Finian got jammed in the birth canal during delivery.  By the time the breeder could free him, the pressure on his head had damaged his optic nerves.  She wasn't sure of the extent of the damage, but he was obviously visually impaired.  Shortly after we got him, we took him to a veterinary ophthalmologist to find out whether he had any sight or not.  She confirmed that he was completely blind.

Since he had been blind since birth, he adjusted very well.  Many people didn't believe he was blind when they first met him.  He got around like he had radar.  Like many blind animals, he relied heavily on his other senses - especially hearing.

When people heard that he was blind, their usual reaction was to say, "Oh, what a shame!"  Finian never seemed to feel it was a shame, though, and it didn't prevent him from living a full, happy life.


In late November of 2004, Finian began limping on his right front leg.  We assumed he'd sprained his "ankle" and gave it some time to heal.  When it didn't heal in a reasonable amount of time, we took him in.  An x-ray revealed an abnormality with his distal radius (the end of the leg bone closest to his paw).  Valley Fever, a fungal infection common to this part of the world, can cause similar bone problems, so we did some tests for that.  They came up negative.

The next step was a biopsy.  The biopsy results confirmed our worst fears:  Finian had osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer common in large dog breeds.  It's not the sort of cancer anyone expects to cure; in fact, by the time there are noticeable symptoms, it has usually already metastasized.  The usual course of action is to amputate the affected limb, but that wasn't an option for Fin because of his large size and the fact he had arthritis.  He wouldn't have been able to function on three legs.

February 1, 2005 Update

The best treatment option for Finian was palliative radiation, which is intended to relieve pain, rather than cure the cancer.  He had three "doses" of radiation over a period of several weeks.  Unfortunately, Finian fell into a relatively small percentage of dogs for whom palliative radiation does not work.  No one seems to be sure why it doesn't work for some dogs.  Though it didn't help his limp, we feel it may have slowed the progress of the cancer, and if that's the case, it was definitely worth it.

May 23, 2005 Update

Fin started going downhill very rapidly and became weak and short of breath.  We believe the cancer spread to his lungs and he just couldn't compensate for it anymore.  His vet was kind enough to make a two-hour round-trip drive to our place so we wouldn't have to transport him.  In the end, he went very peacefully, which was a blessing for everyone concerned.  He left a huge, Wolfhound-sized void in our lives.