Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: Guinness - A tribute to "Squishy"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Guinness - A tribute to "Squishy"

Guinness was picked out at least eight or nine years before he was born - for his name.   Jeanine and I's first vacation as a couple over 14 years ago was to Ireland. I had never really been a stout beer drinker, but that trip led to my love of the beer - Jeanine was right there with me about that part.  So, early on, we had a mutual love for Guinness - the beer. 

After our first Dane, Brutus, we knew that we wanted to have as many different variations of the breed as possible.  Brutus was known as a Boston Mantle which sports a coat similar to a cow's but with larger parts black and a white chest and "collar". This guy was a great big pile of love.  He used to give us "the paw" where he would wrap his paws around one of our arms so that we would rub his chest. 
Brutus taking a nap -
We got our second Dane about a year later. She was a Blue.  We named her Atae - the Greek goddess of mischief.  When she was younger, she definitely lived up to it!  We called her our "Pretty Little Princess" because she pranced around like everyone had their eyes on her - they usually did.   
Atae and Brutus on "their" bed
Guinness came along when Brutus and Atae were seniors.  On the advice of their doctors, having an energetic, young puppy in the house is many times reinvigorating for older dogs.  We truly feel that having Guinness around kept them young and with us for longer.

We found Guinness from a "breeder" from North Carolina.  We did our research and everything about them seemed to check out.  The day that we picked him up from the vet (which should have been an indication of issues), we found him to be anemic, had worms, and was underweight.  He was 4 pounds.  To put this in perspective, most Great Dane puppies at his age weigh at least 7-8 lbs.  By all accounts, we should not have accepted him.  We were pissed off and outraged that someone would allow such a sweet boy to be mistreated like this.  But we knew what would happen if we left him there.

We took Guinness to our primary care veterinary clinic, Underhill Animal Hospital in Orlando, Florida.  Underhill is the veterinary hospital that Orange County Sheriff's Department uses for all of their canine officers.  To call their practice an amazing vet would be an understatement.  We moved over an hour from the practice a few years ago and still take our babies there. Upon their first examination, Guinness was  found to have an over-accelerated heartbeat (4 times the normal speed) along with a stage IV heart murmur and a host of other issues.   His doctor encouraged us to take him back to the breeder and demand our money back.  How could we even begin to think about that?  Against the doctors' advice, we stuck with Guinness.  He was ours.

The faces of Guinness
After Brutus passed, Guinness did an exceptional job of keeping smiles on Jeanine and I's faces while we dealt with the loss of our big boy (at his highest weight, he was a full 210 lbs).  Of course, no dog could ever replace another, but Guinness did his marked best to distract us.  In fact, he was such a distraction most of the time that we called him PITA (Pain In The Ass!).  He was the epitome of a high energy crazy dog - we had never known that in a Great Dane!   Brutus was always a chill, laid-back kind of dog.  He would play if you wanted to, but was just as happy sleeping.  Atae was more energetic, but more on the relaxed side - most likely a side-effect of her brother's behavior.  Guinness needed to interact with people. 

Guinness was such a sweet, loving boy who, with the right diet and care, overcame his puppy issues.  Our neighbor had a one year old daughter that would crawl on him like a jungle gym, complete with ear-pulling and elbows to the nose.  Guinness didn't budge.  He would lay belly up with those sweet, golden eyes begging for affection.  (A quick belly rub would bring the handiest floor cleaner (his tail oscillating back and forth at break-neck speed) around put to good use.  The video below shows Guinness playing with his favorite toy, a red ball on the end of a knotted rope.  Simple, but kept him entertained for hours! 

In late 2011, just before Thanksgiving, Guinness started to exhibit problems with controlling the rear portion of his body.  He seemed far too young to have any kind of degenerative diseases.  Jeanine and I spent days scouring the internet and talking to his doctors about what could be going on. It came on so suddenly (went from walking one day to literally not being able to stand up the next) that we we in disbelief.  Underhill ended up referring us to a specialist in Winter Park, Florida.  After running a battery of tests on him, most notably a cervical myelogram (a myelogram is a test where a dye is injected into the body).  The dye travels along the nervous tissue.  Any points that the dye stops or has blockage are where problems exist.  After being diagnosed with Wobblers Syndrome (we had suspected this from all our internet searching) and a number of "wiring problems" in his cervical-spinal area, it was recommended that we undergo invasive surgery on Guinness' neck.  We were told that there was about a 60% chance that the surgery would be effective.  With surgery, he would be crate-confined for at least six months in a neck cast with nearly no movement allowed.  To Jeanine and I, quality of life has always been our first priority.  Living in a crate does not equal quality of life in our minds.  After a quick, tear-filled discussion on a Friday, we decided that we needed to go home and think about the options, few as they were.

We scoured the internet even more, this time with confirmation of what we were looking at for anyone who had been through something similar then praying that we wouldn't find it for fear of what it could be.  We found a limited number of other stories with Danes (and Doberman Pinschers) having similar symptoms.  The ones who underwent surgery did not seem to fair any better than those who sought "alternative" forms of treatment.  Since Guinness' problems were nervous system related, we found instances of acupuncture and other Eastern medicines being effective at helping with Wobblers.  After doing some consulting with different doctors, we concluded that he was beyond the point of being helped by these short-term remedies.

We found a few of stories online about canines with Wobbler's that had been implanted with microscopic gold beads.  To be honest, it sounded a little crazy at the time.  How could some tiny gold beads help a dog walk?  After doing some more in-depth research, the science started to make sense.  The problem was that the electrical signals couldn't get from his spinal cord in his neck and his spinal cord in his back.  Since gold is a metal that doesn't deteriorate and is a superior conductor of electricity (or electrical signals), the beads would act like mini conductors for his wiring problem. 

The doctor that brought the procedure to the United States from Europe in the late 1970s was located in Marion, Indiana.  Western Avenue Animal Clinic now Durkes Veterinary Clinic was a 16 hour drive from Orlando.  We called and talked to Dr Durkes and asked what seemed like a thousand questions.  Dr Durkes was so patient with us and very informative.  From the phone consultation he also gave us a 60% chance of success, but without the lengthy recovery of invasive surgery.  We made the appointment for Monday morning thinking there was no harm in trying this first.  We left at sunrise Sunday morning and drove straight through, taking turns at the wheel.  We got there at about 10pm that evening, checked in to a hotel and slept as much as our stress would allow.  Our sweet boy curled up between us as we fell asleep, each silently praying the following day's events would help him walk again. 

It was a chilly, icy morning in Marion that early December day.  We loaded Guinness in to the SUV and made our way to the small, nondescript clinic.  There wasn't anything that seemed all that spectacular or "miracle-inducing".  We came a long way and had even longer hopes - every ounce of courage we had was going to Guinness.  We helped him walk in to the exam room where Dr. Durkes examined him and made his assessments.  "Come back at about 2pm - he should be ready to go".  Jeanine and I exchanged doubtful glances and managed to get an "O.K." out between the two of us.  Six hours in the bustling town of Marion and we were ready to lose our minds with anticipation.  Finally, the afternoon arrived and we were back in the same exam room where we left our boy.  Five minutes later, with a spring in his step and a gleam in his eye, Guinness, under his own power, walked out from the rear of the office!

I'm not sure who was more excited, Guinness or Jeanine and I!  We couldn't believe that he was walking - six hours after we left him!  The only thing different, physically, was that his neck was shaved and he had a brace around it.  If you don't already know, Guinness' nickname was "Squishy".  This was the result of the brace scrunching up his face.  It gave character to a guy that was already overflowing with it... Squishy.


Squishy, or Squish, or Squishasaurus Rex, Squishy McSquisherson - you get the picture.  He was a cute face with a whole lot of names.  At his core, Guinness loved people, especially his Momma and Dad. He has had many "uncles" and "aunts" that he's acquired throughout the years.  Family, friends, neighbors, everyone that he met, he instantly nudged for attention and gave an approving wag of the tail.  The people whose lives he touched were innumerable.  I think about the kids that got to grow up with him that will tell the story of "this huge dog my friend/neighbor had".

 Guinness was the consummate diner in Orlando.  Outdoor dining at restaurants with amazing food drew us - naturally so he could go out with us.  Guinness went nearly everywhere with us and people loved him and his goofy personality, so it made it easy to stay on-the-go with him.  One of Guinness' favorite places to "sit" was outside in a chair.  He would literally back up to the chair and plop his butt down, dangling his rear legs from the chair.   People recognized him as "Marmaduke" or "Scooby-Doo".  He could play the part of any "Gentle Giant" as he was that, but more of a different type of cartoon character. 
Daddy's boy

His favorite spot to "sit"

Nyx (Nix-e)
I love my sister!

In the fall of 2013, Guinness started to exhibit signs of depression (you don't understand this unless you're a dog person).  After losing Brutus at a young age, Atae at a year old, Wobbler's onset at two years, and Pepper (a rescue we had taken in) coming in and then all too quickly leaving his life so abruptly, it was understandable.  He lay around and stared off his couch outside at the pool or the occasional bird flying by.  "He needs a friend" we thought. It was logical, except with Guinness logical didn't usually apply.  We couldn't have just any dog.  We had to have a dog that was gentle, played according to direction, was not aggressive, along with a laundry list of other requirements that we needed for his "therapy" dog to have.  After looking for a number of different breeders with history of exceptionally healthy bloodlines, we thought one of them may have a senior Dane that a family could no longer care for.  We couldn't risk another random rescue after the heartbreak with Pepper.  Without much luck, we reached out via email to a few breeders to see if they had any, or knew of anyone who had a senior.  Again, we didn't come up with much.  Another problem crept in.  After speaking with Dr. Durkes about Guinness and our thoughts, he (against what we expected) suggested that we may want to look in the other direction, a young dog.

Kelly, from KRW Danes outside of Jacksonville, Florida, brought us our fifth Great Dane, Nyx.  Nyx was a female black Dane that was going to be kept as a personal show dog for KRW.  After telling Kelly our story,  we were soon in talks about when we could come to meet this little girl.  Needless to say, as soon as we met her, our hearts melted and succumbed to her puppy charms.  We were looking specifically for a well-developed personality so that we would avoid getting an alpha dog, possibly being bad for Guinness. 

Nyx couldn't possible have been better.  Sweet, intelligent, and full of energy, she played with Guinness with the slightest of touch - it was like she knew that he wasn't a normal guy.  We worked with her day-in and day-out making sure she knew the "proper" way to play with her big brother.  Many times, she would start to play paws with Guinness.  Guinness was allowed to paw her, but she was not allowed to paw him back (no jarring of the neck area so a swift swipe across the head could prove disastrous for Guinness at that point).  We taught her the command "no feet" where she would tuck her paws underneath and just nibble play with Guinness.  She was exactly what Guinness needed to keep going everyday.

Guinness health again started to decline in the fall of 2014.  Again, two years later, he was plagued with the same mobility issues he had before.  Though his symptoms were not as severe and didn't set on quickly like the first time, he was already showing signs that we feared were the same problem repeating itself.  We found another doctor that studied under Dr. Durkes in a much closer locale, Miami, Florida.  Ludlam-Dixie Animal Clinic in South Miami houses Dr. Robert Ferran's practice.  Dr. Ferran also specializes in gold bead implants.  After the first consultation, Dr. Ferran scheduled Guinness for another application of gold bead implants.

Two months went by and no improvement.  After consulting with Dr. Durkes, Dr. Ferran, and an independent orthopedic surgeon, it was concluded that Guinness now had cervical spondylosis, a breakdown of the spaces between the vertebrae in the central spinal cord area leading to (again) "wiring problems".  The signals weren't getting to where they needed to go.  This was another area where the gold bead injections had proven effective before, so we did a third and last procedure.
Laying in the dirt and loving it!

After that last treatment and a short time to follow, Guinness' condition had still not improved.  His condition was worsening by the day.  For months, he had had difficulty getting up on his own.  He could no longer get up or off his couch or  move on his own without some kind of assistance - I (Eric) was the only one that could move him.  He could not get outside to use the bathroom, nor could he hold himself up many times when he did.  After the last treatment, the time before its effectiveness is about four to six weeks.

Just past the two week mark (a few days ago), Guinness had  a great day.  He laid outside all day while Jeanine and I worked busily on our computers.  Guinness' favorite place was wherever there was something going on.  He laid in the cool dirt and worked his body around the best he could, changing scenery like channels on a TV.  He went for two short walks and watched squirrels play around our site.  Nyx and him played with a rubber ball while a number of people stopped by and visited with us throughout the day.

Later that night, many of Guinness' muscles started twitching involuntarily.  He had been having even more trouble walking earlier that evening.  With every few steps, his rear end would give out and his body would drop straight down to the ground.  After speaking with his doctors, the prognosis was not good.  His symptoms were consistent with signs of cervical myopathy, a different type degenerative spinal disease with irreversible effects. Though it could not be concluded from only symptoms, it fit the all the signs.  Still, he didn't give up.  He got up every time I helped him.  We wanted him to get a good night's sleep so on the doctor's advice, gave him some tranquilizers so that he could rest his muscles and recover for the morning.
One of his last pictures

The following morning, Nyx didn't wake us up early as usual.  She had the habit over the past few months of coming to wake us up in the middle of the night when Guinness needed something.  She stayed and laid in the living room with Guinness.  He had slept through the night and was still quietly snoozing.   I went through my usual morning routine of getting up and putting on pants and jacket, grabbing doggie waste bags, and using the bathroom.  We always sit with Squish for a few minutes to before taking him outside, so I took up residence wherein he quickly plopped his head in my lap, gazing up at me with his adoring eyes.  

Helping him had become second nature to us.  He had been fighting so hard for so long - he deserved a break.  Guinness always let us know when he needed something.  When he was hungry, he smacked his lips.  When he needed water, he licked his lips.  When he needed to go out, or wanted off his couch, he would whine a little or Nyx would come and get our attention.  We got him whatever he needed.   That morning, he wasn't ready to get up - he wanted to lay with me, then momma sat in and gave him some affection.  Shortly after, I asked him if he was ready to go out.  I tried to help him up but his body simply wasn't working anymore.  His two back feet would knuckle over when he tried to walk.  He had trouble putting weight on them with every step.  After struggling to get him outside and the same to get him back in, he fell just inside the door and sat quietly.  When I tried to help him up, he turned his head and looked us with a look we had seen before - he was tired of fighting... It was time to say goodbye to our baby.

Guinness made such an impact on everyone he met.  People constantly stopped us and met him - most times surprised by how sweet and loving he was.  For many, his size was intimidating at first, but soon they warmed to his affectionate nature.  Because of his struggles in life, Guinness was an inspiration not only for Jeanine who also has degenerative back problems, but for countless others.  It probably sounds silly (and that's OK) but if you knew Guinness, you would understand that he was just, different. He was not just a dog - he was our boy, our Squishy.  He gave everyone he met unconditional love and affection and has carved himself a place in many hearts forever, especially ours.  Our lives have forever been touched by his entering in to it.  No amount of tears can express how much we miss you already.  Goodbye, Guinness.  We will never forget you...

Our sweet boy...

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.


  1. Absolutely Beautiful!

  2. Denis Rondeau, Retired Ambulance DriverMay 13, 2015 at 12:00 PM

    As for barking dogs, you can get a controller for $ 5.00 on Ebay including free shipping from China. I gave the first one I had to a neighbor who had two small dogs who were always barking and trying to bite. Now, they are quiet and friendly. I just got a second one since some friends have the same problem. Works great