We were getting ready for the Longview/Kelso shows, and I had Ditto (our major pointed young male) on the table doing whiskers and nails when I noticed that the muscles in and around his top skull looked a bit shrunken. Little did I know at that time what we were facing, or what an impact it would have on him, on us, and on our breeding program.
We went ahead and took him to the shows, and I showed him to other breeder/friends, asking if they had ever seen anything like what I was seeing. No one had ever seen anything like it, but everyone agreed it was something that needed investigation. After judging was over on Saturday, we came home for the evening. I was looking through my many canine "medical" books, and happened across a very short (four paragraph) entry for Masticatory Muscle Myositis in one of them. I promptly went on the internet, with a search for more information. I have included some of the information I found MMM
We returned to the show site the next morning, and after judging (and Ditto being awarded Winners Dog and Best of Winners for two more points), we left to meet our vet at his clinic. I took printouts of the information I'd found from the night before.
The initial examination indicated that Ditto was running a mild fever. It also turned up a previously unnoticed wound on his left rear foot, between the pads, that had been there for awhile. A medical history determined that Ditto had never "acted" unwell, nor had he favored the injured foot.
The veterinarian started to tell me about a condition that he'd seen occasionally, but only in large dogs, particularly German Shepherd Dogs and Golden Retrievers, but had never heard of in Italian Greyhounds. At this point, I laid out my printed information from the internet. He looked at it and said that I had as much or more information on it as he did, and asked if he could keep what I'd brought in. We left Ditto overnight, so that his foot injury could be cleaned and sutured. He was started on antibiotics. We also scheduled a biopsy and blood work for the next morning to determine if we were indeed dealing with Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM).
It took three days for the blood work and biopsy results to come in. The wait was nerve-wracking for me, although in my heart, I knew what the results would be. I just needed to know how bad and what treatment options we had.
The results were "textbook" for the condition. The CK levels were drastically increased, as well as the circulating antibodies for the type 2M fibers. The visible changes over the 5 days since I first noticed the slight "shrunken" look were tremendous. It was apparent the muscle atrophy was becoming more pronounced.
It was decided to start Ditto on a "chemo" level dose of prednisone to try to arrest the progress of the MMM. For the next several weeks, he would be given 5 mg of prednisone twice a day, then gradually "weaned" off of it to a maintenance level.
Since prednisone affects weight, appetite, and thirst, as well as having other more serious side effects, careful monitoring was necessary. My vet became an "on call" partner at this time. Luckily, Ditto didn't have any adverse reactions to the medication other than increased thirst and a bit of weight gain. The physical changes to this beautiful dog's headpiece were heart wrenching. Ditto's head became very "skull like" in appearance, with severe atrophy of all the facial muscles that are affected by this condition. At NO time did he have trouble opening or closing his mouth, though. For this we counted our blessings.
The photos show the extreme atrophy of the affected muscles. The small scar on Ditto's right cheek (evident in the first photo) is from the biopsy.
Treatment was continued over the next four months, with ever decreasing dosages of prednisone. Weekly blood work was performed to determine where we were as far as the CK, AST, and antibody levels, and to make sure we didn't need to up the dosage again because of relapse.
When it became apparent that Ditto was going to be able to live a relatively normal life, hopefully without medication at all at some foreseeable time, I began to search for the perfect "special needs" home for him. We had determined when he was first diagnosed that he would be neutered. We also removed the puppy we had considered keeping from his one litter from our breeding program, neutered him and place him in a loving home. The rest of the litter had already been placed in non-breeding homes, and were already spayed or neutered. We notified all of the owners of these puppies as soon as he was diagnosed, and forwarded the information on the condition to all of them. (To date, none of these dogs, nor any of Ditto's siblings have manifested with this condition.)
Ditto was placed with a wonderful family. The woman has been involved with greyhound rescue, and had a small greyhound that had "come off the truck" with a horribly shattered hock a year or so before. After major repair surgery and lots of TLC, this dog was wonderful, although a bit lame. When Barbara, Mira, and their lovely "grey" came to meet Ditto, it was as if they all knew they belonged together. Since Ditto was large, and their grey was small, I didn't think there would be a problem. Fortunately I was correct in this assessment. Ditto got a new home, and a new name...Sunny (although he'll always be Ditto to me).
Ditto went home a week before Easter, 2002...a week later, on Easter Day...Ditto went missing in one of the most heavily populated parts of the Greater Seattle area. Still on medication, and during an unseasonably hot and sunny April...our country boy was LOST IN THE CITY!!!
I didn't find out until Wednesday evening after Easter Sunday. My first reaction was anger...at Barbara...then anger at myself for letting him leave here...then just undirected anger...then panic and grief. I wanted to get in the car and drive to Fremont to look for him. My husband logically asked me "where are you planning to start...seeing as you don't know that area and no one has seen him...and it's dark". I didn't know...I just knew I needed to do SOMETHING! We live 60 miles from where he was last seen. Barbara lived 40 miles further north from where he was seen. The only halfway positive thing I knew was that when he escaped, he was wearing a collar with an ID tag and phone number on it. I decided that my best bet was to get the word out to whoever would listen. Barbara had already enlisted the assistance of a mutual friend of ours who does wonderful things with rescued IGs, and who lived near the area. Morgan became a hero in the end, as well as a total stranger.
After escaping from the yard where he was staying, he traveled 7-8 MILES in just a matter of a couple of hours. He was even "shooed" off of the Aurora Bridge, which is one of the most heavily traveled urban bridges into Seattle from the north. At one point that evening, a couple tried to "chase" him down, and the man actually got his hands on him, but Ditto panicked and bit the man, who promptly let him GO! He then literally "vanished" from sight for a week. Posters went up all over the area, shelters, humane organizations, vets, all IG people, Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue contacts, and everyone we could think of were contacted.
When he resurfaced again, he was spotted all over an area of approximately 20 square miles. This included numerous trips back and forth from one side of Aurora to the other. This is a partially elevated roadway, so he must have utilized the roadway tunnels on the surface streets.
Within a day or so, the sightings were centered along a short stretch of residential streets near the Woodland Park Zoo. It would be this neighborhood where Ditto finally was rescued.
Morgan received a call from a woman that she had trapped a small greyhound on her back porch. She had been seeing him, but every time she'd approach, he'd run. She decided to bait him with food on her porch, because she just knew he was lost. Morgan had been up and down all over this area, going door to door. Barbara had been in the area handing out fliers. Everyone in that part of Seattle must have had our phone numbers. The woman had seen the fliers. This HAD to be the lost dog she'd heard about. When hunger got the best of our little adventurer, the woman went around the house, and closed the porch door behind him, went back inside from the front, and called Morgan. Morgan and her husband immediately jumped in the car to race over. We discovered that when the woman tried to pick Ditto up, he bit her...but unlike the other person that had grabbed him on Easter, she didn't panic and just let him go. She had the presence of mind to just leave him on her porch until help could arrive. Barbara later told me that the call from Morgan, while on their way home with Ditto, was one of the most wonderful phone calls she's ever received.
We believe that he had "gone to ground" in the yard of a vacant house that was under renovation. He had been out in the sun a lot, and being a white dog, was sunburned. His feet were raw from trekking on pavement for over a week. He had lost weight. He was exhausted. But he was amazingly alive, and relatively uninjured.
A vet check indicated that although he'd been off his medication for the MMM (a maintenance dose of .25 mg daily), he didn't need to start a new regimen. and there was no relapse of the acute form of the condition. With some food, rest, and medication for his raw foot pads, he was quickly back to normal.
We still don't know exactly where he vanished to for a week. We don't know what might have happened to him during his ordeal. We DO know that he doesn't trust men very much now. BUT...he is safely home, and MUCH loved. This story has a happy ending. And...after all of this...I still know he's in the perfect home!
Congratulations! I cannot even imagine how it must have been for your family with him "out there" somewhere. I know he is a lucky boy to have a family search so hard to find him. We have been looking and checking the newspaper in our area daily. Give him a big hug for us!
the Shelter Staff @
Seattle Animal Shelter
>>> <Curiohounds@aol.com> 04/09/02 11:03AM >>>
Our "little boy lost" was found and captured Saturday afternoon! My most heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to all that helped us in this ordeal!!
He is a little sunburned, and his feet are sore. He was hungry and dehydrated when found, but otherwise he's fine!!
Many people put in many hours helping to get our boy home safe. Words cannot express my thanks and gratitude to these people. For EACH of you, know that I can never repay your kindness and concern. If I can EVER be of assistance to you, let me know.
Curio Italian Greyhounds
Jan, Leslie, and Morgan,
Sunny is convalescing from his terrible ordeal. He lost a little over 3 pounds during the week he was lost, but since Saturday he has gained back .7 lb. He has open sores on every toe, some toes have 2 or 3 sores! But I've been soaking his feet in an oatmeal bath twice each day and dressing the sores with Burt's Bees Foot Ointment, same for the sun burned patch of skin on the end of his nose. He was examined by Dr. Evelyn Robertson at Aurora Veterinary Clinic. She prescribed amoxicilyn for an intestinal upset and recommended resumption of the prednisone he'd been taking for his pancreas disorder. She predicted that he would make a full recovery.
Every time I look at Sunny, hold him on my lap or tuck into bed with me and my daughter my heart overflows with gratitude and amazement.
Against all odds we got our little boy back. The story might not have had such a happy ending if it hadn't been for Morgan, the angel of IG rescue and Leslie, angel of greyhound rescue and owner of Great Dog Daycare.
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!
~ Barbara Phillips
and the next email...several weeks later...
Sunny has regained nearly all the his weight. His coat is beginning to shine. The toes and sun burned have healed.
I hardly ever look at him without feeling deeply grateful to have him back and also profoundly sad for thinking about the fear, hunger, and cold he endured while he was lost.
I can't tell you how much joy he's brought to our family. He's really something special! We love him like crazy. He spends all of his day either on my lap or Mira's or snuggled up with Coco. He sleeps between Mira and I every night. He's super super sweet, affectionate, and charming. He's also hilarious. He and Mira play tug-of-war and chase-and-ambush for hours. The house is often ringing with Mira's laughter and Sunny's barking as they play together. Outside, he and Coco go after the Frisbee together. Sometimes after dinner we have a howl-in. Craig, Mira, and I begin to howl and Coco and Sunny chime right in.
As for the details of the story of his escape...
The pet sitter lives between Greenwood and Crown Hill on 7th NW and NW 90th. This intersection is a few blocks south of Northgate Way (although in that part of town it's called Holman Rd or 105th St). I did say "Northgate" but meant the reference to Northgate Way to indicate how far north he was when he escaped because just a few hours after escaping, he was spotted on Market St in Ballard, which is only a few blocks from the ship canal. That's got to be at least 7 or 8 miles.
The couple who spotted him running down Market are self-described "dog people." If you recall, that was Easter Sunday. They were on their way to Easter dinner with relatives but abandoned their plans to spend 45 minutes chasing Sunny on foot and by car all the way into Fremont and up Fremont Ave as far as BF Day School. The man actually got his hands on Sunny, which is how they got my phone number, but Sunny bit him and got away again.
There was no more news of him until the following Thursday. :-(
How, exactly, he managed to get out of the pet sitter's yard is a mystery. Two sides of the yard are enclosed with sturdy, 6 ft high chain link, one side with 4 ft chain link, and one side with 6 ft high solid wood. According to the pet sitter, there was no evidence of digging. All we can think is that somehow, Sunny scaled the chain link. I think if you saw this guy's yard, you'd say it was escape-proof.
One interesting wrinkle - the pet sitter is a long time friend of mine and about 20 years ago, or so, we lived together for little over 7 years in the very same house that Sunny ran away from. That was the first house I ever owned. This guy and I had Ridgebacks together. The oldest of our dogs died at 15 just about a year ago. I always baby-sit his dogs and he baby-sits mine. He's a wonderful person and really has a special gift with dogs. Coco, and my previous greyhound, Dash, absolutely loved to go see "Uncle Mark." So, I imagined that Sunny would also have a wonderful time. But alas, it was not to be.
I'll keep you posted on our little boy.
reading this email...any IG owner will see the error in the term "escape
proof"...particularly given the 4ft chain link fence, and the fact that
this guy was in a strange environment so soon after being placed in a new
home. The new owner now KNOWS why I always tell local people getting a dog
from us that if they're going away, the dog should probably come visit Camp