Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So I figured that since I have some new followers, perhaps I'd write a post about my Great Dane - Chassis. I named her Chassis because I used to be an engineer for GM. And when I worked at the plant in Oklahoma City, I did a lot of work on the chassis line....and I thought that that word sounded pretty feminine, but was also something that was big, strong, and powerful.

Chassis is now three and a half years old. I am not one of those people that calls my dog my "baby" - mostly because she is not. I love her dearly, but I can leave her at home with some water and some food and she's fine. When she was a puppy I even locked her in a crate. I don't have to keep her clothed and I don't even have to send her to school. Also, she did not come out of my body. :) Chassis was the CUTEST puppy I have ever seen - all paws and ears. She was clumsy - perhaps overly so - but that only added to her charm.

She is my dream dog in so many ways. First, she is big and that means that I am not likely to want to punt her when she yips at anything (seriously, I would never kick a dog - even the most puntable ones). Second, she is so very lazy. I do a lot of stuff away from home - which means when I come home, I want to be able to relax by reading, checking blogs, writing blog posts, or by making lists of things I will do when I win the lottery. I can do all these things with Chassis snuggled right beside me. It's even better after a long walk which she really enjoys. Third, she has such a sweet disposition. She is friendly to EVERYONE she meets and lets kids hang on her and pull on her ears...even when I want to punt them.

But there's one thing that only a few of you know about my dog.

And that's that she has a severe neurological disease that is absolutely heart wrenching to watch. She shakes all the time - whether she's standing or lying down - but most violently when she is on her way from standing to sitting or from standing to lying down (with a very brief period of sitting in between). It has now gotten so bad that she pretty much refuses to sit. In fact, it takes her being phenomenally tired for her to even want to lay down.

I've taken her to neurologists and after a lot of tests and money, they have no idea what is causing the tremors. They have tried steroids, meds for hypothyroidism (as this is sometimes related to muscle tremors and she tested VERY slightly in the abnormal range), and a couple of experimental meds- all without any results. The next step would be to do a nerve biopsy - which, as I understand it, is painful and at the end will only give me a name for the disease - but not a cure. As I understand it, her brain doesn't get feedback from the muscles in her body. As she's starting to sti or lay down, her brain doesn't know where her muscles she tenses them to gain more control over them. Which means that they become fatigued - so she tries to tense them more and slows down whatever movement is happening. This means that there is even more pressure/tension which makes her feel more out of control, so she tenses even more. It's a bad cycle that is now affecting her when she's just standing.

So, when I found all of this out last November, I was bummed, but also relieved that it wasn't Wobbler's Syndrome or something very painful. The silver lining is that the neurologist has assured me that she is in no pain.

But the problem is that she is getting worse. And that fact lies like a pit in my stomach. We went to several events this weekend and I saw her shaking way worse when she was just standing - but mostly when she was excited. It was so bad that people started commenting on it. When she drinks or eats, she actually looks like she's a quarterback - getting ready for a hike. Her right leg raises about an inch of the ground repeatedly. It's funny and sweet at the same time.

I made a promise to her and myself - that I would keep loving her and pampering her for as long as she had until she didn't have a good quality of life. The vet told me what to look for when she starts having a worse quality of life and I feel better about being able to recognize those signs. And she currently has a great quality of I hope that that tough decision is still a while away. But to be honest, I know that her getting worse - such that complete strangers are now noticing even when she's standing - is a sign that it will be closer than what I'm actually ready for.

And that breaks my heart.


Bonnie said...

Such a beautiful dog and an incredibly heartbreaking story. Thank you for sharing.

Amy Jo said...

Oh, my gosh! Your dog is gorgeous. I so hope that she is able to keep trucking and enjoying life as long as possible. And that picture of her as a puppy is adorable; what a clumsy, awkward little pup! I had one like that growing up; their paws keep growing and growing, and you wonder if they're going to turn into giants!
I wish you the best; enjoy her every moment you can, and don't get to caught up into the worries over her condition; as long as she's wagging and happy, stay wagging and happy!

Ginger said...

Sweet baby dog (who is HUGE and adorable)! I am sorry to hear that she is sick. :(

But what a wonderful life she has with you and you with her!

Lyn said...

I am so sorry about your doggie! She is beautiful. She is blessed to have you.

Patty said...

This is a sad story. But you are a great person for making her so happy. She is beautiful.

kristi said...

That's a touching story. I love your dog's name! It always makes me chuckle, but it's really cute and suits her. I'm so sorry to hear about her shakiness. I'm glad that you've had her checked and that she is still enjoying a great quality of life. That's what it's all about, right? My grandparents had a St. Bernard who had seizures often. The vet said that even though it was hard to watch, he didn't know any different and was not in pain. So we were happy to continue to love him until it eventually was too much for his body and he was gone. He was a great dog like Chassis.

SuperDave said...

So sad - I'm am so sry.
That has to be one of the cutest dogs I have ever seen. My brother use to have a pack of them at his house on a farm. Great Danes love to run and run forever, but he told me that they are plagued with many malformations and odd diseases that are unique to the breed. He told me that many don't live long enough to be old because of arthritis, heart attacks,and crippling ( bad hips).
You also mentioned hypothyroidism - which most of his dogs had and were on meds for that.
Have you tried drugs for hypothyroidism. You may know this, but muscle cramps, rigidity, tremors is a symptom of hypothyroidism. That sounds like what he is experiencing.

SuperDave said...

sry- I had to reread your post. It sounds like the meds have already been tried. Sry for not reading cleary enough.

Amy said...

I understand what you are going through. Go and read my post for today (11/17/08). I was crying when I read your post about your dog. I hope she feels better soon. I send hugs her way.