Pet of the Month
Mivan was born in the Canine Companions for Independence Breeding Centre in Santa Rosa, CA and was originally destined to be an assistance or therapy companion dog. The CCI program is an extensive volunteer network of puppy raisers.
Mivan flew to Columbus OH when he was 8 weeks old to start his new life and begin his training with a volunteer foster family. He was a quick study and quickly became a popular favorite in all the family's activities. As he neared the end of the first phase of his training he began to experience signs of weakness, trouble walking and exercising, and most concerning of all, trouble swallowing.
He eventually found his way to the Ohio State University's Veterinary Medical Centre. The neurology specialists ultimately diagnosed him with atypical juvenile onset myasthenia gravis.
In his form of the disease we believed he was having an immune-mediated attack of the electrical connections between his nerve endings and his muscles. The muscles of his esophagus (propelling food and water from his mouth to his stomach) also became very weak and he had what is termed a megaesophagus. Because food was not getting to his stomach properly, this compromised his condition and also put him at risk of aspiration pneumonia.
Because his case was very atypical his prognosis was very guarded. CCI made the decision to release him from the program, and his foster family was not sure they could manage his care effectively and were hopeful of finding him a new home.
I met him while walking down the hallway at work.
His gentle face reminded me of my previous Labrador Retriever who had recently passed away from bone cancer spread. I had adopted another dog as a companion for him in his final weeks and to ease the pain of the loss I was going to experience; Murray the Pug.
At the time, Murray was missing his old buddy and it was clear he was looking for a new companion. It seemed clear from the moment we met that he was destined to become a part of our lives.
Murray and Mivan became fast friends the moment they met and were close to inseparable- literally! Murray's favorite position was to be curled up beside, or on top of Mivan. Mivan- the most gentle of dogs tolerated Murray's efforts to be cuddly with his usual good grace and loving warmth. He was inevitably at the bottom of Murray's dogpile!
While we lived in Columbus, the two loved to attend Bark Park (a Saturday afternoon Dog Jamboree) but we discovered that Mivan didn't like water much- a strange trait for a Labrador Retriever! He loved to run through the mud and water around the edge, but rarely went in above his lower legs.
As time passed, Mivan's condition appeared to be in remission and we weaned him from all his medications, and he remained in remission for the rest of his life.
Mivan & Murray had many adventures and developed lots of aunties and uncles who loved to look after them whenever I had to travel.
When I moved back to Canada- and met Ryan, he was initially horrified at how much hair the two dogs could produce in such a short time all over his beautiful dark floors. But the two of them worked their magic on him and he soon became part of our family. We affectionately called him the 'treat guy' and he introduced them to all kinds of experiences that they would never have had otherwise.
Ryan's parents (Nana and Poppa) became doting grandparents and spoiled the dogs even worse- allowing them to sleep on the furniture and always saving a bit of food for them from whatever they were eating. I was powerless to control the spoiling and it was clear that the boys adored the new life they had found.
Mivan was loved by all who met him. I believe it was his gentle, trusting, and loving nature that won over everyone.
He was the sort of dog who made you feel better by just spending a few minutes with him. He loved nothing better than a comfy bed (even preferring the cat's tiny bed to the carpeted floor!), or a good run through the woods with his pals.
We are ever so grateful that in the end he knew only a few hours of illness again, and that the cancer that ended his life was mercifully pain free and quick.
Mivan had a very common form of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. It is a very malignant form of cancer that arises from the blood vessel and in his case started growing in one of his heart chambers. It weakened the wall of his heart and on the fateful last day of his life ruptured and started bleeding into the space around his heart.
Despite our best effort, we couldn't control the bleeding and with incredibly sorrowful hearts we shared our last minutes with our gentle friend and allowed him to slip the bonds of his earthly body.
Ryan, Murray, and I were all with him, and surrounding him with the love he so richly deserved.
His sudden loss from our lives felt like a knife for all of us.
But perhaps the one who missed him the most was his little buddy, Murray.
Even now months later, thinking of him brings back the pain.
Murray's life turned upside down that day, and he has slowly acclimated to being an only dog.
We all still miss our gentle buddy. He had an amazing 10 1/2 years. There will never be another like him.
"Rayner" 15 years old
"Rayner" was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in March 2011. I was kissing her nose & noticed a lump inside her lower jaw on the right side, adjacent to the bottom canine tooth. It was biopsied & the diagnosis was made. We went to OVC for further tests (xrays, CT scans, lymph node biopsies), then decided to have part of her jaw along with the regional lymph nodes removed. We began treatment with melanoma vaccine (her "chemo"). One year later, she is cancer-free & enjoying life! She is back to playing with sticks & her frisbie, long walks/runs, eating well, & being well-loved. The very best dog ever!
-Dr. D. Houston, owner
Rayner had her 14 month post cancer diagnosis check up at OVC May 22, 2012. This included an exam , blood work, chest xrays and then her melanoma vaccination. She is a star! Cancer free! A decade ago wiith this diagnosis,Rayner wouldn't be alive. Thanks to ongoing research and the fabulous oncology group at OVC, Rayner is thriving. Of course, post her visit to OVC, she is hiding in the basement and not available for the picture. She remains beautiful.
-Dr. D. Houston, owner
Rayner and Doreen Video