Manda - Part 2

At the end of Part 1, we were moving to Amsterdam. We had a nice farm house about 20 km from downtown Amsterdam. It had a big yard, a canal in front, and greenhouses behind. Manda loved it. At first we thought we might need to fence the yard to keep Manda from getting onto a busy street, but she established the back yard as her territory and never strayed.

Manda was always friendly to anyone she knew or when she was with us and knew things were okay. But, she guarded the house against strangers and swans. She didn’t like the swans in the canal.

Colorado is a high desert. The humidity is low and the winters can be quite cold. There are no fleas, and molds and fungi are almost nonexistent. This was not the case with Holland. Soon we were battling fleas on the cats and on Manda. And, Manda had began to get a lot of “hot spots”. She would scratch her eyes till there was no hair around them.

We finally took her to a veterinary hospital in Utrecht. They gave her an allergy test where they injected more than 20 different common items under her shaved skin. After a few hours, they were able to tell what she was allergic to by studying the resulting bumps. She was allergic to 13 common household things including: house mites, fleas, dust, cats, and people! We had two choices of treatment; steroids to relieve the itch or hypersensitivity treatment. The steroid treatment would last her lifetime and had all the undesirable side effects of steroids. The hypersensitivity treatment only had a 40% chance of working, but the treatment only lasted a year. We chose to try the hypersensitivity treatment.

The vet made up a potion of all the things Manda was allergic to. We had to inject a small amount of this potion under her skin. At first, the amounts were small and the frequency of injections was often. Over time, the injections became larger, but were less frequent. We became very good at giving injections.

It worked! After a year, Manda only showed minor allergic symptoms.

We really enjoyed The Netherlands. We would go for long walks in a local park (The Bos). We would go on paddle boat rides on the canals of Amsterdam (big black dog right in the middle, not paddling). And, we’d go on day/weekend trips all over The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Northern France, and North-western Germany. And Manda particulary liked McDonalds, who was so dog-friendly that they had special McDonalds dog bowls and they would always give her water.

In 1991 we moved again, this time to France. On July 4, 1991 we arrived at the Lyon Satolas airport and drove to our new home near the medieval village of Cremieu. The French are particularly fond of dogs and Manda was allowed in all the shops and restaurants. Now, instead of a Berner Sennenhund or a Bernese Mountain Dog, we owned a “Bouvier Bernois”.

We lived in a small hamlet that overlooked the 13th century walls of Cremieu. And, we were surrounded by forest with many walking trails. Every day we went on long walks with Manda. Sometimes we were joined by a scruffy little white neighbor’s dog that we called “Scruffy”. (The dog was scruffy, little, and white, not the neighbor.) Scruffy and Manda became good buddies. No matter how hard Scruffy’s owners tried to patch their fence, he always found a way out to go for a walk with Manda. And, sometimes he’d show up at our kitchen door begging for a dog biscuit.

Manda attracted attention everywhere we went and stimulated many halting conversations. We spoke the French of a 2 year old. But, people would struggle with us just to learn more about Manda.

Christmas of 1992 was bad for us. Our cat, Patches, had become very sick. Nothing seemed to make her better, and as best as we can figure out, the vets really never knew what was wrong. Every day she was at the vet trying something new. It was difficult for us because we hadn’t learned the right French words in our intensive French language training. We could deal with shopping, a restaurant, a train station, or a polite conversation with a neighbor. But we were ill prepared to deal with endoscopies, viruses, salves, shots, and the eventual heartbreak of losing a family member in a strange country. We lost Patches on 23 December 1992. She died in the arms of our vet while we ate at a local restaurant. The next day, Lynne and I along with the vet cried together while trimming some keepsake hair and saying goodbye to Patches.

We still wonder, “Did we do everything we could? Did the language barrier prevent us from understanding a possible treatment? Did we ask the right questions? Did we answer the vet’s questions right?” Through all of this, Manda was there to console us, but we weren’t paying too much attention to her. We wish we would have been.

It started as soft stools and occassional diahhrea. We treated Manda for worms and she got better. Then she’d get bad again. No matter how bad she felt, though, she was excited about her daily walk or a trip to the pizzaria where she could lay under the table and get scraps of crust (pizza bones). But, within a few weeks we were back at the vet’s undergoing the same experience again.

I can’t describe how traumatic, depressing, and emotional this time was. The ups and downs took us from exhilaration, believing Manda was okay, to absolute depression realizing she was very sick. Finally, after many weeks she was diagnosed with colon cancer. In order to better understand our options, we called the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University and talked to a Dr. Hall. He recommended that we talk to Dr. Withrow, who was very helpful and informative. We soon discovered that Dr. Withrow was well known as an oncologist. Our vet in France had heard him lecture and had read some of his publications. We made the bizarre decision (at least, according to our French neighbors), to fly Manda back home to Fort Collins, Colorado for examination at treatment at CSU. Dr. Withrow and the extraordinary staff at CSU booked an examination for us a few days later.

Next time I’ll describe our experiences at CSU. The ending is sad, but the experience and our “lessons learned” can benefit all Berner owners.


Posted by Rick on 07/28/2004 at 06:30 PM

Permalink | eMail this article.

 |  Back  |  Top