Heart Dog - Gunner's Story
McNally Robinson ~ Winnipeg, Manitoba
Saturday, January 12, 2019
For those of you who missed it, (I've had some requests) here are my direct notes that I read at the book launch for Heart Dog - Gunner's Story! Please note - these are notes / sketches - not proofed!
“Sadly, millions of dogs are abandoned and/or euthanized each year for behavioral issues that could have been managed or reversed with the proper thyroid treatment.”
Thank you for coming tonight and supporting me in this endeavor as it’s truly near and dear to my heart. I`m so flattered and yet humbled in this moment.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to do this – to have a book launch. I’m just regular people like so many of you. I’m predominantly a numbers person who works out of her own office with her calculator and I find myself in unchartered territory now standing in front of you all so please bear with me as I struggle for the next 20 or so minutes.
I’ve been asked why I wrote this book and I imagine many authors are asked the same questions. I can tell you, I wrote this book to share my story in the hopes of trying to save just one more dog and I need your help to do this by reading it and sharing it.
I’m not here tonight tell you about a book and to get you to purchase the book in order for me to become a famous author. I’m here asking you to purchase the book because of the importance of gaining the knowledge in the book that took me over a lifetime to learn in the hopes that you the reader, can learn and teach others!
“People and dogs come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”
I will say rather strongly, I never would have found out what I did about Gunner without the help of so many people. Some of which are here today and I so greatly appreciate that!
What makes a good read: Everyone has a story and some of the best books are based on those. Human life stories that have struggle and the victory of overcoming that struggle. A great read inspires others as I hope this book does.
Plot: They say a good plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. This book highlights a perfect puppy gradually turning overtime into a very dangerous dog. The villain in this story reveals itself as being Canine Hypothyroidism.
Story Structure: I take you through my knowledge and history with dogs and in particular, Gunner’s full life and our struggle with his disease.
Characters: I will admit, this book has a lot of dog characters in it and boy do they bring a lot of laughs to the table! But I do have a wonderful group of human characters from not only Manitoba, but across Canada and the US!
Setting: The setting of this book is based in our great Province, if you’re local, you will experience the familiarity of our Winnipeg’s North End, Lorette, Lockport, Selkirk, St. Andrews and even a little bit of ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg!
Style and Tone: I’m just me. I write this book in what I consider to be normal everyday language excluding any potty mouth I’ve been known to use on occasion. Where in places, I discuss medical information, I don’t use the technical terms specifically because I’m not a doctor or vet and I wanted you the reader to understand it as I did. I try to paint pictures for the reader so they can truly see and feel what happened in each and every moment. Further to that, I do, in fact, put pictures in this book so you can easily put faces to the names.
What is this book about? My life – everyone has a story and I share mine in particular with Gunner, a blue Doberman, the rest of our pack, and finally Tim, my soul mate -the best that I can.
Who is this book for: Literally everyone, dog owners or not, young and old. This story will show that if you have struggles and fight to overcome, you can.
This book is about Dogs – rescues, pure breeds, show dogs, - all of which are so very precious to us.
Heart Dog - what is the true meaning of a Heart Dog
Hypothyroidism – what is quietly becoming known as the canine epidemic.
Most importantly – this book is about never giving up.
So, expanding a little:
My life: I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have dogs. From two years old, my first “breed of choice” was the St. Bernard as two lived across the street from us. Spending time with them warmed my heart to our canines and it’s stayed with me ever since. This book gives you a quick tour through my journey with rescues as well as pure breeds, showing my great fondness for all canines.
Dogs: I’ve rescued dogs, had strays, had pure breeds, done puppy training, obedience, Schutzund work, and shown in Canadian Kennel Club venues in Confirmation and Rally. Why is this all important to mention? This proves the history I’ve had with canines of all natures and the knowledge I gained throughout the years. With this knowledge, when I got Gunner – I truly thought I knew it all but was sorely mistaken!
What is a “Heart Dog”: Direct Read from Heart Dog – Gunner’s Story, Chapter : ISAAC
If you Google “Heart Dog” many different things come up but essentially, people claim that your “heart dog” is in fact your canine soul mate. Your “heart dog” is a dog that comes into your life and you connect in a way that you can’t explain. You can’t go shopping for a “Heart Dog” and just buy one, and sometimes you don’t even realize they’re your “Heart Dog” until you lose them. You know each other in ways that you can’t explain and you have a profound deep attachment, a love, if you will, that you won’t find with other dogs you may have had. That’s not to say you didn’t love other dogs but it’s different and when you find that one, you just know.
I don’t want any misunderstandings here. A dog is not a human being and a dog can’t take the place of a human companion. I don’t believe a dog will ever be able to take the place of a human. But if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find one that does become your “Heart Dog”. And if you’re truly blessed as I have been, you may even find another in your lifetime.
This is the part where I blather on a bit, maybe with a sense of arrogance even. I delve into this because I know I have found my human soul mate with Tim and he is so important to me that he needs to be recognized here.
I grew up believing he existed and I prayed countless times that I’d find him, marry him, have children with him and get old with him. It took me a long time, longer than most, and I even gave up but I did finally find my soul mate at what I realize now, was just the most perfect time.
I’m not going to say that humans need each other to be whole, and I don’t think your soul mate makes you whole. But your human soul mate knows you, they know even the stuff they don’t realize they know. They don’t make you better people but they help you and support you in a way that helps you grow to become that better person. Your human soul mate sees your imperfections and even though they may be annoying, really annoying, they can see past them to what makes you special. Your soul mate doesn’t see your special qualities all the time because humans are not perfect. You are not perfect and neither is your soul mate, but they see your special qualities when it matters most, not when it’s easy.
The important part about soul mates is that they don’t come into your life at a specific time, or at a designated age, they come into your life when it’s simply just the time it’s supposed to be.
It’s very similar to your Heart Dog, I don’t believe you can go to the “Soul Mate” store and just get one. You can’t wake up in the morning and say “today I’m ready, today I will find my soul mate”. He or she comes into your life when it’s exactly the right time and it’s on you to recognize that.
For those who have been blessed enough to have had a human soul mate and a canine soul mate, you understand. They are completely different and yet so much the same. No matter what, you cannot and will not ever replace them.
In 2007 after doing my due diligence, I purchased the most gorgeous little blue Doberman puppy ever known to mankind, of course I may be a tad partial!
Gunner was introduced to the pack, came to work with me every day so received optimum socialization, we trained daily, we eventually showed in the CKC where he received countless ribbons in both Confirmation as well as Rally Obedience. Do I share this to brag? No, I share this because I did “everything right” in the “how to raise a happy, even tempered dog” and yet – he became the opposite.
From the moment I brought Gunner home, I do believe he was HYPOTHYROID as symptoms were already showing.
Direct Read from Heart Dog – Gunner’s Story, Chapter : SIR FARTS A LOT:
This chapter is not about that amazing puppy breath smell that brings immediate warmth to your heart. This chapter is about puppy breath’s evil twin brother called “wall paper peeling, make you wretch, burn all your nose hairs, toxic flatulence”. It won’t be a pretty chapter but it is an important part of the story.
On that lovely early spring day, during the long three hour ride home with mom and dad, we were often “visited” with a stench so violent that it often made us dry heave.
Now that I had my freshly bathed new little puppy safe in my arms, I appreciated the sun shining so brightly in the sky as we again drove through miles of prairies. I now did have new hopes and dreams and had so much excitement in my heart for what the future would bring. I had visions of puppy goofiness, trouble making episodes and my days being filled with puppy breath snuggles.
These visions would be violently torn down with one whiff of the air and completely destroyed while my stomach rolled with such an extreme nausea that I worried I would vomit all over my beautiful little puppy.
I tried desperately to figure out what this stench was and I truly couldn’t place it.
At first, I remembered the time that in the dead of summer when I was a youngster, a rotting beaver corpse had washed onto shore by our dock. I remembered how repulsive it was until finally someone in the family had “geared up” and removed it. Before that body was taken to the dump, no one could walk within thirty feet of that thing it smelled so bad.
This smell was much worse than that and we couldn’t get away from it! It wasn’t skunk, we weren’t passing any sewage lagoons or water treatment plants, those were all pleasant smells compared to this.
Of course for the first few “assaults” nothing was said in the car because I assumed mom and dad were doing the same thing I was. Trying to figure out what the hell it was, where it was coming from and what could possible explain this. But, just like the prairies, it kept coming on mile after long mile.
I finally accepted the fact that someone had to be passing gas but who and had they seen a doctor about this?
Mile after terrible long mile, the air would clear for a few moments until again we were hit upside the head with the stench. There was no happy chit chatting happening here as there was on the ride out to the breeders. Instead, there was dead silence and I can only assume that mom and dad were thinking the same as me, it was someone else and it would have been impolite to make mention of it as vile as it was.
Minutes dragged on into the first hour, and repeatedly the silent aggressive stench would envelope us and someone would give out a cough, slightly scratch their nose or ever so casually look out the window in what seemed to be almost a silent prayer. I think on one attack, dad actually whimpered like a little girl.
Over the course of the next two and a half years, Gunner showed a variety of symptoms that were consistently miss-diagnosed on his many vet visits. But the first was his terrible gas which the vet attributed to food intolerance.
As time went by Gunner showed: • Staph infections (pimples) – attributed to food allergies • Smelly body odor, skin issues, rashes under his armpits – attributed to being dirty from the warehouse at which I worked and took him daily to. • Cold all the time – attributed to the fact he was a blue Doberman with a very thin coat. • Hard to keep weight on – attributed to the fact he was a very active puppy. • Dog aggression to outside dogs, then pack that he knew • Finally human aggression – he attacked me.
Hypothyroidism: We are led to believe that in canine as well as humans that hypothyroidism symptoms show as overweight, poor coat or in humans thin hair, and lethargy or laziness. Further to that, it typically displays later in life. For canines 5-7 years old and in humans after 40.
What is HYPOTHYROIDISM: Direct Read from Heart Dog – Gunner’s Story, Chapter : MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
What is Hypothyroidism actually?
The thyroid gland is located in the front part of the neck. Its function is said to make a hormone called thyroxine that controls metabolism (the process of turning food into fuel). With hypothyroidism, the gland doesn’t make enough of that hormone.
The more I read up on it, the more I realized that it actually was quite a common disease in dogs. Further to that, it not only effected Dobermans. Where various sites said that yes, Dobermans were a breed prone to it, it was also very common in Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Dachshunds, Boxers and Cocker Spaniels and a variety of other well-known breeds.
Most websites did say that it usually was found to effect middle-aged dogs (ages 4 to 10) of medium to large breeds. But many sites also stated a higher propensity of the disease to occur in neutered males and spayed females although vets were unsure why.
When I researched on the “why” or how it happens, many thought that in some cases of hypothyroidism, the dog’s immune system actually attacked the thyroid. Other causes were listed as just the simple shrinking of the thyroid gland and, although rare, a tumor of the thyroid gland. After talking to many dog people, some also felt that possibly the hard playing of puppies or young dogs where they bit each other’s necks in play may cause a trauma of sorts to the gland. No matter what the actual cause, most vets agreed on a basic list symptoms.
Today’s date as I write this section is August 11, 2018, and for some giggles, I just now did a quick google search on Hypothyroidism in dogs. The “signs and symptoms” listed on many websites are: lethargy, generalized weakness, inactivity, mental dullness, unexplained weight gain, hair loss, and excessive hair shedding and poor hair growth.
Gunner had none of these symptoms which is why my vet probably fought against the test for so long. Truthfully, Gunner was exactly the opposite of every one of those recognized symptoms. None of these sites really said anything about aggression issues though or even mentioned some of the symptoms that he did have medically.
I now will introduce a very important person - Dr. Jean Dodds. I was told of Dr. Dodds by Mandy in the US, (Gunner’s breeder) in regards to her findings and research of hypothyroidism.
Direct Read from Heart Dog – Gunner’s Story, Chapter MONEY, MONEY, MONEY AND DIRECT QUOTE FROM DR. DODDS: “Sadly, millions of dogs are abandoned and/or euthanized each year for behavioral issues that could have been managed or reversed with the proper thyroid treatment.”
What are the signs of canine thyroid disease?
Normal thyroid function affects just about every aspect of a dog’s health, including: • Maintaining healthy skin and coat • Maintaining proper body weight • Promoting mental alertness and concentration • Fighting infections • Maintaining the body’s temperature • Controlling growth and maturation • Facilitating normal reproduction
Since the thyroid gland regulates metabolism of all of the body’s cellular activities, reduced thyroid function can produce a wide range of clinical signs. (offer handout showing all signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism)
The classic signs associated with hypothyroidism (significant weight gain, lethargy, cold intolerance, poor skin and hair coat) typically occur only after 70% or more of the thyroid tissue has been destroyed or damaged.
Just the other day, I read a medical report claiming that humans diagnosed with depression, OCD, and Bi-polar are now finding out that they too have Hypothyroidism. They are being takin off of those meds and being supplemented with thyroid medication.
Tim and I don’t regret one day of having Gunner. This book shares so many precious memories! But I personally regret not putting the puzzle together sooner.
Since self-publishing this book I've joined a canine hypothyroidism group on Facebook and in preparation of this launch I asked the simple question – please share your dog’s battle. This is a sample of what I received:
• Ellie, female Labrador Retriever. I knew there was something 'off' with her at 1 year old. Sad/depressed, hid behind a chair constantly, empty eyes, not interested in playing, gunky ear issues and 15lbs overweight. Major excessive tiredness sleeping for hours at a time during the day, excessive shedding, bald spot on her back flank, total diet change... wouldn't eat but gained 15lbs in 4 months, very itchy skin and didn't want to be pet hardly ever.She was finally diagnosed at 2 yrs old.
• Cypress, Weimaraner , Male, Symptoms: poor appetite, very picky eater, some allergies, hard to KEEP on weight, lethargy/depressed mood, not very active, hair loss neck/underbelly. Age of diagnosis: 2.5 years but showed some symptoms after a bad neck injury (required surgery to drain/clean) around age 11-12 months (possible trauma induced thyroid cause). Hair loss started later on. No dog/human aggression at all displayed at any time.
• Riley, Boxer, Lab, Pit mix, Female, Symptoms: Very low energy/lethargic, Had become exercise intolerant, Seemed to be more mentally dull or foggy, She became anxious around people who she wasn’t anxious with previously, very compulsive about the back yard, started nipping, Compulsive behaviors I've noticed: excessive scratching, licking, hyper aware of all sounds and goings on around her. Age of diagnosis: Not sure of her exact age because she was found as an abandoned stray, but between 3-4 years old.
• Mylo, Dachshund, Male, Symptoms: Hair loss, starting from tail. Excessive eye discharge, extremely hungry, extremely friendly with everyone. Age of diagnosis: 6 years, hair loss started at age 5
• Bella, Laborador Retriever, spayed female, Age at diagnosis: 2 1/2 yrs. Age now: 6 1/2 yrs. Symptoms: Aggression toward our other animals (even those who she used to play with), fur became very brittle, straw-like, major shedding (although no bald spots), 9lb weight gain over months with no change in diet or exercise, hot & cold weather intolerance, lack of desire to want to go outside, belly skin turned brown, seemed to be in a daze/unfocused.
• Morgayne, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, spayed female, Age at diagnosis: 7 Symptoms: severe anxiety, severe dog aggression, poor coat, weight gain. Always thought her "symptoms" were from very poor breeding. Vet thought she was just high strung. With the help of other dog owners I finally got her tested....her numbers barely registered. Marked improvement just after 2 days of medication!
• Sookie, Shepherd mix, Spayed female Diagnosed: at 7 years old Symptoms: reoccurring ear infections, chronic staph infections on skin and very difficult to loose weight.
• Pasha, Siberian Husky, male : neutered Symptoms: Fearful of certain types of people when out walking, started with growling to eventually trying to run away from them. Extremely frightened of certain objects eg shopping trollies , plastic bags, refuge bins . Mentally dull, lethargic , sleeping all day. Lack of interest in play. Eye discharge. Weight gain. Should weigh 22kg but went up to 35kg. Liver coloured nose lost a lot of pigment. Symptoms started with fears at 1 1/2yrs old increasing gradually until diagnosis at 3yrs old.
• Luca, Shar- pei, Male/ not nutered Age- 18 months.Problem start early when he was 5 months old Symptoms: very itchy, bad breath, lost appetite, behavior change, yeast infection, very lethargic( i had to fed him by hand, he even wouldn’t move)Lost hair, bald spots with black skin.
I take time to read that to you because Heart Dog is about Gunner’s story but this terrible disease is not just a Doberman thing. This not only effects ALL dogs but humans as well and it`s commonly miss-diagnosed!
Truly the answer to my prayers:
• Huckleberry blue Doberman almost looking identical to our Gunner: A woman in Arizona read Heart Dog and after reading it contacted me with some questions as her Huckleberry was displaying some issues. After testing, Huckleberry came back as dangerously low and is now on two easy pills a day and showing a huge improvement!
• Just today, I got an email from Doc`s owner, Kiki. She read a discussion I was having about hypothyroidism on Facebook and she too contacted me with questions. Doc is a Doberman and his vet actually owns 3 Dobermans currently. The vet had diagnosed Doc with food allergies but where he showed improvement, other issues started to come out such as infections. Because Kiki forced the issue, Doc was tested and the results came back yesterday, he too, dangerously low and the vet, being so shocked is now testing her own Dobermans.
Heart Dog – Gunner`s Story is a wonderful book with lots of laughs, the story of finally finding my true love Tim, our journey together and yes, some tears. I share all the crazy dog stories we`ve had which have brought so much joy to our life.
When writing Heart Dog - I was careful to strategically mix day to day stories with medical information that literally can save not only canine lives but also human lives. Or at the very least, improve their quality of life.
I need your help. I don`t have publisher or advertising agency. I`m just me, a numbers girl who followed her dream and dared to write a book about Tim and Karen`s Heart Dog Gunner. I need you to please help me to spread the word.
I`ll now be more than willing to take some questions at this time but please be advised that I am hearing impaired so again bear with me!