Losing a Best Friend

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Oct. 20, 2020
Luna (Rainier/Nadine)

If I die, I will wait for you, do you understand? No matter how long. I will watch from beyond to make sure you live every year you have to its fullest, and then we’ll have so much to talk about when I see you again…
Jeaniene Frost

In late August of this year, one of our own quietly passed away without fanfare or publicity. She was two months shy of 8 years old and had lived a good, full life with her family. Her name was Luna (Rainier/Nadine) and she came from the second litter I ever birthed as a young apprentice breeder in 2012. Her birth name was Vallecito's Rainy Nights and she was a first generation outcross out of Mount Rainier, a full bred M'loot type Alaskan Malamute. Luna was sweet and devoted to her family and they will miss her very much.

Luna developed hypothyroidism and was on medication throughout much of her life, but earlier this year, in May, she contracted heartworm disease. It was caught early and she began doxycycline right away. Luna had been on heartworm medication throughout her life, but there is some speculation that her weight gain from hypothyroidism had not been accounted for, which may have resulted in the heartworm infestation. Luckily, no larva were ever found, only adults, and it appears that the heartworm was eradicated without delay. She never showed any signs or symptoms of heartworm disease.

Unfortunately, one day in August, Luna refused to eat. Over the weekend, she became increasingly lethargic and by Monday of the next week, she couldn't move other than to lift her head. Her owners took her to the vet and found that she had a temperature of 103.5 and her resting heart rate was 150. They also ran bloodwork and did x-rays. While the vets found no signs of heartworm, they learned that Luna's body had developed autoimmune hemolytic anemia where the body attacks and destroys red blood cells. The doctors could not rule out a genetic component nor could they rule out something that may have triggered the onset of the autoimmune disease, such as the heartworm diagnosis earlier in the year. With heavy hearts, the family made the decision to put Luna to rest so that she could be at peace.

We mourn deeply for Luna's loss and are sad that one of our own died so young. Although we do not know with certainty if Luna's condition was genetic in nature, her hypothyroidism certainly runs in the breed. As usual, we take full responsibility for her passing. Dire Wolf Project breeders are different. We have lifetime genetic health guarantees for this very reason. Doing so keeps us honest, we hope to receive reports and updates from our owners to help pinpoint onset and cause, and we strive to be extremely open with our extended family of American Alsatian owners and enthusiasts in case someone's difficult experience can help diagnose and/or comfort another in need.

All of our love to the family as they grieve her loss. It is never easy to lose a great dog much too soon.

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Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.