So: why Guinness loves walks so much

Guinness' "birthday" is St. Patrick's Day

Guinness post-TPLO surgery with a cake from his sweet petsitter Tracey

Our tallest member of the 3G Network is Guinness. Although he and George are the same weight, Guinness looks much bigger since he is so tall. He’s also the oldest member of the 3G Network, even though we don’t know his exact age. And the least healthy of the bunch.

Guinness came to us because a friend who owns a local dog bakery (Three Dog Bakery) knew that we were planning to get another dog to help keep Godiva company. Our plan was to rescue another dog when Godiva was about a year old. We were thinking about a black lab and mentioned that to Christy.

I was on a business trip and was waiting to board my flight in the RDU airport when I got a call from Bruce saying that we were going to foster and possibly keep a black lab that was found in the local school district office parking lot. He was very thin, but friendly. And Bruce suggested if he and Godiva got along well that we should accelerate our plan to rescue another dog.


Of course, Guinness charmed me into submission. Vets and friends in rescue thought he might be 3 or 4 years old. He was gentle and sickly. Skin and bones. Extremely well trained. Perhaps he was a hunting dog-failure based on his obedience and hatred of anything wet. But he was lovely with Godiva and she was excited to have another 4-legged in the house.

Guinness and Godiva in road trip mode, snoozing all the way to Toronto

Guinness and Godiva in road trip mode, snoozing all the way to Toronto

Guinness was instrumental in Godiva’s training. Although she was doing fairly well with her classes, she became a star once she had Guinness to show her the ropes. We found that more than anything Guinness loved his walks and he would not tolerate Godiva acting up on the leash and insisted that she follow the rules.

Our search to figure out what was wrong with Guinness took a while. We knew from day one that something was wrong with this gentle giant. At the risk of grossing everyone out, Guinness has trouble peeing. It took many vet appointments, bladder infections, lots of medication, several scary emergency vet clinic visits and overnights, but eventually it was determined that he has a parasympathetic nervous system issue. In simple terms: his brain doesn’t know how to tell him that he needs to empty his bladder. Both Bruce and I know how to catheterize him (Bruce does it better) and when that treatment is needed, Guinness lies down and patiently waits for relief. This condition is fairly rare but controlled with  daily medication (made in a human compounding pharmacy since it is medication used for humans).

Once Guinness’ chronic condition was figured out, Guinness was still not gaining weight. During a routine exam, we also discovered that Guinness was heartworm positive, although he had initially tested negative. He had been on the run for a while, given his thinness and north Texas is full of mosquitos most of the year. Dogs need to be given heartworm prevention year ’round since the mosquito season is, like everything else weather related here, unpredictable.

Guinness and Godiva visiting Three Dog Bakery

Guinness & Godiva visiting Three Dog Bakery

It’s not a nice treatment. It’s expensive for the people. It’s painful for the dog. But probably worst of all for Guinness, it meant no walks for 3 months. After receiving the injections of the medication to kill the heartworms, the dog has to be still or risk throwing a clot as the dissolving (dead) worms are processed by the bloodstream.

Luckily, Guinness is very mellow for a lab. Bruce joined two large dog crates and got two orthopedic dog beds and made Guinness a double-wide crate (very Texan, don’t you think?). When we were home, Guinness camped out on the sofa. He knew he wasn’t well and so did Godiva. It was a very quiet time for everyone.

We hoped everything was ok with one treatment. In typical Guinness fashion, it was not. He required a second heartworm treatment. And again, no walks for 3 months. Poor buddy.

Once that was over, Guinness thrived. He began playing with toys. He gained weight. He got lots of walks. And he played rough with Godiva.

Wrestling, running and biting are all important parts of dog play. When Godiva was little she used to chase Guinness and squeak because she couldn’t catch him. But as she got bigger and he got better, their speeds were more equal. And being more active led to Guinness’ next health problem.

It started with a limp. Could it be arthritis? Dog pain meds seemed to help and he’d stop limping for a while. Once off the meds, the limp would come back. Then one day it got worse, much worse. Turns out Guinness tore what would be the equivalent of a human ACL. He needed TPLO surgery. Unfortunately this is a common lab issue.

Guinness & lab puppy Gracie

Guinness & lab puppy Gracie

Another convalescence. Guinness was an old pro at resting, but he was healthy except for his leg. He wanted to go for walks, but couldn’t. Godiva knew something was wrong the minute he returned home from the veterinary surgery clinic (of course, this is specialist surgery!). She sniffed his bandaged leg and knew better than trying to get him to play.

One of the funniest moments once Guinness finished resting his leg (again, months) was when I took him back to the clinic to have a meeting with the physiotherapist and learn the exercises that would bring his repaired but atrophied leg back to it’s appropriate strength. The physiotherapist was impressed with how Guinness was healing but thought that he might be a candidate for water therapy. She decided to demonstrate how it worked with another canine patient, a mastiff who had had the TPLO surgery and was having challenges with regaining full use.

The mastiff walked happily into the tank, basically a glass enclosed treadmill. As the physiotherapist shut the door and secured the mastiff’s lead to a hook, water began to fill in the tank. Guinness dove under the chair and tried to hide behind me. Yes, that’s right, our “water dog” HATES water. He will tolerate a bath in our walk-in shower, he will put his paws in a pool to drink, he will cope with a walk in the rain, but he’d rather not be wet. The shocked look on physiotherapist’s face said it all.

Once Guinness realized that he wasn’t getting wet, he came back out from under the chair. I thanked the physiotherapist and said that we’d do the exercises she prescribed and get Guinness back on his normal walking schedule as soon as he was able.