Saturday, July 21, 2012

R.I.P. Mocha

Today my dog, Mocha, was put down. This day was two years coming and not a surprise but still hurts very much. I was looking for a running companion and her previous owner was looking for a new owner who could meet her energy demands. We were a match! This dog loved to run and lived for it. She was hesitant to get to know me at first but then I ran about 20 miles with her that first week and everything changed. We logged a lot of miles together. She was my protection against anything out on the trail. She was my training partner. She was sometimes a pain in the ass. But when I think back on her time in my life I most fondly remember running in the black of night with her with our path lit by nothing but the light of a full moon. 

Finally finding a home
A man was working on a construction project up in Oregon where he found two puppies abandoned in a ditch. One was an apparently healthy female and the other was a male who had a gunshot wound. The man took the two puppies and brought them from Oregon to Orange County, California. His wife was a vet tech. It is unknown what happened to the brother puppy, but the sister puppy was given the name Hulu and was eventually adopted. Upon adoption her name was changed to Violet. Violet was a rambunctious puppy who like most puppies loved to chew things up. Her owner left her alone most of the day and often came home to a backyard that was dug up to pieces. She took Violet on walks but not many. She contacted the vet tech who set up the adoption and together they put up a new adoption ad looking for a ranch home for Violet. A woman who had just finished her first marathon earlier that year just happened to be looking for a running dog and came across the ad for a "perfect ranch dog" who would "only be considered for ranch farms." Although it was thought a long shot, she answered the ad and explained that she lived in an apartment without a yard but she was a marathoner looking for a running companion to join her for 20+ miles of running a week and specifically was looking for a catahoula leopard dog. They answered the ad back and after a brief phone call felt that this might be a suitable match. The potential owner drove from San Diego to L.A., about two hours north, with plans only to meet the dog. She ended up driving home with her. On the car ride back Violet was renamed to Mocha.

Mocha was now my new running partner.

Mocha's first night in her new home and very cautious of us
Battle against pemphigus
We got Mocha in March 2009 and for a solid year Mocha proved herself to be the best running partner I've ever had. She never complained, waited eagerly to run every day, and pushed me faster and farther than I anticipated on going each and every run. And she was the BEST deterrent against the crazies out there. I seriously think this dog is incapable of biting a human, but no one out on the trail knew that. They just took one look and hightailed it far away from us. Perfect.

Waiting for Dave to whip the ball right before the beach crash
In May 2010 it all started. Mocha was playing fetch with her dog brother from another mother and her fave guy, Dave, on Fiesta Island in San Diego. One far, and I mean far, fling from Dave sent both dogs reeling down the beach. Mocha, like always, beat Cooper to the ball and all we could see was ass over head as she slammed her muzzle into the ground and flipped over herself. She slowly hobbled back but came back ready for another go. Her muzzle was wickedly swollen by the time she got back to us.

2.5 weeks after beach crash, notice the scab on top of her nose?
We went home and her muzzle eventually returned to normal size but there was a small wound on top of her nose. It scabbed over repeatedly. We got some topical medicine but it kept scabbing over. I also noticed some similar scabbing around her left eye. This was troubling and both her and her brother needed updated shots so I took them to the vet. The vet did a scraping for mites, negative, and prescribed vitamins to include in her food. Diagnosis #1: Extreme sun sensitivity. They had hinted that this would never go away but didn't offer any ways to help her condition. Basically I was told Mocha would not heal unless we kept her out of the sun. We live in San Diego. How in the world was I suppose to do that? We tried to keep her locked up inside and only let her out when it was gloomy or in early morning and evening hours but her sores never healed.

This is when the licking started.

The licking never ended. Never, ever, ever. She was licking the pads right off her paws. She was also rubbing her nose against the floor, the couch, anything nearby. We figured this was why her nose never healed in the first place so I went to Petsmart and got a cone. When we were gone for work the cone went on. She got a break when we got home but it would go right back on when she started messing with her scabs again. We also started using bag balm on her nose and her feet. We would hold her muzzle closed to let the balm soak into the crusty lesion while we wrapped socks around her feet to let the balm soak into her pads. She was a mess. But for the first time her nose started healing. Progress! Just when we thought we got a firm grasp of the situation we would discover a new spot she had licked off on her pads or we would see her rubbing her nose until it was a bloody mess. This was an ongoing problem with no end in sight.

I took her to a different vet. Diagnosis #2: Lick granuloma. I was pregnant at this point and therefore had decreased my (aka our) mileage and was getting slower. The vet suggested that Mocha was getting stressed out that I wasn't running as much with her anymore and offered an anti-depressant. I was not gonna drug my dog up. Looking back maybe I should have but I was stubborn and I had MAJOR dog-mom guilt and put it on me to "fix" this without letting drug therapy do it for me. I ended up making a lot more trips to the beach and playing fetch. When my husband was gone for periods of time for work I went to Balboa Park or the beach as often as morning sickness allowed.

We quit trying to keep her out of the sun and kept her skin conditioned with bag balm. The constant exposure to salt from the ocean didn't seem to hurt her condition but almost seemed to help it. With this stagnation in the healing process we even were able to keep the cone off for days at a time.

Nov 2010 - scabby muzzle, swollen/scabby/raw paws

Dec 2010 - muzzle clearing up, scabs around eyes yet, paws getting better
Caring hands
In December 2010 I moved across country with two dogs back to Wisconsin. My mother-in-law was so incredibly generous to watch over our dogs during the cold winter months while I focused on giving birth and subsequently adjusting to life with a newborn. My mother-in-law even brought Mocha with her during her first visit to meet her new grand-daughter.

Mocha meets Milla
She watched over Mocha and tended to her lesions until I was able to come get her at the end of spring to come live on my parent's farm. I took Mocha for a run while up north and after 3 miles she suffered a cracked paw. I wanted to vomit. I had never seen this happen before and felt terrible. My mother-in-law gave me some bandages to wrap the paw up and showed me how best to care for it. 

Mocha's boyfriend, Jake, who belongs to my mother-in-law
I didn't have Mocha for very long before a scary event happened. Her paws swelled up to twice the normal size and were incredibly hot to the touch. I freaked out! I called my step-sister-in-law who is a vet tech and she recommended I soak her paws in the cold bath water and bring her in in the morning. The hotness went away after about half an hour and the swelling was gone an hour or two later. The next day I brought Mocha in to vet number three. Diagnosis #3: Well....... I don't really recall the vet given Mocha any diagnosis but she did mention that perhaps something environmental might have triggered the latest event and could also explain some of the other conditions. She wanted to see what a topical steroid would do for the lesions and also prescribed an antibiotic. I felt hopeful that the steroid would help. Turns out it was the worst thing we could have done to Mocha. The lesions all tripled in size and Mocha basically attacked her own feet. I called the vet who said to immediately stop the topical steroid. 

We left things alone, sans medicine, and went back to using bag balm. 

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and chin even ickier, can barely walk on her paws from pain/swelling 
By June 2011 Mocha's eyes had almost closed up completely and she wasn't able to tolerate walking on her paws. I called another vet in tears not knowing what to do for her. They said bring her in right away. So I did. The new vet looked at her, was very kind to her, looked her all up and down, asked to do another mite scraping just in case it was missed before (negative), did an ultraviolet light check for fungus which no other vet did (negative), and gave a I-see kind of "hmph" when I told her about the topical steroid. With a knowing confidence she went on to gave us a diagnosis. Diagnosis #4: Pemphigus. More specifically the vet said "She probably has pemphigus." The only thing she didn't know was which type of pemphigus she had although she guessed she had the more mild kind. She offered an expensive biopsy in order to determine which one but ultimately agreed to treat on her hunch. Mocha was started on a high dose of the steroid prednisone. Three weeks later I was astounded.

Finally a diagnosis of pemphigus after 2 years! This is 3 weeks after starting treatment..

Strict orders from the vet not to go running much less walking yet because the pads were extremely fragile. Notice the yellow color to them? All of that yellow is a hard damaged layer that has to slough off before given the green light to run.

Starting to look normal again
The next battle: There's a runner in there somewhere
It was almost a year ago that we first started prednisone. Mocha gained about 30 pounds since starting it. Mocha used to be a lean 55-57 pounds. I never thought she would end up a porker! She was getting quite lazy too. But she was healing. I was even able to start running with her again but she never got back to 100%. We enjoyed short runs at a much slower pace. Too fast would leave her limping. And for the first time in a looooong time I saw her wag her tail and want to go for runs again. There was a runner in her yet but there was also a constant struggle with letting her test out her re-found strength versus not letting her overdo it. More mom-dog guilt. There were days when even a mile walk/run would do her in for a couple days. Short rounds of fetch and walks became her new favorite past time. 

On July 20, 2012 Mocha left us. I will always cherish the miles we logged together. Love you Mocha!

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