Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lessons in Patience

Whatever Holly did to herself last Thursday remains injured. I gave her 2 days rest, but continued her stretching exercises. She was definitely not putting her usual weight on the leg Friday, but Saturday she looked markedly improved and was more evenly balanced when standing still. 

On Sunday she went back to 1/2 the amount of exercise she was doing before she came up lame. Nope, that didn't work at all...on Sunday evening she was dead lame again. So, back to 100% lock down mode and is now on a full course of anti-inflammatories. Monday she still looked pretty sore and has not improved one bit since.

For the last 8 weeks her activity has slowly increased from complete lock down to 30 min walks 3-4x per day, plus strengthening exercises 2x per day. It doesn't seem like much (and it isn't), but now that we are right back to square one after 8 weeks of REALLY hard work and patience, seeing her lame again is incredibly heartbreaking and severely disappointing. 

And since we don't go for x-rays and visit with her vet and PT until Friday, I've been fretting my ass off. I've talked to both her vets and they have tried to assure me to NOT fret since there is no heat, no swelling, no 'sore-to-the-touch' pain in the knee itself.

NOT fret...yeah right. 

Why so sad Kim?

Let's go back a few years. 

In May 2011, at a agility trial, she fell off the dog-walk. It was a heart-stopping "holy shit!" kind of fall. Her mind just wasn't on the task she was doing, and she came right off it. Shocked her as much as it did me. We oggled and poked at her the rest of the day, and while I pulled her from the rest of her classes, she seemed fine. She also seemed fine the next 2 days where she took time off from anything but loafing in the yard. And then she was lame. She'd rest, and then be lame again. Rinse and repeat several times over. My vet at the time couldn't find anything wrong and labeled it a soft tissue injury, which is a crap diagnosis. I talked to many friends and found out about a canine PT in a different part of the state. Long story short, Holly was diagnosed with a torn shoulder that was the equivalent to a rotator cuff injury in a human. 4 months later, with 2 of those being in canine hobbles, she slowly went back to hiking, playing and agility with me.

We did some winter agility trials starting in October 2011, but by Feb 2012 she was having weave pole problems. I wanted to rule out something physical before labeling it a training problem, so we visited a vet that does chiro and acu.

The vet found she was having back spasms and muscle tightness, but didn't know if her back was the source of the problem, or a symptom of another problem. So we did chiro, added some stretching and massage and did a followup. The back pain was still there and had muscle knots in the exact same places they were before. Huh. I started doing some online research and found that dogs with a iliospoas (groin) injury can present with back pain. The iliospoas is a tough muscle to palpate and my vet didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I disagreed. So back to the PT we went and she confirmed my suspicions that she had a iliospoas strain/pull/tear. She also warned me that if this presents as a chronic issue (which is ended up being) that it can indicate knee instability. So we did rehab for 4 months. Everything looked great. Back to work and play. We only got 6 weeks of soundness, that's it. Somewhere around Halloween 2012 she tore her ACL.

This means that since June of last year, Holly's been allowed to be a regular dog for just 6 weeks. Sigh. And since June of last year I went through several months of losing my girl Casey at the same time. Double Sigh.

If you add up the months she's been sound, versus the months she's been injured...the injured months win. It seems like we've been in either recovery mode or injury mode for the better part of the last 2.5 years...and we have. I just can't take any more of this. I look at EVERY STEP she takes. I know EVERY INCH of her body. I can tell the second something isn't quite right.'s driving me INSANE! It's her body, her injuries and her lack of being able to do anything, but mentally I'm handling this worse than she is. I just want my healthy, happy dog back and we can't seem to get there.

Seeing her limp last week after making a very difficult choice to do surgery, and seeing that rest isn't healing whatever it is like we thought it should, is just breaking my heart.

Please keep your fingers crossed for some good news on Friday. We need it.

In the meantime, this is one of the ways Holly has been retaining her sanity. She no longer eats dinner from a bowl. Instead she gets frozen Kongs, bully sticks, and/or kibble from one of her many interactive dog toys. But, the Amazing Treat Machine is her favorite. Please forgive the darkness of the of these days I'm going to actually remember to turn on more than one lamp in the living room when I use the camera.

Friday, January 25, 2013


It's been a busy week for Holly. She did really well this week with her knee surgery recovery...remaining sound and balancing very evenly on all 4 legs while standing at rest, even after I upped her exercise routine. That was, until yesterday.

For those of you who don't know, Holly had TTA knee surgery on her right knee on December 4, 2012 after a partial tear of her ACL and meniscus damage in early November. So, she's just past the 7.5 week post-surgery mark...and still has a long way to go.

I was gone for a good 8 hrs yesterday so she spent most of the day in her crate/x-pen bedroom.

Holly's Bedroom

I did her PT exercises and her walk before I left for the day, then again when I got home last night. But, she was nuts. And because she was feeling really crazy, she ended up doing something to her leg...or maybe she just had too much exercise combined with too much rest...or maybe it was because she LAUNCHED herself at the neighbor to say hi while we were out walking. Have I mentioned how much I love the handle on her harness? Her greeting skills have deteriorated into an abysmal she launched herself at the poor man, while on an icy, snowy road. Thank goodness I had my hand on that about catching her in mid-spring!

Well, whatever it was, it made her lame last night. Fortunately, she rested and stretched out of it which is very good means it's soft tissue related and not the bone. Phew!

She seems to do better when she can get a little exercise every few hours, instead of have 8 hours of rest while I'm at work. So today I brought her to work. And lucky her, she'll go in to work with me all next week too.

I work at the best office ever, with the best people ever. I put up a baby gate in the doorway of my really small office (it's more like a closet with a window), and every time someone would walk by they'd stop to peek in on Holly. We got a lot of traffic today.

She's a super easy dog...sleeps on her bed quietly, or chews on a bully stick, but never makes a peep. She adores people...seriously, she has no idea what a "stranger" I don't have to worry about people stopping to pet her. It's also a small office...there are maybe 15 of us spread out over 3 buildings with only 6 of us in my building. The offices are old houses, so the design is a relaxed comfortable atmosphere. And also fortunately, Holly loves coming to work with me...despite not getting to run around the place and bark at the fish and ducks whenever she wants. Yes, that's right, my dogs barks at fish. I'll save that explanation for another post.

So, this week I documented more of her recovery from surgery by taking lots of pictures of her hanging out with me in my small office.

3/52: Office Life Is Boring

If I can ever figure out how to post video, I'll post some of her PT exercises and the fun tricks she's learning during her recovery.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

3/52 Winter Sun

It's hard to take even remotely decent pictures of a dog that can't go anywhere (fun), can't do anything (fun), and can't be off a 6-ft leash (no fun). Not to mention everytime you point the camera at said dog, she looks away, leaves the room or paces in agitation because you won't let her walk away. Sigh. I'm working on it. However, even juicy steak hasn't yet convinced her that the little black, blinky box isn't going to steal her soul.

As for the header photo...her smile was captured between barks...many, many, many barks. It's about the only way I can get her to smile for a photo.

That said, she didn't give me the "I hate you" look when I took her outside today to soak up some sun. That's right...SUN. We had some. It's rare. We loved it.

So, not exactly the "I hate you" look for our 3/52 photo...but certainly no smile either.

3/52 Winter Sun

Pure Genius

THE one most useful thing, ever, for a dog recovering from knee surgery...a dog harness with a handle!
A dog with a handle...well, that's handy.

 Holly's at 6.5 weeks post surgery and so I'm careful to not pull on her body while we are walking, especially with all the snow and ice we have, lest she slip and fall. And, Holly cannot pull on her leash for the same reason (not to mention it's also bad manners). So, what do I do when we are out walking and she gets all goofy? 

Oh and trust me...with 2 months of NO real exercise, there is plenty of goofy to go around.

I simply grab her handle and lift her off her feet. Sucks for her, but goofiness over. And if it's not, I just lift her a little higher and tuck her under my arm, and then walk away from what ever is making her goofy.

While she may be nearly 24" tall at the shoulder, she's a freak of nature and only weighs 40lbs. So, it helps that she's super light for lifting, and just tall enough that you don't have to bend over to grab the handle. Honestly, this harness was just meant for a dog like her. I lift her straight into the ramp her up the stairs, and stop her from being all goofy and has so many uses!

A dog with a handle...pure genius.

Let go of my handle bitch

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Photo 2/52

As photography goes, this picture is horrible. But I'm choosing it for my 52 weeks photo project since it shows a HUGE breakthrough in Holly's ability to travel on long trips in the car anxiety-free. 

The Traveler, Holly 2/52 weeks in Photos

Well okay, she’s not exactly ‘anxiety-free’ since she can’t relax enough to sleep (and probably never will) but she will lie down, and stay lying down, for much of the ride. And this is important right now while she’s healing from her knee surgery. I am so happy that I was able to buy a car that has enough room for her crate…I’m a firm believer in securing my dog while driving, both for her safety and for mine.

TTA Surgery, Weeks 4-5

Last week, I took a 5.5 hr trip to visit with Holly's canine physical therapist for her 4-week checkup.

More driving...hooray.

She passed with flying colors and the PT felt that Holly was ahead of the game in recovery. She has nearly 100% range of motion back and we'll continue to work on those exercises once per day. I also have new exercises that will help increase her balance and strength...walking over an inflatable mattress, 3-legged stands, sit-to-stands on flat ground, and walking over a make-shift ladder laid on the ground. Once we hit week 6 I can increase all these things from once to 2x per day. She can also now do stairs...just a few, very slowly and controlled. I can increase her walks 5 minutes per week, so by the time we go back for her 8-week x-rays we should be up to 40 minute walks 3x per day. Of course, that’s IF the weather cooperates...the other day it rained on top of 2+ feet of snow. Fun. And now it’s snowing and 16 degrees. More fun.

And since a blog post just isn’t complete without a picture, and since Holly WILL NOT let me take a picture of her doing the rehab exercises yet, here’s one of me snowshoeing...without Holly.

I hit the creek trail by my house, and it was quiet and beautiful. Playing in the snow just doesn’t seem right without a dog by your side, but I tried to enjoy the hike anyways. I can’t wait til the girl can join me on the trail again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Camera Shy and 1/52

My dog hates cameras. They are little black boxes of beeping, light flashing, pointed-in-her face rudeness. But now that I actually own my own digital camera again, she'll just have to get over that. The second she hears the camera come out and turn on, she leaves the room.
I'm outta here

Only with much coaxing and promises of food, will she return. But she's skeptical.

Therefore, attempting to do a 52 weeks in pictures project with her as my subject may be my greatest training challenge yet. Outside shots are easier right now and she looks a little less here's my 1/52 weeks. I wanted to document the actual sun I saw New Years Day. See the shadow? Despite all the clouds, sun peeked out from behind them several times yesterday...sun is a rarity in winter around here. I also wanted to document her knee surgery before all her hair grows back.
1/52 Weeks 2013. Holly says goodbye to 2012.

On the Road Again...

When you live in a small, rural town in a very large state, it means that you do a lot of driving. A lot. In 6 months, I've put over 10,000 miles on my new-to-me car. And I don't even drive my car to work. My primary vet is a 1.5 hr way. The vet who did Holly's knee surgery is 5.5 hrs is her canine physical therapist. My sister lives 3.5 hrs away. My agility club practices in an arena 1.5 hrs away and my addiction to agility takes me to competitions anywhere from 2 hrs to 8 hrs away...usually in winter. My job requires me to drive up to 3 hrs, one way, to visit people...daily, or more.

Driving, it's my other job.

Today was no exception. Yesterday marked 4 weeks since Holly had TTA surgery on her right knee. Since she doesn't need to visit the surgeon for x-rays until week 8, I took Holly for a follow up visit with our regular vet. And she had a chiro adjustment at the same time. It was no suprise that she's sore in her back, left hip and the base of her tail. She's doing great with her recovery...walks without a limp and is feeling really good...but she will continue to off-load most of her weight onto her left leg while she's standing still for at least another 2-3 weeks, which makes other parts of her body hurt.

The other thing I wanted to have looked at was her tail. She's never liked her tail touched, and even though I've worked hard at her accepting having her tail handled, I only really mess with it for grooming. But, last weekend I started full doing body massages on her, and one part is for her tail. But this time her tail seemed actually painful to be handled. She reacted as if her tail was broken...and yes, it appears it may very well be. Unless we do an x-ray, it's hard to say if it's an old break that's now sore because of stress in new areas (she's really using her tail for balance and compensation in a way that she normally doesn't), or if it's a recent break. Since it isn't serious and it only bothers her when you touch it, the prescription is to leave it alone and see how she feels on our next visit.

Poor girl...a broken leg AND a broken tail.

"Meh, I'm fine. Bone?"

Next up for the day, was a visit to the car dealership for an oil change, tire rotation and car wash. For free, Yay! Unfortunately, it also meant that Holly had to sit with me in the waiting area for over an hour. I was worried that it would be over stimulating for her...she hasn't had ANY physical activity in 4 weeks...and I thought she might go bonkers with trying to greet everyone excitedly. But no, she rocked it. She laid at my feet quietly the whole time, and while she wagged hard at everyone who even glanced her direction, she never broke her stay. Good girlie :)

I really wanted to get a photo of her being so good at the dealership, but I felt like I'd come off as 'that crazy dog-lady' taking a picture of my dog like that. I mean, I AM 'that crazy dog-lady', but I don't always need to announce it so obviously.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome 2013!

Bring it 2013! A whole year of  new things awaits us, and we're excited...
Okay, *I'm* excited...Holly, not so much.

She's waiting for the day she can finally be rid of her leash, play in the snow and stop all this 'resting'.

Today we start week 4 of her recovery from knee surgery...just 4 more weeks of boring nothingness, kongs and bully sticks to go.