Honcho's Story, Part II

Below is the second part of NFC-AFC San Joaquin Honcho's story, as authored by Dr. Ed Aycock.

Click here to see Honcho - Part I


I walked into Judy Weikel's rented lakeside cottage in Shreveport, Louisiana in March 1977 and reclining on a mattress on the floor lay 1976 National Field Champion San Joaquin Honcho. I spoke to him and he raised his head, wagged his tail, and greeted me with his version of a canine smile. It seemed odd to see this powerhouse of a dog when he was in the field, reclining in the house, quiet and serene. It was immediately apparent to me that Honcho was a gentleman, which, throughout his life continued to be one of his most endearing qualities.

In 1977 and 1978 I trained with Judy quite a bit. She was helping me with my young bitch, I'd Rather Be Lucky, so I had the opportunity to throw birds for Honcho and to get to know him better. I made my first visit to Escalon California in July 1978. It was also my first exposure to Rex Carr and his wonderful training facility, CL-2 (Carr-Lab 2). The training water was remarkable and innovative, I had never seen anything like it.

NFC-AFC San Joaquin HonchoHoncho was an incredible athlete, and that summer, at age 5, he was in peak condition. Judy roaded him around the perimeter of CL-2 twice a day, driving slowly in her tiny blue Datsun pickup while Honcho loped effortlessly along side. He was a powerful swimmer and he was virtually unaffected by wind and rugged terrain. He ran and swam straighter than any dog I had ever seen. After a week in California I returned to Texas.

Later in the summer Judy went to Billings Montana to train with friends, Ron and Carol Reitz, and to run two field trials in Montana. I joined her in Billings for one week, then returned to Texas again. Judy, Honcho, and BJ would follow in the fall, and they would soon become a part of my day to day routine.

Honcho had a very successful 1978 campaign with 3 open wins, 2 amateur wins, 1 open 2nd, 3 amateur 2nds, 1 open 3rd, 2 amateur 3rds, 2 open 4ths, and 1 amateur 4th. He was also a finalist in the 1978 National Retriever Championship Stake at Busch Wildlife Area near St. Louis, and I was there beaming with pride, having served as his part-time birdboy. When the spring trials began in 1979 he appeared headed for another great year, having at his tender age, already been a national finalist 3 times.

In March, he developed a forelimb lameness, that at first was very subtle, almost imperceptible. An x-ray revealed a deposition of calcium near his shoulder joint, the result of a supraspinatus muscle injury. An injection of Depomedrol and a little rest rendered him sound again.

In mid April Honcho developed a dry, hacking cough. He was otherwise fit as ever, and Judy was planning a trip to the midwest to run trials. Her first stop was to be in Kansas at the Jayhawk Retriever Club trial. My partner Walter Legg was also going to the trial, so I felt comfortable releasing my patient for the trip. During the course of the weekend his coughing became worse and he was not feeling great, but still eating. He got to spend the weekend reclining in Barbara Stevens motor home. At the conclusion of the trial Judy sent Honcho back with Walter and continued her trip to the midwest.

Honcho's condition began to worsen, he consistently ran fever of 103.5 to 104.5. Walter and I mustered all of our diagnostic skills, and determined that he probably had a fungal pneumonia. That was confirmed by finding the causative organism for blastomycosis from a tracheal wash sample that we had submitted for pathology. At that time, the treatment for blastomycosis was a drug, amphotericin-B, which could be highly toxic to the kidneys. We learned of a new antifungal drug, ketoconazole, which had been used in people successfully and had been used in dogs for coccidioidomycosis, but not blastomycosis.

Judy, Walter, and I discussed treatment options, and we decided that ketoconazole was the treatment of choice. With the kind assistance of Dr. Dennis Macy, who was then at Colorado State University, I secured a supply of ketoconazole. While awaiting the arrival of the drug, Honcho's condition continued to deteriorate, and even after beginning therapy he did not immediately improve. He had quit eating and his athletic 75 pound body had shriveled to a mere 55 pounds. I feared that we were going to lose him, so I called Judy and told her if she wanted to see him alive again she should return to Texas.

I laid on the floor with him, my head resting on his massive chest, tears streaming down my cheeks, and I pleaded in is ear "Please don't die, Honcho, please don't die". Judy drove nonstop from Wisconsin, and her arrival was a godsend for my morale, and Honcho's too. We nourished him by force feeding him balls of raw hambuger meat wrapped around balls of butter. After a few days, his fever began to slowly disappear.

Over the period of several days I felt that we might have turned the corner with him, but he still would not eat voluntarily. His coughing had all but ceased and the weather was warm and sunny so we took him training and he laid in shade resting while the other dogs worked. While we were training, he got to his feet very casually, walked over to the bird pile, picked up a dead pigeon, and proceeded to eat it. To say that we were ecstatic would be a gross understatement and he was allowed to eat all the pigeons he wanted until he began to eat dog food again.

Through the generosity of Pitman Moore Inc. pharmaceuticals, we obtained a supply of ketoconazole to treat Honcho for a year. By fall he had regained his strength and his weight had returned to normal, but his lungs were badly damaged from the disease and his field trial career was over at age 6. He had accumulated 63 Open points and 62 amateur points, won a double header, was a National Champion, and a national finalist 2 other times ('77 National Amateur & '78 National Open). I do not know if his survival was luck, force of will (ours and his), divine intervention, or just the inner strength of the dog who accepted my plea of "please don't die". I have always felt that his marvelous physical condition helped him to look death in the eye and walk away.

Next time Honcho's Story III - the sire, the elder statesman, the hunting dog, and my constant companion.


Anonymous said...

Please, where is Part III of Honcho's story!!

Anonymous said...

Please, where is Honcho's Story Part III??? He was in my Jack's pedigree!!

Anonymous said...

Ed,great story and thanks for sharing. I've got a Honcho grandson, and he's an outstanding dog that was easy to train. Can wait to read part III!

mandigo said...

I think it will help me a lot in the related stuff and is very much useful for me.Very well written I appreciate & must say good blog

Colin Smith said...

When will we see Part III Ed? I've got one of Honcho's pups about 6 generations down the line so I'd love to see this story to the end :-)