Please welcome Gunther to the family.
I know how bad this is going to sound, but this puppy was an ‘accident’. We have been off and on about getting a puppy and up until we made the decision to say yes to Gunther the French Bulldog, we were set on no. Our Karl is getting to be a senior dog and he is a rather sensitive Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This was my top reason against a new addition to our home. Karl used to have significant interaction with another dog, in fact almost daily, but since that ended we have found him to be a quieter, sweeter and happier dog.
Our big old guy does love to play, and often people mistake him as a puppy himself in public. I wish I could agree when people see that puppy side of him, instead I am full of anxiety about if this play session is going to leave him immobile or in pain. How can I not worry, Karl is my tri-coloured bestie. Karl is what is considered to be a giant breed, therefore his expected life is only 7-9 years, writing that almost makes me weep. Karl will be 8 in November (also photo-friends, I want to do a doggy cake smash and need some help!). Karl has a great life and I truly foresee him living past the expected.
We bought Karl near Fort St John, where I was living while Matt and I were engaged. Matt was still working in Fort McMurray, and I was quite lonely so we decided put our feelers out for a puppy. I had been walking dogs at the SPCA the entire time I lived in Fort St John, and the one dog I fell in love with and even introduced to Matt, who also loved him, ended up being adopted before we could make the final decision. We happened upon a small ad in the Fort St John classifieds and saw a picture of two small tri-coloured puppies who were left from their litter. We called and arranged to see the puppies and their parents. I knew the moment I laid eyes upon Karl, we would pick him. He was shy and hid from us, but I knew he was the one. But to be honest, I also have no experience with female dogs so I automatically wanted the male. We went ice skating (side note, first and last time Matt ice skated with me), and I told Matt really the decision was his and I was all in. We picked him up, gathered our supplies, and did all of our research.
Getting Karl was a bid deal to Matt and I. Karl was each of ours first dog (not counting dogs our parents had for us when we were kids), and each of ours first giant breed. He was amazing in some ways, and difficult in others. One of the difficulties I ran into pretty quickly was that Karl had stomach issues. Nothing helped when he was a puppy, I tried everything. He ended up having a parasite, when that cleared up he was still sick. We airlifted his poop to be tested, they found nothing. They determined the only other option was that he had IBS and wanted to cut out a portion of his intestines to test, and then he would be on a strict diet the remainder of his life ( we didn’t do the test). The food they had him on was over $100 a week, I knew there had to be some other way. A woman at a puppy play group mentioned how raw food saved her German shepherd puppy with some similar sounding issues, so we tried it. Raw food saved my puppy, I know sounds a little dramatic, but it did. Karl is still on a restricted diet. In my non-professional analysis Karl is sensitive to all grain products, including rice and is also sensitive to anything over processed. We tried a few grain free kibbles and they never set well with him. Karl now enjoys pork with pumpkin and other health additives with the occasional egg, bison, fish and fruit snacks.
I got into the world of agility with Karl, starting first up in Fort St John where we did tables, shoots, tunnels, A-frames, jumps, boardwalks etc., it was quite an experience since I often had to do the obstacles myself to get my big scared dog to attempt it. We were able to continue many classes of agility, extreme game challenge, scenting, tricks, and obedience here in Fort McMurray with 4 Paws Dog Training.
Over the last couple years, but mostly in the last year Karl has started to noticeably change. During that time we also had our son, so initially it was hard to determine the true root cause. Karl and Conway, our son are now buddies. Conway routinely goes to say hi and pet him in the morning and says bye to him whenever we leave the house. They respect each other, Karl doesn’t get in Conway’s space and Conway doesn’t get in Karl’s space, they are adorable together. Karl knocks him over time to time by accident, but he never ruins his things. This winter I noticed Karl was drastically slowing down on his walks, so much that I knew we needed to do something. He also would randomly cry (sidenote it was hard to know initially because Karl is a good faker for attention) which was becoming more evident there could be something wrong. Karl started getting massages by Canine Synergistics and she recommended he may need rehabilitation work. We had to stop taking Karl to any place where we do not know the dogs (ie dog-park) because of too many incidents of dogs jumping on his hips and hurting him. (Side note-ee love doggy playdates so if you want to come over or invite us over we are all in!) In March we finally had Karl x-rayed after his vet already expected that he had arthritis. It was confirmed and our big silly swissy has osteoarthritis primarily affecting his hips, with some in his back, shoulders and knees. We had an appointment at the rehabilitation specialist and she provided us with a amazing of real life exercises and therapy to help Karl develop lost muscle in his hindquarters, release tension and to reduce pain. I will admit we do not do all these 100% every single day, but we do them regularly and are noticing improvements. Karl also has been placed on gabapentin for nerve pain related to the arthritis, which has shown amazing results and has pain medication for when things get really bad.
The day before we left on our latest trip to British Columbia, I took Karl for our regular check the mail walk and a couple houses down he went lame in his back right leg. First time I thought he must have tripped, second time I thought something is wrong, third time I thought were turning around. We loaded up and headed out, and just as we arrived in Jasper that afternoon Karl attempted to stand up, couldn’t and proceeded to cry and have a fear induced melt down. Karl has never acted like this before. We were given veterinary advice to shorten his walks even further, encouraged to keep him moving to reduce stiffness and to try some cartrophen shots (we have to wait one more week to really see if these help or not) which lubricate the joints.
Hold up, this is sounding like a story that will end with a sad ending, I promise it does not! Also was this not suppose to be a welcome story about Gunther? It is, but what I guess all that build up was to show what big paws (literally) you have to fill little one, and how much we are going to love you. Through thick and thin, you are now one of the family. Gunther always was one of the family, sort of. My brother and his significant other have Fergus (who is Karl’s actual brother from another mother), and two French Bulldogs named Nala and Biggie. Nala and Biggie are in love and decided to have a family together, to be exact 6 puppies. Gunther was one of those puppies. When we arrived in Prince George, Karl got out of the truck and he played with all 10 of Ryan and Joeal’s dogs, you would have never guessed he was hurting so bad the day before. My brother told us which two were not spoken for and of course I wanted one (who can resist a puppy). Matt wasn’t sold immediately and we left it at we will think about it. When we were getting closer to yes than no, I felt such an incredible guilt. I felt I was betraying Karl.
I really thought about how happy I was as a kid who had a dog to play with. I wanted Conway to have that, and while I do think Conway and Karl will play together someday, there is a huge size difference there, and while Karl is really gentle and often knows just laying beside Conway is a better option. Gunther and Conway will be a better size match, Conway will actually be able to safely walk Gunther and lift his water dish (Karl has a HUGE water dish which is on an elevated stand, I cannot see Conway doing his water for a long time), and Gunther actually wants to play fetch and play chase.
Coming home was a journey. I wanted to spend an extra week with my brother’s family especially since they just had another little baby girl. With how the schedule worked out in the end I ended up driving home to Fort McMurray alone with Conway, Karl and Gunther. Of course, I over thought the entire thing and it wasn’t as bad as I had convinced myself it would. It was no piece of pie, but we all got through it alive and well. I learned by stop two to use the stroller to contain the 2 legged dependent so I could wrangle the two 4 legged ones. Gunther travelled like a champ and barely made a peep in his soft carrier, Conway hated the drive as usual, and Karl slept, I am sure wondering where I was taking this tag along puppy.
Gunther has been fitting in just well, its us humans who need to work on adjusting for him. This pup literally tries to eat everything (I now deal with two teething creatures). Due to his chewy nature for the time being he is being crated while alone and at night, which he doesn’t seem to mind since we are on high play active mode the rest of the time around here. Gunther is often trying to steal Conway’s toys and snacks, so now even the 20 month old human now has someone to say no-no-no to. Conway loves him, he pets him, says goodbye at his crate when we leave, and plays with his puppy toys with him. They also both enjoy water and have been inside the water plant bucket and slide pool together. The house-training with Gunther has not been as easy with Karl, but also not too bad either. Karl still runs away when Gunther tries to lay down with him on his dog beds, and still isn’t always game when Gunther wants to play, but in a way you can tell it has rejuvenated him. Last night I helped them play tug of war together with Karl’s favourite toy (if I had not of helped, one jerk of Karl’s head would have swung Gunther off, they currently have a 121 pound difference).
So with an expected end weight difference of 100 or so pounds, why did we think a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and a French Bulldog would be a good fit? My brothers swissy and frenchies get along really well, so that was real in your face evidence. Matt and I started to compare a few things and really they seem to be well suited. Both breeds are not considered to be overly energetic and require the textbook some exercise. Swissys cannot handle heat due to their intense undercoat and black colour. Frenchies also overheat easily due to their short muzzles. Frenchies are known to be associated with high vet bills. Karl’s vet bills are outrageous, due to his size any medications are the same dosage as a human being therefore $$$, plus everything is more due to size (think vaccinations, dog beds, food quantity, size of dishes, size of treats, toys etc.) Our only slight concerns in the winter months since Frenchies do not have an undercoat. Karl is now down to approximately 2-10min walks a day, so we figure that either Gunther can tough it out for a short one all bundled up or we can run him inside. They even have matching Harley Davidson collars, melt your heart!
#karllikes was started as a fun way to share things I like, and what else can I like more than my dog. Whenever I post something Karl related I use the hashtag #karlisthegreatest, I now need something for Gunther. So far I have been using #guntheradventures, do you have any fun ideas?
Thanks for reading, love to you and whatever paws walk through your house or heart!