Hello! My name is Ansel Young and I’m an Akita. I was named after the photographer Ansel Adams. You see, my Dad is a photographer. He didn’t care that I got a boy’s name — people asked him about it all the time but he was glad he stuck with that name.
He found me by chance. He was doing some shopping and went into the local pet shop and saw me. He walked out to do his shopping but before he finished, he’s made up his mind to get me that same day. And he did.
When he got me, he had just moved from Florida to Pennsylvania and for several years I was his only friend. We did everything together. We especially liked to jump into his 4×4 in inclement weather and take photos. I did photo shoots with Dad all over Philadelphia and the suburbs.
When I was 18 months old, Dad noticed me bumping into things at night. I would go to the bathroom and bump my head on a bush. Soon after he noticed this, he did an experiment on me: He took a dog biscuit and put it right in front of my face and said, “Ansel, you want a treat?” which was the normal wording he used. I wagged my tail but I couldn’t see the biscuit.
He knew then that there was a problem. That same day I was rushed to our local vet, who did an eye test. The Vet covered one of my eyes and dropped a cotton ball next to the other. I didn’t react. It was then that the Vet told my Dad that I was totally blind in one eye and close to blind in the other. My Dad told his parents about this and asked their advice. My grandfather, who had 3 Akitas of his own, called the Penn Vet Center, one of the best in the nation. They referred us to an animal eye specialist about 45 minutes from us. The Vet took me for 24 hours and told my Dad he’d call with my progress. Dad didn’t sleep at all that night.
The next day the Vet called and told Dad he had given me some aggressive steroid shots in my eyes and that I had a rare eye disease that occurs mostly in Asian dogs — they’d see fine one day and are blind the next. Dad picked me up and the Vet gave him a cocktail of drugs that I would likely have to be on the rest of my life. So my new “prescription-filled” life started.
Dad had to create a spreadsheet to keep track of the drugs. One day was a mild steroid and the next another — both of these were ingested. There was also 2 drops my Dad had to give me on a rotational basis. He was a college student then and this was very hard for him to do, but thankfully my grandmother helped him a great deal. Often times she’d come over to my house just to give me my dose.
I retained most of my sight, but the drugs had other effects on my body. I had constant diarrhea, urinary infections, etc. The drugs reduced my immune system and going to the Vet became a routine for us. But it was fine as long as we kept up the drugs and kept on top of our Vet visits every 6 months to check my eyes. I was OK and I could see.
After about 7 years of this drug regiment, the vet said that it would be OK to cut them back a bit and we did. But a couple of weeks later I was completely blind again. So, Dad upped my dose back to the original dose and thought it was better that I could see and had a good but shorter life span then to take me off the drugs and risk me going blind and not enjoying my life.
A week or two after, I had my eyesight back for the second time… but something was wrong.
On Saturday morning, July 11th, 2009, I had diarrhea (which was not uncommon for me). Dad wasn’t really worried. At 2pm, he took me for another walk down the street. I still had diarrhea, but this time Dad thought he saw a very thin layer of blood in it, but when he checked, there didn’t seem to be anything except a half eaten carrot. Again, nothing new. Later in the evening my parents went out and my grandmother, who was visiting for the weekend, watched me. I was throwing up but no more diarrhea. Dad thought it was clearing up but they decided to spend the night in the basement with me so they could monitor and take me outside if I needed to go to the bathroom or throw up again.
During the night I threw up on the floor a few times and each time there was undigested food in it. Again, Dad thought it was clearing up and I just needed to get it out of my system. I was wagging my tail and showing no signs of distress. Dad took me out at 2:30am and again at 4am and each time I seemed to be doing well. I was throwing up a little bit, but there wasn’t anything else to be concerned about.
At 6:30am, Mom woke up to check on me and quickly woke Dad up. She said, “Honey, Ansel isn’t doing very well and there’s blood on the floor.” Dad looked up and there was blood everywhere. On the rug, on the sliding doors and all over the floor. I was very uncomfortable, moving and wiggling my body, something was putting pressure on my body. I wasn’t blinking and wasn’t making any noise. I was just laying there, my head on my paws. My grandmother rushed downstairs and said she’d called the Vet. They were expecting us.
Dad wrapped me in a sheet and lifted me up. I was like dead weight and Dad started to panic. He put me in the car and my body was motionless, except for my breathing. I was still breathing and Dad thought if I was still breathing, there was still a chance. Dad drove as fast as he could to the Vet and my grandmother was telling him how strong my breathing was. When we got there, Dad wrapped me up in his arms with the sheet and walked into the Vet’s office.
I couldn’t see anymore so this is what I heard:
“Oh that’s not good.” I heard the Vet say. Our hearts sank. Dad put me on the table so the Vet could look at me. “I think she’s gone,” the Vet said. “Her eyes are unresponsive. Her eyelids aren’t closing. She’s gone.”
“Honey, tell her you love her, quick!” I heard my grandmother say.
Dad held me close and told me how much he loved me. I could feel the streams of tears falling from his eyes. I couldn’t really tell him how much I love him. I think I was already moving away from my body. And then I was gone.
On that Saturday morning I had caught Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE). Had Dad taken me straight into the vet for an immediate IV of fluids and antibiotics, I may have lived. For 24 hours after, Dad cried and told himself he would never forgive himself for not taking me in sooner. But the truth is, until that day, Dad had no idea HGE even existed. Everyone thought I had a stomach bug and I needed to get it out, like I had done so many times. But it was my time.
Dad also believes that the heavy medication I took all those years did something to my insides and predisposed me to HGE. Dad missed me everyday. I was the sweetest, most affectionate dog on the planet. As you may know, Akitas are not known for these traits, but I was different. I didn’t have a negative bone in my body. Dad hopes that my death opens the eyes of all the dog owners who read this. If you see blood in your dog’s stool, or in their vomit, go straight to the vet. Do not second guess yourself, or think you’re being over protective. Dad wished he had taken that advice.
I was one of the most loved dogs Dad have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I had a fragile body from birth, but I lived an extremely pleasant life.
Dad wrote this about me, his Ansie:
The love of my life, the one who was there with me through so much. Always wagging her tail. Would always greet you with her toy. Stubborn as hell. Barked at everything that walked, crawled, or rolled. Hated the mailman. Hated the UPS man more. Only ate the finer things in life. Stuck her nose up at the rest. Could knock you over with her paw. Fat, happy, lazy, loving, fragile… mine.
Thank you, Dad, for giving me the life and love and the best time any dog could ask for.
Parent: Taylor Young
Photos courtesy of Taylor Young Photography