Pete's Story

Everyone has a once-in-a-lifetime dog. Pete is mine. Pete is a border collie, not the traditional black & white, but a saddle-backed tri, reminiscent of the working border collies out of Wales. Little did I know, when I first met this young, blue-eyed adolescent dog just how much my life would change because of him. Thanks to Pete, doors have been opened for me to worlds I never knew existed. Pete was a dog that could do anything. He could go from working sheep in the morning to nursing home therapy in the afternoon. He has always been a canine ambassador for the breed. His rapport with people is phenomenal. In our "meet the public" exhibitions, we would often have people three deep, encircling Pete and with a tennis ball in his mouth, Pete would work the crowd like a pro, engaging anyone interested into interacting with him. He would then show the border collie "eye" and stalk the ball, which always sent the crowd around him into gales of laughter---and he would work them tirelessly. It wasn't unusual to be walking at these events to hear someone out of the crowd say "Hi Pete!" and he'd always respond with a whole body wiggle.

Pete was also certified by Delta Society as a therapy dog. Working out of a local hospital, each dog in the program was assigned to a ward or unit where, depending on the dog's skills & personality, he could do the most good. I always referred to Pete as "actively interactive". It was determined that his skills were best suited to the psychiatric ward, where time after time, when we would walk in, patients would be sitting, non-communicative, in the activity room---and Pete would go to work, approaching each and every person, offering them a ball or the toy he would happen to have with him that day. There was no ignoring him. Pete would insist, engaging patients in his plan. Inevitably, by the time we left, 20 minutes or so later, everyone would be standing, talking, laughing, hugging Pete and even me. With children, he automatically would lie on the floor, belly up, so as not to be so intimidating. Intuitive, Pete just knew.

The word "training" was never part of our vocabulary when it came to Pete. It was a matter of showing him. At 18 months of age, after a nursing home visit, where he didn't understand that placing his ball on the floor for a wheelchair bound person, that the person could not pick it up, we went home where it took showing him only two times what "on the lap" meant. On our next nursing home visit, I reminded him of "on the lap" when he approached a wheelchair-bound resident. From that day forward, Pete would invariably, when he saw a person in a wheelchair, place his tennis ball on the person's lap, usually with no prompting from me. If it dropped to the floor, he'd quickly pick it up and replace it on the individual's lap.

Pete's first love, as with any border collie worth it's salt, is working livestock. Pete works sheep, he worked cattle, and adjusted his style of working, depending on the stock. First border collie or not, he never ceased to amaze me. Never a dog to push his weight around, he would back down stubborn sheep, using only the force necessary to do so. I learned so much from him, and admittedly, I was his biggest hindrance.

All these years of working in partnership with such an incredible dog, created a bond that only those who have experienced the same would understand.

Two years ago, when Pete was 11 1/2 yrs. old, I had to go out of town on business for two weeks. I'd never been away from any of my dogs for that long, and the longest I'd ever been away from Pete was overnight. It was in March of this particular year. I left him and another dog at home with my daughter. They were reliable dogs and would give her no problem. Pete was always a healthy dog. Never had a sick day in his life, and the other, while being epileptic, was OK on medications, so the biggest problem would be that I would miss them terribly. It was the end of March when I came home and found that Pete, while ecstatic to see me, was not feeling well. Watching him I noticed he was urinating blood, and much to his embarrassment, had accidents in the house. I immediately called my vet and took him in. His prostate was enlarged, but because the swelling was even bilaterally, my vet told me that chances were it was not cancerous. His urine was so bacteria laden and cloudy, the staff at the vet's office thought I had used a contaminated container. The examination revealed he had pneumonia and a blood panel revealed kidney function was slightly off. The urinalysis showed the urine glucose to be 1000+. Since he didn't show symptoms of diabetes, we just put him on 2 weeks of antibiotics which cleared up the bacterial infection and he soon felt better. Four weeks later, he crashed again. Once again his urine was bloody and cloudy with bacteria. Urine glucose was still over 1000 and kidney function was still off slightly. The beginning of May he was neutered and his prostate problems and blood in his urine were no longer an issue. But Pete still had recurrent UTI's. The end of May, lab results showed that the origin of the bacteria in his urine was e-coli somewhere in his urinary system, more than likely in the bladder. Antibiotics were unable to eradicate the e-coli and only took care of the problem symptomatically. He would bounce back after a round of antibiotics only to have symptoms reoccur a short time afterwards. The urine glucose remained high. Normally that would have indicated diabetes, but since he displayed no other symptoms of diabetes, we did not treat him for it.

At another vet visit the end of May, we also discussed his kidney function. My vet said the numbers were still low enough that there was no need to be overly concerned. However, kidney failure has to start somewhere. We discussed putting him on an "early kidney diet" by Hills. I readily agreed and began feeding him this vet-recommended diet. Throughout June, I noticed that in spite of rounds of antibiotics whenever the UTI's reoccurred, Pete just did not bounce back like he once did. He was losing weight and overall appeared to be a dog that did just not feel well. He would give an obligatory thump of his tail when fussed over, but was mostly content just to lie in his spot, and come down to eat and go outside----not the Pete that everyone knew. The weight continued to melt off him. He would stumble going upstairs to his favorite spot to sleep the day away. I'd have to prop up his rear and occasionally had to help him upstairs. In mid-July, he fell going upstairs. My regular vet was out of town and I called another of my vets to get him in. Getting out of the car, Pete stumbled and fell. I picked him up to carry him in. He appeared to be too weak to walk on his own. When we weighed him, Pete was down to 39 pounds. No wonder he felt so light. He should have weighed 48 lbs. I explained to the examining vet what we had been through the last few months. A blood panel, urinalysis and x-rays were taken. X-rays showed some arthritis of the spine. The muscles in the rear legs were atrophying. Blood work-up showed, once again, kidney function was slightly off, blood glucose was normal. Urinalysis once again showed a high bacteria count and high glucose count. The vet was stumped. Referring to the urine and blood glucose, what Pete was showing was symptomatic of Fanconi's syndrome, a disorder unheard of in border collies, and was actually more common in a couple of other breeds, such as the Basenji and Norwegian Elkhound. High urine glucose and normal blood glucose are the classic symptoms of this disease. The constant irritation of the sugar in the urinary tract opens the way for bacterial infestation, which is what we'd been seeing and treating. According to the vet, there is no cure for Fanconi's, that it could be hereditary, congenital or acquired.

I got on the internet to find as much information as I could on this disease. I found a site, sponsored by the national Norwegian Elkhound club of America for Fanconi's syndrome. It referred to studies being done by a vet at the University of Pennsylvania, a Dr. Urs Giger. When my regular vet got back into town, I showed her what I had found out. She got in touch with Dr. Giger and we collected a urine sample from Pete and overnighted it to Dr. Giger. The results came back that Pete was only 30 % symptomatic of Fanconi's, that while he would certainly die with the disease, he wouldn't die from it. According to my vet, Pete would have to be treated with antibiotics every time the UTI's occurred, for the rest of his life. To me, as long as I had my dog, I would do whatever it took.

One day, the beginning of August, Pete for the first time refused his food. In my house, that's when you hit the panic button. He now had a sunken-in look and his eyes looked tired. I made up my mind that for whatever time Pete had left on this earth, I would at least, allow him to enjoy his food. I was preparing myself to lose him. It's at that time, I quite accidentally came upon Morigins. I read the literature and thought, what have we got to lose, and I began Pete on this diet.

In the meantime, I had e-mailed Dr. Giger back asking about treating Fanconi's, if it could possibly be treated with diet. He said no, but did refer to a study done that indicated that some border collies tend to have B-12 deficiencies and that B-12 injections might help. This was mid-September and Pete hadn't been on antibiotics since August. He was now eating nothing but Morigins. He was also beginning to look and feel better and I had thrown out the rest of the "early kidney" diet. Once again, he was looking forward to meal time.

And then, the beginning of October, I knew I was doing something right. One morning, coming down for breakfast, Pete let out a big whoop and chased the cat down the stairs. In mid-October, I had him working sheep again. His outruns were just a little slower (but then he was going on 12 yrs. old and had arthritis of the spine), but he had the heart, the stamina to get the job done and it was one tired but happy and well-satisfied dog that walked off the field with me that day, almost as happy as his owner. Before the end of the year, I had another urinalysis done on him. Urine glucose was within normal limits. According to everything we had been told, this would be a problem that would plague him to the end of his days. According to the lab work, it wasn't there anymore.

In May of the following year, after nine months of feeding only Morigins, we had another blood panel and urinalysis done. Kidney function was now within normal limits and urinalysis still showed normal glucose level. Fanconi's Syndrome, the disease he was supposed to die with, symptomatically no longer existed.

On November 1, 2003, Pete will be 14 years old. His hearing is going, his muzzle is almost all white, his voice is changing, he sleeps the long deep sleep of old dogs but he still bounces down the stairs for breakfast, herds sheep and puts pesky pups in their place.

Just as Pete and I had a lifetime of discoveries, apparently it continues. Because of Pete, I found Morigins. Because of Pete and Morigins, I now think in terms of "good" instead of "good enough", when it comes to feeding my dogs. Because of "Morigins", Pete, my timeless dog is a healthy, happy senior citizen, still my best buddy, my once-in-a-lifetime dog.

That's our story. May you too, have a once-in-a-lifetime dog. 

Vicki Anderson ~ (Cleveland, OH)

UPDATE ~~~ 4/22/2003

The Vet just called with the results of Pete's latest lab work.
Everything looks great.  His BUN which was 56 last year at this time is now 46.  She's really pleased & surprised, because she said all that she has seen at this age, just goes up. His creatinine is well within normal range and she said  "Geez, I don't know what you're doing, but whatever it is, keep it up!"  He's put on 10 pounds from 18 months ago.  He's looking and feeling great. Course, he needs a hearing aid and is beyond bifocals, but what the heck.

UPDATE ~~~ 4/1/2005

Pete died a few days before his 15th birthday. He never again experienced any symptoms of Fanconi's Syndrome.
For more information on Pete's life see Dogster :: A Walk Through The Dog Park

Pete ~ 12.5 years

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