“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” is a translation of Scottish poet Robert Burns poem To a Mouse, written in 1786 (FYI he also wrote Auld Lang Syne 1788). Dr. Potthoff (Sasha’s neurosurgeon)  called on Monday April 18.  He discovered that a small filter used in the processing of the mesenchymal stem cells was outdated so her SCT had to be rescheduled till Tuesday April 25. The mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are part of the therapy that is given IV because they activate & mobilize throughout the system, navigating to the areas of the body that need regeneration. They are very abundant in adipose tissue (fat) which is why they are harvested from fat more than bone marrow. Disappointing but that’s life  and in a small way it was a positive as it meant Sasha did NOT have two long trips to Southern Maine just days apart.

She was adapting well to her life of darkness ~ probably better than me. We took her out for car rides and walks by the lake, always limiting the physical activity to shorter segments. Her mobility was back to where it had been when I first took her to Dr. Potthoff in mid March which meant that she was walking but still knuckling frequently thus falling. I must say however that she didn’t fall as in “plop” but rather when her rear legs intertwined she dropped her backside down as she slid her affected rear leg out in front of her. She often sat with the left rear leg extended as in this picture taken while she sat in the downstairs bathroom.

Waiting for Mom to brush her teeth…

I’d virtually been in crunch mode since April 12 and her ophthalmology appointment was in four days so I needed to continue at full steam. I simply cannot thank my daughter and husband enough for taking over ALL household and other pet responsibilities because I was literally living online. I had everything set up in Command Central plus had moved some clothes and personal items downstairs so that essentially I was in the great room 24/7. I lost my beloved dog Callie the previous November, not to her disease process, but rather to my blind trust in her long-term provider. I was never going to make that mistake again even if it meant I became a helicopter dog owner. I was fairly confident that the ophthalmologist, Cory Mosunic, DVM, MS, DACVO, of Portland Veterinary Specialists was going to diagnose Sasha with SARDS. She had all the hallmark symptoms; weight gain, loss of vision, decreased sense of smell and hearing. I would take a treat and literally stick it under her nose and she was unable to smell it. As I posted earlier, Sasha was an extremely proficient tracker from participating in Schutzhund. To watch her  be unable to detect a treat placed fractions from her nose truly broke my heart.

Having completed all the SCT research I needed I redirected it back again to Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome  (SARDS).  I personally prefer to look at veterinary school/hospital websites as opposed to “Mary Sue’s Dog Blog’ because I find them more accurate for medical data. I use blogs and videos to watch real dogs in their home environment as opposed to a clinical setting. I find that combining both tools enhances my research. I returned to my new buddy, You Tube and watched many videos of SARDS dogs. At this point all the information I saw was supporting the “irreversibly blind” diagnosis. I found that a (2) year “think-tank’ had been initiated at North Carolina State University to study SARDS and that the veterinarian ophthalmologist leading it, Dr. Freya Mowat,  wanted to “investigate the possible role the dog’s immune system and hormones play in the disease”. Immune system! There was that phrase again, the same one that many vets believed was a contributing factor to Perianal Fistula Disease (PFD) which Sasha had been treated for since 2011. Then I stumbled upon a You Tube video that mentioned Dr. Alfred Plechner so I Googled him. Wow! A ton of information from both his supporters and detractors. As I plowed through his reports and website, I noticed that his theory correlated with what the think-tank in NC was studying; the immune system. I also went back to some articles I’d initially read where the authors “suggested” that SARDS could “possibly” be autoimmune related but stopped short of definitively  saying it was. The common thread I kept seeing was “autoimmune” yet no veterinarians would commit to it except Dr. Plechner.

Having said that, I am a nurse but I also have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome so am fully aware of the fact that autoimmune disorders are often misdiagnosed and that they can wreak havoc with your body. I also felt (don’t ask me why ~ simply a gut feeling) that if SARDS could be successfully treated it should start as soon as possible. By this time Sasha had been blind for eleven days and even though she had adapted to our nighttime ritual of toast and Spotify, I couldn’t fathom how confused and frightened she must have been. I kept going back to Dr. Plechner’s theory on SARDS and the more I read the more I believed he had indeed identified the cause. The problem I noted was many traditional veterinarians rejected his theory/work while homeopathic/integrative veterinarians accepted it. This didn’t come as a huge surprise because throughout history there have been numerous medical pioneers who’s work was rejected by their profession. The first one that comes to mind is  Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who in the mid 19th century correctly identified the reason many women were dying of childbed fever; dirty hands. Yet he was ridiculed and rejected by his peers. His story is quite fascinating yet hauntingly sad.

I spent the next few days glued to the laptop and preparing a list of questions for Sasha’s appointment with the veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Mosunic , on Friday April, 22. My goal was to be as well-informed as possible, comprehend her terminology and play devil’s advocate if necessary. Veterinary ophthalmologists say there is no cure, go home and learn to live with a blind dog. Yet a veterinarian in CA  with 50 years of experience, credits under his belt and a respected member of the veterinary community, has developed a theory that many cases of SARDS are in reality an endocrine-immune disruption. The adrenals are part of the endocrine system which is a complicated, highly involved system. He had developed a treatment and when implemented, many dogs have regained full or partial vision. Yet mainstream, traditional veterinarians frown upon his work and will not follow the protocols he devised, no matter how much their patient pleads. On the other hand, veterinarians around the USA who take a holistic/alternative/integrative approach to medicine do collaborate with him and are often astounded by the results in the animal. Now I get it, we’re talking about dogs not humans. Having said that, as a medical professional who has seen everything from innocent babies with HIV, traumatic gun shot wounds, terminally ill patients who instead of dying as predicted did the exact opposite, I really take umbrage with the sentiments I keep encountering when addressing the vision loss  “once it’s gone it’s gone” “it’s dead” & “nothing brings it back to life”. I beg to differ because I have witnessed first hand the miracle of life, rejuvenation, divine intervention, medical science, alternative therapy ~ whatever you prefer to call it. I consider myself an intelligent woman and because I am I do not accept any initial diagnosis. I always get a second opinion and if the two diagnosis are the same I begin to research to see if there are new treatments on the horizon or if there has been success treating the problem either holistically or with off label drug modalities. Everyone is entitled to their own philosophy and mine is simple – I don’t give up nor do I concede to traditional opinions. Medicine is advanced because of those who flew in the face of conformity, doctors and scientists who discovered something and despite rejection by their peers, continued with their research until guess what? Fast forward a decade or so and their research had now morphed into an accepted line of treatment. At the end of the day we all have to live with the decisions we’ve made and I wouldn’t  be content until I’d explored all viable options for Sasha’s sudden blindness. I would not accept “learn to live with a blind dog” until I’d at least tried other treatment modalities such as Dr. Plechner’s. In addition to my online research I’d either spoken on the telephone or emailed with at least a dozen pet owners whose dogs HAD regained their vision following Dr. Plechner’s protocol. If I tried and she didn’t I’d be sad but also at peace because I’d know in my heart that we did  everything possible.

Sasha enjoying the spring breeze while waiting to be helped out of the truck

💜Next up ~ Diagnosis Day💜

I’m not a savvy blogger  so unsure of menus, icons etc. Click to see Sasha’s You Tube channel which chronicles her journey from onset until present day.


One thought on “How I Became A Helicopter Dog Mom

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