We took her home that straight away and it was very apparent that she wasn’t comfortable with women, so I had a lot of work to do to earn her trust. We allowed her space to do her own thing and generally took things slowly via decompression.
On top of this she:
· Wasn’t toilet trained
· Had no bite inhibition
· Had no social skills within a home (she had been born outside and pretty much left out there until being rehomed at 6-months)
· Did not know about ‘normal’ household noises; hoover, washing machine etc
· Did not like fireworks or loud bangs
· Did not like or seem to know about traffic – an issue as we lived on the outskirts of London
· Did not like strangers (especially women)
· Apparently inherited her mother’s guarding skills over; beds, food, bowls, anything stolen (which was many things)
· Did not know how to play with toys
· Was underweight = always hungry would try and steal any food item directly from your hand or plate
· Had worms, fleas and ear mites
She of course had to go for a veterinary check as she needed some treatment, she was scared and tried to bite the vet whom I knew well, he told me I was making a big mistake. She would urinate herself even if we looked at her the wrong way in the first week. That first week was a huge challenge and we did question if we were up to the task of helping this puppy.
She was okay with other dogs, this really helped as I was dog walking at the time. She came to work with me and met the other dogs, she was happy to be with them and this helped our relationship. She also really liked our cats which seemed to help her, she would often cuddle up to them. They were used to dogs so accepted her quickly, especially the big cat I had rescued from being a stray.
What happened next; I embarked on a Degree in canine behaviour and training spurred on by her to try and learn as much as I could to help this girl out. We had decided to move to Norfolk also so another hurdle to climb!
We had to do a lot of work on her fears and build her confidence up slowly. We had to work super hard on training exercises like leave, come and fetch so we could get things back from her. She was an expert at finding treasure on a walk once she could be let off lead so these skills were vital. Once we moved to Norfolk and had settled in, I remember she found a dead pigeon, I thought uh oh now we are in trouble! I asked her to fetch it just as I would anything else and luckily, we had done enough training with enough generalisation that it worked a charm! That seemed a real turning point for use.
In the summer months we would keep up with general exposure to strangers as it was easy to accomplish this with the space in Norfolk and the tourist trade. She would always regress in winter but then ease back into it in summer. The new puppy came along and became her best friend instantly, they were exactly a year apart in age both born in May. She learned to move herself between him and me on a walk if someone was approaching us rather than running away.
She developed health issues, first with her gait a referral to an orthopaedic veterinarian revealed a spinal issue that was affecting the nerves in her back legs. The foreman were too small in her spine, these are the holes in the vertebrae that the nerves feed through.
Next came the bloating, we knew it was a potential issue with the breed but hadn't experienced it before. By now I had a career as a veterinary nurse and had completed my training which gave us a head start in an emergency. Luckily for her she never had a full gastric torsion due to quick acting veterinarians. We had a new routine when she bloated, get her to the vets, give her heavy pain relief and burp her! Pain relief is needed due to the stomach size pushing onto all the other organs, this created a vicious circle. With increased pain came more airphagia (gulping of air) which increased the bloat and size of the stomach. She had very obvious signs of bloat, agitation to begin then trying to eat anything and everything then came the airphagia (gulping large bites of air and lots of lip licking).
For a few years we went back and forth, I knew she was 'quite right' but all tests came back negative again and again. First she developed some round lesions on the roof of her mouth, swabs revealed dead tissue, then cracks in her nose. She was diagnosed with Vasculitis, inflammation of the veins which doesn't allow oxygenated blood to reach the tissue, her tissue was dieing. She was medicated and the wounds healed. Vascultis is a symptom of underlying disease, most commonly Lupus - the test for this came back negative but it was assumed she had it. Another symptom is UV sensitivity, her nose was always worse in the summer.
Her overall body condition lessened, her coat changed and then came the bald patches. Now the tests came back with a result Cushings disease and low B12 on top of her other issues. Almost on top of this we had an acute onset of pancreatitis, she was having a really rough time, but we stabilised her and she perked up for some time.
Cognitive decline started to set in and her puppy issues reared their head again. Not to quite the same extent but they were there and they did cause us all some issues.