Gus joined us in 2003 as a 12 week old puppy. We already had a black cocker ( Dizzy ) and a little red MWHD ( Otto ), and since we were so taken with Otto we decided to get another in a different colour. Otto’s breeder had two litters due but when the time came she only had more reds. After enquiries at the Kennel Club I found a breeder at Norwich with two little black and tan boys. He had a Drakesleat bitch which he had bred back, and was keeping one puppy himself and we had the other one, Gus.
After a few weeks Gus’ behavioural problems started to become apparent. He is an intensely nervous little dog, with his main fears being men but in particular other dogs. His first reaction was to run away but this soon changed to out and out aggression. When he sees another dog his natural reaction is to attack, born out of total fear. I took him to puppy behavioural classes but on the third visit we were asked to leave ( I was rather glad, my skin just isn’t that thick!). We tried introducing him to dogs in other situations but it became clear he just wasn’t going to change. He has a hair-trigger temper and gives poor Otto a pretty hard time of it too but fortunately Otto is a very laid back and sweet natured little dog and takes it all in his stride. I give Gus a daily herbal dog calmer, and Serene-Um in certain situations, and we walk them mainly in Thetford Forest where we are less likely to meet other dogs. He thoroughly enjoys his forest walks. He is a very sporty little dog and loves flushing pheasants and fetching his gun dog dummy ( Otto is decidedly not an off-road dog and will only leave the path to roll in something dead ). When Gus is not being a spark he is the most affectionate, loveable, intelligent and obedient little dog ever. He has never shown us any aggression but his unfortunate temper means when he is with our other dogs you cannot relax and have to be on constant guard to avoid inflammatory situations (eg: meal and play times). My husband calls him a Jekyll and Hyde! The poor little mite breaks my heart, especially since he also has a slipping patella and PRA in one eye, and I always tell him it was lucky he came to live with me.
So when last summer he started jerking on my lap in the car I thought “Oh no, what now?”. It took some weeks before I twigged that it was the sun flashing behind the trees as we drove along that was making him jerk. He also started jerking back if something appeared too close in front of him. We took him to our local vet because we wondered about epilepsy but they didn’t know what was wrong with him. It was only through searching myself on the internet that I found Lafora and knew from reading and watching the video that this was exactly what Gus has. As if he doesn’t already have enough to contend with!
I have found an excellent vet at Bury St. Edmunds who has a MWHD herself. She hadn’t heard of Lafora but was very interested and has found out all she can about it.
So one year on he luckily hasn’t had any seizures yet. His jerking in the car is now very bad. We bought him a pair of Doggles to wear but he still jerks with them on so on bad days I just throw my hat over his head which he seems quite happy about! He now quite frequently jerks himself awake whilst he is sleeping ( what a torment!) and has started falling over on rough ground. Anything passing in front of his face makes him jump back and he struggles badly in long grass. He seems happier when his hair is shorter and his vision is clearer. I guess the gradual loss of sight in one eye doesn’t help. We have changed his diet to Prize Choice, cereal free James Wellbeloved and cooked carrot. He isn’t on any medication because thankfully there are no seizures yet.
We dread the progression of Gus’ disease, we fear that his aggression will deteriorate. I find his problems heartbreaking. He is such a brave and courageous little dog who faces his fears head on. I would have done anything to spare him the trauma of Lafora on top of his other problems. Fortunately Otto, who is 11, seems to have escaped this dreadful disease.
It was wonderful to find the Lafora Dog site and to speak with Gill Key. Obviously this problem varies from dog to dog and it is interesting to read other people’s accounts. Lets hope with more careful breeding this horrid disease can be eradicated. We are waiting to have Gus tested ( even though we know ) in order to help find the problem lines. MWHD are truly grand little dogs and everything must be done to protect the future of the breed.