image of Harvey

Ataxia may sound like a baddie in a Sci-Fi movie or Doctor Who episode, but it isn’t, it’s actually far more of a villain than you may think. I had never heard of Ataxia until our Harvey, a black and white English Springer Spaniel, started walking as if he was drunk. He stumbled, collapsed and then got up and was fine, well as fine as a 14 year old Springer could be.

We took him to the vets late Saturday afternoon and the diagnosis was instant, Ataxia. This is a loss of coordination or unbalanced gait in dogs which is due to sensory dysfunction. There are three types of Ataxia, proprioception, vestibular syndrome and cerebellar. Causes are too numerous to mention and at the moment Harvey is at the vets being assessed. There are so many causes and many are treatable and the dog can lead a pretty normal life, but as with all things there are other, more insidious, causes and these are not necessarily treatable. At times like these, you always think of the worse case scenario.

On Sunday, yesterday as at the time of writing, we received a call from the vet to say Harvey’s condition had not changed in regard to his neurological problem. He did have diarrhea which was a side issue, but that seems to have abated. He has eaten but they have him on a drip because he’s not drinking. The poor boy has no idea why he is in a cage and not at home with us. We had a choice, either leave him at the vets over the weekend or take him home with us. But because of his condition he needed to rest. No walking around or exertion. Harvey being Harvey, he doesn’t do sitting around, even with this awful affliction he was getting up and trying to walk around. Harvey doesn’t do quiet, he’s a fighter.

When he was a pup and we lived in England he would run full pelt down our long lounge, turn on a dime and race back up the lounge ending in throwing himself at the back of our large sofa, bouncing off and then repeating the process. The first time he did this, after three runs he suddenly collapsed halfway down the lounge. We thought he had dropped dead from his exertions. But no, it was a power nap and with a few minutes he was up and at it again.

On a personal level my emotions are all over the place and I’m sure my wife is the same. We lost our last dog, Sammy, to cancer, fourteen years ago. We went with the emotional roller-coaster ride of treating her with chemo at the vet’s recommendation. We both wish we had taken a different course for the sake of Sammy. Her suffering was too acute to watch some days and in the end it was a relief when I took her into the vets for the last time.

Now we have a meeting at our current vet in Larnaca scheduled for noon today. These are excellent vets as you can tell from their dedication to help animals and that they will always make time for you and telephone you with regular updates. But today it truly feels like high noon. I am, we are, strong people, but emotions tend to take control at times like this and the tears will flow today. I only hope they are tears of joy and that the vet can do something to alleviate Harvey’s suffering. We wait and see.

In the meantime we still have Holly to look after.

image of Holly and Harvey

She’s twelve and a lovely dog. Not as crazy and in your face as Harvey is, but nonetheless, she’s our little puppy-dog.


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