Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Tasha Was One of a Kind

In Memoriam
Tasha, circa 1993-2007
Tasha came to live with us when we were still in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had been placed in five different homes, and had been returned all five times. When we took her home, she was living in a local vet's office because none of the rescue's foster homes could cope with her.
Tasha was part dog and part gymnast. She would use her amazing acrobatic skills to perform daring escapes from homes and yards. That was pretty much the reason why she was unsuccessful in her previous adoptions.
Tasha did not like to be left alone. She would escape when she was left by herself. During her first week with us, I left her to roam the house while I went out to run an errand. The only window that was open was in the bathroom, where there was a solid screen firmly in place. And that window was on the driveway side of our house. The driveway descended toward the garage in the back at a fairly steep angle. The distance from the bathroom window to the driveway was easily 14'.
When I arrived back home, I called for Tasha and got no response. I went to every room, every place she could be, and there was no Tasha. Then I saw the bathroom window, and realized that Tasha had pushed out the screen and leaped to the ground, 14' below!
Frantic, I drove slowly through the neighborhood looking for her. Three blocks, tied to a porch railing, was Tasha. The man sitting on his porch said she came meandering by, so he figured she belonged to someone and he just tied her up to his porch!
Our solution for her "separation anxiety" was to match her up with a friend. We chose Samson. (See blog, Aug. 10) Once Tasha had a friend to stay with while we were gone, her need to flee dissipated.
Tasha adored Samson. They played in the yard together, and ran the fence line together. Tasha was a large girl and needed room to run.
We learned early on that Tasha could easily mount the kitchen counters. Note in her picture, above, she is perched on the bathroom vanity. She jumped up here all by herself. So I would put any baked goods on top of the refrigerator, instead of on the countertop, so that they would be out of reach for Tasha.
I thought!
I remember coming home to an empty package of cream horns that had not even been opened. The packing and wrapper were spread across the kitchen floor. And the cream horns were mysteriously gone! Apparently, Tasha mounted the countertops, and then stood on the counter to reach the top of the refrigerator! We just hoped that she shared them with Samson!!
When we moved to Arizona and bought the farm in Eloy, south of Phoenix, we brought Samson and Tasha to the house and put them out in the yard to play. Someone left the gate open, and Tasha was off and running! Ricky chased her for easily a mile, across the desert and finally onto the Indian Reservation land. Finally, about 45 minutes into the chase, she just stopped and let us catch up to her. She was smiling and proud of herself! Then she happily walked home on a leash with Ricky!
While we were still in Arizona, Tasha developed a large, softball-sized lump on her chest. It was really messy, too. It turned out to be Valley Fever, a uniquely Arizonan malady. Even though it was theoretically in several southwest states, our vets in New Mexico and San Diego just shook their heads and said they have never seen a case of it. We had a total of 8 cases among our dogs.
Valley Fever is like herpes. Once you have it, you have it forever. You can control it with a wonder drug called Fluconazole, but the dogs who have tested positive for the disease will always carry it. We are still treating some of our dogs here in Texas. It is caused by a fungus in the earth, and when a rain storm stirs up the ground -- or when the dogs dig in the earth -- that fungus can transfer inside through the lungs. And Valley Fever is born. (And, yes, humans can contract the disease as well, in exactly the same way -- by stirring up the fungus in the soil)
The really bizarre thing about Valley Fever is that it affects different dogs (and people) in different ways. Lola was our first baby to be diagnosed with it. In Lola, the symptom was a deep cough that would not respond to conventional drugs. In Andy, the fungus manifested itself in his bones and joints, making him stiff and sore; his neck was turned 30 degrees to the right and he could not move it to the left.
For Tasha, the disease showed up as large, softball sized growths on her neck that "weeped". Because her symptoms were so strange, the diagnosis was missed for a long time. Her neck finally "healed" because the fungus went into remission. But here in Texas, she had another episode of the same thing. Fortunately, Fluconazole is amazing at treating and eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Tasha's lump slowly went away with Floconazole treatment.
But I have always wondered if Tasha left us before her time because somehow the Valley Fever fungus in her body weakened her system.
It was on the 4th of July, 2007 that we lost Tasha. We had seen that the end was near, because she was getting grey around her muzzle and slowing down. But I was still surprised that we lost her when we did, because the end came rather suddenly.
We had moved her upstairs to our bed, and I spent a part of the 3rd of July laying next to her, stroking her long fur, and talking gently to her. She was aware that I was there, and she smiled at me. But she was very weak.
The next day, Ricky and I stayed with her. And in the middle of the day, she slipped silently away from us.
Tasha had a good life here. She loved Samson, and she and Samson were always among the dogs who traveled with us. She loved the beach, and she loved when it was her turn in our bed. She lived exuberantly and joyously.
But she was gone too soon.
Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
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wharton, texas

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