Posts Tagged ‘German Shepherd Dog’

Rosalie and I married on April 23, 1960. I graduated from veterinary school the first week of June and we embarked on a road trip from Fort Collins, Colorado to my first position in Sidney, Montana, camping out along the way, the only honeymoon we ever had.

After a night in the Medicine Bow range in Wyoming, and a second night at the Coulter campground in Jackson Hole, we arrived in Yellowstone Park. That evening, after using the outhouse, I stood at the water pump, brushing my teeth. There was a loud metallic clang, as a garbage pit lid ripped open. Rosalie screamed, and our German Shepherd Mister erupted into furious, angry barking. I grabbed the ax I had brought along to gather firewood, and ran down the gravel road, toothbrush clenched between my teeth, toothpaste foaming out of my mouth. My towel flew off my shoulder. My toes grabbed frantically, struggling to keep my unlaced boots on my feet as I ran. I saw Mister’s silhouette, clawing at the tent flap.

A small black bear was standing over the garbage pit at our campsite. Through the fabric of the tent, back lit by the lantern, I saw Rosalie. She was screaming while trying to hold Mister back. The bear looked over its shoulder as it reached down into the garbage bin for more of my famous chili. I spat out the toothbrush and started shouting.


I squatted down and unzipped the tent flap that was starting to tear from Mister’s attack

“Let him loose honey. It’s just a small bear.”

I grabbed the dog’s collar as he lunged through the opening. The two of us now faced the bear, the dog growling, me waving the ax.


The bear moved to face us. He was nonchalant, now able to watch us directly instead of over his shoulder. He continued to fish out and eat the chili. When finished he turned, glanced over his shoulder, then strolled away, unconcerned by antics of man or dog.

Rosalie came out of the tent and stood next to me hugging me around the waist with her left arm and patting Mister with her right hand.

“My hero, and my hero,” she murmured.

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I kept the right side wheels of the low-slung 1957 Ford precariously balanced on the mound between the two deep ruts constituting the road into the ranch. The left side wheels made a new path. If the car fell into the deep ruts, I would lose an oil pan, or worse.

My still new bride let out a gasp and I slammed on the brakes. We were on the crest of the hill, the Jones’ place spread out before us.


“Oh Dave,” she sighed. “It’s so poor looking.”

The track ended in an acre of dirt yard. To the right the dilapidated barn struggled to maintain an upright position, a sturdy looking corral on the north wall of the barn seeming to hold it up. A windmill and stock tank were north of the corral. To the west, insolently weather beaten but standing proud and stark against the massive horizon was a two-story frame house. Patches of tenacious white paint clung to wind petrified siding. There were no trees. Brown prairie grass spread west and north while east and south were tan dirt mounds endlessly rearranged by the wind. Parked in front of the open barn door, the driver’s side door ajar, was John Jones’ 1949 Chevy pickup.

I eased the car down the hill into the yard. Kathy and Jenny came down the steps from the house, their blonde hair pulled back in identical ponytails. Ferdie raced around the corner of the house. Skipper, eyes focused, herding him.

“Look at Skipper running. Looks like she’s doing very well after her ordeal with the mowing machine,” I observed.

Rosalie patted me on the arm. Her first introduction to surgery had been helping me put Skipper back together.

“Don’t get the big head, you got lucky.”

Bent over in the doorway to the barn, John held the left hind leg of a bay gelding between his knees. He had a mouth full of horseshoe nails and held a horseshoe hammer in his right hand. He smiled around the nails and waved the hammer as I got out of the car and came around to open the door for Rosalie.

Kathy, the kids, and Skipper all came to the passenger side of the car. When I opened the door, our German Shepherd Mister forced his way out before Rosalie could move.

The two dogs performed the requisite sniffing of each other’s sites of identification. Mister circling stiffly, ears pointed forward, Skipper making quick, jerky movements. They circled each other three times, noses buried, then Skipper rushed off with Mister following, determined to keep her close.

“Honey”, I said, “this is Kathy and Ferdie and Jenny. Kathy, this is Rosalie.”

John finished with the horseshoe, dropped the horse’s leg, and came over to the car.

“And this is John,” I added.

Rosalie extended her hand. The rancher took it, pulled her in close, and gave her a hug.

“Welcome,” he said, “please feel you are with family here.”

If this sounds interesting, you can read all about the Jones family in my memoir; “Animals Don’t Blush”.

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The intervertebral discs are structures located between the bodies of the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. They are composed of a rim of tough, fibrous connective tissue covering surrounding a gel-like center. A Hansen Type I rupture occurs when the fibrous capsule breaks, allowing the inner nucleus to push out through the opening and impinge on the spinal cord or a nerve root. A Hansen Type II occurs when the entire disc, surrounded by an unbroken capsule, impinges on nerve tissue.

Hansen Type I ruptures usually occur in small breeds such as Dachshunds, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, and small mixed breeds. Ruptured discs are more common in Dachshunds than in all other breeds combined. The capsule can start to degenerate when the dog is only 2 to 9 months of age. Nearly eighty percent of Type 1 ruptured discs occur in the lower back between the last thoracic and the first two lumbar vertebrae. The history often includes jumping off a sofa or stairs, but any abrupt movement can be sufficient to cause a Type 1 rupture. It is also possible for more than one disc to rupture.

The symptoms of a Type I rupture usually progress gradually but can appear suddenly. The dog holds her/his back stiffly and may vocalize with pain or snap at the hand palpating in or around the injured area. The dog will usually refuse to walk up stairs or jump into a car. Neurological signs include weakness, lameness, and a wobbly gait. A dog experiencing severe back pain resulting from an acute rupture usually assumes a hunched-up position with a tight abdomen and may pant and tremble. Sudden ruptures can result in complete hindlimb paralysis.

Dogs with a Hansen Type I rupture in the neck usually carry their head low and stiff and are in extreme pain. The dog will often cry out when patted on the head and refuse to lower her head to eat or drink. There may be weakness and/or lameness of the front legs. Complete paralysis of all four limbs can occur but is rare.

Hansen Type II disc ruptures occur most in German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and other larger breeds. With this condition the entire disc, surrounded by its capsule, gradually impinges on the spinal canal. Symptoms usually appear gradually and progress slowly in dogs 5 to 12 years of age.

Your veterinarian can presumptively diagnose a ruptured disc by doing a neurological examination and prove it with imaging studies including spine X-rays, a myelogram, and possibly a CT scan or MRI.

Dogs still able to walk but with pain and mild weakness can be treated by confining them to a cage for a minimum of two weeks with appropriate anti-inflammatory drugs and drugs for pain control. If there is no improvement, or the dog’s condition worsens during this time, surgery is necessary. Surgery for disc disease involves surgical decompression of the spine by removal of bone over the spinal cord a laminectomy or partial bone removal (hemilaminectomy) and removal of the extruded disk material impinging on the spinal cord thus relieving the compression of the cord. Obviously, a very well trained and experienced veterinary surgeon is necessary for these procedures.

The prognosis for these cases depends upon the degree of injury and the location. Most patients that retain motor function have a good chance for recovery. If motor function is compromised the prognosis is more guarded and if deep pain perception is absent, a return to normal is less likely. We have all seen those photos of paralyzed dogs suspended in a two-wheeled cart who suffered this condition and still function as loved pets.

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