I got this furball of a dog in college against my parents will (shocking!). I lied to the shelter saying that I would be living in a house with a friend (when I really lived in a tiny efficiency apartment) and had her pretend to be my landlord when they called to confirm this story. (Why is adopting a shelter dog so freaking hard?!?!)
Anyways, I picked up The Don on February 14, 2004. He was assumed to be about 8 months old (birthday of June-ish 2003), and was part-Newfoundland, part-Chow, part-Lab, part-Any Other Giant and Furry Beast You Can Think Of.
He was giant and furry and adorable. And probably the best dog ever. We had our moments of course, but overall, he was potty trained and crate trained when I got him, so other than the fact that he took a giant dump in the middle of my BFF's house on his first visit there, he was a perfect gentleman.
I was a sloth-like, overweight college senior (also shocking!) because I ate predominately french fries coated in melted cheese with a side of Jack Daniels and Coke while playing as much dominoes as one could handle. It was a fairly glorious victory lap (also known as the 5th year of college). But, when I got Don, we started running because you can't keep an 80lb Furry Beast in an efficiency apartment without also giving him sufficient exercise.
And so the endurance athlete was born.
Over the next year, Don and I moved to Houston for work, into a slightly larger apartment (I got him his own bedroom) and started training for my first half marathon. I lost 40 lbs, started eating well (although, I have never lost my adoration for cheese fries and Jack and Coke...and dominoes), and Don and I were running fools.
He was a man-magnet at the park - even though running in Houston summers is not the most attractive activity in the world - he scored me dates on a regular basis. He and I would run our loop or 2 and spend the next hour chatting with fellow runners. He and I could run up to about 13 miles together in the winter...the summers were a different ball game though. Nonetheless, I ran my first half in Houston in January about a year after I ran my first mile. I ran my first marathon a year after that. And my next marathon the year after that. And then a triathlon. And then Ironman. Donny created an evil monster!
Donny used to be TERRIFIED of men. He would hide in the closet, under all my clothes, until the man left. Until I met Tommy. Tommy showed Don that all men weren't evil and now he is just the sweetest puppy you ever met.
He doesn't get on the furniture, he doesn't really bark (unless we are being robbed), he doesn't run away, and he doesn't dig or really do anything else mischevious. His only tragic flaw is the EXTREME shedding. And he went through this phase of hiking his leg at other people's houses for about 6 months. Otherwise, BEST. Dog. Ever.
This brings us to today. Don is getting old. For the last few years, he has been struggling with his hips and has been on medicine as needed, but overall, wasn't very bad off. However, when Anna was about 4 weeks old, he fell down the stairs and he hasn't really been the same since.
We got carpeted stair treads and got rugs for the entire downstairs so he wouldn't slip or struggle. It helped a little, but he didn't come upstairs as often and kind of generally stayed in one place. We would take Dixie on walks, but Donny couldn't really go, so he would whine at the door until Dixie got back and then he would run out into the field in an act of defiance. It has been really sad to watch him.
Early last week, we noticed that he hasn't been eating as much (if anything). He has never been much of an eater, so him skipping a meal or two is not alarming...so who knows how long he hadn't been eating. We took him to the vet on Tuesday of last week and they ran some tests - told us to go get a drink and come back in an hour - and they found what looked to be like Kidney Failure. He had lost 6lbs in a month. They gave him fluids and some different pain meds for his hip (the other medicine may have caused the kidney problems) and an antacid to help him eat something.
We tried to get him to eat anything - we gave him treats and wet food (that smelled good enough that I considered trying it), we made him chicken and rice and sushi, we gave him cheese and peanut butter...nothing. He ate nothing.
Then Dixie ate it all and shat her brains out all over my rug, but that's a different story.
He was still very pitiful and feeling awful. He didn't wag his tail. He didn't get up. He didn't go outside. Nothing. It was awful.
We took him back in for more tests on Thursday - there was another disease that they needed to confirm or rule out that often presented itself like Kidney Failure. He stayed at the vet all day while they took more blood, gave him more fluids and ran the tests. Confirmed. He didn't have kidney failure, instead he has Addison's Disease. Addison's Disease is less dire than kidney failure and is often managed with treatment, but can still be quite ugly.
Addison's Disease is basically a failure of the adrenal gland to produce the stress hormone that we release to combat stressors in life. Without it, your body has no way to cope and will ultimately collapse and go into crisis...and die. Donny's body does not produce this hormone which is why he was feeling so awful.
Treatment is a shot of steroids every 28 days and daily doses of prednisone to keep levels of the hormone where they need to be. He got his first dose of the steroids on Friday and was doing much better on Saturday - got up to greet me when I got home and ate a few pieces of a treat. But then on Saturday night, he woke me up at midnight, barking to go outside (of course, I was home alone with a sick baby). I went downstairs to let him out and I found the crime scene...bloody diarrhea everywhere. I spent the next hour cleaning and emailing my vet (who is AWESOME btw) and then I slept on the couch, because Donny needed to go outside about once every hour and a half. He continued to poop blood for most of the next day until we picked up the RX my vet called in.
He is now on 6 different medicines, one of which has to be dissolved in water and shot into his mouth an hour before the other meds. He still can't really go up the stairs - he will whine at the bottom until you come and get him (let's remember that he weighs about 70lbs). But he is wagging his tail and getting around a little bit better. The vet says the meds will make a huge difference, but I'm skeptical. He is definitely on the downhill side of things and I think we are getting very close to having to make a decision.
I keep hoping that he will snap out of it and get better, but at the same time, I know he won't and I don't want him to be miserable. We are playing the wait and see game...and it's not particularly fun.
Added to the sick baby, our house is one giant stressball. My mom is coming to visit tomorrow...her arrival will either easse some stress because we will have more hands around to help or increase it because you can't release your stress anger when company is around...we will see.
Keep Don in your thoughts...he has lead a good life and I don't want him to be in pain or miserable. I love that giant mutt.