Jane Austin, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower - What did they have in common with poodles? Addison's disease.
Last week, this rare autoimmune disorder took the life of a much loved and respected handler and friend - Sherri Vidrine. Sherri was only 49 years old. At the recent show in Kenner, we were fantasizing about how to celebrate her 50th birthday coming up in September. We made plans to go to the Biloxi dog show together and start the first of the celebrations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Little did I know that would be the last time I ever saw my kind and happy, dog-loving friend. Last Monday, I received the very unexpected news that Sherri had passed away in her home during the night. I was floored. Sherri's death shook me and most of my close-knit Texas and Louisiana poodle people.
Sherri suffered from Addison's, she laughingly told me in passing several years ago at a show. "I have a poodle disease!" She suffered as the poodles do, often in stoic silence. Her illness was seemingly under control, and she boasted of only two hospitalizations in 15 years - one being fairly recently. Otherwise, Sherri led a seemingly normal (for dog people) life. She raised a family, had a loving husband of over 20 years, and played with poodles in her free time. She was a superbly talented handler and groomer, and a staunch support person for newbies and junior handlers. Sherri was a friend to all, and we feel orphaned without her. Dog shows are not going to be the same.
If you are into standard poodles at all and have been doing any homework on the breed, you will have probably read that Addison's Disease (AD) is among the nastier silent killers of this wonderful breed. The disease actually affects several breeds and mixed breeds as well. No blood line is safe. I belong to a couple of support groups, as my very first show bitch Margot was diagnosed at 14 mos. old, followed by Giselle just after her 1st birthday. The two girls were unrelated, soon retired, and both have since passed away due to complications of AD. It was a crushing blow- expensive and depressing, but I moved on, participated in research, and vowed to learn more.
Almost 7 years later, not much new info has been discovered, though tens of thousands of dollars have been offered up on the quest to wrangle the beast. We now have the VHL test, which kinda sorta can help with breeding decisions in a very roundabout way. We know to avoid stressors like over vaccinating, extreme temperatures, and otherwise stressful situations. We know to monitor our dogs for lethargy, frequent GI upset, anorexia, malaise, and to follow up with blood work if things seem amiss. We often know more than our vets, and we know to advocate for testing that may seem foreign. We know to advocate for minimal vaccines. We know to space rabies, shots. We know the trigger is often environmental and the mode of inheritance probably polygenic. We know about the ACTH stimulation test to diagnose. We know it's complicated, as I learned when another of my girls, Cali, was diagnosed at over 5 years old! So much we know.. and so much we still crave answers about. You can do all of the tests known to dog and man and still get the wind knocked out of your sails. Such is the nature of breeder life.
If you are a poodle owner reading this, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the signs/symptoms. If you are considering a poodle, I urge you to do the same but to also not let the risk of AD steer you away, for truly no breed is safe. After all, humans aren't. If you were a friend of Sherri's or even met her in passing, I urge to you keep her light alive in your actions and thoughts. Help new people. Be kind. Offer constructive criticism in an un-offensive way. Laugh at the show. Cry at the show. Lose with grace. Win with even more grace. Be humble.
Love the dogs.
Love the dogs.
Love the dogs.
Never have I met a dog that was afraid of Sherri. RIP my beautiful friend. I will miss you, Red!