Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kohinoor's Baby Boomer

April 21, 1998- May 10, 2011

Harley was my parents' Springer Spaniel; though my sister and I always thought of him as our dog too. When our old family cocker died unexpectedly, my dad lobbied for a bigger dog...when they decided on a Springer, I immediately thought of a dog that Levi and I used to compete with in obedience. Raven had her CH and UDX and was an absolute sweetheart; given that Springers sometimes have temperament issues I decided that if this was what Mom and Dad wanted that I had to convince them we needed a dog from this kennel. We tracked down Raven's breeder, who didn't have puppies at the time, but had bred her stud dog and put us in touch with the owner of the female, who had a large litter of puppies. The three of us drove down to Lexington to pick him out, and a short time later "Grisham" became Harley and came to live with my parents in their new house backing up to a lake- seemed like the perfect place for a sporting dog.

But despite the above picture, Harley was not impressed with the lake and other than a couple of falls into it he was content to stay on the shore. When my parents bought a place in Florida with their own pool, he ventured in a few times but quickly decided he was more of a sunbather instead.

Harley ended up having a sweet, loving temperament just as I had hoped. He was a lot more dog than we had anticipated- he grew to be quite a big boy! But my dad took him through obedience class and he ended up being very nicely trained, including some really snappy cute utility signals and a great "reverse" or run backwards command. I don't think Harley's head was particularly outstanding, but he had a fabulous body and I used to love to watch his beautiful floating trot with such reach and drive even as an old dog.

Harley didn't come to us until he was about three months old; by then he already outweighed both of my shelties, Andy and Levi, and did not particularly respect them after weeks of roughhousing with his littermates. Andy and Levi were not Harley fans until the days they died, though they tolerated him. But when Cory came along, Harley found out about karma and Cory pestered him in much the same way Harley had tormented his predecessors. They ended up being good buddies, though as Harley got older it was harder for him to deal with Cory's exuberance.

When he was less than a year old, Harley had his one and only "bad dog" episode...and it was a doozy. Both of my parents had had the flu and felt terrible. They called me and said Harley was vomiting as well and thought he had the same thing...with viral issues this usually isn't the case and when I took them over some medicine I was worried because he didn't look so good. The next morning he was still no better (though Mom and Dad were) and they brought him in for radiographs. Visible in his stomach were two pieces of metal that ended up being twisty ties; I decided to go in after them and it was lucky I did. In addition to those metal ties which showed up well on the x-rays, he also had eaten cellophane wrappers, plastic bottle caps, the finger of a glove, all kinds of stuff. Wound tight around them wrapping them into one giant hard wad were many individual strands of sissel rope. He had taken one of those stuffed toys with rope arms and legs and strand by strand pulled out and ate pieces of sissel. He survived that episode with no long term effects except that forever after he hated coming to the clinic!

Several years ago Harley started spending his winters and springs in Sanibel with my parents. He was content to visit the beach only occasionally, but he loved his walks with my dad and was constantly on the alert for lizards and iguanas- even more fun than the squirrels and bunnies at home.

Harley was diagnosed with Cushings disease in 2009, but he was the easiest Cushings dog to treat ever, with his lab values quickly normalizing and not even requiring long term medication. His symptoms had very sudden onset- massive increase in drinking and urinating (with accompanying secondary urinary tract infection), changes in his coat, and seeming to age almost overnight. Up until then he looked like a vigorous teenager. He still looked pretty good, but his hard shiny coat got a little softer and fuzzier, his vision was not what it had been, and his legs were not as strong as they once were though he still had that beautiful floating trot.

The picture above was taken at Christmas this year, Robbie's first Christmas and Harley's last.

Last Easter Harley and Cory had a great day playing in Mom and Dad's backyard. Harley still could romp and play and keep up, but boy did he pay with stiffness and soreness afterwards. He was really starting to show his age though he had looked like a teenager until he was 11 or so. The rest of these pictures were all taken that day. Just a couple of weeks later, back in Florida, Harley was not acting right one day and didn't seem to be breathing well. A visit to his Florida vet, Dr. Denise Kalliainen at Gulf Coast Veterinary Clinic in Fort Myers followed by an ultrasound at the specialty referral center showed a mass in his chest which appeared to be wrapped around the big vessels near the heart. An aspirate was unsuccessful in identifying exactly what type of cancer it was; but after talking with his oncologist it was obvious what our choices should be. It was unlikely to be a type of cancer that responded to chemotherapy and the next step would be surgery to attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible; but it was unlikely given the location that they would be able to get it all. With an older dog with one major health issue already, putting him through such an invasive procedure with our best hope being of only gaining him a few weeks to months would have been counterproductive. We treated him symptomatically and hoped we would have a little more good time with him.

Harley surprised us all and made it out a year after his original diagnosis. His repeat chest films were pretty ugly, but he didn't seem to know it and his quality of life was pretty good all summer and into the fall. As winter came on, he developed some neurologic symptoms and I was pretty sure the cancer had spread. It became harder and harder for him to get up and down and maintain his balance.

So tonight we sat on the screened porch with Harley, overlooking his lake with the birds singing in the background, and let him move on. He had a great life and was well loved and he will be missed by his buddies Cory and Robbie (the obnoxious puppy he loved playing with, who would have guessed the old man would tolerate his behavior?) and his cat Spooky. I know his old buddy Boo the cat was waiting to greet him joyfully; Levi and Andy perhaps not so enthusiastically!

Rest well sweet Harley, you were a good dog and a great friend. I hope you enjoyed the dance.

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