Thursday 29 January 2015


In other reasons why 2015 is a miserable year so far, Cally's eye ulcer has recurred. The opthamologist vet thinks it is not entropion as was one of the original suspicions, but that the position of her eye in the socket is not right. If this continues, it is likely Cally's left eye will have to be surgically excised, although the vet agrees that we should see if it clears up by itself again first. As this has already happened three times in the space of the last year, and since there is probably a moderate chance Cally may ultimately lose her eye and her stereo vision, I have decided there is little point continuing in agility with Cally as she is no longer sound, and so she will be retired and I will begin again with Hobson, whom I have already begun to do some rudimentary work with at home and who is showing a natural interest and aptitude. Unfortunately Cally was just about at the point of being ready for competition, but fortunately I have learnt a lot from her that I should be able to transfer to Hobsey.

I will continue doing working trials training with Loki. Little Indi is still too young to start anything beyond basic obedience, which we will practice until she is old enough for me to decide what she would enjoy most.

Candling the eggs set last week suggests the Dorking cockerel is not functioning right. Time will tell if he is just too young or there is a more serious problem. Some of the Maran eggs might be developing, but it's hard to tell as the shells are so dark.


The birds have started to sing again, and spring will soon be returning to Brock-o-Dale, but it is hard to look forward to it without Pasha here with me, and hard to adjust to her being gone. The mornings are always the worst. She was not just a wonderful dog who was loving and loved to do things with me, but a relationship that was also special because of when she came to us and what we have been through together.

Several years ago, my mother-in-law died and unfortunately left a large estate that she had not had sufficient time to plan for properly. The resulting mess has still not been properly resolved, but after two years of legal hell, we paid off the vultures and resolved the main financial aspect of it. This necessitated moving to Brock-o-Dale, the house we had meant to rebuild to live in, which had been put on hold while the mess was dealt with. The house was in extremely poor condition and needed work just to be habitable by modern standards. Shortly before this, I had a risky operation that successfully fixed a medical condition that caused me daily pain, discomfort, and exhaustion and I often could not walk without a stick, a situation that put breeding dogs or anything else firmly out of consideration.

Despite what had happened, we were relieved to finally have some closure on my mother-in-law's estate, I felt twenty years younger after the surgery and enjoyed doing the work on the house, and I was glad to finally be able to start work on a lifelong dream to keep rare breed animals. Just before we moved into the new house, I acquired Pasha, a beautiful raven-black bitch with some unusual bloodlines in her pedigree, whom I hoped would be my first breeding bitch. Pasha passed all her health checks and at the end of 2013 she whelped very easily and with no trouble or fuss nine beautiful puppies, although sadly two did not survive. I ended up using my own stud Loki, because unfortunately the dog I wanted to use she reabsorbed the first try and would not mate the second attempt. I had been looking forward to hopefully having a litter from Pasha to a different dog, and now that will never happen.

Pasha loved to learn anything I wanted to teach her, and she was always so cheerful and eager to please. She qualified as a therapy dog and achieved the KCGC bronze award. I had meant to do the other awards with her, but it was so difficult to get tests done. The only show in the country that seems to do the higher levels, she could not attend because she was in season at the time. I had begun training with her for working trials before her untimely death, and I was looking forward to doing it with her. There were so many things we were going to do together, and now she is gone when I expected we would have years more time.

She was also the most wonderful, reassuring dog to hug in times of worry. She would settle her chin on me and lie still, just looking at me with her lovely brown eyes, and let me stroke her face. Every so often she would adjust her chin ever so slightly, which was somehow deeply comforting. I need her more than ever now. :-(

Pasha through the years:

GDV is a condition that is poorly understood. It can happen to any dog, but tall dogs with deep chests are more at risk. Common to case studies and anecdotes about dogs who have suffered GDV seems to be a prior stressful event, frequently involving being left at the vet, or at a boarding kennel, or a friend or relative's house. A week before Pasha developed GDV, I travelled north to visit an elderly relative in hospital, who had an injury from which he was not really improving (the relative has since been diagnosed with an atypical form of Parkinson's disease and has improved enough on medication to go home). For various reasons, I left Pasha with a trusted friend for one night and the following day. I did not think beforehand about how closely bonded Pasha was to me, how she was always with me, and that this might have made her stressed, even though she was a bombproof bitch who never showed any evidence of being stressed. I communicated with the friend throughout the evening and the next day. Pasha behaved herself and seemed fine, although she was a little quiet from the sounds of things, and she ate both her meals. When I picked her up for the journey home, she seemed fine, and was delighted to see me.

I should say here that I am adamant that what happened was nothing at all to do with the lovely couple who cared for Pasha for me. They are experienced dog owners who let her sleep on their beds. It was my fault for not thinking properly about the effect being left might have on Pasha. Something was not quite right in the days before Pasha became ill, and thinking back it may have started right from when we got home. She got on and off the bed and moved around the bedroom at night, and although she ran around with the other dogs on walks, she sometimes seemed a little withdrawn in the house, or would not settle down. I made a video the night before Pasha's death, more to film Hobson whom I had just washed, and I did not look at the footage until Monday after Pasha was gone, and in it I notice something I did not at the time -- Pasha several times having what I can only describe as a spasm in which her back arches into a point:

From the experience I have had, I do wonder if GDV may be the terminal and final stage of some psychosomatic cascade triggered by a stressful event. I do not know if it can be disrupted before it reaches this point, or if a vet would be willing to try something for someone who brought in a dog saying it was acting out of character and had been having a funny spasm in an attempt to prevent GDV.

This was Pasha's abdominal radiograph minutes before her death. I am putting it on here for educational purposes.

Finally, there is a current study by a researcher in the USA attempting to identify a possible genetic component of GDV. I do not know if they will find one, considering GDV is something seems to affect pretty much any large breed and large non-breed dogs, but I believe in trying to help with all such studies, and so I have submitted Pasha's DNA. I encourage anyone else whose dog has suffered this condition to do the same where possible.

This video just personifies Pasha to me. She was always fascinated by (and seemed to find great amusement in!) flies and moths in the house, but she would never have hurt them. Often she would run up to the chicken pen to see the chickens, without any malice or attempts to hurt them.

I would like to thank the vets for their sympathy, and for giving us a blanket to wrap Pasha in for the journey home and her burial. I would also like to thank our neighbour Steve for his sympathy and for helping dig the grave at such short notice. When we lifted Pasha out of the van to put her down beside the grave for the final farewell, she was still warm and soft and Pasha-like, and I could stroke her black velvety face for the last time and tuck her legs and neck into a curled-up position. It would have been much harder if she had been stiff and cold by that time. Thank you so much to everyone who has sent messages, cards, or spoken to me. They do help.

Saturday 24 January 2015

A horrific, tragic start to the year

Today has been a living hell, and I can hardly bear to write this. My beloved Pasha is dead and buried under five feet of Wiltshire clay in our wood. In a few short hours, she succumbed to a deadly and poorly-understood condition that can affect dogs of large breeds like standard poodles.

Pasha has not seemed quite right for a few days, restless and getting up and down off the bed at night, but other than that seemed to be normal and ran around outside with the other dogs. She did take and devour Indi’s cow hoof chew a few days ago, and was sick on the carpet as a result of this, and the only other things I can think of are that she had a shoulder injury about a year ago that we never really got to the bottom of, but that eventually seemed to heal, although occasionally she would still squeak as if in pain when someone touched her. I also gave her a Kong with fish paste in it this morning an hour or so before she started showing symptoms.

This morning Pasha was fine, but at lunch it was clear to me she was uncomfortable and she would not settle. Her abdomen was slightly distended. I took her outside and she went far down the field and started straining to defecate and retching. I immediately rang the emergency vet saying I needed to bring her in at once and I suspected GDV. When I went back outside to get her, she was walking strangely in circles and would not come when called, and we had to carry her to the van.

At the vet, my worst fears were quickly confirmed by x-ray: Pasha’s stomach had twisted into an unnatural position and was full of air. Surgery for GDV is invasive and painful, and has a high rate of failure and complications, and I have known people whose dogs survived it and despite this said the dogs were never right again, and the vet gave at best a 50% chance of survival. I made the very hard decision that I did not want Pasha to go through this, and the vet brought out the consent form and the blue solution of death. It is a horrible thing to hold a dear friend in your arms who, despite being clearly unwell at the time, is beautiful and still very much alive, and a few hours ago seemed perfectly well, and know that the only way forward is to give permission for someone else to inject some awful poison into that dear friend and to then have her die in your arms. And so my beautiful, loyal Pasha who loved toys and learning new things and just doing anything to please me passed away with me and my husband, and on what would otherwise have been a nice sunny winter’s day, the sun set as we carried her to the grave we had dug.

Pasha did not have any of the classic risk factors for GDV, apart from being somewhat bigger than I would prefer. She was not a highly-strung dog, she ate calmly and not like a pig, and in the run-up to her death she had been eating mainly ‘Natural Instinct’ frozen food (extruded foods with carbohydrates in are sometimes anecdotally suggested as increasing the risk). While she was quite a big dog, she was not especially narrow in the ribcage, unlike Cally. It is unknown if genetic factors are involved in GDV risk, but I was not able to find any evidence of the condition in any close relatives, although GDV generally I feel is underreported in the UK, and if you are reading this and you do have a relative of Pasha that has GDV, please do get in touch. I will of course be reporting this to PHR as soon as the vet reopens next week, and encourage anyone else whose dog has experienced this horrible condition to do the same. The owners of the puppies Pasha had in 2013 have all been informed. Please if you have a poodle or any other large or giant breed or mutt dog, be aware of the symptoms of GDV. Whether to attempt surgery is a personal choice that can only be made by the dog's owner, but the earlier action is taken, the less the dog will suffer and the more options there are.

I still cannot believe Pasha is gone, and so suddenly and so young. I expected to have years more time with her. Words cannot say how much I miss her.

Sunday 18 January 2015


My dogs' teeth are one of those things I tend to take for granted, as I do temperament. All of my dogs have correct bites and lovely natures, and it's only when I hear of or meet a dog with a poor temperament or some sort of bite problem that I give it much consideration. Indi is 5 months old and shedding her deciduous teeth and replacing them with her permanent adult teeth. She has a correct scissors bite:

Hobson also has a correct bite, but some of her teeth are a bit stained and misshapen.

She was brought up on rather an odd diet that probably wasn't nutritionally optimum for a growing puppy. Time will tell if this has had any more serious consequences.

Both Indi and Hobson come from an old bloodline and seem to be maturing slowly compared to the other pups I have had. Hobson at now 18 months is yet to have a season, and I recall my other pups started replacing their teeth at 4 months old. A few people have commented about how small Indi is and that she probably won't grow very big, which is fine by me as large, heavy dogs are impractical for sports like agility, but we shall see. At 1 year old Hobson had not quite finished growing and was still obviously immature. I hope she will not grow any bigger now as she is probably now a similar height to her mother, who was 23 1/2 inches at the withers, which is a nice height.