Luca is our special boy, who gives tons of love but needs extra care. He is a full member of our pack and fits in perfectly. Luca is affected with DEN and has been neutered at a young age. We hope he has a happy life as our family dog and Agility super fan!


Luca has an Italian name, this name was given to him by his initial forever family and means “Bringer of Light”, we decided to keep it!

Luca is from our Ocean Litter and the only puppy who had a rough time during birth. He was born with a very low breathing response and it took us and the vet quite some time before we managed to pull him through. Luca was always the smallest puppy but during his first 5 weeks he grew up just like the rest of the litter, just a little bit slower, a little bit smaller and a little bit later developped.

We started worrying when he was 5 weeks old and we noticed he had some coördination setbacks. As he grew older, it became more and more clear there was something wrong with him. At the beginning everybody was pointing at his difficulties during birth but later on we found out he is affected with DEN (Degenerative Encephalopathy), a brain disease where the dog shows progressive neurological signs.

With this unknown future ahead of him, we believed it would be better for him to stay, so we could provide him with all the extra care and follow-ups he might need. Luca is actually a very playfull boy and he has no idea he’s different. With some adjustments from our side he fits in perfectly and he fills in a very special place in our hearts.


Luca has an affected genetic result for DEN (Degenerative Encephalopathy) & is neutered in 2016

Luca will not be used in our breeding program.

° 25/11/2015 | 51 cm | 16 kg

PRA Clear By Parentage
CEA Clear By Parentage
DM Clear By Parentage
CLPS Clear By Parentage
DEN Affected

Luca receive a treatment that suits him best for his own special needs and a yearly health examination.

Life is short, time is fast
No replay, no rewind
So enjoy every moment as it comes …


Look for something positive in every day, even if some days you have to look a little harder!


We decided to write down Luca’s progress, this information might give other breeders/owners some more insight in the disease.

“The term encephalopathy comes from the Greek words encephalo-(the brain) and -pathy (disease) and simply refers to a disorder of the brain. In this encephalopathy there is degeneration of a region in the brain called the caudate nucleus. The caudate nucleus is a part of the brain that is important in controlling movement and some aspects of behavior. In DE, this portion of the brain undergoes necrosis or complete destruction of the area. One of the manifestations of caudate necrosis is a very unusual change where the dogs vigorously act out their dreams, and are difficult to awaken. Hence the name Degenerative Encephalopathy with Sleep Disorders and Caudate Necrosis.”
More info can be found @ University of Missouri-Columbia

You can always contact us if you want more info about Luca.

Luca is now 8 years old. The last couple of years Luca’s progress has stabilized, the problems that occurred before are now more explicit and harder to handle. Potty time is getting harder and harder, every little sign of stress is enough to potty inside. His mobility is deteriorating rapidly. With Christmas 2022 we decided to take Luca with us to the Physiotherapist. A really stressful trip in the car, a lot of planning, but we got there. Besides the fact his whole body was tensed up, he seemed pretty okay for his condition. Back home, the rollercoaster started, Luca could not walk anymore, his hind legs were insensitive and he was just dragging himself around. His little body that formed itself over the years, was loosened and now he had no strength to stand up on his own. A few days later we wanted to make the hard decision to let this little boy go, but with some help, Luca got on the better hand and started to ‘walk’ again. Ever since this is a new thing, his mobility, balance and coordination deteriorated and this was the sign. Now he has good and bad days, occasionally he does not get up, but with some help from his best friend ‘Metacam’, his day becomes a lot better. We know this is only a temporary solution, we support his and his body as long as his will is powerful enough to survive. When seeing his happy sparkle in his eyes when running after a toy, walking or just hopping across the garden. We decided, we have only one goal, give him the best time of his life and stay pain free, no matter the cost. His night terrors are starting to demand their toll on us. As Luca is actively in our lives, he joins us on vacations, Agility weekends and camping trips. A night with Luca by you side is known as very little sleep, so we try to switch him every other day from RV. Luca himself has no idea what is going on and just enjoys his vacation time. Since 2023, walking has become a lot harder for him. There are days he loves a longer walk, there are days he only gets to our neighbour and back. He is walked with our senior pack and likes the shorter walks, but we are struggling to keep his muscles.

In the past 3 years, we did some extra research to support his body and mind. All medication seems to have a reversed influence on him, except Metacam. We know it is not good for his kidneys, but for now that is irrelevant to his quality of life. We are counting the days, enjoying all the time together and seeing how the sparkle stays.

In Winter 2023, Luca gets to meet his newborn nephews and nieces, something remarkable he always seem to enjoy.

Luca has reached an age nobody would ever imagine, therefor all time now is additional and we are trying to see things objective when it comes to his quality of life. His body is slowly giving up, his muscles are deteriorating rapidly, keeping him on weight is a hard task. But we are determined to do all in our power to make his last months/year a fantastic one!

Luca is now 5 years old, we had ups and downs with this cute boy. The first half year Luca’s progress was stabilized, but in the last half year we noticed some new bumps in his journey. The last couple of months Luca seems to have difficulties drinking, finding it hard to find the middle of the bowl and licking the side without taking in any water. As it is hard to help him, we just let him drink a real long time and give him extra water with his food to make sure he stays hydrated. The last year Luca also developed some potty problems, whenever he is stressful, he will have the urge to potty inside. Luca can only potty outside when his bladder is totally full, only then he gets the stimulus to potty.  In the meanwhile we have a strict potty time table for Luca, 3 times a day to make sure he can come trough the night without peeing inside. His stability and mobility are declining slowly and eating time is hard for him. His eager takes over his brain and it is hard to keep him calm to make sure he does not suffocate in his food. Putting his food in a sniffing mat helps him, but he cannot keep his focus for a long time so we need to double check he gets his daily portion. Inside the house he is doing fine with the pack, as long as the energy level remains low.

However with all the deterioration, Luca also managed to make some new connections in his brain. The last year Luca found a way to express his behavior and knows how to ask for hugs and affection. It’s a very sweet and polite way he expresses himself, not knowing him, you would not understand his way of asking. But after 5 years, we slowly start to get each other better and better every day. New people in his life are still very hard for him, but after regular visits, he starts to know them and is much faster at ease. And something that made us smile, on our last trip to Germany we entered a tunnel and before freaking out, Luca came to us asking to help him out. A big hug and the feeling of arms around him, kept him calm. You can clearly see his trust in us is growing and some new connections are made, the only question is for how long?

Luca is now 3 years old and we cherish every moment with him. His mobility is getting worse, like for example when he gets out of the couch his hind feet are crossing over and slipping away.  It takes more time before he can stand, however he is not slowing down. We noticed he has developped some other fears like being afraid in the dark, so on evening walks Luca will never do his thing because he is just not feeling reassured enough, we take him out in our own garden a couple of times and with all the garden lights on, that helps.  When driving in the RV, we have to prepare him for a tunnel and cover his eyes, the change from daylight to tunnel makes him very stressful, we discovered this by accident, it took us some time before we realised what was causing the sudden change in his behaviour. He is still crazy about food and loves to tug. We had a litter this year of 7 pups and he is amazing with them.  When he is calm and relaxed, he spends sometime in the puppy pen and no doubt he is the favourite uncle, sweet and playful.  Luca goes alone in the garden now, it is safer for our other dogs, the running activates his chasing behaviour and that is resulting in aggression.  Miwa still has some control over him but it is diminishing.

Luca is coping and we can see him enjoy little things in life, like getting a hug in the morning when he is ready for it, he takes little steps towards you and finally ends in your lap but you can’t rush it. Whenever he is in stress, he starts blowing air in his cheeks, so for us that is a clear sign that this is too much for him.  Sometimes we talk about big things, like having friends in our house or taking him outside to new places. Over time we have learned what is the best way to calm him down and we do have the feeling it is working. Sometimes he seems to be in stress when he is just at home and everybody in the house is calm, for us this is the most worrying part.  It looks like him just being there is too difficult for him and this is something I cannot fix or take away, this breaks my heart and makes me wonder how much quality he still has in life. We have good days, we have bad days, for now the scale is still on the positive side, so we keep on supporting him as much as we can.  He loves to be close to us so travelling with the RV is his cup of tea.  His sleeping disorder is developping, we try to wake him up everytime.  I have a video of him, it is so hard to look at, life is so unfair for this sweet boy.

18-24 months: It feels like the progession took a break and Luca is enjoying life in his own unique way.  We also discovered that when he is doing search games and he uses his nose, his tail is also wagging.  The first time we saw this it brought tears in our eyes, Luca never wagged his tail so it was very special to see.  We decided to do some tests and indeed the moment he needs to start searching for a dummy or his ball and he needs to use his nose to find it, the tail is moving.  From time to time he even comes for a hug, it is wonderful to see him interact with us.  Contact with us is definitely improving and initiated by him, his behaviour towards our other dogs took a regrettable turn. His mother Miwa can still be with him in the garden, she knows how to calm him down.  Emi is no longer at ease with him and the other dogs fear him when he starts chasing, movement is the biggest trigger, so running with the pack is over.  Hopefully Miwa can handle him for a long time to come.

12-18 months: It is no longer an option to put Luca in a crate for a while, he starts panicking, barking, drooling and smashing his head against the walls and he is at that moment not responding to any kind of interaction. When he’s with us, he is feeling safe, so for him this is the only way to cope with the world. As Miwa and Emi were getting into heat and he was having extra problems with his hormons, we saw no other option than to neuter him. The university of Missouri advised us to stay with him, especially when he was waking up, so he was reassured by our presence. The seduction was difficult in the beginning, the surgery went well and the waking up part was steady and calm. Lots of gratitude to Animal Clinic “Orion” for their understanding and extra care for Luca!
We notice some small changes in his behaviour, from time to time he initiates contact with us and seems to respond and even enjoy the physical contact. His mobility remains the same, his height is in normal range but the filling or further development of his body stopped, which makes him look like a puppy. Exciting behaviour from our other dogs, such as barking, playing, running, swimming becomes more and more difficult for him to handle, only his mother Miwa and our German Shepherd Elmo seem to have a grip on him. We also see a deterioration in his approach towards strangers in our home. In the beginning Luca showed no sign of sleeping disorder, since he turned 1 year, he is having night terrors, it started with once a night, now we are down to max 4. We can calm him down by talking to him and touching him, however it needs a careful approach because it is so intense and he is making snapping movements. It is really difficult to see him struggle!
During the day he plays a lot with his sister Emi, it is so nice to see them running together! Emi is challenging him in many ways and treats him like he is just like her, a young dog, not a dog with a disease. We can learn a lot from her!

10-12 monts: So far Luca is doing fine. We notice that his anxiety level is rising, especially when we are not around. His separation anxiety is more and more developping, he wants to spend every minute of the day with one of us. Inviting people over has become quite a challenge, he has no trust in strange people and the sound of their voice is triggering him to show reactive behaviour. The other dogs in our pack play with him and ignore his compulsive behaviour. Really happy to see him burning off energy with the group.

8-10 months: We take Luca with us wherever we go, he has linked the tent at competitions with a safe place, so this makes it easier for us. When he hears our voice, he starts barking. At that moment he can’t see us, only hear us, that’s clearly a problem for him. His contact with other dogs and people is manageable, food is a good and strong motivator for him. He likes to train but we can see he has to put in strong efforts to control his drives. Luca is a very enthousiastic boy!

6-8 months: At the age of 7 weeks Luca was swimming fine. He recently fell into our swimming pond and was showing no swimming movement at all. We had to rescue him and he now has a special swimming suit for his safety. The sound of water makes him nervous and restless. The only place where he finds real inner peace is when he sits in our lap.

4-6 months: The symptoms seem to have reached a level where there is no extra progression. He is finally housebroken, knows about 4 commands and he loves to cuddle. We try to keep his environment calm and offer him lots of playtime to control his energy level. He sleeps with mommy Miwa, she has a calming effect on him.

2-4 months: In this period Luca is showing an incorrect tail carriage, where the tail is curved to the left side. He is also showing separation anxiety and has problems with every kind of excitement. He refuses to walk on the leash and has more problems with the paved surfaces, he prefers to walk on grass or sand.

1-2 months: At this age we noticed some small movement disorders, he was standing a bit wobbly on his feet and had some problems with his balance. He is extremily food orientated but is showing no agression to us or the other dogs. He is showing no recognition signs to the rest of the family.

0-1 month: Luca was the smallest of the litter, weight and growth increased steadily, eyes opened 2 days later compared to littermates. No other symptoms popped up at this early stage, in fact Luca was passing all puppy tests with flying colours.