Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Facing Reality: Old Dog Problems

Update: I had a chat with them. I had forgotten about another accidental death. Ebon is the last one left. I'm going to go give him a big hug now. 

Happy boy. Tag by Aggie's Anvil

Ebon, my field-bred Labrador, turned ten years old this January. He's arthritic is both hips and one knee, making him have a hitch in his stride. He's developing cataracts. He tires easily, so he's playing less. However, this isn't what has bothered me the most. After all, for his age and size he's still doing rather well. It's been the loss of his brothers.

Ebon's brother Roscoe, lost this month
As long-term readers may remember, Ebon is part of a litter of five black boys from a chocolate mother and a yellow father. One pup died in an accident, but the others lived to adulthood. In the past six months, two brothers had to be euthanized. The reason? The big c-word: cancer.

Of course, this wasn't entirely unexpected, with the average life expectancy of the breed being ten to twelve years. But even so, finding out last October that one of the brothers hadn't made it to his tenth birthday saddened me. This month I was informed of the loss of another, and I really started to worry.

Cancer is distressingly common in retrievers, though Labradors as a whole have a lower incidence than other retriever breeds. Ebon's litter was blessedly free from those ever-common hip, elbow, knee, and eye problems, though they all wound up being epileptic. I still suspect this was due to maternal stress, however, as the breeder was robbed and the dogs were drugged while Hellon (the mother) was pregnant. Ebon hasn't had a seizure in over two years, and the ones he has had were comparatively very minor.

Since Ebon is from field lines, breed statistics, due to the sheer popularity of non-field Labs, are probably a bit misleading. It's difficult to say how well those statistics apply to field lines specifically. I know Ebon's father came from lines that didn't have the best longevity, but it was mostly due to hunting accidents, so there's no way of saying how long those dogs would have lived or what they would have died of otherwise. Since Ebon was a gift, I got what I got, but I do wish I knew more. I have never seen his pedigree because I never registered him, so I don't know anything about his COI. Since his mother was from Texas and his father was from Georgia, it's very possible that the litter was born of a highly unrelated pairing, but for all I know the parents were half-siblings. I don't know what happened to his father. I know his mother had cancer, but she was almost fifteen when she was euthanized. Just looking at her, he probably inherited some really good genes. But that's only one part of the picture.

If Ebon winds up being the last one standing, I really don't know how I'll feel. But I do know I'm going to cherish every moment we have left.

My old man

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