Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Birthday Present?

Happy 33 to me. I'm not really in the mood for celebrating, with Blaze's recent diagnosis and the anniversary of Alec's death approaching. However, through a combination of denile of Blaze actually having GME (it is hard to accept a disease that is diagnosed by exclusion of other possible causes), and wanting to give him the best treatment options possible, I sent his records to a neurologist in Boston who is known as the expert on the disease. His answer? Probably not GME! He has recommended testing for some additional infectious diseases, which if positive are treatable and he can have a full recovery, or, if they are negative, he believes that Blaze has had a stroke, which while he may not ever recover his full neurological function, he shouldn't get worse, and he should be with us for a while still. On his advice, I stopped Blaze's GME medication, and if he does not relapse in the next few weeks he thinks we can safely assume Blaze is in the clear for this one. And that would be something to celebrate!

After showing all of this to Blaze's vet here in Portugal, she asked if she could send all of his records to another neurologist in Bern, Switzerland as well. So no matter what, Blaze seems to have a team of vets in 3 countries spaning 2 continents worried about his well-being, not many dogs can say that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


From Dan: It’s been a difficult month of vet visits and sad times. Our beloved first pet together, Blaze, has been diagnosed with GME (granulomatous meningoencephalitis). It is a progressive autoimmune disease of unknown origin. On the morning of February 13 when we woke up he wasn’t quite himself. He had a very low energy level, wasn’t eating, was a bit unsteady on his feet and had lost some vision in his left eye. After lots of tests, including a CT scan and a spinal tap, the vet’s best guess was GME (it’s a diagnosis by process of elimination), although she was not ruling out other causes like a stroke or a brain tumor. Through some connections (that’s still how things work in Portugal) we were able to get him an MRI at a human hospital yesterday. The result was lesions consistent with GME.

We got Blaze, a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd, from a rescue program. His early life in West Virginia included beatings, and those of you who know him know that he still never quite got over that and has forever been skittish around strangers. When Katrin and I first met him he was being fostered in Washington Heights in New York. We took advantage of a trip to the city for Ben and Sohui’s wedding in 2004 to introduce ourselves, and of all the people who had considered adopting him we were told that we were the only ones he even thought about approaching to greet. So after a short walk around the city and some contemplation about taking on a dog with such “issues” we decided that he should move to Burlington.

We’ve had some great years with Blaze. From that first nervous walk around NYC, he became a great pet and even learned to do agility with Katrin. He never became comfortable around strangers, but is extremely loyal and sweet with those he knows. We still hope to have many more years of his trying to do anything he can to please Katrin (and by association, me), but the disease unfortunately has no cure and so we don’t know much about his future. We will keep helping him live the full life he deserves and stay forever hopeful that he will be with us long enough for Amelia to remember him when she grows up.

From Katrin: We are told he will likely be with us less than a year, though it could be much less, and it could be much more, depending on how he reacts and responds to the various treatments. We have put together a team of veterinarians to help us do whatever we can to fight this and give him the best possible life for the time he has left.

I've never been told beforehand that I have a limited amount of time left with a loved one. What a hard place to be, caught somewhere between starting to grieve before they are already gone and savoring every moment you have together. As Dan mentions it has been a rollar coaster of a couple of weeks trying to figure out a diagnosis. Yes he is a dog, but he is a member of our family, and a very special member at that. He will do anything in his power to please and protect those he loves, and even though his energy level is at an all time low right now from the disease and the medications, he still finds it necessary to lift his head and howl every time Amelia cries, and to alert me if I am not quick enough getting up when she wakes up, he still goes crazy when the doorbell rings, and gets excited when Tazzy and Biju start playing, though instead of joining them as usual, he just goes and supervises the play session from near by. As I write this he is curled up on the couch comforting me because I am sad for him.