Healing power of puppy love

In the summer of 2014, shortly after our tragedy with Isa, Mike and I noticed that Raro had become acutely shy of new people. This change in her attitude was not apparent until Isa’s absence. We soon realized that for the past year Raro, a very naturally submissive dog, had been using her oldest sister as a doggie shield. She’d let Isa absorb all of the love and attention rained onto them by passing strangers. But now that she was an only pet Raro, did not care for the attention, in any way. Every time someone approached  her, Raro tensed up, pulled away and tried her best to become invisible. She only wanted to play with other dogs, and even then if the dog’s owner wanted to greet her, she’d cower and run away. This was such an unexpected behavior to us, and I felt as though somehow we’d failed as pet parents.

Her loneliness and dependency on a pack became scarily apparent when in late August Raro experienced an almost near death accident. I naively thought she was capable to staying tied outside, while I could make a quick trip into a local pharmacy to pick up some items. This wasn’t new, we’d often leave Raro and Isa outside, waiting for a few minutes back home in Jacksonville. However, I came to see that I was horrifically wrong. A few minutes into my shopping trip a stranger screamed into the store stating that “Who ever had a big dog tied outside, it just ran away!”

My heart. Stopped.

Oh my god, someone must have approached her while she was outside and she freaked out and took off. I immediately dropped everything and sprinted through multiple lanes of traffic and oncoming vehicles only hoping they would see me before slamming on breaks. As I frantically looked around and continued to sprint, I couldn’t help but to think this felt surreal, and movie like.  Pedestrians standing on the sidewalks pointed in her direction when I’d yell at them “Have you seen a big dog”. Fortunately, the 50 pound sign that she had been tethered to was going along for her wild ride. As Raro made it down the sidewalk, and into a nearby neighborhood she must had made such the scene, because people were still standing and talking about what they had seen and heard. As I continued running, I knew I was hot on her trail, I could still hear some of the conversations “some huge dog running…”

Thankfully, a taxi driver who had been watching volunteer to pick me up at no charge to cruise around the neighborhood that some spectators pointed me to. I was so thankful, because I started to lose steam, especially since that morning Raro and I had been running through the hills of Rock Creek. We finally found her though. She was still galloping but free of her tag along sign. I called to her, but at first she didn’t even hear me. After I jumped out of the taxi and rushed by foot again, she reluctantly turned around to look at me. She cowered  a bit and practically crawled back to me. I could see that she was exhausted and feel how frightened she was. She slowly sinked into my arms and I promised I would never let her down again.

Shortly, after this incident, Mike and I decided that we needed to build up her runined self esteem. We thought besides some training in greeting strangers we needed to expand the pack. The hunt for another puppy began. We considered getting her a puppy from her original litter, since there were a few still looking for homes. I remember her half brother, Diezel and really made a push to get him, but we decided that as sweet and wonderful as he was, he would be too passive. They just wouldn’t be exactly what we were looking for. We needed to partner Raro up with another bull headed  strong will pup like Isa once was.

Our search ended when we came across a Litterbox announcement of a beautiful Dane named Sandy who was happily expecting a large litter of 9. After a puppy visit in November, we had the awful decision of having to pick one of the two that Ophelia, the breeder recommended would be a good fit for our home. After a night of dilberation we called her up and filled out the paper work. On January 7th, we finally brought him home. So with out further delay here he is, our newest family member – Osiris, the 13 week old Great Dane pup.



And as for Raro, let’s just say, she’s been too tired to be scared anymore.





Isa Sick and living with Mega-E

I had hoped that my very first blog on this site would be about my wonderful beloved pair of four legged pooches in their full quirkiness and glory. I imagined it would be on the topic of something much more thrilling or happier in nature. Instead, I’ve decided to share the struggles (and wins) we’ve encountered when caring for our sweet Great Dane, Isa as she settles into senior hood with Megaesophagus (Mega-E).

Relaxing in Alexandria Park

Isa relaxing in Alexandria Park, Jacksonville Florida

In case you’re wondering, Mega-E is a condition that can occur in humans and dogs alike. It’s typically the result of the esophagus suffering from some kind of trauma, leaving the passage way distended. In Isa’s case, it occurred after many years of woofing down too much food quickly and often without chewing. Over the years she’d occasionally vomit up her food which turned into a monthly ordeal but gradually turning into an almost a weekly occurrence. Despite best efforts to slow her food intake down, on December 24th of last year, she choked up her entire dinner of dry kibble with such force that it expanded her esophagus to an irreparable size.

Christmas with Isa and Raro

Raro (left) and Isa (right) on Christmas day in Canfield, Ohio.

We didn’t realize what had happened until we noticed gurgling sounds in her throat wouldn’t stop. Despite us having stayed up with Isa to comfort her while she struggled to keep food in her stomach down, we simply weren’t prepared for what was in store for her that night. I won’t go into all of the details of her suffering, but if you are on this site, you might already be familiar with this information. You may be looking for answers to the same questions that haunted us after realizing we had a victim of Mega-E: What can I do to cure this? Will this kill her? Will she ever be the same again? How can I help my poor baby?!

Unfortunately, there is no surgery, or cure for this condition. It’s simply a fact of life for her now and the best thing you can do is manage it. Without special care, Mega-E can be life threatening. However, you can provide a better quality of life for your pooch, by:

  • Blending food into a pulp similar to a smoothie
  • Feeding your dog small quantities of food (we feed Isa three times a day)
  • Placing a pillow in your dog’s bed, or rest area, so that she can prop her head up
  • Not allowing your dog too close to bedtime
  • Have her seen by your vet, she can provide you medicines to allow the throat to relax, anti heart burn medicine, and antibiotics in case food particles get into her lungs – which can cause an onset of pneumonia
  • Buy a harness if you’ve only had a regular collar. It will alleviate pressure to her throat.
  • Buying or building out a Bailey’s chair
  • Getting a prescription of Sucralfate from your vet (about $15.00) will help gastrointestinal motility

Since Isa’s health was worsening so quickly and because Great Dane sized – anything – is close to impossible to find, I decided to build out a Bailey’s chair.


A 3-D model of the chair’s blueprint I built out with an Autodesk program on my iPad.

The purpose of this chair is to provide a place for your dog to eat while allowing gravity to naturally do what the esophagus would have done. While your dog eats and sits in this chair it will facilitate the movement of food from your dog’s mouth down into her belly so that she can properly digest, gas and irritation free.

I used this video to guide me in the right direction of obtaining the right points for measurement. Our chair however, was customized so that one person could easily lift a 100lb dog into it by herself. This chair also has to be comfortable enough so that your dog can sit in it for up to half an hour after eating. I’ve modified this model to include a seat cushion at the bottom.

photo 3

Isa sitting in her chair for the first time.

So far, this chair helps Isa to keep all of her food down. The trickiest  part now involves figuring out ways to keep her comfortable, and even yes, entertained while sits and waits. If you are going to build a chair I recommend that you create a way for your dog to keep ventilated while she sits inside. Isa overheats easily because of a pre-existing liver issue, and all of the extra cushions 😉 inside. My husband has been making Pedialyte ice cubes shaped like hearts to keep her occupied while we wait for the timer to let us know we can release her. In case you haven’t realized this we love our dogs!

Icecubes of Pedialyte

Heart shaped pedialyte for days when Isa’s a little dehydrated.

I’d also recommend that you position the chair in a direction so that your pooch can see where you are. Your pooch might get awfully bored, and start to wiggle which can lead to her contorting into bad positions and defeat the purpose of this chair.

Future, modifications to this chair will include holes in the bottom that will allow her feet to stick out, and no table top. I feed her prior to putting her in the Bailey’s chair is easier for her since she spends less time inside.

Isa has both up days and really bad down days. Our goal is to make sure the up days outweigh the latter.