Thursday, June 21, 2007


Here is Blaze and Me with his National Championships Qualifier Ribbon and his 4th place Jumpers Ribbon.June 1st to the 3rd, Blaze and I competed in the AAC Ontario Regional Championships. Blaze qualified to compete at the AAC National Championships in Halton Hills Ontario in August. It was a great weekend, with the best dogs in Ontario competing for a chance to be at the Nationals. These weekends are always somewhat magical, with a feeling of camaraderie, and everyone sporting positive and motivational attitudes.

Saturday's competition was hampered by the extreme heat and humidity, and many dogs and handlers were having difficulty coping. One of our Judges collapsed on Saturday and was taken to the hospital, and recovered fine. Blaze hates running in the heat, and I knew we would have trouble. In our standard run, I unfortunately misdirected him twice, costing us time and 10 faults. Our gamble run was not good, I could tell the heat had got to him, and he just gave up. Our jumpers run was quite good, except I was in the wrong position at one of the last turns on the course, and pushed him right past a jump. This put us over time and gave us 5 faults. My fault entirely. Poor Blaze! We finished Saturday's runs with 178 points, more than half way to qualifying, but lower than what I was hoping for. I was not sure if we would get the necessary 300 points by days end on Sunday.

Sunday started out a little less hot, and virtually no sun, so it felt cooler. Our first run was the gamble run, and our opening sequence went great, with Blaze getting the mini gamble twice, and he stayed with me on the course. He did get the main gamble too, but sadly he was about 1 second over time. I was happy with how he worked for me, and it gave me a good feeling about the days upcoming runs. Our best run of our agility career was our jumpers run on Sunday. It was a twisty, turny, course, in which I was able to use our new front crosses to our advantage. Blaze went clean and 9 seconds under time. This is a feat we have never accomplished before, and this is just the type of chemistry between dog and handler I want to create on a consistent basis. He placed fourth in this run, in a class of 27 dogs. Pretty awesome by our standards. Our final run of the day was the standard run, and I messed him up on the course twice. We ended the weekend with 369 points, enough to get us to the nationals. Blaze placed 12th overall in a class of 27 dogs.

Next, we are off to Halton Hills in August to compete at the Nationals. It will be our first National competition, and it will be a real treat to compete with the nation's best agility dogs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arlo - Diagnosis: Liver Shunt

Arlo in May 2007 after his liver biopsy

In late January of this year, we discovered Arlo had elevated liver enzymes. He was treated with antibiotics, a liver antioxidant medication, and retested. The liver enzymes were lower, but still elevated. It was decided that his liver may be healing, and we retested him again. The enzymes were back up. Two weeks later, they were even higher. Not wanting to fool around, we were directed to a specialist for a liver biopsy: the only way to diagnose a liver problem.

At the specialist's, it was suggested he may have a shunt. A liver biopsy confirmed this suspicion in May. I have never heard of liver shunts in the GSD before, and none of the vets I work with in regular practice were suspecting a shunt. None of my shepherd friends nor the long term breeders I know have heard of this in the GSD before. Astonishing.

Arlo will have surgery at the specialist's on June 26th to determine if his shunt(s) is repairable or not. Most large breed dogs have shunts that are not repairable. The odds aren't good. Many dogs are managed medically with liver shunts, some with normal lifespans. However, if his is the repairable kind, his liver can actually regrow, and he can be a normal dog. His liver is only about 1/3 the size it should be for a dog of his size.

You would never know this dog has liver disease, as he is healthy and active and in good shape. My suspicion is that liver shunts are more common in the GSD than we know, yet many dogs are just never diagnosed.

The good news is that Arlo is in the hands of a specialist who sees more GSDs than any other in Ontario. Very comforting.

I only hope this surgery doesn't leave him in worse condition than he is in right now.

For more information on Liver Shunts, please see this site: What are Portosystemic Shunts?