~ Lumikoira Sassi ~

Being present at the birth of a dog that will be part of your own pack is an amazing experience - more amazing was that she was born at all as, when Kiva was scanned the vet said to expect a litter of three puppies and with the three boys being born Louise and I were a little disappointed that we weren't to be blessed with a girl to keep.

Well that was until Kiva gently lifted her bottom off the vet bed so as to give puppy number four some room - this really was the icing on the cake for us, a 4th puppy and, even better, for us, a girl.  Even better was that she was black tan and white as that colouring that Louise was hoping for.

Sassi was a wonderful dog - she had the same demeanor and temperament as her mum, she was gentle, sensitive, calm and responsive. She and Mylo got on fabulously and there were moments when she was so close and loving to her mum that it brought a lump to our throats.

Sassi sailed through her Puppy Foundation Course and proved to be totally bombproof around other dogs.  We must have done a pretty good job with her socialisation as, to be honest, she is unfazed by just about everything, a trait that has continued throughout her life as she is now an therapy dog for dogs and children.

Much of Sassi's time was spent interact and playing with Summer, a Dogs to Stay long-term guest Lappy, you can find out more about Summer here.

However life has a nasty habit of kicking you in the teeth when everything looks to be perfect...

In the summer of 2013 Sassi started to show signs of not being 100% - her energy levels were very low, she struggled to get on and off the bed and would lie down to eat.  She still enjoyed her walks however over the August Bank Holiday she appeared to faint whilst on a walk - she quickly recovered and by quick I mean seconds, and was able to walk back home.  I contacted the vet as soon as they were open and made an appointment to have her checked over. 

She was given a thorough examination and blood samples were taken.  The next day I received a phone call from the vets asking me to take Sassi back in for more bloods to be taken as her original sample was inadequate in volume and too thick.

The next day I received another call from the vets informing me that the results of the sample showed that Sassi was suffering from a condition called Polycythemia and that a course of treatment was required. 

 Polycythemia is a condition whereby the bone marrow overproduces red blood cells causing the blood to be too thick. When tested Sassi's PCV (the measuring scale for RBCs) was 74 as opposed to it being in the normal range of between 35 - 40.

There were 2 courses of treatment available, blood letting and chemotherapy. After discussing the options with the vet we agreed to a course of blood letting (draining blood off through the opening of a vein). Over the course of the next 2 weeks Sassi underwent this treatment a number of times - sadly to no effect and the vet suggested that she had a general anaesthetic and a much greater volume of blood be taken and it replaced with a saline solution to thin the blood.

Unfortunately it didn't work that well and a week after the procedure Sassi's PCV level was as high as it had ever been at 84.

A fortunate encounter with a different vet who specialised in animal blood resulted in us deciding to opt for chemotherapy, something I was originally quite concerned about due to the effects and the cost as Sassi wasn't insured.

Our vet researched where to get the drugs from and how much they might cost and phoned me to tell me that they would cost just under £50.00 - per tablet, per week, per month? I asked. For 100 he informed me. Next question, how many per day.

We started on 1 a day and over the course of the next 2 weeks her PCV level dropped to below 35 - one a day was obviously too much, however at least we know they work. Over the course of the next month we tried various quantities and since early 2014 Sassi has been on 3 per week and one wouldn't know that anything was wrong with her.

We had hoped to breed on from Sassi however to do so with her suffering from Polycythemia would be irresponsible and foolhardy. The condition isn't hereditary, however she would have to be off her meds during the pregnancy, not something we would consider. So our breeding plans were put on hold for a while.

We had already met a number of families whom we were confident would provide great homes for puppies from future litters and one of those families was the Godfreys, Amy and Callum and their son Maximus (and now Tristan, whom Lou and I are Godparents too).

Though they were pretty sure that a Lappy would be the right addition to their family they did have a few concerns as 5 year old Max was autistic and they wanted to make sure that a dog would have a positive effect, rather than a negative effect, on his well being.

Simple solution; borrow a dog until Kiva's litter were ready to go to their furever homes - and that is how Sassi came to stay with them.

The plan was for Sassi to stay with them until their new puppy was ready to join them, however they asked if they could hang on to Sassi so she could show Sura (their puppy) the ropes .... 10 years on and she's still there having a great life with Amy, Callum, Max and Tristan, and their cats (now cat) and Sura's daughter Xena. In addition to being a well-loved pet Sassi is also a therapy and assistance dog to humans and to other dogs.

Do we miss her? Yes we do, but we know that she is loved where she is and, more importantly, that she is well and happy. We are also fortunate that she, and Sura, come to visit quite often and, when they do it is wonderful to see mum Kiva with 2 of her daughters.

Amy, with whom Sassi now lives kindly contributed the following:

Darling Sassi; beloved by all she meets - and we mean ALL!

Diagnosed a very rare blood condition called Polycythemia just before she turned 2, the vets didn't hold out much hope that she would live very long. She is a miracle dog!

She's also miraculous in her nature both with other dogs and people. She has worked for many years as a stooge dog with our canine behaviourist friend. This job requires dogs to be balanced, calm, confident, attentive to humans and to read other dogs well.

Out on walks Sassi adores her friends (especially boys!), loves exploring the environment and has a wonderful connection to the people she walks with.

She is incredible with children. Our own sons are autistic and our eldest went through a few years of having a very hard time with emotional regulation. He had many noisy meltdowns that Sassi not only took in her stride but offered her beautiful self as soothing comfort to help calm and regulate him, even managing sometimes to stop a meltdown in its tracks.

Louise and I would like to acknowledge the support of the Finnish Lapphund community, both at home and abroad,
who not only provided emotional support for us during this distressing time, but also financially,
through a Go Fund Me campaign to help with Sassi's medical costs.

Fortunately her medical bills weren't quite as high as we feared and we were able to pay it forward by donating to a fund to help out a fundraising effort for a case of over 50 rescued Finnish Lapphunds in California. You can find out more about this here