The first half of this post is a tribute to my girl Tess. Tess is our 14-15ish year old Black Lab. We are not 100% on her age because she changed owners a few times in her life. I am so thankful that she has been with me for the past 7 years. There are a lot of happy Lab owners out there, thankful for the friendship of these animals, and how much they love back. They can be tough as puppies and young adults, but with the right discipline and love they always want to please, and therefore they really do become close companions.
(Tess hanging out in the driveway, she is not one to run off…anymore, haha)
I got Tess at a very critical point in my life. I was having a hard time at work, both relationally and emotionally. I was moving in by myself and wanted a dog of my own. I was not aware at the time JUST how much a needed her, or how she would become my “best girl.”
Tess is a traveling girl, she loves to visit friends and family, or hit the trail for a hike. She loves the mountains, the water, a sunny spot in the yard, a car ride, a walkie, belly rubs, ear rubs, butt rubs…you get the picture. She is by no means a couch potato, but she will join you for a snuggle if invited. She always get compliments on how good she looks for her age, or her pretty blue/black coat. She has done well staying in good shape, and I would encourage anyone with an over-weight lab to get them trimmed up…you will be so thankful for those extra years together!
Tess is my girl, but she also has a couple of men in her life…ok, one man and one baby boy. She has been a mama-dog to many puppies in her life, none that she gave birth to but all have needed her the same. When we got Mason, she allowed him to be close to her all the time, even sharing her bed, and well, she does not love that…Mason loves her, learns from her, and finds confidence when he is scared thanks to her. David and I also refer to Tess many times as our cornerstone. Other than our faith of course, Tess is this calm loving spirit that makes everything right in our home.
(Tess with Mason snuggled, he is 2 this weekend, so this was a while ago)
This Spring we started to notice that Tess seemed more “allergic” than normal, lots of mucus, coughs, panting. Around this time I also noticed that she seemed to have “lost her bark” or at least it got more squeaky. We tried some Bynadryl and that seemed to work, or at least we thought it did. She had a hard time recovering from long walks. We attributed that to age. Throughout all of this time we had her in the river, the ocean, and several walks…even some summer days out in the yard. Our dogs have water, and shade, and lots of room to play, so we never thought any different.
On the 4th, while trying to get her to swim with us in the pool, Tess went into a panic and could not catch her breath. This lead to an emergency situation and thankfully, many prayers answered, she made it though. We got her to the closest ER vet, and waited to hear the outcome. They found Tess has Laryngeal Paralysis, or Lar Par. Here is some info from the ACVS.org site:
The opening to the trachea (“wind pipe”) normally is pulled open on two sides when breathing in, and then these cartilages relax when breathing out. With laryngeal paralysis, the muscles that normally pull these open do not function properly. When an affected dog breathes in, the cartilages do not pull open—rather, they are sucked into the opening, or in severe cases sucked shut. Early in the condition, this creates increased noise when they breathe (called “stridor”); later, it can completely obstruct their airway, and they can suffocate.
Tess was suffocating, and they had to sedate her and insert a breathing tube. While inserting the tube, they also had to remove some tissue from a mass that was also blocking her airway. When they told us she was stable we were relieved, and when they said she could come home we knew we were given a gift from God. (Tess on the 4th at the ER)
More and more of her sweet personality as come out over the past week. We had a good follow up at the Vet yesterday, and my anxious and worried thoughts have calmed down. I have learned a lot about Lar Par, how to care for Tess as she lives with this condition, and I feel like I want to make sure that Lab owners are more aware of this condition. Treating the symptoms is easier than I expected, and thankfully Tess is a very calm dog, that is super helpful.
Some basic tips: elevate food and water bowls, do not use a collar always a harness, no long walks, or anything that would cause them to over heat, keep a fan on hand to help them cool down.
The most helpful news that I got from our Vet this week was if we manage Tess well, at her age, it is very likely she will not leave us due to Lar Par. We are waiting for the mass biopsy results, and I pray that they are benign.
We all love Tess, and I know that each day I have with her is a blessing. She has taught me yet another lesson, and that is to enjoy the company of those around us each day and not take any time for granted. Life is too short, and too good to waste.
**edit, 7.12.12: Tess had a malignant biopsy result. Tess has cancer in her throat.