Sunna Says Goodbye to Class

Posted by kjd
Nov 25, 2013
There had been some warnings. My instructor would insist she was limping on her right hind leg. But I never saw anything and neither did my vet.

Then I forgot to give her the heartworm pill in July. So mid-July we went to the vet. The late pill turned out to be a non-problem. However, I mentioned that she was hitting the riser when going upstairs. I couldn't tell which leg it was, just that there was this click (we have no rugs in the house). She went to see a neurologist. They gave her pain pills to see if that would change anything. It didn't. She was beginning to have problems walking. A DNA sample was sent away. Yes, she has degenerative myelopathy, a genetic disease similar to ALS in humans (they used to say MS), in which the sheathing to the nerves is gradually destroyed. It generally starts in the hindquarters. Forty percent of German Shepherds have it, but it doesn't show until the dog is between 8.5 and 15 years. Sunna was a few months shy of 9. The only good thing about DM is that only the owner's heart hurts -- the dog is not in pain.

Having it diagnosed seemed to speed it up. We put treads on the stairs for traction, then pasted them down, then nailed them down. Now Sunna sleeps downstairs. The night she first couldn't go up, she stood at the bottom and cried. Not for long.

She still lurches around the house. She goes outside and barks at whatever -- dogs, people, life. I like to hear her bark because she only barks when she is on all four legs.

She kept going to class. The instructor had to keep assuring the other students that I wasn't being cruel to Sunna, she wasn't in pain. She still enjoyed going. We stopped the figure 8, then any heeling. But there were the stays and the recall. One day, I put her in a sit-stay before class and walked ten feet away. I called her. She came, half the time on two legs, half on four. I thanked the class for having us and said she could no longer come.

So ended Sunna's days in obedience. She is still, and will always be, my "obedience dog"!