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Monday, 29 September 2014

At Least They're Not Dead

People who know me, will know that I'm fairly blunt, to the point & sometimes speak without engaging my brain. The power of typing a Blog means I get to proof read anything before I make it live!

It was during a conversation about puppy walking where the words "At least they're not dead" came straight out of my mouth before thinking. The response from the person I was chatting to was "that's a bit harsh".

But actually on reflection, my response makes sense.

If I had a pound for every time I had to answer this question as a puppy walker, I'd be a very rich man & it's a question we've pondered over ourselves many many times. "How do you give them up?" 

First Sprockers bred by West Mids Police

Of course, people are referring to what we call D-Day. The day in which the young puppy you've nurtured for 8-12 months leaves your family to enter the big wide world of becoming a Police Dog.

It's an absolute killer when we have to send the pups off to their new dog handler. I always call it D-Day (Dreaded Day) and despite having done it many many times, the day & week or so leading upto D-Day never gets any easier.

Just before Izzy went to her handler, we'd bumped into my mate while we are heading upto the park & naturally he asked when Izzy was due to go back. During that conversation he said "I just don't know how you can let them go" and it was at this point I simply responded "At least she's not dead".

I was kind of referring to the fact that we'd just nearly lost her on the operating table at the vets, however I did also kind of mean that at least when the pups leave us, it's not because they've died.

Izzy in doggy intensive care
The pups are full of life, healthy, athletic & in the prime of their lives. They've been kept active & have all of the ingredients to become super successful police dogs. Life is all on the up for them.

It's been a pretty crap year for dogs in our family. Shortly before our wedding we lost our family dog Sam, who'd reached a super age of 14. Despite his mind wanting to carry on, sadly his body had slowly deteriorated over the course of time & he was in such a state, we made the decision to put him to sleep.

It's the most horrible decision for any animal owner to have to make & it was a decision that wasn't taken lightly. Everyone in the family had their view & input, and we all came to same conclusion that despite the fact we all wanted Sam to be around, we'd have been keeping him alive for very selfish reasons. The kindest act for Sam, was to allow him to pass away peacefully & without any more pain.

Sam was a staffy & he's the reason I fight so hard to uphold the name & reputation of the breed. He was a fabulous family dog who adored children & people. "They're softer than you think!"

Sam shortly before he left us
Losing a dog who's been part of your life for 14 years is tough, way way tougher than letting a puppy go off to start their journey as a young, fit & active police dog.

More recently we've had a few strife's with Taylor. Those of you who follow on Twitter (@WMP_Dog) will have been keeping track of Taylor's ailments over the past few months.

Taylor starting to look his age
The very first thing I did when I moved out of my parents & brought my house was to get a dog. Taylor was the very thing I got! So 10 years on, he's been around as my sidekick for a long time.

He's seen a fair few dogs come & go though this house, & has played such a crucial role in the development of the puppies we've had.


Taylor & Sear chilling together
However, sadly, time is catching up on him. Only recently we'd be out in the park & people would think Taylor was the puppy not the younger police dogs! When we told people he was 10 they couldn't believe it!

But not any longer, poor Taylor's starting to show his age & is slowing down. Some days he's out of breath just walking around our park.

It's the time every dog owner dreads. The inevitable & unavoidable downward spiral of health every single dog (& any other living being) suffers from.

Taylor as a puppy
Without boring you on all of the history of Taylor's current ailments he is currently sporting a respectable list of doggy health issues including a heart murmur, hip displacia, kidney failure but most worryingly he also has epilepsy.

His epilepsy is the one thing that has caused us so much worry with him. Not only has he had to go under for MRI scans and various other tests, it's the seizures which have caused us more worry & upset than all of the puppy D-Days put together.

Anyone who's ever witnessed their dog having a seizure will understand the shear panic & worry during a seizure. The overriding thoughts during a seizure are whether they're gonna make it out. 

As a child, we had a beagle who had epilepsy - the sight of him having a seizure in my parent's lounge still sticks in my head now. Sadly, he died due to a seizure at the age of just 4.

Every time we hear Taylor's collar rattle we jump up expecting to see him having a fit, when in fact he's just scratching himself. Every time his cage rattles we jump up expecting to see him having a fit, when in fact he just shook himself (as dogs do). It amazing just how many everyday noises & actions trick you into thinking he's having a fit.

Our biggest fear is the thought of leaving him alone & us coming back to him dead or waking up in the morning to him having suffered a life ending seizure.

There's a few Blogs I want to put out to try & help any other dog owners who are suffering from having to witness their beloved dog having seizures & suffering with epilepsy. As with anything dog related, there are so many differing opinions & 'help' articles out there on the internet that it's sometimes hard to filter through things.

We've spent hours & hours on the internet "researching" all kind of things, however we've also fallen into the trap of trying to second guess his diagnosis. We've cast ourselves doubt over professional medical advice we've received from a vet whom I regard as one of the best vets I've ever come across.

It's very very easy to fall into the 'Google Trap' of thinking you've uncovered a miracle cure or miracle diagnosis.

If I could pass on any initial advice to anyone reading this who's having health concerns with their dog - it would be to trust your vet. Whilst it's comforting to read articles where you think you've found the answer, generally you haven't. 

Second guessing your vet is a costly mistake & I'm yet to find anyone who's managed to diagnose & cure a dog via Google.

Despite Taylor's recent downhill spiral - he still has his moments of beaglesness!! In between his seizures you'd never guess there was anything wrong with & when he's running off with stolen things out of the bin he's certainly still got the beagle in him!

Taylor in Wales
So, after that bit of sad preface, we're just a few days away from picking up Super Ted - the sprocker police puppy. 

We've thought long & hard about getting another puppy & had decided that having another 'big dog' was probably not too fair on Taylor. Whilst he's so good with the pups, he does sometimes take a battering from them during their 'boisterous' stage. I didn't want him getting hasstled & his neck being ragged on. 'Mad' Ozzy used to get Taylor's whole head in his mouth!!

After having Izzy, it was always going to be difficult to find a better 'big dog' than Izzy. She was the perfect dog & I must admit we came very very close to keeping her - despite the costly price tag she'd have come with.

We were deciding on what we were going to do with regards to another dog, when the litter of sprockers popped up. One of the things I really enjoyed about having Izzy was working with a different breed. We learned so much from her, so when the chance arose to work with another breed, & a 'little dog' at that, we felt it was the right dog to work with.

Taylor's always had a puppy knocking around since he was young. I've always put the fact that he's so young at heart down to the fact he's always racing around with puppies. After 10 years of being around another dog, we felt that having Taylor on his own was probably not too fair on him either, so we've decided to have a new little project - Super Ted, the police puppy sprocker spaniel.

Puppy Ted
So we've opened our hearts up to another dog, and as sad as D-Day will be when Ted is old enough to leave us & as upsetting as it is when all of our pups eventually depart - "at least they're not dead".

Hopefully, the D Day we dread the most, is a long way off yet. There's life in the old dog yet!

Taylor enjoying a run in Wales last year

For those of you who follow our regular Blogs - little Super Ted has taken on a few Blogs of his own. As well as being in charge of the Twoofing (@WMP_Dog) he's also going to run a regular feature for The House of Dog under the Dogs With Blogs page.

Be sure to follow Super Ted's little adventures as a goes from #puptoPD


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