25 March 2009


It's been nearly a month since the last Mia and Mistral report.

At first, the days passed pretty well - life was good. Mia was still scared when a stranger arrived, yet there was and is improvement. She now plays with other dogs when we are all here alone. Mistral just ate (always hungry) - and the pair of them decided thievery was their forte. One day. whilst I was out, they broke into the kitchen area, pulled down the rubbish and wrecked it, grabbed a 15 kilo sack of dog food off the counter and promptly ate a quarter of it. Mistral's stomach was 4 times its normal size - I don't know how she walked. After that, I invested in four chains and four padlocks and now have to lock each babygate when I go out.

Then I noticed that Mistral seemed to be deteriorating.

To go back to the beginning, or rather the beginning of their new life here which seems ages ago but actually it was on the 30th December that they arrived here from their Hell Hole. Not that long ago.

On the day they arrived I remember thinking that Mistral could be pregnant. Her stomach was too big for her body - distorted somehow. Or perhaps she was full of worms but then she'd been wormed the day before she left Beziers.

When I took her for the first vet's visit we talked it over, we both knew she couldn't be pregnant and I put forward the idea that perhaps she had a tumour. The vet said she'd take a look when she opened her up to sterilize her. In the event, she wasn't able to do this as she was only dealing with the area of reproduction. When I collected her she suggested she should go on a diet. I put her on a Light Diet but within a week she started losing weight around the ribs yet that distended stomach never left her. I wondered if perhaps it was her disgusting habit of eating poop but I have to say the thought of a tumour never left me.

Last week I took her to the vet for a checkup. Her mammary tumours seemed hot (the vet had told me these can shrink back after sterilisation and mostly they had - the idea being that eventually they'd need removing). My vet took one look at her and said she had gone downhill since she'd last seen her. Her skin was much dryer and more flaky, and her stomach was bigger. She made an appointment for her to have an ultrasound. On Tuesday mornings (yesterday) a specialist in ultra-sound comes with her machine from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Cap d'Ail.

I knew we were going to find the worst so for the last few days, Mistral has been thoroughly spoiled eating whatever she wants and as much as she wants. You can see in the photograph above - taken three days ago - how big her stomach was and that's before spoiling her with extra food.

We got her up on the table and within a minute, the specialist found a tumour on one of the adrenal glands, which are attached to the kidneys. The ACTH hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, moves through the blood stream and signals the adrenal glands near the kidneys to produce corticosteroids. In a healthy dog, it is a self-balancing system. However, when a tumor develops in the pituitary or adrenal glands, the level of required corticosteroids is compromised. This leads to Cushings disease and that is what Mistral was showing signs of - poor coat, distended stomach - eventually it would lead to worse symptoms.

These tumors send inaccurate signals to various systems and cause an imbalance in the otherwise balanced body functions. All attempts made by the body to restore normalcy are of no use, and once Cushings disease has been contracted, it doesn't go away. This is why Mistral was crazy for food - (and eating poop) - all the wrong messages were being sent to her brain.

Some of these tumours are benign and can be treated to a degree, with the dog having a reasonable quality of life and some are malignant. The expert told me Mistral's was malignant and that eventually it would spread to the liver and lungs.

Mistral wasn't going to get better. I asked if she was in pain and the vet said probably not pain but that she'd be uncomfortable. I'd noticed an awkwardness in her walk and some difficulty in getting up off the sofa. We talked long and hard and I could see it was the moment - that it wouldn't be right letting her get sicker. Mistral has never been a happy dog, incredibly needy, craving affection all the time and never playing with another dog. She always had a look of desperation in her eyes - she always looked so sad. Even when lying next to me on the sofa - me stroking her - she was never able to relax and enjoy it but was continually tensed, pushing me, pawing me for more even as she got it. Nothing was ever enough. I don't know if this was caused by her early life - the endless litters she had and the abuse she suffered - and perhaps by her illness too - desperation for food, desperation for affection - the messages to the brain had got muddled.

So yesterday morning, she went to Doggy Heaven, eating a handful of biscuits as the vet put the needle into her.

I'm glad now that the vet didn't find the tumour earlier - at least she had nearly three months here living in comfort. I do wish though she'd had longer. God knows, she deserved more, so much more. But thank God that at least she didn't die in that dreadful place - she'd have suffered so - they'd not have taken her to a vet, they'd have left her to die.

In the photo below you see Mia on the coffee table with Dotty and Peggy, pug visitors - Mistral is yawning on the sofa behind her. So you can see how well Mia has come along. Mia, who was absolutely in the worst condition of the two on arrival, is now glowing with health physically - and learning to cope with people, albeit slowly.

And since yesterday, I have worried that Mia would keep looking for Mistral but so far - and it's now over 24 hours, she doesn't seem at all bothered.

I'm sorry to give such awful news. And thank you so much to everyone who has been so encouraging. You know, despite all this, I'd do it again. At least we got her out of that dreadful place and she had nearly three months of comfort and good food and love - yes, I'm sure she knew she was loved. Poor sweet Mistral. I do so wish it had been longer...

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