Mon 6th August: The great unknown
The first message I got was from May at Tai Po telling me that the new golden retriever girl, Raine, had been sent to Acorn as an emergency case. She had the worst case of bloody diarrhoea and was already weak. Dr Andy called me later to say that it was almost certainly parvovirus, and it wasn’t much later that the poor girl died. We think of parvo as being a puppy disease and it usually is, but if a dog has never been vaccinated and comes in contact with the virus, then it can become infected. This applies to distemper as well, and we have seen that happen before.
Raine had been found tied to a post in the middle of the recent typhoon, and the finder took her to AFCD in Pokfulam. She had no microchip so there was registered owner to contact, but even so Raine had to do the regulation four days in case someone turned up to claim her. It was almost certainly during that time that she was infected with parvovirus and her poor physical condition and lowered immunity couldn’t fight the disease.
It’s hard to imagine having a dog and doing absolutely nothing for it, no microchip and rabies shot or vaccination against infectious diseases, let alone a basic standard of care. Raine’s appearance when I picked her up from AFCD made me think she was an old dog, but on being checked over (including teeth) the vet guessed she was no more than five years. She would have been guaranteed a new home simply because she was a golden retriever, and a very sweet one at that, but sadly it wasn’t to be.
Apart from parvovirus and distemper, there is another killer disease that seems to be appearing every summer now. Leptospirosis is spread via rats (their urine) and affects humans as well as dogs, although there don’t seem to have been any reports of human infection that I know of. There have been quite a few cases of ‘lepto’ in the past week or so, and although early treatment can be successful, prevention is the best course of action. If you walk your dog where there is any fresh water (not sea water), like the rock pools that are found in so many places, don’t let your dog drink or even swim in them. It’s hard because of course the dogs love it and it cools them down, but cases are coming in from Tai Po, Saikung and the most notorious of areas, the Pik Shan Path trail (Peak to Mid-levels). At the very least get your dog vaccinated against the various strains that aren’t covered by the five-in-one vaccine. I’m sure by now every clinic can provide this. I was reminded about lepto once again when at Acorn today and one of our ex-HKDR dogs, a very sweet girl, was in hospital there. (She is the sister of our Tai Po trio, Alison, Jersey and Felix).
It was one of those full-van days today, as I had a lot of puppies who had reached the five month mark and needed their rabies shot and license, as well as younger ones for regular vaccination (very important with parvo around). Iris also had a lot of small dogs for licensing or vet visit, so when I boarded the van with my lot in their crates it was already full. First stop was AFCD where for once I didn’t even look in the kennel block, as there wasn’t an inch of space to put any more dogs. As it was I had Jojo the shih tzu on my lap with Cherry the mongrel sitting between my seat and Hing’s (and Jojo absolutely loved it and claimed me as hers for the rest of the afternoon).
Cherry has made a remarkable recovery since being found starving in a Kowloon back street. She’s put on a lot of weight and is even quite a (sweetly) cheeky girl now, happy and playful. Her back legs will never be 100% right as both her pelvis and thigh have been broken, but that doesn’t stop her. When she first arrived she could barely stand and her bones were so thin they were ghost-like. She’s still recovering from tick fever (as if everything else wasn’t enough) but she’s doing fine overall.
Dr Andy suggested testing Jojo for thyroid deficiency to see if her total baldness (except for a few tufts by her tail) could be due to that, and if it is then the remedy is quite simple. Just daily medication and she could be a hairy dog again. Hair or not, she’s the sweetest girl and always takes a keen interest in what’s going on. Like Raine, I had thought she was a very old dog when I saw her at AFCD with her hairless body and her clogged-up eyes, but she’s still quite young at six years. If I could take another small dog home I think it would be Jojo.
I’m always talking about surrenders and returns and how hard it is to deal with them, but today’s story is a good one. One of the dogs being given up was Lamma, rescued as a baby from ‘Dog Island’ and appropriately adopted by someone also living on Lamma, although the other side from where I live. Initially I got great feedback about him and how well he was doing, something that was confirmed by a friend of mine who lives in the same area and saw Lamma out and playing on the beach with all the other local dogs. The next email I got was the one telling me that the adopter could no longer afford to feed his dog, so he needed a new home. Easier said than done, of course, especially as it seems that Lamma’s romps on the beach had stopped and he had now become a nervous dog. I contacted my friend and asked if she could help, and did she know anyone who would be willing and able to take Lamma on. Because she had met him and knew how lovely he was, my friend was happy to help and it didn’t take long for her to find a temporary home at least. That will not only buy Lamma some time, but he can re-start his social outings and regain his confidence. He’s not exactly home and dry, but at least it’s not an immediate issue that needs sorting out.
It’s a funny thing with puppies, and I suppose human babies too, but with the mixed breeds it’s impossible to know what they will look like when they grow up. Lamma was a run-of-the-mill kind of baby pup, cute as they all are but nothing special. It was only as an adult that his good looks developed. Of course a black puppy will always be black, and you can generally tell if the ears will stand up or be floppy (almost all ears are down to start with), but as far as size goes it’s really hard to tell. The thing about big feet isn’t reliable, as some stocky breeds like bulldogs have massive feet while there are tall dogs with dainty toes. Some chunky pups that look as though they will be very large as adults just end up being chunky and medium-sized, while some just never seem to stop growing. I still have Rag, brother of Tag , and as youngsters they looked almost identical. However Tag’s ears stood up and he’s stayed a standard size, while Rag has floppy ears and is a very large dog now. From his distinctive loping gait I’m guessing that he has a lot of Doberman in him, the reason perhaps why his tail was docked as a puppy (before I got him). Unluckily he had a bad case of juvenile demodex which meant he couldn’t go to the Sunday puppy parties, and missed out on any chance of a home.
The coat is something else which can be a surprise. In general a fluffy puppy won’t be a fluffy adult, as that baby fur changes as puberty sets in, just like the teeth do. Diamond was the fluffiest puppy ever, so fluffy that I though she might grow up to look like a chow chow. Instead it did what usually happens and turned into a thick and wavy but flat coat, the same as Biff and Buffy, two other beauties.
Some dogs grow whiskers and feathers, or full fan-tails and thick lion ruffs. It’s just one of the lovely things about mixed breeds, the not-quite-knowing and the sometimes surprise ending.