While we are away in Italy our girls are being looked after by our dear friend Vicki who has moved in for 4 weeks. We receive regular updates and photos showing how much they are missing us. Or possibly not missing us …
Poppie was off her food – which was unusual. So we went to the vet for a check up only to discover she had a low red blood cell count. The norm for a dog is a PCV (packed cell volume) of between 35 and 50. Poppie was 27 and over the following week that continued to drop to around 20.
She was anaemic.
This was serious – anything below 15 is seen as critical and anything under 12 requires a blood transfusion to keep her alive.
Importantly we needed to find out why her red cell count was dropping. There were a multitude of possibilities so Poppie was admitted to the Massey Vet Hospital in Palmerston North and a barrage of tests was undertaken – all against the background of a continually dropping blood count.
She had a bone marrow biopsy, among another things, which is a particularly invasive procedure. No one wanted to do it, but it turned out to be the only way to confirm what was going on in her little body.
On a Thursday morning we got a call – her blood count was 11 and her body was starting to shut down. An immediate blood transfusion was needed. Her specialist (Dr Matt) didn’t think she had enough blood left to take a sample for blood matching so there was a risk any new blood could be rejected and she would slip into shock. No one had a good diagnosis if this happened.
At 11am the transfusion began – 4 hours later she was finished – thankfully in one piece and with a blood count close to 40. Of course a transfusion is only a temporary measure as the transfused cells will die quickly. We would be in the same situation in a matter of days if we couldn’t find the reason her red blood cells were dying but, critically, we had bought Poppie some time.
Ever since the first visit to our vet the suspicion was that Poppie had IMHA (Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anaemia) – where her own white blood cells become over zealous and not only attack cells that shouldn’t be in her body (the function of white cells in all of us) but also attack her own red cells, killing them. She had been put on a treatment regime of steroids and immune suppressant drugs when she was admitted to Massey that hopefully would suppress her white cells and allow her red cells to regenerate. But clearly this cocktail of drugs hadn’t worked – or hadn’t had enough time to work – hence the need for the transfusion.
Dr Matt explained that this treatment would take time and in 25% of dogs it simply would not work. We were hopeful Poppie was in the other 75%. A few days after the transfusion she was home (because, as Matt explained, a place full of sick animals is a bad place for a dog with little or no immune system) and we became prime carers for the girl.
Since that time we have seen Poppie’s blood count hover around the 38 – 40 mark. Her body has started to regenerate red blood cells and we have been able to reduce her steroid medication slightly.
We have regular blood count checks – probably more than are needed – as every time Poppie looks like she’s feeling under the weather she’s off for another check.
Time will show how much we can reduce her medication as the side effects of high doses of steroids aren’t great. Hopefully we can wean her off most of the pills as her body improves it’s ability to produce red blood cells and her immune system starts to settle down.
Update: two steps forward and one step back – the reduction in steroid dose mentioned above has been reversed as her body wasn’t ready and the white cells were making their presence felt again. Dr Matt says we’ll try to reduce the dose again in a months time.
A few days ago Poppie was told that she (with Jean in tow) will be spending next weekend in Hamilton with her Auntie Vicki and Vicki’s dogs Macey and Georgie.
Poppie loves Vicki and her reaction was priceless.
Poppie is eleven years old this year. In human years that’s around 67. But no one has told her that, and she still acts like a youngster most of the time.
But every so often you catch her feeling her age, taking the stairs a little slower than usual, sleeping a little longer in the mornings or preferring to snooze on the end of the couch rather than watching the street for anyone brave enough to pass our front gate.
Happily these times are short-lived and before long she’s back to bouncing around the house and terrorising innocent pedestrians.
For no reason and with no real narrative, some shots of Poppie and Bella doing their thing.
Groom day in Siena was a major family outing. We had found a groomer just a few metres from the Campo and they would take one girl at a time. So we spent the afternoon sitting in our favourite bar firstly with one girl and then with the other.
This was no hardship and gave us ample opportunity to check some emails, watch some people and do some shopping – as you do in Italy.
This year, summer is the kind we always dream about. Hot sunny days and warm calm evenings that seem to stretch on forever – with the weather forecaster’s prediction of impending wind and rain being proved wrong time and again.
Tonight, as the sun dropped below the horizon, we were on our front verandah enjoying the view. The girls were waiting patiently to terrorise anyone who dared to pass the gate. What a great evening.
In summer we often spend evenings sitting in the backyard catching the last of the sun – much to the apparent displeasure of Poppie the dog who sits inside, on the window seat, eyeballing us through the Lavender.
We’re not sure why she does this. I suspect she’s wondering why we are just sitting around enjoying ourselves – when we should be getting her dinner. Just a thought.
This gallery contains 45 photos.
As we do every January, here’s a quick look back at 2015. Some shots you may have seen and some new ones.
Presenting two photos that you can only take when you’ve got the time. And that’s the great thing about holidays, you have the time.
The dog shot involved two tired girls and Jean acting as a wrangler behind me. It took about 30 shots to get the one I was looking for with Poppie staring down the lens and Bella on guard.
The moon rising over Nelson shot took time because I had no tripod and the shutter speed had to be quick enough to ensure a sharp shot but still have a reasonable depth of field. In the end I pushed the ISO to 800 and managed to hand-hold the camera steady for 1/30th of a second exposure. Then it was into Photoshop for some cropping, colour balancing and exposure work.
It’s great to have time for all this faffing about.
In New Zealand buying Parmigiano Reggiano usually means buying small pre-packed slices, at great expense from the super market or deli. In Italy it’s different – as can be seen from the Parmigiano available at our favourite alimnetari. You give an indication of how much you want and it’s sliced off the round – right there in the middle of the store.
These were also the rounds that Poppie and Daisy used to sit next too when they were in Positano waiting patiently for the shop keeper to cut off a wee slice as a treat.
Poppy still enjoys the taste of Parmigiano – she obediently sits and waits for a taste every time I use some in a dish at home.