Affaire's Storm Chaser, "Chase"


Sire: BISS Ch Lagarada's Aspen Gold Dam: Affaire's For Your Eyes Only

Chase lived in my house from his birth. He was a show prospect that I kept along with his sister, Tailor. Chase placed third out of a class entry of 26 in the 5-7 mo class at the Great Dane Club of America National Specialty in 2010 under judge Marsh Stoner. He collected a few single point wins from the puppy classes. Unfortunately, when I had Chase echoed for the first time, I discovered he had Mitral Valve Dysplasia. The mitral valve is a flap that controls the flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventrical of the heart. The leaflets of the valve were not formed properly and there was a mild amount of regurgitation. Reguritation is when some of the blood flowing into the left ventrical "blows back" into the left atrium. This was not a dire situation. The valve condition was not such that would have any affect on his quality of life or longevity, but he was no longer a dog I planned to use in my breeding program, so I had him neutered.

The picture below left is Chase's mitral valve from 2008, when he was three years old. You can see the red arrows that point to the leaflets that form the flap mentioned above. Compare that to the image on the right, which is Chase's uncle Indy, at 7 years old. The leaflet is very smooth and regular.

Chase's Mitral Valve at 3 years
Indy's Mitral Valve at 7 years
Chase's Mitral Valve Indy's Mitral Valve

Although the cardiologist said this congenital condition did not pose any threat to his longevity or quality of life, I had to wonder if a dog with a congenital form of mitral valve dysplasia would experience a more rapid decline in heart function from old age. Chase had an echo done eight months before he died and the condition of the valve and the amount of reguritation had not changed at all. So I'm left to wondering why he had this sudden death event. One of his sisters had this type of thing occur when she was five and the necropsy found nothing to indicate the cause (see Kyuchi's memorial for details). For this reason, and the fact that Chase was never used in my breeding program, I did not opt for a necropsy on him.

Chase was one of the smartest Danes I've ever known. I'd often see him looking at things, like kennel gates, to figure them out. He successfully let himself out of a chain link kennel when he was 6 months old. Being a smart dog, he was bored easily and that presented some challenges. Most of which were easy to make a game out of fortunately. He did have a bad habit of playing with people like they were other dogs. This became a bigger problem as he grew to adult size and to manage his robust enthusiasm for rough play, I put him through what I call "canine boot camp". For about a year, Chase didn't get anything for free. He had to do something on command for food, to go outside, to be let in, to be pet and on regular intervals just to keep him in good form. This gave me an "off button" for when he got excessively rambunctious. In his rambunctious moments, he would rear up play growling and mouthing, pawing at you with his big ole Dane feet. Not only did it have a real potential for him to hurt someone even unintentionally, it scared people because they could not tell he was playing and not intending to hurt someone. After boot camp, whenever he got that wild look in his eye that was a hint he was going to get rough, I'd give him the sit command and he would immediately go into obedience mode. Eventually, as he aged, his wild spirit tamed a bit and he was less and less interested in rough play, but on occasion, I still had to use the "off button" and tell him to sit.

One time he got wild and crazy with my house sitter. He wanted to play and she turned her back in him to go inside and he reared up and grabbed her from behind. It tore her shirt and scratched her back, but more importanly, scared her half to death. She was afraid to watch him after that, so the next time I went out of town, he had to be kenneled outside my house. This lead to the one significant health issue that Chase had in his lifetime. Chase was put in a kennel with people he was familiar with while my house sitter took care of the rest of my dogs in my home the next time I was out of town. Chase was fine for the first few days, but I believe stress of being in a kennel situation led to a bout of splenic torsion. The kennel called me to let me know they thought he was in bloat. I was back east at a National Specialty, so I had a friend pick him up from the kennel and take him to the ER while I changed my flight to return the next day. It turned out he was not in bloat, but his spleen had torsed. They removed the spleen and tacked his stomach. I arrived home just in time to pick him up from the ER and bring him home. My house sitter forgave him for his antics and resumed taking care of him after that without any further incidents.

Other than the splenic torsion, Chase never had any health issues. He was echoed every 2-3 years and had his last one in July of 2014. They noted that he had mild mitral valve dysplasia, but there were no other significant findings. Although Chase was going to be 10 on May 9, 2015, he looked and acted like a 5-6 year old Dane. There was no weakness in his rear at all, he kept up a good pace on a 5 mile hike and showed no signs of fatigue afterward. Other than his gray face, you'd have never guessed he was not a young dog. I was considering showing him and his sister in veterans at our Specialty at the end of April just so people could see the amazing condition they are both in at this age.

Then, on April 1, as I was putting together a crockpot recipe for dinner, Chase was outside patrolling the fence listening for the dog next door to approach for a game of fence guarding. I heard a noise outside and saw a dog down in the yard. At first I thought it was a seizure and that it was his sister, Jessie. But as I got through the door, I realized it was Chase and it was not a seizure, he was dying right there in the yard. I can't describe the disbelif and shock I experienced witnessing this. It is almost two weeks later as I write this and I still can't get over the fact that he is gone. He was in such good shape. There was no sign that anything was wrong. It appeared to be a heart attack. I'd seen dogs die from heart issues before and this was just like that, but it came without warning. Those other dogs were sick. One had DCM and one had degenerative heart disease from old age. I expected them to die. I did not expect Chase, my dear Chase, to die right there while being so vibrant and fit, even at his age. I truly expected him to live to be 12 or more and there he was, not quite 10, dying right in front of me.

This was one of the most painful losses I've had in all my years in Danes. Maybe it was his unique intelligence and personality, maybe it was the the bond we built over the year in boot camp, there was just something that made him so special. I don't really know what it was. I just know that his loss is nearly unbearable to me.

Until we meet again, my boy. Rest softly.