March 22nd, 2018
by Alex Hallatt
When my partner, Duncan, and our Jack Russell, Billie, headed off on our extended cultural sabbatical 9 years ago, Billie was 5 years old and packed full of energy. He travelled everywhere with us and, at the age of 9, he walked nearly 200 miles on the UK’s Coast to Coast. When we left Spain last year, we said we were moving back to NZ to settle down and for Billie to enjoy his retirement. I think if Billie had had any say in the matter he would have chosen to retire in the Basque Country where he had snacks on tap – going out four or five nights a week to stroll around the pincho bars was his idea of heaven. But, after a 24 hour flight and the shock of 10 days of quarantine, Billie adjusted to being back here. When we left New Zealand it was very hard to go anywhere with a dog. Coming back we found that things had changed. The 2014 Food Act made it legal for bars and cafes to allow dogs on the premises, which was something that has always been the case in the UK and much of Europe (though not in Australia). Billie fitted back in faster than we did and soon learned where all the best snacks were to be had (Spooky Boogie, Civil & Naval and Fat Tony’s).
At 14, Bill hasn’t lost much of his energy. He still wants to chase the tennis ball up and down the hallway after dinner and he goes nuts when the three of us head out on a walk. So it was a real shock last week when he fell off the couch, stumbled about and started hyperventilating.
We thought he might be having a stroke or may have been poisoned.
We have a problem with trap-savvy rats and were going to poison them until a friend told us how rats can stash the poison to eat later and that stash can be found by your dog. Also, New Zealand is the only country I know of that still uses 1080 poison. Because NZ has few native mammals, 1080 is left in areas of native bush to control rodents and possums, but many dogs get caught in the crossfire.
We rushed Billie to the vet and she reassured us that he probably hadn’t been poisoned, nor was having a stroke. He was diagnosed as having geriatric vestibular disease. At 70 dog years old (x5 for small dogs) our Jack Russell is now officially old. His disorder is caused by build up of crystals in the inner ear. It can cause a range of problems including a loss of balance and, in his case, eyes flicking all over the place accompanied by general weirdness. It can resolve on its own in a couple of weeks so we have our fingers crossed.
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