The Summer of Worry



I guess by now you have come to realize that I spent the summer away from the dog blog. Reilly was diagnosed with anemia back in June (potentially caused from some bad things happening with his bone marrow) and I basically kept a close eye on him for most of the summer. The vet warned me that, if the anemia worsened, I might come downstairs one morning and find a very lethargic and unhealthy dog.


I am pleased to report that the vet’s warning has not come to fruition. Reilly was slightly more lethargic than usual this summer but there may be a couple of explanations for this: (a) it was a very, very hot and humid summer and (b) he is another year older. Westies are not notorious for high energy after the puppy years so a bit of lethargy is not cause for tremendous concern.


That said, he is still anemic – at least as far as I can tell. His tongue is still light pink and his gums a little bit pinker still. However, lately he has been looking a bit better in the tongue/gum area.


My wife and son continue to reassure me that the dog is fine and, in the months since the diagnosis, I am gradually shifting toward their position. As August drew to a close a few days ago, and September announced that cooler autumn weather is on the horizon, Reilly began showing signs of surprising energy. His friend MacDuff (a fellow Westie) came over the other night and he and Reilly marked just about every available bit of territory in our backyard. At one point, shortly after MacDuff’s arrival, Reilly went on a torrid three lap run around our fairly large property, weaving frantically through lawn chairs and flowers and bushes. Then he stopped suddenly and stared at me panting. He was very pleased with himself.


Our walks have been a bit shorter (my choice) and with a few more breaks along the way (again, it’s been a hot summer). I started bringing a water bottle with me when the temperature and humidity has been a bit too intense. For his part, Reilly will take one drink of water deep into the walk and there is no point trying to force any more water into his belly at any other point.


I worried about him for most of the summer but I am starting to dial the fretting back a little now. The fact of the matter is that he has probably always been a bit anemic. There is no point in dwelling on it and waiting for him to deteriorate when he might well be the kind of dog that functions with a low red blood cell count and will live a productive dog’s life — which is what really? To sleep, eat, excrete, and, most importantly, love his family unconditionally. On all fronts, Reilly is performing quite well.


Even though the myriad of tests demonstrated that Reilly does not have an autoimmune problem and that his iron count is fine, I am still going after those potential issues despite the fact that the science says his anemia is occurring at the level of the bone marrow. He has always had a bit of a sensitive stomach so I have been feeding him a spoonful of yogurt with his kibble everyday. I also switched to a kibble recommended by a woman I work with (Merrick’s “Cowboy Cookout” – ye-hah!!!). And for his immune system he gets a dose of Naturpet’s Senior Tonic (even though he is not a senior) and I barbeque him little bits of beef liver that I blend in with his two meals a day. It can’t hurt…and it hasn’t hurt.


In the meantime, the vet keeps calling to ask me to bring Reilly in for more blood work – which I haven’t done. I was very clear at our last appointment in June that they weren’t going to suck any more blood out of my dog – despite their best intentions. We can keep diagnosing Reilly until we find out precisely what is wrong with him but, if there was a little pill that would make him better, I would assume that they would have already given it to him. That can only mean that Reilly is either a perpetually anemic puppy or something really bad is going on inside his little body. And if it’s really bad, he is not going for chemotherapy or getting a blood transfusion or any other drastic procedure. This is a quality of life issue for me and a dog’s life is very short. In other words, I am going to enjoy my dog and watch him live out his life – which is hopefully for a lengthy period of time.


I apologize for the tone of the last two blogs. Like any dog owner, I am extremely attached to my puppy. He brings out a nurturing side of me that makes me a better person. He is adored by my wife and two adult sons – and my friends and extended family. He is a joy. And he is remarkably cute. That’s why the thought of losing him – introduced by a ‘wellness’ test back in June – has sent me for a bit of a loop. But here we are in September and, as I write this blog at two in the afternoon, I know that the minute I push my chair away from the table I am currently writing at, he will be on his feet, cocking his head, and coaxing me toward the door for his walk. He doesn’t know, nor does he care, that he’s anemic!


The next series of blogs will be called LESSONS MY DOG HAS TAUGHT ME. Don’t worry, they’ll be more upbeat and maybe even a little bit funny.



This entry was posted in Walking With Reilly. Bookmark the permalink.