- Associated Press - Friday, August 1, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Alan and Venice Beske took their English setter puppy to the veterinarian after he quit eating and began vomiting.

The Hawk Springs residents had their puppy, Sage, for about 10 months. They figured the sickness was one of many minor ailments puppies tend to pick up, and didn’t think much of it at first.

Upon examining Sage, however, Stephen Kerr, their vet in Torrington, suspected something worse. Kerr likely saw that Sage had dilated pupils, a crusty nose, squinty eyes and intractable vomiting.

During that first visit, Kerr didn’t tell the Beskes he thought Sage could have contracted canine dysautonomia - a new, mostly fatal and sporadic disease that destroys dogs’ autonomic nervous system - because, as Alan Beske put it, “the diagnosis is pretty much a death sentence.”

Kerr treated Sage and sent him back home with the Beskes, but the puppy’s condition continued to deteriorate. Five days later, the Beskes had Sage euthanized.

Three days after that, on March 11, 2004, Bailey, another one of their English setters, came down with the same symptoms. Bailey’s health went downhill just as rapidly. The dog was vomiting and having trouble eating and controlling his bowels.

“He might have lasted a little longer,” said Venice Beske. “But since Sage had gone through a fair amount of suffering without improving, we had Bailey euthanized a little sooner, so he wouldn’t go through that.”

The Beskes put Bailey down March 17, about a week after he showed symptoms.

A decade later, Venice Beske said it’s still painful to think about that spring - putting one puppy down, turning around and putting another down not 10 days later.

“It was devastating,” she said. “You feel so totally helpless about it.”

But the Beskes’ travails didn’t stop with Bailey.

In December 2005, another one of their English setters, Grace, contracted canine dysautonomia. Grace died of complications from the disease in the first week of January 2006, roughly 10 days after showing symptoms.

Remembering the events, the Beskes said it was terrible to see their pets in pain.

“Any animal that you love - if you have a dog, you know how it is - it’s just hard to watch them suffer,” Venice Beske said.

In May 2012, two researchers from the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory at the University of Wyoming traveled to Hawk Springs to speak with the Beskes and collect soil samples of their land.

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