Thursday, June 9, 2011

Here Comes the Truck!

This handsome dog is Tonka, our 8-year-old black tri Australian Shepherd. Tonka has been with us since he was 9 weeks old, and possesses the mellowness that his adopted mom Mariah lacks.

 Tonka was a big puppy, and has grown into a beautiful, mature dog. He is muscled, with a dark, glossy coat. Like most Australian Shepherds, he is very intelligent, & also very devoted. We’ve never had to worry whether Tonka would run off. He prefers to be close to his people. In fact, I’ve sometimes thought that he would be most happy if he was surgically grafted to us!

Tonka was a healthy 5-year-old when, to our dismay, he had his first seizure. Within 6 months, he had sustained brain damage from a series of very intense seizures over a 16-hour period. When he came home from the vet’s, he didn’t recognize any of us. He had also forgotten all of his commands. Most of all, he seemed to have no impulse control, & would jump up onto tables or counters right in front of us to steal food.

The owner of Tonka’s sire had contacted me the previous year because another pup in Tonka’s litter had started having seizures. Then we heard of another. When Tonka also started seizing, we knew that there must be a genetic problem with all of the pups. Of Tonka’s litter of 7 puppies, 3 had idiopathic epilepsy, and the other 2 have been euthanized because their seizures were so violent.

Tonka is not the same dog that he was. That was something we needed to accept. It was hard at first, because he had been such an intelligent companion. But the seizures & the brain damage changed his personality. Although still a loving dog, he jumps up on tables & counters right in front of us to forage for food. We have learned to modify our lifestyle to deal with that. More difficult to manage is that he screams when one of us leaves the room, or when he is hungry, or when he thinks it’s time to get up (sometimes at 4:30 or 5:00 am!). A 50-lb Aussie can make A LOT of noise when he’s unhappy!!

We had planned to start training Tonka for dog agility competition before his seizures began. For his own safety, those plans were curtailed. But our commitment to Tonka is very strong, & we work hard to give him as full a life as possible. Although he must be confined when we are out of the house (he destroys the house trying to find treats for himself), he has a huge yard to run in with the other dogs.

Tonka has completely lost his herding drive, but still has a special job of holding our sheep off of their corn feeder while I fill it with corn. He knows this is his job, & he works at it diligently, even sticking his head thru the fence to bark & snap at the sheep if they come too close. He is a big cuddler, so we make sure to spend time cuddling with him. He loves to run up & down the stairs at our vacation home up north, & will do it 20 or more time a day. 

Tonka remains a gentle, loving & valued member here at Waggin’ Tails Station, & we hope he will be with us for years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment