I have an issue with October, I have had for the last 8 years. The first 7 days of October are fine but after the 7th October the day that Frankie and Willow (and six other puppies) were born in our spare room back in 2006 I am filled with an inconsolable sadness. Until October is over it does not go away. Some years the sadness is worse than others. I spent last Friday sobbing, the awful migraine didn’t help matters but as soon as it is Frankie and Willows birthday I know the anniversary of losing Travis is looming.
October 2006 Mollie was pregnant with her first litter of puppies. The visit to the stud dog had been a real eye opener. I didn’t realise how up close and personal it would be (make of that what you will!) and although I had read many books on the subject of pregnancy and labour in dogs, I felt very out of my depth when at 3am on Saturday 7th October Mollies waters broke all over my legs. We had been expecting it as she had been in labour since the early afternoon of the day before however seized with panic I rang my good friends J and K who had bred both our Weimaraner’s and who had been breeding them for over 11 years.
J and K came to the rescue thank god! I was merely an observer as J and K assisted Mollie in the birth of 9 healthy puppies with Willow being the last to be born and very much the runt of the litter. Weighing over 100g (410g was her birth weight) less than all the other puppies I was filled with dread that it was highly likely we would lose her. What made the fear worse was that at the time our first dog Travis was losing his battle with kidney failure. In the midst of birth I felt as if I were surrounded by death.
If you have never loved a pet like it was a member of the family I suggest that you skip this blog post. If you are one of those people who can’t understand the grief people go through on the death of their faithful four-legged companion or have ever uttered the words “It’s only a dog” out loud I am afraid this post is not for you.
Travis came into our lives on 25th October 2003, his birth was announced by K as he strolled into the office at work and said “Rach you’re a mum”. I was overwhelmed with excitement despite the fact it would be a long 7 weeks until we would be allowed to take him home. Hubby and I got to see him at three days old at that point we didn’t know which one of the litter would be our boy Travis. His name had been decided one day at work sat at lunch when hubby and I agreed that we would have one of the pups from J and K’s litter. Every waking moment after that was spent researching the breed and reading books about dog training. Little did I know on 25th October 2003 how very short Travis’ life would be and despite his ill-health throughout his life, how very much I would love this dog.
I could write a stand alone blog about the mischief Travis got into during his short life.Presently despite 8 years passing it is just too painful to spend too long thinking about him. My eyes are red from crying whilst I write this. You would think after 8 years it would get easier but this year for some unknown reason I am finding particularly tough.
It wasn’t just our food that wasn’t safe, strangers picnics were raided (if you want to know the feeling of the ground opening up and swallowing you that will do it!) and the Royal Marines who use the nearby Common to complete their basic training knew Travis on a first name basis. Travis stole a radio pack and was pursued for half a mile across rough ground by my husband and two Royal Marines attempting to get it back. Mollie and Travis also stole and ate a crate full of food that was intended to be the Royal Marines supper. I couldn’t get off the Common fast enough after that one. Despite his naughty behaviour everyone loved Travis because he was such a character. My husband and I really didn’t know you could love something as much as this until he and his sister Mollie came into our lives.
Travis was ill with an unknown illness from the age of six months. Despite various treatments, misdiagnoses and expensive trips to the veterinary hospital no one knew why Travis was so ill every 4-6 weeks. I now think I know what made him so sick and its bitter-sweet. I have a theory that Travis had Lungworm which can be picked up from infected slugs and snails. Travis was obsessed with the big black slugs that were found in abundance on the Common. I believe that he had a lungworm infestation and the reason he got so sick every 4-6 weeks was to do with the life cycle of the worms (this is me just guessing). What caused the Kidney failure was the drugs that the vets used to treat his illness. Some dogs can handle this medication with no side effects but some dogs like Travis and in turn Frankie can’t. When Frankie was given the same drug back in 2010 he started urinating blood within hours. After doing some research online about the medication due to what happened to Frankie I put two and two together and found that this drug can cause kidney failure in susceptible dogs.
For legal reasons and self-preservation I am not prepared to name the medication that was repeatedly given to Travis during his bouts of sickness. Pharmaceutical companies have armies of lawyers and very deep pockets and obviously I do not. All I would suggest is that if your companion animal is placed on any medication read the label that comes with it but also Google it, so that you are aware if there were any issues when the medication was tested. The medication used on Travis is safe on 95% of dogs however there are 5% of dogs who if they are repeatedly exposed to this medication who will develop irreversible kidney damage. Unfortunately Kidney failure is very hard to detect until the damage is very severe. By the time Travis was diagnosed in September 2006 with acute kidney failure he was given just 12 weeks left to live.
At the time Travis fell ill Lungworm was not well-known and some Veterinarians are still pretty ignorant about the condition with many not knowing the signs of a Lungworm infestation or how to test for it. It is only in the last few years that greater awareness of Lungworm has taken place in the UK, for more info Lungworm Aware. UK which is a national campaign trying to increase awareness amongst dog owners and Vets.
Travis had the following classic symptoms of a Lungworm infestation yet this diagnosis was still missed; bleeding from his nose and penis, poor blood clotting after injuries, loss of appetite, sickness, diarrhea, depression, lethargy and towards the end of his life he began to tire easily on his beloved walks. Also when he had his episodes of sickness he would spike a temperature of 104, dangerously high. Am I angry that his condition was never diagnosed? Of course I am however I am also angry that we weren’t told as his owners the risk of him being repeatedly exposed to this medication and the fact that his kidney function wasn’t monitored whilst he was on it. Travis died from ignorance and as his owner, his mum, that is what I find as hard to deal with as missing him everyday since his passing.
Travis died ten days after Frankie and Willow were born, he was just eight days short of his 3rd birthday. When you own a dog you know that they will die anytime from approximately ten years after you get them. That’s the deal with owning a dog, you know that you will love this creature and it will break your heart when they pass on however you do expect to have many years with them. Hubby and I feel robbed we had so little time with our boy and we had so much more love to give. Yes we had his sister Mollie and his nephew and niece (Frankie and Willow) but no dog can ever replace another.