|My left hand falls to my side, straying
from the keyboard for just a moment. Quickly, a wet nose touches my palm
and my senses guide willing fingers to the thick soft fur of my dog's
head. I smile, bury my fingers deep into his neck and rub…my reward is
my favorite snuffle-grunt…my Akita's sound of love.
But these are memory's fingers. I simply remember his downy coat - the luxurious white ermine, gossamer tipped with licks of gold. It's just my dream again…yes it must be, the dream I've had so many times before.
Reality's hand caressed a different dog. Short stiff hair sparsely spread over darkened skin. Long, random tendrils were coarse and his body covered in small dark lumps - hundreds of tiny hard sores. The once soft, puffy ears were nearly bare and sported crusty lesions with thick, black tips as if they had been dinner for a thousand flies.
The reality is SA - Sebaceous Adenitis - the disease that changed my dog.
This is a story of SA but it is more a story of friends, how strangers, joined by the Internet pulled together for one dog - a dog they will never really know, and they made a huge difference in his life, and in mine.
Early symptoms - October 1999
The October sun was bright as I took Taka, my white male Akita, for a jog. The clear rays bathed his face and highlighted a small sore on his ear. Odd that I hadn't seen it before despite a recent trip to the vet! So another vet visit followed and the usual tests were done, the normal assumptions made. I left the office with a bottle of antibiotics and assurance that is was "nothing serious".
Two weeks later the lesion was gone, the drugs had worked their "magic". The results of the lab tests were inconclusive and I began to harbor a dark fear. From my email List - Akita-Friends - I had heard of SA so I dug onto the Internet and started to read. The more I read the more similarity I saw in Taka's symptoms. But it couldn't be - not Taka - please, not Taka.
Taka was acquired for all the wrong reasons, and definitely the wrong way. I bought him sight unseen from a breeder I knew nothing about. I bought him because he was white. After 14 years in Akitas I didn't know about the diseases that plague our breed. I was a happy pet owner and by the grace of God I always had healthy dogs. What did I care about bloodlines, and tests? He was just a pet!
Despite his haphazard selection he grew to be an incredible dog. Certainly not very good Akita type but his presence and personality made up for all his shortcomings. He does not have an aggressive bone in his body and adores all humans, especially children. Taka is truly a delight to own, a joy to live with and my love for him grew deeper than I thought possible. I lived on the cloud of dream -- my dream of a white Akita -- until the truth hit home.
Within two weeks of completing the first round of antibiotics the lesion returned and brought friends. I sought the help and advice of a friend on the Internet who also has an Akita with SA. She assuaged my fears and prompted me to a several tests, including thyroid, all of which Taka passed with ease. My friend suggested his problem may be allergies yet while that seemed a logical explanation, it couldn't quiet the fear in my heart. We went back to the vet for more antibiotics knowing that even that was a problem. So many SA dogs are misdiagnosed from the start and the attempts to treat the symptoms can have serious repercussions later in the dog's life. I had to be careful and strong enough to face the truth.
By Christmas, Taka had clawed several patches on his head and shoulders and they were nearly raw. He began losing hair on his head and tail in addition to the scratched spots. It never grew back. I finally made an appointment for the biopsy and the results came long after I already knew in my heart that he had SA - the signs were too numerous to ignore. I don't even think I cried when the vet called because I had already anticipated the verdict. Yet, anticipating and accepting are two different things.