First, Bruno is home. He came home Tuesday afternoon after a night over at the vet's and a visit with two specialists. In short he has a neurological condition called "Wobblers Disease". Wobblers’ is a condition that affects the cervical vertebrae that causes an unsteady (wobbly) gait and weakness in dogs and horses. It is more common in the larger breeds with Great Danes (which is what Bruno is) and Dobermans affected the most. This condition can also appear on horses, which makes me kind of smile since we (and everyone who has met him) refer to Bruno as our horse.
He was diagnosed with wobblers 4 years ago after I noticed him one day shaking in pain and not wanting to stand up. Turned out the pain was from his knee, where he had a swollen tendon, but the diagnosis was discovered on that same day. We were told his condition was minor and to just watch and see how he does. He went on anti inflammatory meds which helped him with his knee and for about a year he had no other issues.
Then the knee blew and he had to have TPL (torn ligament) surgery. I still crack up at the memory of Bruno's doctor explaining to us the size of the metal rod he used to put into Bruno's leg. Yup, you guessed it, the same size they use in ponies and horses. Needless to say this surgery was very costly and required aftercare that neither Chris nor I were expecting or ready for. However, at the time, Bruno was only 4 years old, and even though the life expectancy for a Great Dane is 8-10 years he was still very much a young dog with lots and lots of life to live.
His surgery was in July, which was good because it was still warm enough to try and walk him around outside afterwards which was part of his rehab. We had other options with rehab, but everything cost so much. With the help of our vets and a neighbor (who eventually became our pet sitter and Bruno's "second mom") we were able to nurse him back to almost 100%. Bruno no longer limped. He would run and play and chase the boys and gallop around the yard, sometimes looking like a deer if you saw him prance by the window out of the corner of your eye.
Bruno is beautiful. I haven't addressed this yet because I get choked up but I will say it again. He is beautiful! He is a fawn colored Dane with the black "mask" of a face. We never had his ears cropped where as some Danes have the 'pointed' ears that stick straight up, Bruno's are soft and floppy and freaking adorable.
Yet what makes Bruno beautiful is his spirit. He is a master at sweetness, a king of his domain yet he can't stand to be by himself. Great Danes are called "Gentle Giants" for a reason. They are sweet tempered, patient, easy go lucky and very, very much a people kind of dog. They confuse themselves to be lap dogs and yes, on many occasions has backed into the couch and sat down. He was playful as a puppy, into EVERYTHING as most puppies are. He grew quickly and matured into the handsome dog he is today.
Now his face is grayed, he sleeps a bit more, his energy level not as active and as we learned on Tuesday his other knee is now blown. His wobblers’ disease which ever as present has now combined with his knee issues and Bruno stopped being able to get up on his own. He can't handle stairs, he did not do well at all last week when there was ice everywhere. He would fall a lot, sometimes his legs just completely giving out on their own. His front legs would remain standing but his backside would go down and even though I consider myself a relatively strong person, I cannot lift the rear end of my 154 pound Dane by myself. I have pulled many arm muscles doing so and only with jacking my back up have I been able to get him back up on my own.
All of this of course breaks my heart. I mean sure it is hard to see your dog suffer. It is hard to see them grow old, start to lose control of themselves, not walk very well, to fall, to just downright lose their spirit. But what the real kicker is, what I am struggling with the most is knowing, one day Chris and I will have to make a decision that all pet owners at one point or another are sometimes faced with making.
I have grown up with dogs, my whole life I have not, not had a dog with me. And even though Bruno has a sister (our lab mix Josie) it is Bruno who has my heart the most.
I am all over the place here, and I am sorry, but I have to tell you why we ended up getting a Great Dane in the first palce.. I will be brief. In a nutshell, we can blame Nicholas Sparks for his book "The Guardian" for our purchase of Bruno. Of course the book being about a Great Dane who looks after a widower who loses her husband to cancer. The dog becomes her "Guardian" as her storyline takes a turn with her character's well being in jeopardy. Evan though I am not a widower (and never had a stalker before having kids), Chris and I had only been married for a few months when a work assignment sent him to Chicago for six weeks. I was home by myself with Josie who (bless her heart) would not only allow a would be burglar into our house but would lay at his feet while he riffled trough my jewelry box and probably lick him in the process.
So we got Bruno. He was only 8 weeks when we brought him home, and I have been in love with him ever since. Not to say that he hasn't annoyed me. Because boy, has he ever! Again, his need to cling, to be by my side, can prove tricky when trying to rush myself and the kids out the door. "Get out of the WAY Bruno." I have yelled at him many oh many times. And don't get me started on the dinner hour. You don't want to trip over a Great Dane when you are trying to cook a meal. Nor do you want to leave a freshly baked carrot cake on the counter and then take the kids outside to ride their bikes. On more than one occasion Bruno has helped himself, the counter, being his own personal dinner table. Yes, over the years I have learned, but one can forget at times and if this is one thing I can say about Bruno it is to say that he is indeed a well feed dog.
And as I wrap this up I must say that Bruno is a "everything." kind of dog. Yes, he is large, yes he can be in the way, yes he eats a lot, yes the large breed dogs can pose health issues, joint issues, stomach issues etc... But if you ask me would I ever own a Great Dane again I would answer yes without blinking without hesitation I would own another one of these incredibly magnificent animals whose heart they will steal the minute you meet them.
Bruno is 8 years old now. A senior citizen in a Great Dane's world and our options are limited. He is being treated with what they call "Medicinal Therapy" Basically a combination of pain medicine and anti- inflammatory meds. We will keep him comfortable, we will keep him safe we will keep him happy and active for as long as we can. My hope is he will respond to the meds and get a little bit of his perk back. I can see a small improvement already, but he will never walk normally again, and it is a matter of time before the knee pain becomes too much for him.
My Mom said to me that when you are a pet owner, you just know when it is time. When you can see and sense when they are not enjoying life anymore, when their pain is too great, when they lose their zest for life that somehow, I will know. I have learned in the past few days that Bruno is meant to be with us a little while longer. Yet I have also learned that I have to admit to myself and to the kids, that one day we will lose him. What is weird is that admittance (which took me a full day to come to terms with a hell a of a lot of crying and okay maybe a drink or two) comes a sense of relief. That with being his owner, his caretaker, means doing right by him. That loving him has been the easy part, that letting him go will indeed be the hard part but what matters most is what is right for him. Even if I don't like it, as I know I won't. I feel a bit of peace in my heart ache because in the end, no matter happens the ache will far less pale in comparison to my joy of loving Bruno.
Some of my favorite pictures over the years (you knew their would be pictures right?!?!
|Bruno at 10 weeks old. All legs and feet.|
|Me and my awful blonde hair phase hanging with puppy Bruno.|
|Bruno about 1 1/2 years old here and loved to lay on top of Josie|
|Bruno and Josie wanting to come inside after a brief snowfall last year.|
|One of my favorite Bruno pictures. I love you big boy.|