Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Turning Leaves

Fall has always been my favorite time of year--the riot of color, the smell of leaves on the ground or raked into piles, the crispness in the air. Maybe I like fall so much because I've never seen it as a harbinger of winter, but rather as a time of beautiful changes. And speaking of beautiful things, the photo below of Willow was taken at my request by Dan King when I realized that I don't have many good recent photos of her. As the seasons turn and the year's end approaches I've been facing the fact that my dear, sweet Willow is perhaps racing toward her own end. I owe Willow so much in my life. It was she who got me started in sheepdog trialing, and it was she who led me to start raising sheep of my own. She taught me how to teach a dog to trust a human. In her younger years she was an amazing frisbee dog, and she was my jogging and rollerblading partner for years. As time as passed, she has slowed down in some ways, though not in others. She is still queen of the household and the fun police. She still works the chickens on occasion and enjoys watching the younger dogs work the sheep. Her greatest pleasure is to stand in the creek and wrestle with the roots of a tree that overhangs the bank. The only way to entice her from this endeavor is with a strategically aimed pinecone. She has mellowed to the point where I don't have to warn folks at the vet's office to be careful around her, and that's a good thing, since it seems we'll be spending a good deal of time at the vet's in at least the near future.

Her lovely russet points have all gone white, but she's still beautiful to behold.

Tuesday a week ago, I took Willow to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Cary, hoping to enroll her in a clinical trial for a new mast cell tumor medicine. Unfortunately, the trial was closed to new dogs the afternoon before our appointment. But there's another new drug available, called Palladia, and it's still in the post-clinical-trial stage of testing, so Willow is now being treated with it. She had her first CBC yesterday, and all looks well, which means so far she's tolerating the treatment. Next week, we'll go back to VSH for a more extensive work up, to also check kidney and liver function. As for her mast cell tumors, they have changed in appearance in the week she's been on the Palladia, but apparently the early changes aren't predictive of her long-term response to treatment. (As an aside, Willow's initial pathology report concluded that hers was a grade II tumor. Additional classification involves looking for cells undergoing mitosis, and there were none. However, Willow's tumor(s) have recurred twice now, which is rather bizarre, given the pathology report. Apparently Willow is one of the rare grade II tumors that acts more like a grade III, even though nothing in the pathological exam of the original tumor would have suggested this to be a possibility.)

The oncologist, Dr. Kozicki, did say that for having a murmur as bad as Willow's, that her heart looked amazingly good. So at this point it doesn't look like her heart failure is going to be what ultimately takes her, unless Palladia really is a wonder drug that can cure the mast cell cancer.

And while we're on the subject of medicine, I had what I thought might be a revelation about Phoebe's seizures. Last month I was five days late dosing the dogs with their ivermectin, and Phoebe was five days late with her seizure. I thought maybe I had my trigger (smoking gun?). This month I didn't give her any ivermectin. We made it to the 26th (a month and a day after the last seizure) and I started to breathe a small sigh of relief. Then on the afternoon of the 26th, I think she had a seizure. I don't know for sure because we were on our walk and the dogs run ahead, but there was something about the way she looked when I caught up to them that said to me that she had indeed suffered a seizure. Since I didn't see it with my own eyes, I will go another month without heartworm preventive and see what happens. After that, I'll discuss with my vet putting her on phenobarbital.

Photo by Dan King
This is Twist at Edgeworth, watching from the exhaust after her run. She reminds me very much of her sire Bud in this picture--it would be very easy to mistake one for the other. Twist didn't have great luck at either the Edgeworth or Lexington trials. On the marked shed at Edgeworth, the two sheep we needed to take were on the front, and I have never actually taken sheep off the front on a shed, so when I called Twist through this time, she turned onto the heads of the back sheep, and even though I got her turned on the correct sheep, the judge didn't call the shed and we timed out while trying to regather them.

Photo by Dan King
Here's Pip at Edgeworth. This was his second open trial and normally I wouldn't have thrown him in so way over his head as this trial, but Kat had injured her foot and couldn't run, so Pip was called off the bench. He pleasantly surprised me by making it all the way to the top (600 yards) the first go round. He got stuck on the set out, but I eventually got him back on his sheep and he brought them down the field. The turn was around a post about 100 yards down the field from the handler's post, and we negotiated that and the drive away, but on the cross drive he started looking hesitant, so I retired him. I've worked hard on his confidence driving and didn't need to blow it here, in his second open trial. On the second go, he took several redirects to get him to the top. He was never in danger of crossing over, but just seemed a little confused, even though he had just run up that same field the day before. This time around he did a beautiful job, and we even got our shed, but then timed out at the pen. I couldn't have been happier with him.

I was hired to set sheep for Jan Thompson's Watercress SDT in Limestone, TN, last weekend, so I didn't run any dogs. Pip and Twist were my set out dogs, and I must say they did a great job. At 3, Pip still needs to learn to conserve his energy, but it's nice to be able to seamlessly switch off dogs halfway through the day and not have anyone notice any difference in the quality of the set out.

Photo by Dan King

One thing I am blessed with is friends who will help out with Ranger and my other dogs at trials, especially when I'm busy setting sheep. It's tough keeping a puppy entertained sometimes, and so thanks to people like Dan (at Edgeworth below) and Christine Henry (the next two photos) at Watercress for keeping Ranger from going stir crazy. Robin also did some puppy sitting, with Ranger visiting his siblings, and Laura and Dan made sure the rest of my dogs got out for walks while I was setting sheep for two full days in Tennessee.

Photo by Sue Rayburn

Photos by Laurie Schultz

These are just gratuitous shots of Ranger-the-Pig at Edgeworth. We discovered he can swim (by accident) in the Edgeworth pond, though dabbling in the mud or chewing on bottles was really more to his liking. (For comparison, the photos below were taken when Ranger was 10 weeks old, and the photos with Christine, above, were taken at 12 weeks old.)

Photos by Dan King's a good thing I have friends who will take photos of my dogs; otherwise y'all would be out of luck!

Back here on the farm, I have pulled the tunis ewes up and am hoping they are bred. It was pretty warm this spring when I put GlenGrant in with them, so it's possible he didn't get them settled, though he definitely bred them. As they're mostly first timers, there aren't any obvious signs to go by, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for some tunis mule lambs to come along soon.


~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

That pup is such a doll! I hope Willow's treatment works out for you and her.

TruthName said...

I noted you mentioned you have a dog experiencing seizures. NCSU is participating in a clinical trial for dogs that have never received medication for seizures. Thought you might be interested. Dr. Karen Munana (neurology) is heading it up. You can ask your veterinarian or contact NCSU directly. Julie is the technician there.

Laura Carson said...

What a great picture of Willow! Actually I loved all of the pictures. That Ranger is a mess. You and your dogs did such a fabulous job of setting last weekend!

PS - that picture of Twist... Nick evidently inherited that look.

Michelle said...

Ranger is a beautiful pup!

m_feuerborn said...
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rosiesroad said...

Ranger is adorable.

I'm so sorry that Willow is ill. I hope the Palladia works for Willow. It did for my Rosie. If you want to read about other dogs' experiences with Palladia, please feel free to visit Rosie's blog at

Rosies Mom

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

What a lovely set of fall photos, from the pups to the matriarch. I hope you have many more lovely days with Willow and I feel proud that you are giving it your all to help her.

Darci said...

That is one seriously adorable puppy! What expression! He looks to be a very bright boy. Bet he is into everything! LOL
My best mojo for Willow, hope things work out for her and you two have a few more years to spend together, the sweet ole gal.