The Ritual Dog

We lost Gleann on October 18, 2019
Gleann by pond with stick

Gleann at 4 weeksWell, family friends offered my father a BC and an Australian Shepherd from their first litter of working dogs. When Dad said he didn’t want another dog, they offered one to us if there were enough, as they had a list potentially longer than the likely litter. In May of 2004, when some had backed out, we got called over to check out the tiny pups and pick one out from three that hadn’t been fully claimed yet (there were five all together, not everyone had picked theirs yAaron scritching 5 week old puppy Gleann's bellet). Sadly for us they had docked the tails to make them more like Australian Shepherds already, we would NEVER have chosen this to be done. The other two were female and red merle, the one male was pure black like thePuppy Gleann showing his teeth BC mother. We choose him for several reasons…we like black dogs here, we figured that Irony would be more accepting of another male coming into the pack than yet another female (although she accepted Scolaighe well enough), this was a chance to get another male while we have Bran as the pup will be too small to kill him and will be used to him by the time he’s big enough, and males are, after all, cheaper to get fixed. After all, at that age it’s a little hard to judge on personality.

We feel a bit weird about getting a puppy, being hard-core dog adopters and spay/neuter advocates. But he wGleann with Aaron in puppy classas a gift and we were told a buyer, not of the original list, was interested in him if we didn’t take him…but the breeders didn’t really want to sell to that person…who was being insistent, apparently. We figured we’d still be giving him a sure good forever home, even if he wasn’t in a bad spot, he might end up in one if we didn’t take him.

So we have now Gleann (“valley,” see, we were going to name him Beinn or “mountain” because we live on one but decided two dogs with names starting with “b” and ending with “n” might be confusing for them…so we went with where he came from…we wanted something really simple for the folks, although most people seem to want to read it as Glee-an. *sigh*).

At first we though Scolaighe showed prey interest but it turned out she has “aunty” tendencies, wanting to play and fuss over him. Irony was ill, so we were afraid this might stress her, but she dealt with him here very well. Bran wanted to play, but again, that also had to wait until Gleann was closer to his size.

We had a fun teething stage, which lasted a very long time it seemed. He’s shown some herding interest. He’s showing himself more willful than the “puppy testing” showed before. But I think he’s going to make a nice addition to the pack.

Due to his willfulness, we did take him to a Basic Obedience class and as the youngest there he still did quite well.

Finally updating Dec. 2009Gleann and Scolaighe play fighting with Bran watching

Gleann continued to be a handful for awhile, however. As he matured, he has become an excellent dog, very snuggling inside, very adventurous outside. Scolaighe had a great deal to do with that, undoubtedly, becoming his pack “aunty” and happily playing with him. Often very  rough, but no dogs were hurt in the making of this photo. When she became ill, she stopped playing with him like this. It seemed to make him sad, but he adjusted and was very lovey and caring to her. Her recent loss has been devastating to him as was the previous loss of his much less aggressive buddy  Bran.  He did have Òrlaith to help him through.

Updated 2017

Wow, once again, I can’t believe how long it’s been.  Iupdate on the Facebook page and never get to here.  And, unfortunately, on several fundraisers for the dogs. 

Snow covered Gleann2016 and the start of 2017 has been hell when it comes to our pack.  We lost Sachairiin February of 2016 and in April started a health crisis  with Gleann and Gráinne, with Gleann coming through while we lost Gráinne to cancer March 2, 2017.
And here I haven’t even talked about Gleann since before we adopted  and Òrlaith, let alone Sach, Merlin and Gráinne. 

Gleann tried to bond with Òrlaith like he did with Scolaighe, but she was not inclined to wrestle.  He seemed a bit intimidated by Cù, who could get cranky.  However, Cù was intimidated by Òrlaith so everyone stayed in check.

With Sachairi joining us, Gleann finally had another “farm dog” to romp loose in the woods fields with. Sachairi was older and smaller, but for most of the time he was with us, his energy level was typically BC/Aussie high.  They both watched over the animals, as much as we let them (outside is supervised time, even for the farm dogs).   But Gleann has always been our key Ritual Dog, while Sach often found the whole thing odd except for the sharing food part.

Gleann, however, loves ritual.  Looking back we remember that at his very first ritual, as a puppy,  he just ran and ran in a deiseal circle around the fire for most of the time we were on site.   Over time he calmed down and then became “on duty.”  He now patrols the area before ritual and keeps watch, he does the border offering with me and at the end of the ritual, while I deal with letting the fire die and Aaron takes the other dogs home along with the first load of gear (someday we do hope to have locked, waterproof storage up there but have failed to figure out anything secure enough for our peace of mind) to the house, he usually sits against my back. Sometimes, now, he’ll lie amongst the graves of our Shadow Pack, who I know join our rituals.  When the fire is out and it’s time to head back home, it is often difficult to get him to leave.

Gleann is such a perfect dog now that it’s difficult to remember that at one point we were worried he’d never pay attention.  It took a lot of work to become more interesting than things he might seek out on his own.  Now he a Velcro dog with a huge vocabulary (including some spellings).   He is very high energy when he’s out playing, even now as he approaches 13, Gleann playing tug with Saigh but is as relaxed as a Greyhound when inside.  He loves to snuggle as much as he loves going out into the woods for adventures or running through the field or playing, although it’s debatable if anything matches ritual.  He does also still try to herd the animals, sometimes, usually only when they are somewhere he knows is “wrong.”  The goat, however, usually counters him vehemently.

As I noted above, 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have been rough ones for us and for Gleann.  The loss of Sachairi was a blow for both Gleann and Gráinne, we were all just adjusting to the loss when in April we took these two and the catto their annual checkups.  Due to Gleann turning 12 and showing signs of slowing down as well as the  puzzling symptoms that Gráinne had been showing that were not yet diagnosed, we had full blood work done on both. Both came back with terrifying results.  Gráinne had leukemia and Gleann was hypercalcemic.  This all came as a major blow and we entered a rather extreme roller coaster of a  year.
Gleann’s life threatening condition was a puzzle as there could have been any number of causes of excessive calcium.  He had to have more tests at Peak Veterinary Referral Services  to try to determine the cause and find a treatment.  We had to do a lot of fundraising and scrimping just to get the exact diagnosis. Finally, a nodule was found on his parathyroid and we were given two options. To have it chemically destroyed which was iffy as to the results or to have surgery to remove the parathyroid.  We opted for the surgery.

With the help of a friend we did an auction of Sarah Connor/Terminator items., along with more fundraising  We finally were able to do the surgery. Which led to a completely surreal day with everything going along as expected when suddenly the surgeon came back and decide we should postpone because Gleann wasn’t sick enough.  After all, he didn’t have the symptoms that usually bring dogs to this diagnosis and surgery, because it was found early by a blood test. While 15 minutes before the surgeon was noting that it was good his levels weren’t as high as he usually saw with this, because that might mean he’s level off and not be hypocalcemic after the surgery, he now felt they were too low.  On the one hand, we kept noting that Gleann was lethargic, that he was eating Gleann with neck and chest shaved after recovering from surgeryeven less (he’s never been a big eater) and lost a lot of weight, that we were seeing symptoms but this was ignored. On the other hand we didn’t want to push too much, we were scared of having our “baby” get surgery if it wasn’t needed.  We opted for an abdominal ultrasound that day which showed bladder stones! So, there, a major symptom.  Yet it was so late in the evening that we took him home still rather confused as to what happened (we still do not understand).

A few days later we rescheduled for both the removal of the parathyroid and removal of the stones from his bladder.  The surgery went great. We had several sad, nervous days here while Gleann was at the hospital, calling checking on him.  He had nervous days there, not eating much although he did get to like one of his nurses.  Gráinne, still hurting from losing Sach was beside herself until he came home.  Once home he recovered quickly, started getting his appetite back as much as he ever had one.  Energy-wise the difference was amazing, we had our puppy back!  The lethargic old dog, which many would just assume was due to the fact he was 12, was completely a symptom! We monitored his calcium levels, which leveled off quickly.  If it weren’t for the memory of the months of lethargy and the shaved areas that are still growing out it is like nothing ever happened to him.
Gleann in Doggles
During this time he also developed another odd, but unrelated symptom. His head began to atrophy. It was on both sides, his eyes not able to close right (and he already has an autoimmune issue with his eyes, which make them become irritated and runny).  We got him Doggles (the brand name) for running through the woods to protect his eyes.   He looks adorable but we have to admit he hates them and will face plant into  plants and the ground to try to get them off.  This seemed of little concern to any of the doctors. Eventually all the muscle on one side came back and much of it did on the other. He can close his eyes now, but there is still an “indentation” on the left side where the muscle hasn’t come back. 

Gleann is about to turn 13. He has out lived six Greyhounds and another farm dog (all adopted later in their lives, but adopting “special needs” Greyhounds may account for a shorter average lifespan here, but we’ll likely pick another hard case when we are ready again).  He is now experiencing being an only dog for the very first time in his life. And it’s hard on him. It’s always been hard for him to lose his beloved packmates.  He does have his cat, who he is utterly mad about, but the relationship is different although they are both clearly mourning.

Update Jan 2019

Gleann is now approaching 15. After losing Gráinne he appeared depressed and more lethargic. It was difficult to tell how much this wasGleann by pond, dead cattails emotional and how much might be due to age. His appetite, which was never very big, was even less. When we adopted Cairbre, Gleann seemed to “perk up” a bit, but then began to decline again. (Likewise a year later when we adopted Ruadhán) Over the winter of 2017/2018 he began having issues walking, which continued to get worse. There were clear signs this was largely neurological (possibly connected to him having some atrophy on his head, which they’ve not been able to pinpoint, possibly related to CDD, but see below) but our vet kept insisting it was arthritis (which he probably does have, but does not seem to be in considerable pain from) and put him on meloxicam which created a vicious circle with his food issues, so he was hardly eating at all, which became a problem with giving him a medication that was harsh on his stomach

As he wasn’t eating they put him on Gabapentin, which made his neuroalogic issues much worse, although he did start eating a bit more.We were supposed to keep him on it when Gleann and Cairbrewe restarted the meloxicam but we let them know we were taking him off of it when we did,  At this point he began refusing to more than a few hundred yards from the house on walks. He was barely able to walk, really.  His ability to walk improved a bit, he had been wobbly for awhile so it wasn’t great, but better. He still wouldn’t go any real distance, however.  Back on the NSAID he began to top eating again. We stopped the Meloxicam again. He showed no real signs of pain, just the same….not wanting to walk, being wobbly and out of it.  But, again, he’s eating  a bit better. Mostly. But at least if he skips a meal, we don’t have to worry that the NSAID is burning a hole in his stomach.

In 2016 he started a mild “barbering” habit, that would hast only through the fall. I figured it was connected to the seeds that start sticking to fur at the time it  would start and likely the stress. It started when he and Gráinne were sick. He’d chew the hair off his lower legs. Then he’d stop at some point before we became too concerned. In 2016 he stopped before his surgery, in 2017 he stopped shortly after Cairbre joined us.  This past fall he got much more into it, started in on his right hind leg (it might, again, be related to the atrophy which is on the left side of his head).  He denuded the entire leg, up over the hip, and his underside on that side and the inside of his left hind leg, and started up his right side. The vet thought allergies or a skin condition were to blame although he doesn’t gnaw at the skin, just cuts and pulls at his fur. Allergy meds not only didn’t stop it, it made it worse as it interfered with is sleep even more than he was having issues with already. Skin scrapings showed nothing. I kept saying it was behavioral, but that’s falling on deaf ears. He does trance a bit with it, but is also determined. He will go to another room in order to keep from being stopped. We’ve looked at many solutions but none will work for him, it seems. He is too unsteady as it is to even consider a cone, he won’t be substitute chewing bones or use a Kong or such things because he never really had the interest in those. At this point I try not to let him out of my sight for more than a few minutes, which is a problem.Ruadhan and Gleann

I kept noting since he first began to decline that he had signs of Canine Cognitive Disorder, but was ignored for over a year after I first mentioned it. But as his “sundowning” got worse, Aaron finally pushed about that and in December of 2018 he was finally put on Amipryl. The Anipryl has helped, somewhat. He still walks slow and wants to sniff a lot more than in the past, but not as bad. He’ll also keep going, although he is, of course, deconditioned now.  He’s obviously much clearer,  responding to both of us and the other dogs better. But he is still sundowning and chewing his hair off. 

So that’s where we’re at. Still trying to get some help to get him to rest through the night so that we can and stop chewing his hair off.

As fall 2019 rolled around it was obvious that Gleann was finishing up. We had suspected that August was his last ritual in body, I carried him to the spot where we make the “boundary” offering and then back to the ritual area again. He didn’t make it to Samhuinn. On October 18 we helped him let go of his weak body. Of course, he was there on Samhuinn, a powerful spirit always.


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