As it turns out, Kirby's not quite ready for immunotherapy. The bigger concern is just getting his ear inflammation down again, and the doctor's worried that—since it came back so fast and aggressively after the last time he was given the all-clear—he's probably got infection in his inner ear, behind the ear-drum. And possibly in the bone back there.
This would be bad. If the infection is in his bone, the next step would be surgery to remove the infected bone. But I'm getting ahead of myself: Kirby's next step is a month of Prednisone (antibiotic) and ear-washings and drops. Again. In February, he goes in for a CT scan to look at the structure of the inner ear, and they might make a small incision in his ear drum so they can take a culture from the inner ear.
Kind of a depressing visit for me. Kirby's not getting any better, and we're kind of spending the next month playing catch-up just to get him back to where he was in October, when the infection was mostly gone.
I did meet a very nice woman in lobby of the clinic who used to breed German Shepherds. She tells me that—wonder of wonders—Kirby is not a Collie-Shepherd mix, like we'd thought. He's a full-blown pure-bred German Shepherd! Just of the elusive (recessive-gene) long-coat variety. This fact, of course, makes me love him no more nor less, but it's certainly interesting to know.
I keep meaning to do more research on the Web about Shepherds (we spent hours learning about Cattledogs for Dozer and Terriers for Polly.) But with the baby coming, that keeps getting pushed back. It's all baby monitors and breast pumps these days...
The lady told me one other thing which was sobering but ultimately I'm glad she told me. I asked her to guess at Kirby's age and her guess was twelve, which is right around our veterinarian's estimate as well. I asked her how old her oldest shepherd ever lived to be... and the answer was thirteen-and-a-half.
I keep hoping that we have Kirby with us for a long, long time but I know that I need to enjoy every month we have with him while he's still healthy. Take every walk, wrestle every creaky old wrestle. Smell every stinky-breath kiss.