In February 2011, Spartacus looked like this:
And now he looks like this!
Spartacus was lucky enough to be taken in by a rescue when he was found wandering the streets of Miami. This sweet pup had worms, demodectic mange, and signs that he had narrowly survived the Canine Distemper virus. After several weeks of vetting and a few months healing with a foster family, Spartacus found us in April 2011 and our journey together began.
We adopted Sparty at the ripe age of 7 months old and we bonded immediately. This was our first dog as an adult, and he seemed like the ultimate happy go lucky puppy in our eyes. Between having full reign of the tropical family farm, chewing drift wood at the dog beach, and romping around with his cousin Sadie, Sparty was a happy camper. It appeared at long last that his troubles were far behind him.
However, after a week with us, his healed skin started to show signs of trouble again, and our trip to the vet left us feeling heart broken. Sparty indeed had recurrent mange, and in addition, our vet confirmed that his head twitch and caramel colored teeth were permanent and could only have been caused by the Distemper virus. Our education began.
Firstly, Spartacus was a survivor, the odds of surviving this virus once it reaches the "neurological state" are slim to none. The diagnosis was confirmed by Sparty's head twitch - it's like someone bobbing their head to a cool jam, all the time, even in his sleep. Secondly, the enamel in his teeth had been affected at a cellular level and he would probably lose his teeth early, no pearly whites on this handsome pup. And the hardest part was that this disease presents itself in mysterious ways, and it can continue to affect a dog throughout its lifespan causing further neurological damage leading to a seizure disorder. There is no known cure.
We were referred to a dog neurologist, and it was her belief that Spartacus could still lead a relatively normal dog life. But she worried his immune system was weak, and advised us to avoid dog parks and areas with strange dogs. Also, she believed Sparty would benefit from a lot of love.
Easy enough. We lived on the family plant nursery with cousin Sadie, so Sparty got to live the life running around, swimming, and chasing his fluffy friend. We gave him all the love we could, and cuddled him through his nightly nightmares when he trembled and yelped. All our effort went into giving this poor guy all the love that he deserved and had missed out on homeless and suffering.
We did not work on training him at all, and when he matured into a 57 pound adult with severe leash reactivity, we were stumped. The focus of this blog will be on dealing with a leash reactive dog with the most soulful eyes that you can't help but love with all your heart, so stay tuned!