Affaire's Dancing in the Rain, "Ginger"


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

Ginger was the only bitch in her litter and I kept her for myself. She was quite a character as a puppy. When the litter was about four or five weeks old and getting more ambulatory, I would get up in the morning and frequently, several of the puppies would not have collars on. I found some of them and put them back on. Others I figured got rolled up in poopy newspaper and tossed. Then one day, I found a collar in some poop, so I knew someone had eaten it and pooped it out. That was the first sign of trouble.

By the time the puppies were six or seven weeks old, I could tell them all apart and was running out of collars, so I quit putting them back on when I'd find them all missing in the morning. By this time, I figuree out it was Ginger because she would be the only one wearing a collar in the morning. By nine weeks, the puppies all went to their homes and Ginger stayed here to be my show and breeding prospect from the litter.

When Ginger was about 12 weeks old, she pooped out a collar and I was amazed and somewhat concerned because I know it had to have been inside her for at least three weeks or more. Later that night, I could tell she was having some discomfort. I palpated her abdomen and I could feel the little plastic buckle of a collar in there. It was about 7pm at night, so we headed to the emergency clinic.

The vet there could feel something, but wasn't as familiar with the collars as I was, so could not visualize what it was. She did surgery on Ginger and found one collar stuck in the opening from the stomach to the small intestine. I was observing and told her there had to be another collar in there because I felt it and knew that was not the one I felt. The vet went through her intestines looking for another collar, but could not find one. They closed her up and I curled up on the floor next to her cage with my hand on her for the night. The next morning I got up and we were ready to go home. I took her out to the parking lot and let her sniff around and she did it - pooped out that last collar. I scooped it up, took it inside and showed it to them and told them I was not crazy - there was another collar in there!

At about three months of age, Ginger had an odd bout of lameness. I woke up one morning and she could only use the legs on one side of her body. I took her to the vet and they could not find anything definitive. Later that day, she was only lame on one leg and then the next day she was fine. It was very odd, but I thought it might have just been an odd bout of pano.

Then, when Ginger was about five months old, I had her at a handling class getting ready for her first show. The trainer asked me if I would let someone else take her down and back. I handed her off to someone else and watched in horror. I realized that the trainer had seen something wrong and maybe did not know what it was but wanted me to see it. As Ginger went away from me and I saw her rear movement, I knew. She was a wobbler. I brought a friend with me the next night to see it and she tried to convince me that Ginger just had so much angulation, she was going to move awkwardly for a while. I was not convinced, but decided to enter her in one show anyway and see.

Ginger placed four out of four in her class at her first show. The judge, Arlene Davis, said something to me when she gave me the ribbon that made me realize that she had made note of that rear movement too. I can't remember exactly what she said. I think she had noticed that Ginger wasn't handling corners well and made a comment about that. Anyway, whatever it was, I couldn't deny it any more. Ginger was a wobbler and she was not going to be my next show hopeful.

We went to see a neurologist and he confirmed that Ginger did have the classic malformation causing wobblers in a Great Dane. These are images of her 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae.

Sixth cervical vertebrae Seventh cervical vertebrae
C6 C7

If you notice c6, the space between it and the vertebrae to the left is uniform and the top of the vertebrae is relatively level. Contrast that to c7. Notice how uneven the left edge of c7 is and how much closer to c6 it is at the top of the left edge compared to the bottom. Notice also how the top of c7 on the left is protruding into the space where the spinal nerve flows through.

I had a wobbler years ago and that dog lived to be 8 1/2 and died of an oral melanoma (see Gemini's memorial page), so I knew I could work with Ginger too. Ginger and I came home and I went to work on her doing research to discover any new findings or treatment protocols that I could use to adapt what I had done previously. Ginger went for acupuncture a couple times a week and was on Chinese herbs and a home cooked diet for about a year. I did see considerable improvement in her mobility during that time, but it had seemed like it had leveled off in the last couple of months. This treatment protocol was very expensive and I knew I could not afford it indefinately, especially if it was no longer providing any improvement. I decided to back off on the treatment for a while and see what happened. Ginger's condition seemed to decline slightly and level off. I didn't see any further degredation of her mobility after a month and decided I could save myself $500 per month and discontinue the treatment protocol.

By this time, Ginger was about eight or nine months old and a very happy dog. I kept her separated from the other dogs, but close so that she could still socialize with them. I just didn't let her play with her older siblings or my other dogs. I knew that any trauma to her neck could be devastating. She was very happy to be my love. Expecially since I would put all the other dogs in other rooms and she would get to hang out with me in the house or the yard and get one-on-one attention from me daily.

Ginger's next episode happened when she was about a year old. I had her out in the yard and went inside for a while. I knew Ginger liked to eat things so I made sure not to leave her alone with toys. She had to be supervised to make sure she didn't eat whatever toy she was given to play with. What I didn't know that day was that one of the other dogs had left a toy bear in the yard. When I went out to get Ginger and scoop the yard, I found small piece of stuffing and thought it was odd. Then I noticed the bear was missing and put two and two together. I watched and waited for a week to see if she would pass that toy. She wasn't in any discomfort, had a good appetite and was passing stool normally, but that toy was not coming out. After another few days, I decided to take her to the vet. She xrayed her and found the toy was stuck in her abdomen. Since it hadn't come out for a week, she recommended surgery. Although Ginger wasn't in any discomfort at that time, there was no guarantee that this would not change and turn into a real emergency. So the vet went in and retrieved that bear. Since I wasn't going to breed her, I had her spayed at the same time. She was already tacked during that collar episode at 12 weeks. The toy patrol got much more rigorous after that.

When Ginger was about 2 1/2, I changed jobs and went from working from home almost 100% of the time, to having to commute to work daily and spend 10 hours or so away from home during the day. I built an indoor/outdoor run, so that I would have enough dog doors and runs in the yard to provide area and shelter for all my dogs during the day while I was at work without having them all run in a pack. I had to put Ginger in a run with her sister for about four hours while the dog door was being put in the wall for the indoor/outdoor run. Knowing her condition, I kept a close eye on them and never saw them rough housing. Ginger was laying down and Tailor was chewing on her, but they were not playing rough. I thought all was ok. I was wrong.

When I went to get them out of that run, Ginger could not walk or even stand on her own. I was devastated and feeling so horribly stupid and guilty for not realizing how fragile her neck really was. I used two slings to get her into the house. I decided that I would give her three days and if I did not see any improvement, I'd put her down. I hoisted her out to the yard, she would not be able to stand on her own, but would release her bladder and bowel. I'd clean her up and hoist her back inside. I had booties on her feet because she was shearing the pads off on the concrete without them. I was so sick that I had let this happen. But, on the third day, she could stand on her own. She couldn't walk, but she could stand. Using the slings, I began to teach her how to place her legs and our trips out to the yard were less and less strenous on me as I watched her gain more balance and ability to place her feet with each day. Finally, she was able to walk on her own. She could not navigate the thresholds on the doors though. I had to hoist her over those and still kept the booties on her, but she was walking. Within a couple of weeks, she was back! She could go out on her own. I had never taught her to go through the flaps on the dog doors because of that experience and the knowledge of just how fragile her neck was. I built decks for all the dog runs, put nice big dog houses in them and lots of bedding around and she got her own 28 foot covered run with a deck, dog house and a view of the other dogs to stay in while I was at work.

For the last 6 1/2 years, that's how we have lived. Ginger got her own run and her own room in the house where she could see and touch other dogs over a baby gate, but was not allowed to play with other dogs. When she came out of her room, all the other dogs were behind gates in other rooms in the house so Ginger could have the house, yard, and me to herself for a while each day. Other than her mobility issues, Ginger was very noise sensitive and sometimes very touch sensitive too. She needed you to wait until she positioned herself before petting sometimes. It was as though her nerve endings would spasm if you touched her too soon. She never liked the sound of me picking up the dog bowls or placing them in the feed stands.

Over the last year or so, I have been noticing a decline in Ginger's mobility. She's been a bit more tentative going through doors and starting to have more trouble with her right front leg. It was very weak at the pastern and she was having trouble holding her leg straight and placing that foot in addition to the mobility issues she had in the rear. It started gradually, but the decline seemed to speed up over time. I knew the day was coming when Ginger would lose the ability to walk and naturally, I dreaded the thought. Even though she had these mobility issues, she loved life. She loved running through the yard. Yes, her movement was awkward and she stumbled now than then, but it never bothered her. She loved laying in the sun. She loved nosing the other dogs over the baby gate. She loved smothering me with her body and her kisses. She loved everybody that came to the house. She loved going for rides in the car. Over the last week, her mobility went from a gradual decline to a nose dive. Rimadyl did not help. In a matter of days she went from running in the yard to not being able to walk. On her last night, she could not walk. I had to hoist her out to the yard and get her to pee and poop and I knew that this time, she was not going to get better. This time, there was no trauma. This was the result of degredation of her spinal nerve over the course of her life. On the last day, when I had made the appointment and came home early, I hoped I would come home and find her standing in my room waiting to go out. But she had not moved from the bed I placed her on when I left in the morning. Her food was still there, so I knew she had not been able to get up at all. One last time, I had a friend help me hoist her out to the car for her last car ride. She got to hang out in the parking lot and watch people and dogs go by. One Visla came up to say hi to her. She was so happy. And then she drifted off.

Ginger was an extremely happy dog. She had no idea that she had anything wrong with her. She never met a person, dog, cat or any other critter she didn't love and showered every stranger with affection equally. We all could take a lesson from her on how to enjoy and live life.

Ginger is 9 months old here.
Sixth cervical vertebrae