Popular Posts

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wiggles' Book: Fifty Chapters, Fifty Miracles!

Wiggles' Book: Fifty Chapters, Fifty Miracles!

February 22, 2011

By Julie Kay Smithson, always Wiggles' Mommy propertyrights@earthlink.net

Wiggles' book -- fifty of the true stories that tell about his life, and our life together -- is coming along, though not as much "on paper" as I'd thought. The outline is done, and it's being written when the time is right and inspiration prompts me to sit down and write. There are so many memories of Wiggles Blue Heeler, so many precious moments and times of joy and adventure, countless times that my heart holds dear. Even having picked fifty to share, there are myriad more swirling about in my brain.

It's important that the book be right, because it will be part of Wiggles' legacy as well as a tool toward changing perceptions of visual impairment.

On this late February afternoon, as I slog around outside, shoveling ice and snow, my thoughts are of Wiggles Blue Heeler. The lump in my throat remains, tears still sting my eyes (though they may not fall as much, they are still 'right there'), and my vision still looks for him. The sweetest one -- the Australian Cattle Dog / ACD / Blue Heeler named Wiggles Blue Heeler, upon whose countenance God blessed with utmost patience, love, loyalty, and so much more -- is safe in my soul. Even as my eyes miss his footprints, his precious physical self in and around our home and yard and little pickup truck, he is still yet ... here.

For more than twelve years -- which seem like a heartbeat in time, and flew by so fast, so fast -- this place on Planet Earth was our home. Now I know that it didn't matter where we were, because wherever that was, was home to us. Wiggles Blue Heeler was happy to be with me. I was happy to be with him.

Wiggles' book -- fifty chapters, fifty miracles -- will tell of a life lived to the fullest, in total faith and utter love. May I be guided to tell his story well!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Glossary and More: Inherited Diseases of Dogs, from OptiGen

Glossary and More: Inherited Diseases of Dogs, from OptiGen

February 11, 2011

(Note: This is simply a glossary of terms often used by OptiGen to explain many terms used by OptiGen. While it is helpful, it is not, however, all-inclusive. You must actually visit this link -- http://www.optigen.com/opt9_glossary.html -- to read the glossary. Related information below is from parts of the OptiGen website and should prove to be useful in understanding more about inherited diseases of dogs. I was unaware of inherited progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, in dogs, when Wiggles Blue Heeler and I found each other on September 22, 1998. It was not until six years later, when the diagnosis was made, which explained his huge pupils and bumping into things at night -- which is usually how PRA is first noticed -- that I learned. Had I known, on that beautiful September day in 1998, that my sweet pup would lose his sight halfway through his life, I WOULD STILL HAVE BECOME HIS PERSON. Loss of sight does not change love. For all those puppies yet to be born, and those dear dogs whose physical sight is doomed by their DNA to dim, I pray that testing will become commonplace and that PRA will not mean a possible death sentence at the hands of people who view dogs as working partners -- and who may not have a place for a partner who can no longer work livestock. PRA will put a stock dog in harm's way when it can no longer see the hooves of the animal it's herding. Wiggles Blue Heeler, while carrying the herding instinct strong within him, mostly herded his toys. Thank God he was never in the position to get kicked. The book I am writing -- Wiggles' book -- will hopefully help other precious dogs live the longest and best possible lives!)

Compiled from the OptiGen.com website by Julie Kay Smithson propertyrights@earthlink.net

Glossary from OptiGen: "OptiGen is a service company established to provide DNA based diagnoses and information about inherited diseases of dogs. We promise the highest quality diagnostic and testing services available in the fields of veterinary medical genetics and molecular diagnostics. Our testing procedures are developed by research scientists and veterinarians associated with OptiGen, and are extensively field-tested in cooperation with breeders of dogs."

OptiGen, LLC

Cornell Business & Technology Park

767 Warren Road, Suite 300

Ithaca, New York 14850


Fax: 607-257-0353

http://www.optigen.com and http://www.optigen.com/opt9_freePRAtest.html
genetest@optigen.com or optigen@clarityconnect.com



Canine genetic testing (OptiGen - Test offered):

"The OptiGen tests can be done on very young pups and a special litter rate is available for certain tests. No longer is there a need for test matings combined with expensive and potentially inconclusive ERG testing for PRA. Because carriers and affected dogs having other desirable traits can be bred to normal/clear dogs, the increased value of the genetically tested dog is very high. It's just the beginning... We are committed to an active program of continued research and development of faster, simpler, less-expensive testing procedures for all forms of retinal disease as well as for dozens of other genetic diseases that affect dogs."



Possible results using the OptiGen prcd test:

Genotype / Risk Group / Significance For Breeding / Risk of prcd Disease

Homozygous Normal / Normal/Clear / Can be bred to any dog, extremely low risk of producing affecteds / Extremely low

Heterozygous / Carrier / Should be bred only to Normal/Clear to remove risk of producing
affecteds / Extremely low

Homozygous Mutant / Affected / Should be bred only to Normal/Clear to remove risk of producing affecteds / Very high


OptiGen Tests PRA Affected Dogs at No Cost


It is EXTREMELY important to test as many PRA-affected dogs in each breed as possible. To promote this, OptiGen will test, at no charge, affected dogs from each of the breeds with a known genetic form of PRA. Link to “Tests” - http://www.optigen.com/opt9_test.html

Why is this so important? Because, a genetic test is developed to detect SPECIFIC mutations that are KNOWN TO EXIST in the breed. If a second or a rare variety hasn’t been discovered yet, we can’t test for it.

Here are two examples. Miniature Schnauzers and Miniature/Toy Poodles appear to have at least two genetic types of PRA. Only one type (Type A in MS and prcd-PRA in M/TP) is detectable now. We need to find PRA affected dogs that do NOT test affected with the current test in order to research and discover the other forms of PRA.

The other example was seen with Portuguese Water Dogs. Only after testing over 1600 PWDs did a new allele that causes prcd-PRA come to light. When a PRA-affected dog did not test “Pattern C”, extensive research was done by the Baker Institute and OptiGen to define the mutation associated with PRA in this dog. The result: Discovery of the cause for prcd-PRA in PWDs and improvement of the test.

Who qualifies?

The dog’s sample was not submitted previously either to the Baker Institute (Drs. Acland and Aguirre) or to OptiGen. The dog must have a clinical diagnosis for PRA by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist (ACVO, ECVO). The diagnosis must be compatible with the form of PRA present in the breed. Status of “PRA-suspicious” or “atypical PRA” or “multi-focal degeneration” does not qualify.

Here’s what you do!

FIRST, mail in a copy of the eye exam report (CERF report or other) and a copy of a 4-5 generation pedigree for pre-approval before sending a blood sample. If possible, provide an email address for a reply.

Wait for a response from OptiGen to learn if your dog has a diagnosis that qualifies for free testing.

NEXT, provide the blood sample - 2 tubes of 3 ml each - according to standard instructions (Ship Sample). http://www.optigen.com/opt9_shipsubpg3pkg.html One blood tube will be saved for research.

Complete all details of the standard Request Test form. http://www.optigen.com/opt9_request.html

Send NO payment.

Send the sample and all paperwork to OptiGen.

You will receive a report from OptiGen 2-3 weeks after the sample is received. A copy can be sent to your veterinary ophthalmologist at your request.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two Months Today

Two Months Today

February 5, 2011

By Julie Kay Smithson aka Wiggles' Mommy

At seven-fourteen this morning, it's now been two months since your last earthly breath, dear, beloved Wiggles. I know you're fine and no longer suffering from any health or age issues, yet miss you keenly and still shed tears several times each day, longing for the touch of your nose, fur or foot.

Until they're no longer happening, it's so easy to take for granted that such blessings will always be ours. The feel of your breath in the night, from just an inch away. The always-awesome feel of awakening to find you staring at me, willing me to "wake up, Mom!" The sweet sound of your toenails gently coming through the kitchen into the office to encourage me to leave the work chair and computer, and come play with you, go for a walk, brush you, or just be together. The simplest things -- like having you accompany me when errands are run, or dumping/cleaning/refilling birdbaths (during the nine months when weather permits), or having you lying on the kitchen floor while I cook, bake or do dishes -- are now things that give my stomach a twist and make my heart hurt, longing for them again.

I took for granted that the dearest soul in the universe, Wiggles Blue Heeler, would always be there for me. I tried to always be there for him. Now our lives have changed and though we're still joined at the heart and soul, our physical time together has ebbed.

Every day the labor of love that will soon be his book, takes place. Whether actually writing a chapter, or sifting through the hundreds of photos, several-score videos, years of Christmas cards sent to the two of us, birthday cards, veterinary and dog tag records (and the county dog tag, rabies tags, and his tags with his name and contact phone numbers, all of which I saved), receipts from special toy, treat and food purchases, and more -- distilling the essence of Wiggles Blue Heeler into a family-friendly, educational, empowering book and DVD, is both an exciting and a somber activity. If it were an either/or -- either have him here with me still, or writing his book -- the choice would be a no-brainer ... but there is no choice.

Wiggles Blue Heeler's life, from the standpoint of sight, was divided almost equally: Six years of vision and six years of "seeing with his heart," due to inherited late-onset progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA. In many ways, the second six years was the greater adventure and joy, because those were the years that:

* Wiggles received the only test unit of SoundFlash that was ever available for animals, a real miracle that was amazing and delightful to him, me and many others. A micro-processor, battery-backup unit that utilized echo-location "click" technology, SoundFlash was tested and enjoyed for more than two and a half years by Wiggles Blue Heeler. Visit YouTube and search for "Wiggles Blind Dog" and "Wiggles Sees!" to view five 30-second videos. To see a blind dog trotting through a cemetery and confidently wending his way through different sizes and shapes of granite stones is to be so grateful to the Alcon Foundation for its grant to World Access for the Blind (WAFTB), and from my viewpoint, to be so glad that Wiggles Blue Heeler was the animal that, through more than one miracle, got to test this device! 

* Wiggles Blue Heeler attended many events, from fundraising bake sales for the Humane Society of Madison County (London, Ohio), to the ZooToo celebration when our shelter garnered one of the Top 20 awards, to the first fundraising SlobberFest, to a fundraising booth at a classic car show (where he met a young boy with autism and melted the hearts of the boy's mother and me), and more. At each event, my special dog-friend was quiet, kind and loving to all, earning one of his many nicknames, "Many Kisses," as he bestowed barely-damp, fine-grit sandpaper kisses on anyone within reach. A salesman at a local auto dealership "took it on the chin" from Wiggles and loved that slurp! An elderly couple whose pet had recently passed away, attended one bake sale and enjoyed Wiggles so much that they returned twenty minutes later. The gentleman said, "I've just got to have some more of his kisses!" Promptly sitting down on the floor, he received many more kisses from a canine sweetheart that understood the man's grief and need for comfort.

* Wiggles Blue Heeler helped me run errands and made many friends wherever we went. At the Post Office, the hardware store, the garden center, the feed store, and many more locations, he greeted old and young, athletic and wheelchair-bound, with the same affectionate nature, which I came to call "seeing with his heart," when people exclaimed over his beautiful pearlescent and luminuous blue eyes, once brown, or asked if he were blind.

* Due to the tendency of loose dogs -- and in some cases, the owners of dogs that seemed to enjoy having aggressive pets -- to attack Wiggles Blue Heeler, my options to find safe places to walk him became, by necessity, creative. At those safer places, we usually encountered peace and quiet. When we would cross paths with someone, they were so pleased to meet a canine with such an abundance of "all the good things life has to offer" in one package. Sometimes, after a walk on a hot summer day, we'd head for a local ice cream place, where I'd get him a scoop of French Vanilla for his bowl and one of black walnut or buttered pecan for mine. Always carried on board were these two bowls, plus a gallon of water from home, cool and fresh to slake our thirst. 

* A dear friend who divided her time between Maine and Virginia, gifted us with some very special clocks, kits utilizing a CD on a Lucite base with the label being our favorite photos. These clocks, which I so enjoyed during the time Wiggles Blue Heeler was physically here in our home, have become so much more precious now that they remind me of some of our times together. They also help me recall that time is not to be wasted, that it is to be tasted, savored, devoured with alacrity and appreciation. Thank you, Jane H., for these generous gifts that you put together as a craft project, which became priceless treasures to me, Wiggles' Mommy!

All these, and many more fond memories, are carried in my mind, heart and soul, and in the collection of things pertaining to Wiggles Blue Heeler. This time in my life is of immeasurable importance, for it is teaching me how much one dear soul -- in no matter what form -- can bless and make so much richer, for having shared time. Time is fleeting, and although our dozen-plus years together were wonder-filled, they sped by like a comet flashing acrost the heavens, leaving a brilliant, once-in-a-lifetime memory in their wake. 

Two months have passed somehow. Still a huge lump remains in my throat and tears sting my eyes, but time continues to measure my life. This book of Wiggles will be a way through this time, and a way to chronicle the best years of my life, which were all the years of his life. May this book fairly dance into the lives of many, pulling them out onto the dance floor and saying, "It doesn't matter if you've ever danced before; this is a dance of life and love, holding on for this dance and being made whole for having joined another heart!" 

There is a certainty -- not to be confused with 'preaching' -- that God chose me to be Wiggles' Mommy, and Wiggles Blue Heeler to be my best friend, which will be woven throughout the pages of Wiggles' book. Your own beliefs will not be diminished by this book, nor will my beliefs try to change yours. This book is about all the miracles, trust, love, joy, and more that were contained in the presence known as Wiggles Blue Heeler -- and will strive to open readers' hearts and minds to the following ideas: 

1. Blindness should never be a death sentence or a reason to part with a loved one, whether in dog, cat, equine, human form, etc.

2. "Leading with one's heart" is something that can and should be done throughout life. It does not mean abandoning awareness of one's surroundings or letting danger come near. It does mean that looking with more than physical eyes, can open the door and fling open the windows to joy!

3. The mere cessation of physical sight is not a handicap. It is opportunity dressed in work clothes. It is the boundless ability to strike boundaries from one's vocabulary. Daniel Kish, executive director of World Access For The Blind -- http://www.waftb.org/ -- travels the world, showing children and educating their parents that mere physical sight is not the edge of the earth. Christopher Columbus did not sail off the edge of the earth. He traveled with a purpose and with a faith that did not depend on physical sight. Like Columbus, Daniel Kish, the Alcon Foundation, Vision and Vocational Services http://www.visionandvocationalservices.org/ and Wiggles Blue Heeler, have not and will not ever allow boundaries to challenge what they know in their hearts to be true. 

Two months today, Wiggles Blue Heeler became my partner in life in a different form. His playful, ever-loving and sweet self remains, while he now encourages me in a different way, to take the lessons he taught and bring them to the world. He still teaches; may I be cognizant enough to continue learning in the months yet to come!