Mick Goes to Gainesville

by Lisa Lanser-Rose


Hoping for an answer and a cure

As many of you know, Wednesday I took Mick to the University of Florida’s veterinary hospital. When we arrived, I discovered that the doctor who’d been given the case the day before had turned it over to someone more experienced. “Sorry you drove all this way,” Mick’s new doctor said, “but I’m going to need a few days to absorb all this.”

Absorb? Absorb? I thought about autoimmune destruction of gastric parietal cells and stopped myself from making a bad joke.

We sat together for over an hour. He’d read for awhile, ask a few questions, and kneel down to examine Mick. “I hate to tell you this,” he finally said, “but, your dog is . . . really interesting.” He said Mick either has an extremely rare genetic disorder, perhaps something wholly new, or a rare form of something common. “Either way, this is one for the medical books.”

After he left the examining room, his student doctor stayed behind. “I have a Border Collie too. I love her to death.” She hugged Mick’s file to her chest. “I’m the one who’s going to do all the grunt work on this case.” Her eyes burned with intelligence and determination. “I’m going to discover this disease and cure Mick, I promise you. We’ll call it ‘Mick’s Syndrome.’ Or maybe it’ll be named after me.”

Gainseville sent us home

UF Sent Mick Home

I smiled and wondered if I was too old for veterinary school.

Then, they sent us home to give them time to do their Mick homework–ordering more records, compiling charts and graphs, conferring with other experts, and doing research.

Anyone would be terrified if a deadly mystery illness attacked their loved one, especially one so young and full of promise as Mick. I’m remembering my friends whose children suffered. I’m in mind of the movie, Lorenzo’s Oil. Is there a Nick Nolte for Mick? Is it easier because he’s “just a dog,” or in some ways does that make it harder? I do know it’s especially painful because Mick is perfect for me. He’s exactly what I searched for: a well tempered little character, outgoing, sweet, and biddable, exceptionally well suited to my sociable nature and adventurous ways. 

We're afraid we'll never be safe.

In the hospital.

Instead of simply taking over my life the way Border Collies do, Mick brought with him an occupying army of new words: eucobalaminemic, neutropenia, homocysteine, aciduria, hyperkalemia, cosyntropin, neoplasm, aldosterone, cardiac collapse, and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.

One week I’m  wondering which is the best way to teach him not to jump up on people. The next I’m wondering if his neutrophils are trapped. Why is his cobalamin normal but his folate “in the basement?” What stole his ionized calcium? It was there July 2, gone July 17th! Were his white bloods cells pillaged before or after the septicemia? Nobody knows.

Alby loves his "brakkie."

Alby loves his sweet “brakkie.”

My husband and I were hunting for a house with a great yard for Mick. As the baffled doctors ordered increasingly obscure and expensive tests, we began to argue about when to “put on the brakes” and when to let Mick go. Mick’s illness waxes and wanes, and twice now it’s come on so strong it almost killed him. Both times we spent a staggering amount of money to save his life, but couldn’t put an end to the threat. We just had more mysteries and no answers. What’s the point of draining our savings if Mick is never going to enjoy his new yard anyway? The next attack could kill him.

A Super-Awesome Dog

Mick at school: a super-awesome dog

In his good times, Mick’s puppy school and basic obedience trainers told me, “He’s a super-awesome dog. You two are fun to watch. You have a powerful bond.”

I’d beam and say, “Mick makes me look good.” The only thing I can take credit for is I sure chose well. Except for the deadly illness thing.

When he’s sick, doctors, specialists, nurses, and technicians look at me gravely and say, “Not a lot of people would have done this for him.”

They say, “He’s a really lucky dog.”

They say, “You’re a good mom.”

I’m touched, I’m flattered, but I’m also wondering: am I crazy?

Pawfund raiserI don’t think so. I can’t think so. As Mick’s mystery persists and his medical bills mount, love and support have risen up around us and humbled me. On social and medical networking sites, Wendy Drake, Megan Biduck-Lashinski, and Terri Florentino have rallied to beat the clock, solve the mystery, and raise funds to save Mick’s life.

Thanks in part to their efforts, more and more doctors are examining Mick’s case. Doctors and their staff tell me they lie awake at night worrying about Mick. The young doctor at UF stayed up late reading his files with her pulse racing. “It was like a television show. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, no! Does he live? Does he live?'” That now depends in part on her. I told the doctors, you better do right by Mick–over a thousand people are watching you.

Everybody Loves Mick

Everybody Loves Mick

Mick isn’t just lucky to have me, he’s lucky to have us, a community of people who care passionately about what happens to him. If Mick has a special bond with me, he has a special bond with all of us. Are we all crazy?

If so, crazy makes for pretty great company.

You keep me going. And I have to keep going, not just for Mick but for any other dog and family who might be stricken with this disease. If the anguish and expense of this hit-or-miss, trial-and-error, roller coaster that we’ve been on can’t help Mick and others, what is it for? We must solve this for everyone. Consider this: how many other beloved dogs did this disease kill before anyone could identify it?

With such love around us, it’s impossible to give up hope. Mick’s ups and downs are exhilarating and harrowing. He’s medically fascinating. This would be really cool if it weren’t our Mick.

Taken today. "Throw. The. BALL!"

Taken today. “Throw. The. BALL!”

Mick is here. He’s not just an interesting medical case or a novelty pet with a cross on his forehead. He’s a sweet, talented, sociable young dog who’s yapping and wants me to throw his tennis ball NOW. A week ago I thought he was dead.  I’m exhausted and scared. How long will this round of good health last? Will the doctors solve the riddle in time?

For now, Mick is on an upswing. He’s had these before. Today Mick is having one healthy, boisterous hour after another. We’re going to go enjoy them while they last and hope the riddle is solved before next attack. I dread having to decide whether or not to let him, and his mystery, go.

Thanks to you, we’re far from that dreadful moment. His prospects are full of hope. You keep us going in every possible way. Thank you for caring, for keeping us company, and helping us save Mick.

16 responses to “Mick Goes to Gainesville

  1. You have me in tears!! Mick is physically with you but he is also a part of all our lives too!! You and him have such a special bond and it is pouring over to all of us near and far!! I know I will do whatever I can to help and the tricks class is a start. From the beginning I have followed you and him and am glad Terri brought us together!! I love Mick as if he were my own – hes a special boy and you are such a special person yourself to care for him they way you are – not many people would do that!! Stay strong and keep the faith – we are all here for you!!!!🐶

    • You have ME in tears! What loving things to say! We are so blessed. I will always be grateful that Mick has brought us together. I know what you mean–once I became a mother, I loved all children as my own, and once I had a Border Collie, I loved all of them as my own. Never underestimate the power of mothers united, huh? This fundraiser–I can’t tell you how it’s buoyed our hearts to know we have help with the medical bills. We were afraid the end of our funds meant the end of his life! I wish we could be there the day of the event. What a glorious thing you’re doing!

  2. I love Mick sorry to read about all of his horrible long named illness’s. He reminds me of, don’t laugh, my son once we had his allergies diagnosed he went from strength to strength so stupidly I have to ask is he allergic to something? He reminds me of Ellie, my border collie, those eyes are so wise and intelligent, like he’s trying to tell us something.

    • Dear Maria, It’s not stupid to ask about allergies. I do know they’ve found markers of autoimmune disease and a couple other indicators of malabsorption, but still not the root cause. Once the root cause is known, then we may know how–or if–to treat it. He rebounds so well, though, that I can’t imagine there’s nothing we can do to protect him from this deadly illness. It must be something simple. Your Ellie sounds like a treasure to your family. You must love her dearly!

  3. You have me in tears too – no hard to do given my love for him – a dog I do not even know or have met!!! The thought of losing such a special pup with no answers is just not an option. I will be making a donation to his fund next week…….and will be there to cheer him on as he continues to improve and rebound and get stronger and stronger every darn day. UF will find out whats causing all this………..I have confindence in their team. Mick is so clessed to have chosen you and so blessed that you have such a strong group of “friends” who think he is also pretty darn special as well. xoxoxo

    • Thank you, Erika! It would be unbearable if Mick took us all on this ride for nothing and we lost him. I have confidence in UF too. We’re hopeful and my heart’s so much lighter with so many good people helping us, you have no idea. I’ll keep you posted!

  4. Bubba was a strong, happy, healthy Border Collie who personified a comment another BC owner made when he met Bubba: “Don’t worry, they slow down and grow out of that boundless energy and exuberance stage in about 15 -20 years.” That came to a halt a few months ago. Long story short, he went from unable to so much as lay his ears back all the way to running again. He’s stiffer and slower, and i’m broke from rehab bills, but he’s running! My advice to you is just keep loving him. What else can you do? Bubba has some advice for Mick, too: When the doctors come, they’re coming to help, so sit quietly and let them do their thing.
    And when the nurses come, roll over and show them your belly. They have fingernails and they looooooove to give scratches with them!

    • Curt! How old is Bubba? What was wrong? I’m so glad your good boy’s running again!

      • Going on ten years old and still acts like a pup. He has a lower motor neuron disease which blocks the nerve signals to his muscles, so he was partly paralyzed and limp. We found a fantastic doctor and rehab team not far from us, and they have put him through the ringer to get him back up to speed. Is there a way to upload pics here? I have a few good ones of his rehab sessions.

      • Yes. We’d love to do a feature on Bubba! Our email address is bordercollieinquisitor@gmail.com. Send us the pictures and more information, such as how he joined your family, what his character is like, how the neurological disease came on, and his recovery. It sounds like an inspiring story!

  5. Patricia Kimbell

    Sweet little Mick. Took Julia to the vet today to have her thyroid checked again as she has been a little slow for the past month. I thought of Mick while I was there and wished that he had something as simple as a thyroid malfunction. We all feel as though he is somehow our dog too. Needless to say there are hundreds of prayers going out for him…and you.

  6. I think I already commented but don’t see it so thought I would respond again. We have two borders that are litter mates. One, Riley, get falling ill and was becoming cyclical. I tried to pay attention to any warning signs but seemed to always be sudden. She would crash just like Mick. She would be hospitalized, given antibiotics, IV fluids, even plasma one time. Moshe would respond only to crash a few months later. We agreed to extensive testing, scans, ultrasounds, numerous blood panels, bone marrow biopsy, all to come back within normal limits with exception of neutrophils which,Nat times, were considerably low. Last summer our vet in Florida sent out an e mail blast to many veterinary teaching hospitals with all her lab studies and findings asking for help. Michigan State contacted our vet and felt she could be vitamin B-12 deficient. They are currently doing research on this with BC. After blood work confirmed this, Riley was given a B -12 injection. It has changed her life. As I am a runner with my BCs logging over 20 miles a week, she gets an injection every 2 weeks. There is a test for this and her litter mate came back a carrier. Both parents must be carriers for the pup to inherit disease. It is so wonderful to have my dog back. She, like Mick, has grown, and she is also sweeter. Hope Mick continues on healthy road in 2014.

    • I’m so happy for you that you figured it out in time to save Riley! She’s lucky you persevered. I hope our experiences can help others. Thank you for sharing with us. Much time and happiness to you, Riley, and Moshe! Say, I’ve heard about the Michigan study. I’m wondering if I should contact them.

      • Barbara Clabby

        I think you should. They did all blood work at no expense to me. They also tested Riley’s litter mate, Maisie. They had me send pictures also as they were going to Tennessee for a seminar. I have been told that thanks to Riley and her story, two BCs have already been saved. I told my husband maybe Riley was given to us as we, fortunately, were able to afford the thousands it cost us to keep her alive, so that she could help others. We certainly feel blessed to still have her. Please keep in touch with Mick’s progress. God bless!!

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