Thursday, July 31, 2008


Good news on Zac today - his liver enzymes are down a lot from last week. Normal ALT is 10-100. Zac started at 722 on 7/18, then 1320 on 7/19, 1923 (!) last thursday and now 502 today. We're moving in the right direction, yay!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just Cuz...

Zac has decided that if i'm going to force him to be quiet and spend all of his time indoors, that it's a perfectly good time to enjoy a second puppyhood. And every good puppyhood needs a perfect toy. So, after lanquishing around the house for months with nothing to do and no one to love him, Good Cuz has now been adopted. Zac loves Cuz! He's a great friend for tossing around, he bounces in all kinds of interesting ways, and he's got those terrific feet with which to be carried. So far, Zac has not figured out that Cuz has an industrial sort of squeaker in there (thank you!), though i'm sure it's just a matter of time. If this keeps up, we may have to invest in a Bad Cuz too, cause they're pretty cute with the little horns.

We're just waiting on tomorrow to repeat some bloodwork and that lepto titer. Zac-boy seems to be feeling pretty good though. I'm planning to keep him on heavy duty activity restriction for another 2 weeks minimum though, to see if we can get that skip to go away. In the meantime, Zac LOVES Cuz!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another Update

Just talked to the internist - he got Gael's lepto titer. We can't be completely sure but it doesn't look like she had lepto. It's one of those things where we could have ruled it in for sure if something had been sky high, but not being sky high, we can just say *probably* not since we don't have a paired test to compare against. That's good since i don't want this to be lepto. Zac's second titer is still the answer-maker on that. In the meantime, we'll keep treating as if it's lepto and keep waiting until we can repeat that test at the end of next week.

The internist still really feels it's some sort of toxin. If we do rule out lepto (keep fingers crossed!) and tick-borne stuff (another week before that comes in) then we may never know what it was, though i have a couple of out-there theories and will keep trying to puzzle that out. Unless Zac gets more ill or another dog comes up with a problem, i'd rather not cut anyone open to do a liver biopsy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Zac and Working dogs

We repeated Zac's bloodwork today and his liver enzymes are higher than they were on saturday. We'll repeat them next week and hope they start coming down. His kidney values are still fine. And he's feeling good, bouncing around playing with toys in the house. We're still waiting on his tick titer and Gael's lepto titer, neither came back today. I talked to the internist for a long time today about some different things and he's going to try to get up with a liver expert to discuss the cases. He still thinks it feels like some sort of toxin but we're still treating it like lepto.

It was such a gorgeous evening, i just had to work dogs a little bit. Billy was wonderful and put a big smile on my face. He's going to be a very good outrunner, checks in and casts perfectly. I sent him up the hill and he did a beautiful job. He seems to more or less know his flanks already. I also tried splitting the sheep and calling him through again and he was much better this time, way more enthusiastic about coming through than last time and he enjoyed holding the groups apart. We even did a bit of driving. He's a good little man and enjoys working *with* me. His 1st birthday was monday and now he's all grown up! Okay, maybe not, but he does seem to be maturing a bit. I feel like i've hardly even started training him since we just go out here and there and do a little work, but he seems to be coming along and getting trained somehow. It was like that with Jet too and Billy reminds me quite a bit of her in his work. There are worse dogs to take after, that's for sure! I finally have a recent picture of him to post. Every other one i've posted of him was 6 or more months old. I really like this one from last week.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zac/Gael Update

Zac is feeling just fine though he's getting pretty bored. I'm limiting his contact with the other dogs somewhat, and he's not allowed to go out in the backyard to hang out for a while longer. I don't want the other dogs exposed to his urine since we don't know if he might have lepto, so he just gets quick trips out in the front yard for potty breaks. I already had him on restricted activity, trying to give his leg a real good rest, so i'm just going to go ahead and keep him very quiet for another 2-3 weeks and see if his leg ends up improving.

As for what the heck has caused his liver enzymes to shoot up, well, that's just not very clear. We're still waiting on test results and hopefully some answers will be found but it's a really complicated picture. It could end up being lepto, though he had been on a pretty high dose of dozycycline for 5 days when he got ill and doxy is usually what you use to ward off a lepto infection, and you would expect more actual symptoms with lepto. It could end up being a tick borne disease, but his blood work was normal. No clear picture emerges from the history and the lab work, that's for sure. The lepto titer came back yesterday but we need to repeat it in a week or two in order to interpret it - the changes in antibody titers (if they change) could provide an answer. The tick titer is still out but will hopefully be back by friday. I've also run across some (mostly anecdotal) evidence that doxycycline can elevate liver enzymes but that doesn't explain the severe dehydration and peeing problem. Yes, it's a very tangled web but hopefully with some time it can be sorted out. In the meantime, i'll be very careful about keeping his urine away from other dogs and cautious about potential sources of the initial infection.

In some good news, Gael's liver enzymes were measured yesterday and all is back to normal there! I had a lepto titer run on her as well, to see if her antibody levels are high, which would be some evidence that she had lepto. I wish titers had been run when she was sick but the internist didn't feel it was necessary. Apparently he didn't know how much i HATE a mystery. I had this lepto titer drawn in hopes it'll add another piece to the puzzle. It should be back in the next day or two.

Anyway, that's where we are now. No real answers but we're approaching this as if it's lepto, just to safe. And talk about lightning striking twice - what are the odds on 2 vaccinated dogs, one of them 5 days into a course of doxycycline, picking up lepto in 2 different states (probably) and presenting with non-typical symptoms and bloodwork?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


....apparently does strike twice sometimes. Zac's been hooked up to an IV most of the time since friday morning with something that looks remarkably like whatever it was Gael had in mid-May. I noticed thursday evening that he was acting funny when he'd pee. He'd hike his leg like normal but when he tried to walk away from peeing, he'd hunch over with his tail hanging down and keep peeing, like he couldn't stop when he wanted, and his stream was kind of weak and dribbling. I called the vet and dropped him off friday morning, expecting to hear back that he had a UTI of some sort, something along those lines. Instead they called and said his ALT liver enzymes were very, very high, his urine specific gravity very low, and that he was severely dehydrated. They started IV fluids and IV antibiotics and sent out for a lepto titer and to culture his urine. I picked him up in the afternoon and dropped him off at the emergency vet to continue the fluids and antibiotics and to monitor him, and they sent off for a tick titer. He came home this afternoon and feels fine - he's felt just fine the whole time actually. Hopefully the titers will come back quickly and we can start getting some answers on what this is. I ran the other 4 dogs by the vet saturday to check liver and kidney values and they're all normal, and hopefully will stay that way. I just hope we can solve this mystery. Zac is now on the same feeding and supplement protocol Gael was on, and i'll talk to the vet tomorrow about the plan for monitoring him.

Keep an eye on your dogs, especially keep an eye on any increase in drinking and peeing. That was the first sign anything was wrong with Gael and Zac both, and the liver values were really high without either feeling bad at all. I didn't act as quickly as i probably should have with Gael since it was such a sneaky thing. I think i caught Zac pretty early.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No bad news... good news, or so they say. I took Zac to my go-to ortho vet, Dr Betts in Cary. I have total, 100% trust in Dr Betts and i have to say he's about the only health professional, canine or human, that i can say that about. I have a healthy dose of "question everything" in me. :-) I've been taking dogs to Dr Betts for as long as i've had border collies, so about 15-16 years, and he's never given me any cause to doubt him. Why would he? He taught at NCSU forever and has had a private surgical practice the whole time i've known him. When Zac originally got hurt, Dr Betts is who i called but he was booked up so i saw one of his associates. Anyway, i was glad to get to finally see him on this problem.

After a really thorough exam and even a radiograph of the spine, the diagnosis is again "???". Zac doesn't have anything wrong with him orthopedically speaking. There was a tiny bit of resistence when Dr Betts would rotate Zac's pelvis, stretching his rear legs completely out, but just a bit, and the xray ruled out a spinal problem. Dr Betts said Zac's muscles are really well developed and even from side to side, and he couldn't find any problems at all. So again we're at a loss to explain Zac's skipping. Since he was a bit lame on his good side last week (couldn't find an explanation for that either), i'm going to rest him for a couple of weeks and then really get busy with stretching (i wasn't doing one of the stretches quite right) and physical therapy and see if maybe we can get this skip to go away. I also have him on doxycycline just in case the good side limp might be tick disease related. I do think the physical therapist i took him to a couple of weeks ago had the right idea, to put him in situations that could make him skip but do it in a controlled manner and maybe change his patterns. It'll drive us both crazy, but i'm going to hold off on working him for a good long rest too. I'm still waiting on Dr Betts to email me the final report but right now that's the plan. There is one more option if i decide i just can't stand it or the skip gets worse. There's a soft tissue specialist in Raleigh that Dr Betts said might be able to pinpoint exactly where the limp is coming from with some specialized equipment he has. So that's a possibility still. I did get an answer i liked to my question about the chances of Zac hurting himself on his good side because of favoring that right leg. Dr Betts said he didn't think it was something to worry about since Zac is so very muscular, both sides are even and he's so light on his feet. That's a relief.

So after almost a year of this, and two orthopedic vets, a sports medicine rehab vet, a holistic chiropractic vet and a physical therapist, it's still a mystery for Zac and me. Maybe i will be trying the sports med guy in Raleigh........

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shoofly Dogs Update

Just thought i'd post a little update on the dogs.

Spottie's doing well. She gets to do a little work here and there and is looking and feeling younger than her 10.5 years. I had her help with a lesson on saturday, working in tandem with a young dog, trying to get him excited and she had a ball - you'd sure never think she was over 6 or 7. I've been bringing her in the house to hang out lately and you can tell she thinks that's pretty cool. She gathers up all the toys she can find and just beams at me, like she's fallen into the land of milk and honey (bones and rawhide?).

Gael is feeling fine, fat and shiny. She'd blown her coat after her last heat and was looking extra scraggly to go along with the liver scare, but now she looks like a fat, black seal. Diet time for her now. I'll take her back to check her bloodwork soon.

Jet's been working her hiney off around the farm since Zac has been on light duty. She loves it and has stepped up to the plate nicely. I've never thought of her as a dog that needs a lot of work but she clearly is enjoying it and working really well because of it. I've even been working her and Zac together some, working on outruns and also using them both to push the flock through the chute for worming. That's fun and they're a good team. I'd like to do more when Zac gets back to full speed.

Zac's leg woes continue. I thought the PT was going well and maybe helping a tiny bit but now he's a little off on his good rear leg. He was lame on it the evening before i took him to PT but it cleared up overnight, so i thought it must be a foot bruise or sore pad. Then last week he was a smidge gimpy after he and Jet pushed sheep through the chutes for me, later that evening anyway, though it cleared again by morning. Yesterday i did his PT exercises with him and let him do just some gentle driving with the sheep and he was limping again after laying around cooling off. So, we're off to Dr Betts tomorrow, my go-to ortho guy and hoping he'll have some words of wisdom for us. I've not had Zac to him on this before (had to see someone else in the office last year when it first came up). It really is time for this to get cleared up, it's been going on almost a year now, for pete's sake.

Billy is doing very well with his training and i just adore him and he adores me. We're in love. :-) I'm not doing a whole lot with him, just take him out a little here and a little there. Saturday morning he was quite spectacular working the flock. Now if i could get him to quit eating vinyl dog toys! He's got a weird taste for them, thinks they're chewies or something.

Bart's bored. He's been a little gimpy on his right front leg off and on, and was very gimpy on it after i tried working him one evening last week, so he's on quiet time and rest. Those particular words aren't in the 7 month old border collie's vocabulary unfortunately. I'm trying very hard to not freak out and think he's got OCD. We'll start checking that out once i get this with Zac straightened out. For now, no playing "smear" with Billy (man, they play rough!) and keeping my fingers crossed, hoping he's just had some growing pains or worn his feet sore.

So that's the latest scorecard on the dogs, some good, some bad. And the latest news on Mossman is that he's quite the spectacular little dude for Denise these days! I'm looking forward to seeing him again soon. It's nice when things work out so well all around.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bill report - corner work and heading

So we're sitting here waiting on the latest thunder storms to roll in. It's been an awfully stormy last week. That's great for the pasture but sure hard on the dogs that are afraid of thunder.

Bart's in his crate feeling very contrite. He just got in big bad trouble for eating my back steps. Little snot, it's not like he's teething any more. I have a feeling he'll stop now though, he doesn't like getting in trouble.

Since i was feeling all inspired after writing about Billy today, i thought i'd give him a spin tonight on a larger group of sheep to see how his session on the fresh lambs last night had stuck with him. Last night i was sending him on short gathers where the sheep would try to take off sideways on him, trying to get him to put on the speed to get around and cover, and really have to work to get to the heads. He did quite well with it and was working hard to catch one lamb that was very determined to split off towards some sheep that were penned up. He has a tendency to work the sheep at the 10-11 o'clock position and i'd like to make sure that doesn't get to be too much of a habit. I'd prefer he read the sheep in front of him rather than just fall into that spot. It's a very, very common tendency in dogs - i'd guess more dogs do have a preferred spot like this than don't. Zac definitely did, Moss did, Jet did. Anyway, i thought Billy handled this exercise on the fresh lambs really well. Tonight i worked him on about 35 sheep that were pretty heavy and he was doing a much better job of watching all of the sheep on short gathers. I tried making a nice big gap in the sheep and calling him through so i could play around with 2 groups with him. I find a lot of dogs really enjoy this but right now Billy isn't one of them. He's too concerned with "losing" part of the sheep. That's okay, it's one of those "good dog" problems and we'll try it again later on when he's more ready for it. Since he didn't want to play with that set up, i took the large group to a corner and had him smush them right up in it, then i'd send him around between them and the fence. That was a lot of fun for him since the sheep would try to squirt off as he went around, and he got to race out and head them. He was very cool squeezing himself around the sheep on the fence, using his teeth to hit heels and very committed to getting outside of all the sheep. I liked that. It was a pretty good night for Billy, he got to do some natural stuff that should help him with really getting to the heads and he had fun doing it. I'm hoping to do a lot of this kind of training with him as i don't feel he's mature enough for any kind of mechanical training at this age. It's an enjoyable way to train anyway, for myself and the dog.

The Training of Billy

I suppose at some point I'm going to have to start calling this dog Bill, a proper, grown up sheepdog name. But for now, he's still Billy to me. I got Billy last fall when he was about 7-8 weeks old, from Carol Campion. He was delivered to me at the National Sheepdog Finals in PA, which i hope will be a good omen for his future career. He was bred by Kate Broadbent, sired by Joni Swanke's Lew (Henderson's Spot x Joni's Bell), out of Kate's Gin (Haley Howard's Moss, litter brother to Henderson's Bill, x Kate's Scotia Rose). Full pedigree is here. Carol purchased Gin from Kate and whelped her out in CT and i was lucky enough to get a pup. I'd seen the litter advertised and managed to resist for good while as i really didn't need another puppy, but finally contacted Carol and through some fancy footwork, she managed to free up a male pup for me.

I fell in love with Bobby Henderson's Bill at the 2003 Finals in Sturgis, even to the point of putting my name in line for a pup out of a Nursery bitch i happened to see being bred at the trial by Bill. Too bad that didn't work out - the bitch was Dennis Gellings' Jan and what a tremendous bitch she's turned out to be! Dennis runs a pup out of that litter named Jake and he seems a good one as well (I haven't seen him much - Dennis is out west). Over the years i've tried several times to get pups out of that Henderson line but they've all been out west (Bobby spent a bit of time in the west and some of his dogs have ended up there) and have never been able to get the transport worked out - too hot, too cold, too much snow, not enough free time to get to the airport because of lambing, etc. So maybe it was fate to finally end up with Billy.

He showed up at the trial with 2 of his littermates, who were being delivered to Kate for herself and Joni. It seemed to me like Billy just decided he was "my dog" almost immediately, just gave me that sort of a look. When we got home, i was doing some rehab on Zac's pulled muscle that involved long slow walks around the pasture. I'd leave the wilder dogs in the truck and walk with Zac, old Belle and Billy, and he just followed me around at heel, happy to just be with me. I've certainly never had a puppy like that before! Over time he's gotten more into tearing around with the other dogs, and worked Moss constantly, but he's still my boy. He's an old soul kind of dog, calm, solid and very, very intense but just as sweet as you could ask for. At work, he's mostly seemed pretty unflappable as he's grown up. I started putting him on sheep now and again at about 4 months old and he's always been calm and easy, though as he grows older i see a bit of a stubborn streak in him. That's not such a bad thing, i like determination in a dog. You can see some video of him as he grew up on my Youtube site.

Now, as Billy nears 12 months old (on July 21st), i feel he's pretty much ready to start his training and i'm planning to keep a series on the "training of Billy" here on the blog and hope to have video as well. I've been taking him out about once a week or so lately, just letting him get the feel of sheep and move them around. He has a fairly natural outrun, with a nice pear shape to the right, a bit straighter and tighter to the left. Flanks are similar. Balance is decent and he tries really hard to keep his sheep together and not let anyone get away from him, though sometimes he does let them if they take off when he's on a come bye direction. He's confident at stopping running sheep. He likes to really push onto his sheep, really enjoys moving them. He's got a fair bit of eye so we'll be watching that. Power looks to be substantial, love that! That's pretty much where he is now and i'll update again soon. The current plan is to work him on some fresh wool lambs i've bought for him, so he can learn as much as possible from the sheep rather than from me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

4th of July weekend

It was a good weekend around the farm and house. Friday was big time housecleaning day, doing all those rotten things that get away from you like cleaning baseboards and going through closets and such, things that needed done if the house is to be shown. Late afternoon mom and i went out to lunch (yum, Pizza Hut!) and did some shopping, which was nice. I don't get to spend enough time with the mom. Saturday we had a small gathering to celebrate Kate's birthday with a delicious potluck lunch, cake to die for (made by the birthday girl herself), presents, dog working and socializing. It was great fun and very relaxing. I really enjoy the get togethers at the farm - a little dog working and lots of laughing and enjoying friends. Sunday morning a few of us got together again for some dog working. That was fun with several young dogs. I always enjoy the youngsters, comparing them to the sire and dam, and then watching how they develop over time. Afternoon was more work around the house, outside this time, filling in holes the dogs have dug in the backyard and mowing and trimming, getting things ready for showing. I don't expect a big rush or anything but i want it done so i can have it ready to show quickly after getting a call. And that was about it, a good relaxing weekend. Oh, in *big* news, it rained. A bunch. Probably somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 inches. We needed it desperately. And it was awfully nice that it only rained during the "inside the house" hours. :-)

I'll try to get together a new training article sometime in the next week or so. If anyone has something they'd like to see an article on, just let me know and i'll see what i can do.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Reminder

A reminder for all you girls out there. Don't keep putting off your mammograms! Yes, it's a pain (literally for some of us) but darned necessary. As many of you know, my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer this March, found on her MAMMOGRAM. Anyway, that's my public service announcement, and i get to make it because i finally checked it off of my to-do list today. :-)

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday, Part 2

There's a for sale sign in front of my house! Guess i better get busy getting things in showplace shape on the inside. :-)

Zac and i met the PT this afternoon - Gina Epifano in Raleigh. I quite liked her, she was thorough and her plan is very sensible. The video was a big help since Zac showed almost no injury or reaction on exam, and she was really trying to get it. Gina, like the holistic vet i saw before, feels Zac has a muscle memory thing going on, that he's protecting that leg or got a habit of skipping in certain movements. It's actually really predictable, the video made that obvious last night when i was editing it up. If he's moving on a counter-clockwise arc, he'll skip just before he takes the last step or two to turn and arc back the other way, and it's worst when he's going downhill. So, the plan is to do a bit of stretching and a couple of exercises -- a large trotting figure 8 on flat ground and an uphill S-shaped trot. Since Zac will heel to the ATV, it should be pretty easy to do and we'll start tomorrow. Hopefully those exercises will get him used to using his leg in that motion and change his habit, and we can work up to the motion and speed that brings out the skip in a few weeks. We'll do these exercises for a week and then i'll consult with Gina again by email for the next step in the plan. She said since she wasn't getting any reaction out of him, there wasn't really any point to re-examining him to check for improvement. I think it's really great that she'll do it by email. I don't need to put him on strict rest and he can do light work, just needs to not do anything too wild. That's not hard, i've been hovering over him to keep him from acting like a crazy dog for almost a year now. So, all in all, very good news. I want to get that skip under control so he doesn't injure himself compensating, but at least he's not actually *hurt* at this point.


Well, hopefully anyway. My house is going on the market tomorrow. I tried this about 4 years ago and it sold almost immediately. Stayed sold for a good 30 days, right up to the point where the buyer's bank found some fine print on the loan program he was using and decided he couldn't have the money. Something about he couldn't buy a house on a private road. Fast forward about a year of having it on the market and not selling, and i pulled it off. Fast forward again to last week and something just made me decide to get it back on the market. Maybe it's having more energy from the great things Weight Watchers has done for me, maybe it was the black bear Peggy saw less than a mile from my sheep (i don't live where my sheep are, to clarify for those that don't know that), maybe it was finally getting the mulch down in my flower beds at home, i don't know. I just know i am ready to get my butt in gear and live at my farm, where my sheep are. Time to consolidate! I know the real estate market stinks right now but maybe the right person or family will come along. It's not an expensive house (will be priced at $104,500 i think) but it's a nice place and in good shape. Anyway, wish me luck! Here are some pictures, if you know anyone looking House

Also in the wish me luck department -- Zac and i are off to a veterinary physical therapist this evening, in hopes she can give me some ideas and suggestions for his chronic right rear leg skip. He was diagnosed with an iliopsoas strain (muscle high up in the hip/groin) last September by an orthopedic vet, a rehab vet, and also the holistic/acupuncture vet i've used in the past. With lots of rest and therapy, he got quite a lot better but then in May reinjured it slightly. It's never gotten to 100% since the orginal injury though, and i feel it not only impacts his performance, i worry that he will injure the left side because he's compensating for the right. I got some good video of the skip when i was working him last night and am taking my laptop in to show the PT. It doesn't ever show up trotting around on leash and i want her to see it. She comes very highly recommended by a couple of friends and i hope she can give me a good treatment plan. I'll post a note this evening on how it goes.