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Reader Story: Terminally Ill Bird Dog Still Hot on the Retrieve

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October 04, 2012

Reader Story: Terminally Ill Bird Dog Still Hot on the Retrieve

By Chad Love

One of the coolest things about being a writer with a blogging gig like this is interaction with readers. Coming from a background in print journalism, where interaction with readers means—at best—a letter to the editor, (and at worst, an angry visitor to the newsroom) the immediacy and two-way nature of blogging means not only instant feedback from readers, but an accelerated appreciation of readers from me. In short, I feel like I sort of get to know them. Which can be cool.

Such is the case with regular, if not always-in-agreement-with-me reader, "Ontario Honker." His comments are always interesting, entertaining and above all, honest and well thought out, even when they aren't in agreement what I'm writing. I appreciate that. So when my editor sent me a link to this brief story and picture on the Field & Stream Trophy Room well hell, I just had to share...

Pearl was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at U of Minn vet clinic in April 2012, and given only a few months at most to live. She is doing great and 100% since middle of the night two days after diagnosis. She made a great retrieve on this banded goose that fell 1/3 mile away in dense brush on 20/9/12.

What a great story! Congratulations to Pearl the Wonder Dog and Ontario Honker. Here's hoping you have a few more seasons together...

Comments (14)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Heart warming, I am a long time member of Pearl. the Wonder Dog Fan Club. Kindest Regards and Best Wishes to Pearl and Ontario

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

The picture of that dog I could not distinguish him from my mutt. Mine is not a purebred lab, but looks exactly like that dog. 11 yrs old is my K.J. has a white muzzle now, same kind of sad look.....and one great hunting dog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Thanks for sharing your Pearl photos and updates, Ontario. I really appreciate it.

I admit to skipping your posts on anything to do with a rifle, but you've got a lock on me with your Pearl posts. My own lab, Emily, is in a similar situation. I'm trying to make the most of Autumn with her.

Here's hoping you continue to have a great season with Pearl.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jack1466 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Great story,Fantanstic, love, appreciation of a pet

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Wow! Thanks everyone. Yes, I guess I can be a bit of a defacation disturber at times. Nobody likes em. But everyone hates a suckass worse! :-)

I should learn from Pearl how to adjust my attitude. She is every bit as sweet as I have reported. A really lovely dog. I shot a limit of honkers today (5) and she retrieved them all (with some assistance from Opal - I have posted a photo of the famous Canadian black dog tandem retrieve gold medalists). First two gave her a real rough time. Wait, I take that back! Fourth bird shot on the evening shift (we actually went to the fields twice) fell about ten inches away, bounced, and darn near knocked my legs out from under me. It's another banded whopper honker (I'm guessing fourteen pounds). Pearl ran to it and just hunched over looking at me like "Isn't this one close enough to being in your hand?" If I'd told her to grab it, I know she would have. She had her fourth, and we think her last, chemo treatment just about a month ago. It amounts to only one pill a month and not much in the way of bad side effects. No hair loss or even minor loss of appetite. They delayed the last treatment a month because her liver count kept going up. Back down to normal last month though. I have really seen no loss of energy since she made her remarkable recovery. For a dog of eight who is SUPPOSED to be sick she is as light on her feet as a dog half her age. She's always stayed very trim.

I have to say, that poor dog has been living on borrowed time since she was a pup. Run over and sustained a fractured skull at 11 months. Last fall she was bit by a rattler (see photo) and then tore her shoulder open horribly on a fence. That thing was an awful mess but she patiently put up with wearing a cone the size of a truck tire for almost six weeks. That's a lab for you! They'll let you do anything to them.

Again, thanks to all of you for the kind thoughts and encouragement over the years.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

For those who missed the threads as this unfolded earlier this spring, Pearl was diagnosed with "vestibular disease." Actually the "disease" only describes the symptoms: extreme vertigo issues. Pearl held her head cocked at a ninety degree angle and her balance was so bad she'd fall over in her poop when she was doing it. Vestibular disease can be caused by three conditions: 1) "Old dog's disease" the cause of which is still something of a mystery. It almost always only affects dogs nine or older and goes away suddenly after 72 hours or so. 2) Inner ear vestibular disease which is caused by some physical problem or other (usually an infection) in the inner ear. 3) Central vestibular disease which is caused by something physically going on in the brain itself. In Pearl's case her problem turned out to be #3 and the cause was determined to be a gleoma tumor of the cerebellum. The tumor was so advanced that the vet didn't think she'd live six months. In fact, he was afraid to attempt a spinal tap which is the usual course.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Well "Honker" my heart goes out to you. I've put two female Labs down, both had cancer. And I can certainly identify with your comments about Pearl being sweet and wanting to adjust your attitude to be like hers. They love unconditionally and no matter what they endure or difficulties they have to over come or die of, they look at you like your the greatest love of their life. It's like the old saying goes. " I hope someday I can be the man my dog thinks I am" Best of luck to you and Pearl

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Faithful companion to the end, they never complain and there forgiveness is ever unwavering

This picture says it all....

www.logicalkid.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/loyal-dog.jpg

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

great story. i always enjoy honkers updates on his dogs and bird hunting

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

She looks just like my Old Lab Buck. Buck lived to the ripe old age of 15. He hunted 14 of those years and when it was to hard on his joints, he spent his remaining days as a companion dog for my Dad, who moved in with me when Mom had to go to a 24 hours nursing care facility.
He was a hard hunter, loyal friend, baby sitter, guard dog and companion. Both him and Dad passed a few years later.
We've always had a Retriever in the family (my son owns one now) along with Setters and Brits. When I think of the dogs I miss the most Old Buck stands out the most. He was truely family. Good Luck with Pearl. When a great dog leaves us, they take a part of our lives with them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Just returned from U of M vet hospital in St. Paul, MN where Pearl had an MRI yesterday to see what is going on. Her brain tumor has decreased in size by at least 90%. In April she couldn't even take a pee without falling over in it. But she is doing great now. Absolutely no indication anything is wrong. We'll resume chemo and see if we can completely eradicate the tumor. The prognosis is now very good. Very, very rare for a dog to recover completely from this particular cancer. The neurologist is very excited.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I should clarify: The neurologist says he sees on average about one case of central vestibular a month. In the last twenty years he has seen three possible survivors but NONE that recovered 100% as Pearl has. Pretty amazing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

That is a really encouraging report Honker and it pleases me to hear the good news. I hope Pearl will be picking up geese for many seasons to come.
How is the Brittany working out and have you guys made it to Montana to chase pheasants and other upland birds yet?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sorry, RES, I have indeed been busy hunting pheasants with the dogs in Montana. The Britt, Coral, is still a bit of work in progress but working out very well. The birds are not very cooperative for pointing dogs this year. Quite spooky. But she has nailed down several for me. A couple of real pretty setups. I have only had three decent weather days in two weeks so I have been helping everybody get their deer. The Jimmy has had four bucks on top of it already and I suspect more before I leave after Thanksgiving. Pearl is doing very well but rather frustrated that Opal won't let her make a retrieve. However, day before yesterday she did get to make a water retrieve on a nice rooster that fell in the creek. Too thick in their for Opal to see where it fell. We're all doing well. Blizzard to hit tonight so I think we'll have a couple of days off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Wow! Thanks everyone. Yes, I guess I can be a bit of a defacation disturber at times. Nobody likes em. But everyone hates a suckass worse! :-)

I should learn from Pearl how to adjust my attitude. She is every bit as sweet as I have reported. A really lovely dog. I shot a limit of honkers today (5) and she retrieved them all (with some assistance from Opal - I have posted a photo of the famous Canadian black dog tandem retrieve gold medalists). First two gave her a real rough time. Wait, I take that back! Fourth bird shot on the evening shift (we actually went to the fields twice) fell about ten inches away, bounced, and darn near knocked my legs out from under me. It's another banded whopper honker (I'm guessing fourteen pounds). Pearl ran to it and just hunched over looking at me like "Isn't this one close enough to being in your hand?" If I'd told her to grab it, I know she would have. She had her fourth, and we think her last, chemo treatment just about a month ago. It amounts to only one pill a month and not much in the way of bad side effects. No hair loss or even minor loss of appetite. They delayed the last treatment a month because her liver count kept going up. Back down to normal last month though. I have really seen no loss of energy since she made her remarkable recovery. For a dog of eight who is SUPPOSED to be sick she is as light on her feet as a dog half her age. She's always stayed very trim.

I have to say, that poor dog has been living on borrowed time since she was a pup. Run over and sustained a fractured skull at 11 months. Last fall she was bit by a rattler (see photo) and then tore her shoulder open horribly on a fence. That thing was an awful mess but she patiently put up with wearing a cone the size of a truck tire for almost six weeks. That's a lab for you! They'll let you do anything to them.

Again, thanks to all of you for the kind thoughts and encouragement over the years.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

For those who missed the threads as this unfolded earlier this spring, Pearl was diagnosed with "vestibular disease." Actually the "disease" only describes the symptoms: extreme vertigo issues. Pearl held her head cocked at a ninety degree angle and her balance was so bad she'd fall over in her poop when she was doing it. Vestibular disease can be caused by three conditions: 1) "Old dog's disease" the cause of which is still something of a mystery. It almost always only affects dogs nine or older and goes away suddenly after 72 hours or so. 2) Inner ear vestibular disease which is caused by some physical problem or other (usually an infection) in the inner ear. 3) Central vestibular disease which is caused by something physically going on in the brain itself. In Pearl's case her problem turned out to be #3 and the cause was determined to be a gleoma tumor of the cerebellum. The tumor was so advanced that the vet didn't think she'd live six months. In fact, he was afraid to attempt a spinal tap which is the usual course.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

She looks just like my Old Lab Buck. Buck lived to the ripe old age of 15. He hunted 14 of those years and when it was to hard on his joints, he spent his remaining days as a companion dog for my Dad, who moved in with me when Mom had to go to a 24 hours nursing care facility.
He was a hard hunter, loyal friend, baby sitter, guard dog and companion. Both him and Dad passed a few years later.
We've always had a Retriever in the family (my son owns one now) along with Setters and Brits. When I think of the dogs I miss the most Old Buck stands out the most. He was truely family. Good Luck with Pearl. When a great dog leaves us, they take a part of our lives with them.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Heart warming, I am a long time member of Pearl. the Wonder Dog Fan Club. Kindest Regards and Best Wishes to Pearl and Ontario

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Thanks for sharing your Pearl photos and updates, Ontario. I really appreciate it.

I admit to skipping your posts on anything to do with a rifle, but you've got a lock on me with your Pearl posts. My own lab, Emily, is in a similar situation. I'm trying to make the most of Autumn with her.

Here's hoping you continue to have a great season with Pearl.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

The picture of that dog I could not distinguish him from my mutt. Mine is not a purebred lab, but looks exactly like that dog. 11 yrs old is my K.J. has a white muzzle now, same kind of sad look.....and one great hunting dog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jack1466 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Great story,Fantanstic, love, appreciation of a pet

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Well "Honker" my heart goes out to you. I've put two female Labs down, both had cancer. And I can certainly identify with your comments about Pearl being sweet and wanting to adjust your attitude to be like hers. They love unconditionally and no matter what they endure or difficulties they have to over come or die of, they look at you like your the greatest love of their life. It's like the old saying goes. " I hope someday I can be the man my dog thinks I am" Best of luck to you and Pearl

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

Faithful companion to the end, they never complain and there forgiveness is ever unwavering

This picture says it all....

www.logicalkid.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/loyal-dog.jpg

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 28 weeks ago

great story. i always enjoy honkers updates on his dogs and bird hunting

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Just returned from U of M vet hospital in St. Paul, MN where Pearl had an MRI yesterday to see what is going on. Her brain tumor has decreased in size by at least 90%. In April she couldn't even take a pee without falling over in it. But she is doing great now. Absolutely no indication anything is wrong. We'll resume chemo and see if we can completely eradicate the tumor. The prognosis is now very good. Very, very rare for a dog to recover completely from this particular cancer. The neurologist is very excited.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

I should clarify: The neurologist says he sees on average about one case of central vestibular a month. In the last twenty years he has seen three possible survivors but NONE that recovered 100% as Pearl has. Pretty amazing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

That is a really encouraging report Honker and it pleases me to hear the good news. I hope Pearl will be picking up geese for many seasons to come.
How is the Brittany working out and have you guys made it to Montana to chase pheasants and other upland birds yet?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sorry, RES, I have indeed been busy hunting pheasants with the dogs in Montana. The Britt, Coral, is still a bit of work in progress but working out very well. The birds are not very cooperative for pointing dogs this year. Quite spooky. But she has nailed down several for me. A couple of real pretty setups. I have only had three decent weather days in two weeks so I have been helping everybody get their deer. The Jimmy has had four bucks on top of it already and I suspect more before I leave after Thanksgiving. Pearl is doing very well but rather frustrated that Opal won't let her make a retrieve. However, day before yesterday she did get to make a water retrieve on a nice rooster that fell in the creek. Too thick in their for Opal to see where it fell. We're all doing well. Blizzard to hit tonight so I think we'll have a couple of days off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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