Stormie is my heart dog, the canine equivalant of a soul mate. I can't tell you all how much I love him, but I have a suspision you all may know that feeling with a special basenji of your own.
When I first began to research the basenji breed and made plans to make one a member of my family, I was aware of Fanconi Syndrome, PRA, hypothyroidism, and all the "common" afflictions that basenjis are prone to. But naively, I believed that it wouldn't happen to me or my dog. He was coming from a well known, reputable breeder, and with so many basenjis in the world, my chances of acquiring a Fanconi dog was slim to none - or so I thought. Still, I strip tested him regularly starting when he turned 3 yrs. old. I never expected the strip to change color - until one day when Stormie was 5 1/2, it did. I was sure it was a mistake. I re-tested, still a color change. I didn't want to believe what the strip was telling me. I broke down. I cried, I hugged my little dog. He was my tissue. I read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on regarding the disease. I talked to people who have also had Fanconi dogs. I reached out to friends both in real life and on the internet, and found amazing comfort and support as I found a vet who was willing to work with the Gonto Protocol and had a blood gas machine.
Once I had the official diagnosis, I scheduled the first of many blood gas tests. I sat in the exam room, while Stormie was having the test done and cried some more. I don't think I have ever cried so much in my life as I did during this whole process. I cried for myself, in that selfish way we humans do. I cried for my little dog who doesn't deserve this disease. I cried for all the owners who have been where I was, and for all the owners who will go through this heart ache with their beloved dogs. It's truly a heart wrenching experience.
After his initial blood gas test was done, the vet (a wonderful and caring man!) determined that Stormie would start off on 4 bicarb tabs BID, a 1/2 Pet Tab Plus in the AM and in the PM, a 1/2 Pet Cal in the AM and another 1/2 in the PM, and Amino Fuel tab once a week, and a potassium supplement daily. I was set, and we scheduled another test for 6 weeks to monitor our progress. After the next visit, it was determined that we had to up the bicarb by 1 pill BID. Another blood gas test in 6 weeks to check again. After that visit, we upped the bicarb again by 1 tab BID, and we have stayed steady at 6 bicarbs BID since then. As I type this, my little man is doing extraordinarily well on the Protocol. His blood gas tests are now scheduled for every 6 months instead of every 6 weeks. He's due for another vet visit in August to check all of his values (full blood work and blood gas test in addition to a urinalysis) - my fingers are crossed he's continuing to stay steady!
Every vet visit, sitting in that exam room and waiting for the news tears a little at your heart. You worry that everything is going down hill, or you're missing something, or not doing something quite right. I don't think I'll ever not be an emotional wreck at one of these visits, no matter how well Storm did the time before - it's the worry and concern you try so hard to hide from every other day of your life as you dole out meds and count out pills and find the magic way to get him to take them all without crunching them up or spitting them out. You put on a brave face for your friends, for your dog, for everyone - but there are really hard days too - the days you realize the gravity of the disease you're battling. There are days when someone will look at you with pity in their eyes as you tell them that your dog is Fanconi afflicted, and that look will haunt you for a long time. There are also days when you're just so damn grateful to have your dog and you realize that indeed as horrible as Fanconi's is, there really are worse diseases you could be up against, and you're almost grateful this is the cross you were given to bear - it may not be curable, but it IS treatable, and many dogs can live long, happy lives with the help of the Protocol.
As it stands now, my life has changed much more dramatically than Stormie's has. I watch his diet like a hawk and make sure he gets high protien, mammal based food (EVO red meat is working for us). I have to be sure to be home on time to give him his meds. I have to make sure he always has a full water bowl. I have to make sure he has the opportunity to go out to pee more frequently. And then there are the pills - finding new ways to "out smart" Stormie into taking them. I'm lucky that he is a great eater, but he does get sick of stuff in a hurry. I've run the gambit from soft cheeses to baby food to canned dog food. I mix it up, and use a variety of training techniques to get them into him, sometimes I use good old bribery - whatever works.
Stormie was diagnosed on Thursday, May 17th, 2007. His strip had changed on Monday, May 14th, 2007. We recently "celebrated" Storm's 1 year Fanconi diagnosis anniversary. He has given me the strength I need to face everyday - I look into those eyes and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'd do ANYTHING to keep him healthy for as long as I can - yes, I'm a well trained basenji servant! Stormie sure did a good job traing this human! grin
Many hugs to all of you who are currently dealing with this disease, or will be dealing with this disease,
Lorraine and Stormie too