’s certainly got a long way to go, but it was incredibly easy to figure out how to get the picture that I’m looking for. Far easier than I thought. That’s not to say I did it alone – my entire training group helped me get there, each with their own ideas and experiences. His heeling is probably the biggest collaboration in our group, I really took a piece from everyone.
That brings me to the healing. Training for competition has brought tremendous emotional struggles. I never expected it to be easy, but I expected it to be enjoyable. My struggles with Danni may have seemed smaller to others than they did to me, but putting in the effort I did for the diminishing returns was more than disappointing. Conan was always, and still is, a fast learner. Two or three markers and he understood what I wanted.
Ender has been fundamental in making training a hobby again. I took a lot of time off after I decided to retire Danni. I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy training another dog again. He’s shown me that I can. He doesn’t learn as fast as Conan, but that just pushes me harder. He wants to work. He enjoys it. He enjoys the rules and boundaries. He enjoys playing with me. We have a relationship. And when you’re feeling that the relationship with your mentors and training friends is failing, as you sometimes do, you can lean on your dog. And I have. And I do. Every day. Even when things are going well, he makes them better. He makes me go train, alone or with everyone, and reinforces both decisions. When I don’t want to go out, he doesn’t care. We wrestle on the floor or snuggle on the couch, and he’ll watch TV as if he’s actually interested and can understand what’s going on. Even when there’s a rough patch in our training, he pulls through because he wants to pull through. It doesn’t take excessive force or punishment or endless shaping and rewarding. It takes a few reps, and when he finally gets it he shines so bright in my eyes I could never possibly think that any struggle with him wasn’t worth the effort. And it’s not even because the behavior or exercise is exceptional, even though it often is, it’s because we did it together. He tried just as hard as I did, and I didn’t have to ask him to.
Things go wrong. Sometimes they’re out of your control. Sometimes you just have to accept that either way you lose. But I never lose with Ender. Even when I lose in the real world, I can look into his eyes and know that I still won. He’s still here, rooting for me, asking me to go out and keep pushing. I’m always trying to make myself a better person, but he reminds me that I’m not really that bad a person to start. I have my flaws, just like anyone, but I think he sees the effort. He sees the flaws, too. But he reminds me of them by running around the agility course, or sneaking onto the bed at night, or pulling the ball out of the training bag when he’s not supposed to. In his training, he never shows me, except to tell me he doesn’t get it; he’s not sure what I want. But I feel like he listens, as much as a dog can listen. He’s actively working with me. He actually wants to work with me and not just for the ball.
He’s fun. Both of my dogs are fun. They’re both even a little similar in ways I can’t really pinpoint.
Anyway, I never really know how to end these long, intimate, somewhat self-absorbed posts. So, uh…
Cease emotional posting.