Tag Archives: german shepherd

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs

It only took one tweet from a Rescue site and seeing a scruffy, forlorn
German Shepherd and I knew she had to be ours.
Dogs with health problems can be harder to home but we wanted her.

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs - The Last Krystallos

Kira, a six-year-old, had moved from home to home, lived long-term in kennels, and had several foster homes before coming to us. She is adorable, but not without her problems.

Finding Kira GSRE - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

At first we concentrated on Kira’s EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency). We knew treatment would be an ongoing cost for the whole of her life and working out our budget and what it would entail was our priority. We were also aware that she suffered anxiety and was reactive around dogs and new people, but having had an anxious German Shepherd before, we felt equipped to deal with that.

In actuality, her EPI was the easiest thing to deal with! Her reactivity around other dogs is the biggest problem as it affects how and where we can walk her. We’ve taken training advice and going back to basics with Kira is the best thing to do. She’s such a good dog, listening and learning fast, so she’s making progress, and had already benefitted from a caring foster parent who took time to train and love her too. We’re now working with our local vet practise to help her acclimatise to the surgery and the vet, and this helps with socialising and encouraging her not to be scared of new people. It’s not going to be a quick turn-around, but she’s getting there.

Kira rescue GSD - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

EPI is a condition, once prevalent in German Shepherds, where the body is simply missing the right enzymes to break down food. If left untreated a dog will eat ravenously but lose weight and eventually become skinny and malnourished. With EPI no nutrients are absorbed from ingested food and it doesn’t get broken down, it just passes through the system with no nutritional value. It will cause discomfort, bloating, severe weight loss, diarrhoea, constant hunger, coprophagia (eating stools), and a complete failure to thrive.

This insufficiency can be diagnosed by a vet with a TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity) blood test and your dog will need replacement pancreatic enzymes for the rest of their life. There are a couple of ways to do this. The enzymes are found in animal pancreas and are most commonly available as a powder, capsules, or in raw pig, beef, or lamb pancreas.

Raw pancreas can be bought at your butcher or an abattoir by arrangement. Though hugely cheaper than buying powder or capsules, you must bear in mind that animal pancreas is toxic to humans, so preparation must be done with care. Raw pancreas can be blended or finely chopped and frozen to keep. A few ounces (suggested 2 – 4 oz to every 20kgs of dog’s weight) of raw pancreas given with your dog’s meal can replace the lost enzymes.

Panzym EPI dog diet - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I chose not to go the raw route, my kitchen is tiny and storage space a minimum, so prep and storage health and safety would be difficult. I buy powder and add it to Kira’s food. Enzyme powder or supplements are not cheap. The average price for Panzym at my nearest pet store is over £70 for a tub of 225g and even more at my local vet. We found it supplied for less than half that price by an online *supplier at £122 for 650g (UK only). Shop around.

Panzym powder is added to Kira’s food: one level teaspoon (5ml) twice a day. The only way to judge if treatment is working is by watching her stools. Without treatment Kira has runny poo like a cowpat, but with the right amount of Panzym her poo becomes firm again. The amount you give your dog will be judged on their stools. Kira has had various amounts, and when we first got her she was on double the dose we have her on now. As it settled the dose was lowered to a maintenance amount. Every dog is different some will require more, some less. Some EPI dogs need more small meals each day, some need enzyme added to every piece of food – even treats – some won’t. Kira manages with two meals a day with Panzym, and has a few treats without added enzyme.

We keep an eye on what she eats, and a diary of her meals and bodily functions, so if something new affects her we know straight away. Kira eats grain-free and we add a small amount of tinned meat to her slightly wetted kibble with Panzym. The powder adheres better to meat than kibble. Some enzyme powder needs to be incubated, left to develop on wet food, but Panzym doesn’t need to do this.

GSD red brown fur paws allergies or prophyrin - the last krystallos

Red/Brown fur on paws can alert you to allergies © Lisa Shambrook

Kira’s EPI is totally under control and we barely notice it. She does suffer from other connected issues though, flatulence is one of them, but it goes with the territory! She also has allergies, possibly connected to her stomach problems. Grain-free food helps as many other dog foods have added grain to bulk and it often causes allergies.

Dark-red/brown fur on her paws also alerted us to allergies. Many sensitive dogs have itchy skin, paws, and ears, and her red fur is a reaction to allergies or to prophyrin a protein found in saliva or tears. Directed by our vet we use Malaseb shampoo and bathe Kira’s paws once a week. She’s a paw-licker, probably due to itchy skin and possibly developed a habit. Her sensitive ears are also treated and cleaned regularly.

Kira is a very happy dog, incredibly loyal, immensely loving and affectionatewinding herself about our legs and trilling like a Tribble, her version of a purr – and her anxieties are lessening gradually. There’s something so rewarding about giving a rescue dog a forever home. We had Roxy from a puppy, but Kira has never had that security and it’s beautiful to see her so relaxed and happy with us.

Kira smile - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She fits into our family like a rediscovered lost puzzle piece.   

If you’re looking for a new pet think about rescuing rather than buying,
if you can, it’s hugely rewarding.

*Note – this post is not sponsored or promoted or in any way connected with Panzym or the supplier I use. Links are for reader’s reference. 

This Winter – from Loss to Joy…

I always enjoy Winter’s colours, chill, the season of giving and new beginnings,
and a time of cosy, starry nights. My favourite season is Autumn,
but is closely followed by Winter and her frosty beauty.

This Winter - from Loss to Joy... - The Last Krystallos

Autumn ended a season of love within our family when we unexpectedly lost our German Shepherd, Roxy, to aggressive cancer, so Winter came with a chill that bit harder and deeper than ever before.

But even tinged with sadness, we found joy and ended the season with a new source of love.

December brought a time of reflection and family. We had many hot chocolates at Pethau Da in town and remembered Roxy.

Roxy - Hot Chocolate - Dr Martens - December - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is always family based and this one was no different. I buried myself in preparations and came up with a Christmas cake decorated just for us. Christmas was family and quiet, and lovely.

Christmas Tree - Decorations - Cake - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

January arrived quickly and wasn’t particularly easy for any of us, but it had its good points. It got colder and I love the frost, and I finished my trilogy of books, or at least all the first drafts of The Seren Stone Chronicles are now done!

Ice - The Seren Stone Chronicles - Frost - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then at the end of January, I fell in love. We weren’t looking for another dog, losing Roxy still hurt, but whilst scrolling Twitter I saw Kira… A six-year-old German Shepherd who’d still not found her forever home. She had EPI, a chronic health problem and I felt she’d be harder to home than most dogs.

Kira - Rain - Lisa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

February, three weeks later and she’s now home, with us. The Super Snow Moon welcomed her and though she has issues she’s bonded beautifully with us and is responding well to a new training routine, boundaries, and lots of love.

Kira - Snow Moon - Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Now, March is upon us and the burgeoning shoots of spring are pushing through and Winter is over. It’s been long and hard, but we’ve found joy and reason and that’s what counts.

What did you love about this Winter?

What kept you going?

 

Unconditional Love – Remembering Roxy

A dog is the only thing on earth
that loves you more than she loves herself.
Josh Billings

Learning about Unconditional Love - Remembering Roxy 2008 - 2018 Our German Shepherd - The Last Krystallos

In 2008, on my birthday, we got Roxy. She was eight weeks old and not suitable for the home she’d first gone to, so we bundled her up in Dan’s arms and took her home with us. Vince had always wanted a dog, and it felt like I was giving him a lifelong gift. What I didn’t know was how quickly I would fall in love with her.

Roxy 8 weeks, 2 years, 9 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: eight weeks, two years, and nine years © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a dog person, let’s rephrase that, I wasn’t a dog person, but two weeks later and I was. My children were eight, twelve, and fifteen and a puppy was the perfect addition to our family.

How do you summarise ten years of loving a pup?

Roxy 2, Dec 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: two years old © Lisa Shambrook

We started her with a teeny football and it graduated to her favourite toy a full size Welsh rugby ball.

Her ears grew like satellites, like Yoda even, and she never really grew into them!

Roxy 2008 8 - 14 weeks - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 8 wks with Dan, 12 wks centre bottom, 14 wks with football © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods became a favourite walk, long and short walks amid the bluebells in spring, trickling streams in summer, autumn leaves, and mud in the winter.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 left 10 months and 2 years - right 5 and 6 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 10 months top left, 2 yrs bottom left, 5 and 6 right © Lisa Shambrook

We took walks on the beach, racing through the waves, and chasing seagulls. The Black Mountain made us cherish the space, and there were so many local walks to Cwm Oernant reservoirs up at Tanerdy, behind Glangwili hospital, down to the museum and back again, down to Gwili River where her favourite things were splashing in the river and collecting rocks.

Cait 10, and Roxy 2, bubbles Aug 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 2 years old © Lisa Shambrook

Cait, who’d begun scared of dogs turned into a pup aficionado, and Roxy loved catching bubbles.

Roxy 2010 - 2012 2-4 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy playing Scrabble, walks and hugs: ages 2 – 4 years © Lisa Shambrook

Games, she even played Scrabble – as you can see…

Belly Rubs, the most perfect thing for dogs…

Family photos were a must with our most favourite family member. She loved walking down on Gwili Railway before the trains came back. The river was her favourite place to splash and chase pebbles. And our post-apocalyptic photo wouldn’t have been complete without our warrior pup.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2016 Family top 1, 2 and bottom 7 years - thelastkrystallos

Family photoshoots 2009, 2010 and 2016 © Lisa Shambrook

She gave us more love than we’d ever imagined possible. Cait fell completely in love with dogs. A pup offers you the most pure unconditional love you could ever find – the purest thing in the world.

Roxy 2015 - 2017 6 - 8 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy and Cait and pure love: 6 – 8 years © Lisa Shambrook

As she got older her enthusiasm never waned. She loved her walks, playing, gathering rocks from the river, and having cuddles. She was unadulterated joy. The bottom right picture was only two months ago as autumn kicked in, this is her ‘happy out in nature’ expression.

Roxy 2017 - 2018 8 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy home in the frost, Green Castle Woods, and hugs: 8 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

She carried on her ‘guard dog’ duties every day come rain or shine. No one, especially the postman, was going to catch her unawares!

Roxy 2018 9 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Guard Dog duty: 9 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

It was the beginning of November that we noticed her slowing down. Walks became shorter and stretching to get off her sofa took longer. She had several fevers but a blood test was clear. Her walks got even shorter and the vet told us she had arthritis, expected in German Shepherds, but we had no idea what was lurking. Over one weekend she went off her food, looked exhausted, and felt miserable. After a ten minute Sunday walk she struggled and her breathing got progressively worse. It was off to the vet first thing Monday.

The results were completely unexpected. Aggressive metastatic cancer had begun in her belly, spread through her kidneys and had filled her lungs. We had twenty-four hours.

We weren’t even sure she’d make it through the night, but she held on with Vince (the person she loved the most in the world) sitting by her side.

Roxy Nov 2018 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Last few days: age 10 years and 4 months © Lisa Shambrook

Tuesday 27th November 2018 was the most heartbreaking day of our lives and we lost her.

Anyone who’s been owned by a beloved dog will agree that the grief is all consuming as you’re losing a member of your family. Someone who loved you like no one else ever will, someone who trusted you beyond anything, who would have fought for you, someone who gave you loyalty, friendship, and the most unconditional love you’ll ever find.

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader.
She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.
You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.
Agnes Repplier

Roxy, 9, March 2018 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: age 9 years © Lisa Shambrook

Roxy – Our German Shepherd – 10th August 2008 – 27th November 2018

For the love of our Furry Friends…

A post by Laura Zera this morning, along with a status posted by Jo Cannon: “In psychiatry, whenever we see a depressed patient, we always do a ‘risk assessment’, to determine the likelihood of that person committing suicide. As part of that assessment, we ask the patient what stops them from taking their own life. And do you know what they answer? Do you know what I hear, again and again and again? MY DOG. When I ask people what stops them from committing suicide, they always say: I COULD NEVER LEAVE MY DOG. Oh my GOODNESS how people under-estimate the power of that relationship! Dogs protect property and gardens and buildings, but they also protect people. And so often they are literally the difference between being here and not being here. So God help the next person who tells me it’s “just a dog”. Dogs save lives. We just don’t appreciate quite how many.”  reminded me how important our pets are…so I thought I’d tell you about mine.
Rusty (please do not use)
We rescued Rusty from beneath a garden shed, when he was five months old. He was skinny and scrawny and full of fleas and worms, and his pads were scraped and raw. The vet said he wouldn’t have made it past another week or so. 
Rusty became my shadow, followed me everywhere, sat beside me and loved me unconditionally. 
He only had half a tail, and was the clumsiest creature I’ve ever known, but I adored him. We lost him when he was twelve years old due to kidney failure, but he was my constant companion for those years! 
Misty and Raven (please do not use)
We only meant to pick up one cat from the farm – but the owner (who was over-run with felines) placed a tiny black kitten in my daughter’s hand, after I’d chosen the sole grey kitten, and there was no question we’d be going home with two! 
These two are sisters, but live in tolerance – eating from separate bowls, sleeping on separate beds and hissing every time they pass each other…don’t know why! Misty is cute, cuddly and chatty, she loves eating and sleeping (all day), while Raven prefers stalking, hunting and adventure out in the wilds. opposites in every way!
Raven and Misty (please do not use)
Roxy (and Dan) (please do not use)
Hubby was brought up with a dog, and asked for a dog (and a motorbike) constantly – he now has both! Roxy became ours at eight weeks, and was my first experience of owning a dog. I was not a fan of canines, always referring to myself as a cat person, but after a couple of weeks reservation I became a fully-fledged dog person and fell head-over-heels for Roxy!
Roxy (please do not use)
She became my companion and I experienced the devotion and complete love of a puppy as she grew up. We laughed at her enormous ears and neurosis, enjoyed playful tussles and wondered at her beauty!
Roxy (and Caitlin) and bubbles (please do not use)
So full of life and love. I can’t imagine life without her, my gorgeous, playful five-year-old!
Roxy (please do not use)
Sometimes we under-estimate the value of our furry friends…they offer us love, companionship, adoration, fun, friendship, education and reason. There is nothing more welcoming than a dog’s wagging tail and leap of happiness when you come home from a hard day! They contribute more to our lives than we realise!