When Spook was a little over a year old and still living with my husband's parents, he started acting like he didn't want to go on walks anymore and would sit down in the middle of a stroll and refuse to budge.  At first, they just thought he was being stubborn and lazy, but when the behavior increased in frequency and he began to limp on his hind legs, we took him to the vet to have him checked out.

As it turned out, he had subluxated patellas on both hind legs.  The patella is the kneecap, and when it's subluxated, it has partially slipped out of the little groove in the femur that it normally fits into.  This results in bone scraping against bone, which is not a good thing.  Subluxated patellas are most commonly seen in small purebred dogs, like Poodles and such.  Poor Spook, who was a medium-large mixed breed,  just got unlucky, I guess.

Spook had surgeries on both knees to correct the problem - one at a time, of course, or he wouldn't have been able to walk.  For the rest of his life he had a kind of odd gait, which was probably the result of him learning to walk a certain way to compensate for his knees not working properly for some time before any symptoms were evident.


Some months after Spook had his knee surgeries, he began limping on one of his hind legs again, so back to the vet he went.  This time, he was diagnosed with a ruptured cruciate (knee) ligament, which was the result of his knees not working properly due to the problem with his patellas.  That required another orthopedic surgery.  His orthopedic vet warned us that the cruciate in the other hind leg was also at risk, but luckily, that one remained intact.


All Spook's knee problems made it pretty much inevitable that he'd develop arthritis in his hind legs, and sure enough, he did - at the ripe old age of around three.  It didn't really get  much worse over the years, thank goodness, and was never incapacitating.  When it flared up, we gave him Rimadyl (carprofen), which is commonly used to treat dogs with arthritis.


Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal infection seen in certain areas of the world, southwestern Arizona being one of those areas.  The illness affects cats and dogs as well as people, and can cause some pretty serious problems in dogs.  In people, Valley Fever mostly causes cold or flu-like symptoms, and most people who get it don't even realize they have it.  In more severe cases, the symptoms are similar to mononucleosis (when I got it, years and years ago, I was sick for quite some time).  In rare cases, it can enter the bloodstream and can be fatal.

In dogs, it can cause respiratory problems, but it also tends to affect joints and bones, and when this happens, it can be serious and difficult to treat.  When Spook was about five years old, he developed a mild cough and began limping a bit.  He limped every so often due to all three of the problems listed above (plus he sometimes faked a limp), so we didn't think of Valley Fever at first.  Finally, he was tested for it and came up positive. 

This illness is treated with an anti-fungal medication, with Nizoral (ketaconazole) being one of the more common ones used.  It isn't cheap.  Luckily for us, we live very close to the Mexican border, so we headed over there and bought it for about 1/4 of the price we would have paid in the U.S.  That's a pretty common strategy in these parts.

Spook apparently had a fairly mild case, as his Valley Fever titer was soon back down to an acceptable level and he had no further problems with the disease.


In the spring of 2003, Spook began to occasionally be reluctant to go on walks.  We really didn't think much of it for the following reasons:  He was getting older; his arthritis flared up now and again; he often balked at walking during warmer weather.  He didn't have any other symptoms and acted entirely normal.

On May 17, my husband was on his last day of a business trip, so I was minding the farm.  Things had been quite normal until 10:00 pm, when I went out to give the dogs their biscuits before going to bed.  Spook dropped his on the ground.  When I tried to give it to him again, he wasn't interested, and it was then I noticed that his breathing was labored.

I took him to the vet right away, where an x-ray showed an odd mass near his heart.  Not sure exactly what was going on, the vet suggested he be hospitalized overnight, which I agreed to.  Unfortunately, he died during the night, which no one had expected.  I had to greet my husband with this news when he returned home (on his birthday...)

The mass was a tumor on his heart, which, in retrospect, probably explains why he was slowing down.  Realistically, if we'd known about the tumor soon, there was probably nothing we could have done about it, so perhaps what happened was for the best.

We certainly didn't expect Spook to go so suddenly or so soon.  It took Finian a long time to get over losing him.