Today I’m digressing from things yarn related to celebrate Mr Hicks’ twelfth birthday. Twelve feels to me like a real milestone for any golden retriever, but it seems an especially big milestone to Mr Hicks.
Just under twelve years ago we visited Battersea Old Windsor where we spotted this little chap.
It was love at first sight.
At 14 weeks old, Mr Hicks came to live with us – although he wasn’t called Mr Hicks at the time. Adopting him was one of the best decisions I ever made. But it hasn’t been easy.
Around five or six months old, I forget quite when, he began to tear the fur out on his back. As dogs can’t be tested for allergies until they’re over a year old, he wasn’t properly diagnosed for over six months. Meantime he continued to chew so badly his skin became sore and infected, he suffered recurrent ear and eye infections and an extreme number of hot spots – hot spots are septic patches that erupt from under the skin. They aren’t just unpleasant, itchy and sore, having them makes the dog feel unwell also. Needless to say we did a lot of vet and dermatological specialist visiting – at times we were visiting the vet three times a week, every week.
Eventually Hicks was diagnosed as having a severe dust and food mite allergy – things you can never totally get rid of. Attempting to get on top of Hick’s health took a lot of high maintenance medication, washing routines and constantly watching him so he didn’t sneak off and pull more fur out. It broke my heart having to put a buster collar on him every bedtime and every time we left him – even when we left him alone for just five minutes.
We got in top of the infections pretty quickly, but it wasn’t until he was about four that we got Hicks to a place where the hot spots stopped completely – although he would still get very itchy and would chew fur from his back when excited, stressed or no one was looking.
Hicks’ improved health lasted for about 3 years before his system started throwing out hotspots again – dogs’ allergies get worse as they grow older. Fortunately the problems have never got as bad again as they were at the start and, since December, a new medication – along with the others he was already on – has stopped the hotspots again and finally completely stopped him chewing at his back. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
On top of the allergy issues, Mr Hicks has had three malignant mast cell tumours, snapped both cruciate ligaments at different times – which takes a huge recovery – and had various more minor operations, plus a we had very worrying time when his heart beat slowed and he became very lethargic. He’s cost tens of thousands in vets bills – fortunately we have insurance.
Poor chap has really suffered, but he always picks himself back up and smiles.
Although there isn’t an alternative, I’ve always hated filling him with drugs and worried about the impact they’ll have on his long term health. But although he’s had way more medication and far more ill health than most other dogs, right now he’s embracing life as if he’s heaps younger than he is. If I’m honest, I never thought we’d reach this place, let alone be so well at twelve. And that’s why Mr Hicks’ twelfth birthday is such a very special cause for celebration in our house.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR HICKS!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Battersea Old Windsor for giving us such a fantastic boy who, despite all his health challenges, really knows how to enjoy life, and to all the wonderful people over the years – both friends and professionals – who’ve helped us with their medical skills, support and understanding about how tough the going’s been.
But my biggest thank you goes to Mr Hicks for bringing so much love and happiness into our home. Despite it all, he’s always known how to have a party and get the best out of life.
PS As if to prove he knows how to have a party, just as I’m posting this, he’s come in from the garden, covered in earth, with a filthy old chew he’s just dug up.