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Monday, August 3, 2009

Heartbreak...and Hope

Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the news we received on Saturday.

Michelle came over and tried her best to break it to us gently;
but there is really no way to soften the blow delivered by the
news that your wonderful puppy has just completely failed his
hip x-rays. There was nothing borderline about it; Dakota's
hip scores were way beyond the acceptable tolerance, putting
him at high risk for developing dysplasia. Guide work in harness
is a physically demanding job and it would not be fair to expect
him to do this.

Utter disbelief was my first reaction. I had to be assured that there had been no mistake -- in fact, multiple opinions had already been obtained from specialists around the country on his results, and no, the lab didn't mix up his films with someone else's. But it still seemed implausible to me. After all, Dakota has never exhibited any of the lameness or stiffness associated with hip problems. He runs like a deer and is one of the most agile and athletic dogs I've seen! His breeder goes above and beyond what many breeders consider the standard requirements, thoroughly testing all breeding dogs for a variety of inheritable disorders -- hip problems included. But sadly, human knowledge can only go so far. Despite everything we've done to stack the genetic "cards" in his favor, Dakota just chanced to draw a poor hand. It can happen, and it's really nobody's fault. Now it's up to us to help him make the most of what he's got.

It really is, for me, a kind of grieving process -- a sense of loss. There just aren't words to express how I feel! Dakota is such an exceptional dog and a real joy to train. He's quite good at what we've trained him to do, and so of course it's sad that he can't do it. But the main thing, to me, is just that I don't want anything bad to happen to him.

As it happens, however, this exceptional nature may be the ticket to his future -- a very different one than what we had planned and prepared for, yet a good future all the same. Dakota's natural abilities combined with his extremely easy-going, people-centered personality make him a prime candidate for different, less physical, service dog jobs. He is currently under consideration for this type of "career change" and, since everything's still in the very beginning stages, I can't say any more than that right now. But it's pretty safe to share that, should he succeed in his new task, he would be at least as highly valued and indispensable to his new family as a guide dog is to its partner. With proper veterinary care, a loving home, and a job to do, I think Dakota's future can still be a bright one. Who knows, perhaps he is the answer to someone's prayers!

In the meantime, someone forgot to forward to Dakota the memo that he has bad hips. After working very hard to cheer me up Saturday afternoon (I'm sure he wondered what all the tears were about!), he blew off some steam by going on one of his high-spirited racing sprees, tearing around in giant circles, leaping over obstacles in a single bound, coming back for a quick pat, and then charging off again.

"Do I look like this is gonna stop me?"


Jethro's Puppy Raiser said...

I heart Dakota! :)

Ally, Teddy and Kira said...

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that! Medical CC's are absolutely no fun but I hope whatever his alternate career may be will be an amazing fit for him and make you proud of the boy!

Erin and the Furry Troops said...

Career changes are super hard!! But I'm sure Dakota will do the best at whatever career he chooses!!

Cabana's Puppy Raiser said...

I'm so sorry. I feel your pain! It's so difficult when you've been working toward a goal, to have it thwarted by things beyond your control, especially when it's something you never had an inkling about previously. But Dakota will definitely make someone happy--what a sweetheart!

Dakota's Puppy Raiser said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. They're appreciated more than you know!!

puppyluver said...

you've done amazing work with him! he will be the best alternative medicine around :)