Monday, April 29, 2013

Over the Hump?

Holly's past the 5 month post-Sx mark (21 weeks) and it seems like she's reached a new milestone. I've seen no general muscle stiffness or soreness at night in almost 2 weeks! I'm hoping it means that she's finally gotten over that hump of being sore while getting those muscles and her body back in shape.

Why are we standing still? More running, less talking...

The girls have been enjoying our spring weather, and with it a new 'game'. Sadly I have no video that goes with it (more on that later), but it's a hoot to watch. My neighbors field is about 40 acres big and it has nothing in it but my agility equipment, a few trees, grass, weeds...and ground squirrels.

For those of you not familiar with ground squirrels, they look a lot like prairie dogs...and also like them, they live in large underground colonies. They are only above ground for a few months out of the year, and they started coming out a few weeks ago. While the many holes they make provide the dogs with an exciting array of new smells, the really exciting thing is the single sentries that "Peep" their warnings to other squirrels in the colony that danger is about. Each new "Peep" sends the dogs flying off in a new direction in the useless hope of catching one above ground. They are doing A LOT of running.

And Holly has rediscovered digging. She's dug multiple trenches in the hopes of getting closer to just one of those squirrels. There is no real chance of that, but she's getting some great exercise in the process. I pretty much just sit in the middle of the field and watch em go. They want no part of me while they are 'hunting'...aside from the yummy hunks of cheese I reward them with for checking in with me every so often.

Aside from all of this being great fun and awesome exercise, it's something I have to allow because the squirrel colonies surround my unfenced agility/treibball field. And if I want either of them to actually learn to pay attention to something other than squirrels while we are out there, I have to teach them when they are allowed to hunt, and when they are not. So the process of turning on and then turning off this game begins.

It gives a whole new meaning to the quote "Squirrel!" from the movie Up, doesn't it ;)

Meanwhile, I continue to fight with my camera, the crappy editing software it came with, and YouTube. I adore my point and shoot Cannon takes lovely pictures and really nice video. However, the video it takes is in MOV. format...which is a Mac product. I have a PC and use Windows. The version of Windows does not have a program that can edit MOV files. And the movie editing software that came with the camera really, really sucks. Editing is extremely limited, and compressing or creating smaller video files totally ruins the quality of the video. But large files take FOREVER to load on to YouTube...we are talking hours here, and my internet connection is not slow.

What I would like is to purchase software that will convert Quicktime (MOV.) video files to Microsoft friendly files (WMV.) so that I can use my regular Windows video editing program to edit and upload. My problem is that while I've looked for something to purchase, I don't understand the software program languages and options they talk about enough to make an informed purchase. Can any of you offer some suggestions for me?

And because no post is complete without's some from the last 2 weeks of hiking and playing in the yard.

Badass Terrier pose

Die squeaky toy, die!

Totally Zen

Two bumps on a log

Friday, April 19, 2013

Yard Games

Holly's doing her part to get in shape after so many months of down time. The goof stole my sneaker while I was lying in the grass (decompressing), and soaking up the sun in the yard after work yesterday.

I'm sure the video is cute only to me, but I'm sharing it anyways :)

Please ignore my goofy 'dog' voice...I was trying to get her to take off running with the shoe like she had been doing minutes before I turned the camera on. What is it about animals and cameras? The second you turn one on they immediately stop whatever cute thing they were doing!

Anyway, she thought she was so funny sneaking up, grabbing my sneaker and making several laps around the yard before rolling around like a goof with it. It's a pretty regular game. If I'm forgetful and leave dirty shoes on the porch, I nearly always find one of them out in the yard later. Funny thing though, she never steals shoes inside the house.

Enjoy the sun if you've got it...we got one cold but sunny day yesterday, and now we're back to nearly frozen and wet for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dogs and Spring Blizzards

Two weekends ago I helped some agility club members work through a NADAC-style course during our regular weekly practices.

There is a trial coming up next month and they wanted to practice some of the different challenges that NADAC has compared to the AKC-style courses they've been running of late. There was just a few of us, but everyone did really well and had a great time. With all the tunnels and contact discrimination's, it was a fun, fast course and we ran it both directions. No one was ready to attempt layering the dog-walk (in either direction), but hopefully I'll be able try it with Holly one day.

Since I'm still not working Holly in agility (more on that below) I took Danee to club practice. I live very rural, have only 1 neighbor and we rarely see people/dogs while we're out walking or hiking, so I'm taking every opportunity I can for her to have positive social experiences. She's doing great, and I'm wishing now I had remembered to ask someone to film her playing at the arena. She went over the A-frame a few times with glee (it was her first time on one), RAN the dog-walk twice, ran through a few dark, curvy tunnels, and in general had a fun with it all. I have no criteria for any of the obstacles yet except for speed and fun. She hasn't shown even the slightest apprehension when it comes to the obstacles but I haven't shown her a teeter or chute yet...and probably won't til mid-summer.

Also new to Danee is toys. When she showed up, she thought it was cool that toys squeaked, but had no idea what to do with them. It's been super cute to watch Danee learn that squeaky toys are fun.

Last weekend I traveled to a friends house in Idaho to help her and another club member with some agility training. And true to "Spring in Montana" form, I drove through a mini blizzard on the way there. In just a few minutes the snow piled up on the road and you couldn't see the lines. But 15 miles later, the sun was out and the roads were dry. Funny weather we have here.

Fun with spring blizzards

At Mia's house we worked on how to teach obstacle discrimination (particularly when a tunnel is next to a contact), what you think your body language is saying and what it's really saying, on "go on", and teaching one of her dogs to DRIVE to the obstacles. Maryjo working on figuring out how to show her dog what she wants and how to effectively reward her. They did great and I even got Danee out to work in a completely new atmosphere. And of course, I ran into a new issue...which actually was a great one. Danee has been nervous about greeting new people, so I'm constantly handing out cookies and asking people to feed her a cookie without leaning over her, touching or petting her. Clearly it's working because she spent her first few minutes off leash going from Mia to Maryjo demanding a handout :) But I got her working for a few minutes after she realized that cookies were not going to be dispensed. Afterwards, we had a wonderful lunch together, went for a gorgeous walk (Mia has THE most beautiful mountain and creek views) and then I took Danee shopping at some farm stores (more socialization) before heading home...where I ran into more rain and mini blizzards.

Holly is fast approaching the 5 month mark post-surgery and today she had her monthly chiro and acu visit. Actually we were close to 6 weeks since her last acu appointment do to some scheduling problems, and it showed. But in all, our vet was really pleased with how her back felt and knee looked. We talked a lot about how I felt Holly's recovery progress was going, and I shared some of my concerns...her crappy sit, the uneven knees when she lies down, etc. But my vet was no where near as concerned as me about it all. After all, Holly is not lame, she walks, trots and runs very evenly, her stride looks perfect, her muscles feel mostly even. Not to mention she's still the stretchiest and most bendable dog she's seen that has 6 vertebrae trying to fuse together. She sees a lot of dogs post-knee surgery and nearly all of those that have had only one knee done are asymmetrical. She thinks Holly falls into this category. Her advice...keep her back as healthy as possible, and stop being such a ninny and let her be a dog again. She reminded me that I could do PT with Holly til I'm blue in the face, and she could STILL blow the other knee. In her opinion, if it's going to go, it's going to go. Yes, there is a lot I can do to strengthen the heck out of her...and I am doing it...but in the end it's her body that will decide if the other knee gives out, not me. So I guess at some point I'll have to let my anxiety go. Buuuut...I'm not ready to "let it go" just yet...maybe in May, after we hit the 6 month mark?

Even though I'm an anxiety drive mess over knee worries, she is still having plenty of fun. She loves to retrieve so we made up a new yard game to play...I toss out all the yard toys and she retrieves them one by one and puts them back in the toy bin. I have some video, but YouTube is taking FOREVER to upload videos tonight so I'll have load it later.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying spring...which means snow one minute and rain or sunshine the next.
Waiting for the sun to come out and melt the darned snow

Saturday, April 6, 2013

TTA Surgery Weeks 14-16

You might think that after 4 months of recovery from knee surgery, Holly would be totally healed. Well, sort of. Holly's knee looks great. Her range of motion feels the same as her non-surgical leg. Her stride is strong and even, and she's never lame. Her balance is wonderful and she has totally regained her rear foot awareness on that side. 

But I'm frustrated. Holly still relies too much on the non-surgical leg while sitting and lying down. She's crooked and still pokes her toe and hock outwards. And despite serious efforts on my part, I can't get her to stop doing it. Occasionally if I ask for a fast sit to stand, she'll sit evenly on both hocks. I can also get her to sit evenly when she's on a surface that requires her balance disk. I'd tried using a wall-sit to reteach her how to sit properly again...but she cheats. A wall-sit is where I make her sit with her surgical side against the wall to prevent her from sticking the surgical leg out sideways.She cheats by sticking the leg out in front of her instead. Arrgh.

At this point I can't tell if she's doing it out of habit, or because she's too uncomfortable to sit evenly. 

I was allowing her to jump in to the car...which is a short jump and the physical therapist okay'd it. But recently I caught her using just her non-surgical leg for the jump. So, that's out and I'm back to lifting her in and out again.

In addition, she's sore most nights in her back, gluteal and shoulder muscles...but not always in the same muscle groups from night to night. So, is it the discomfort in her back that's causing the crooked sits? I seriously don't know. 

Anyone have any suggestions?

Holly's funky sit

I'm hoping that as I continue her PT and exercise, her whole right side will get stronger and she’ll compensate with other parts of her body less and less. 

At this point, my primary concern with her recovery isn’t the surgical’s the other knee. I’m worried that with all the time she’s spent (and continues to spend) over-using her left leg, that it will increase the possibility that she will end up tearing the left ACL. I don't think either of us could go through ACL surgery again AND retain our sanity.

So what am I doing with her and what is she allowed to do? Even though she’s 4 months post surgery, I believe that it’s really important I continue to monitor her activity until she’s 100% fit ever long that takes. I want to prevent jumping, tight turns and spins and generally leaping around like an idiot (which she's really good at), but still increase her fitness level. It is not an easy balancing act.

Massage: I'm doing my best at massaging her sore muscles 3x per week, but she doesn't really care for having hands on her body like that.

Chiro and Acupuncture: we were going every 2-3 weeks, but we bumped it to every 4-6 weeks to see how she does.

Walking: we do lots of on-leash walking...2+ hours a day on all kinds of surfaces and on hills. Unfortunately after spending the better part of the last 9 months on a leash, her recall pretty much sucks. So letting her off leash without the worry of her going bonkers, taking off or overtaxing herself is a problem.

Running: she can run free in the yard and flat running zoomies are okay as long as she’s warmed up and it doesn’t last too long. I still will not allow her to wrestle with other dogs, that’ll have to wait at least another month. I want to increase her stamina and overall fitness, but prevent tight turns and twisting of the knee.

Physical Therapy: she still does therapy exercises nearly every night for about 15 min. I vary her exercises from day to day, and skip them on days that she’s had more than enough regular exercise.

Treibball: I'm finally allowing her to play Treibball again. Just 5-10 min at a time with mostly practicing her out runs, moving from place to place without pushing a ball, and driving the ball directly to me (she tends to push to her left).

Brain Games: we're still playing with tricks, but not the more physical ones we used to do, like teaching her a handstand. Although since Danee arrived I haven't attempted to teach Holly anything new...I'll have to work on that.

Agility: No agility, and I'm not sure I'll ever let her go back to it. And if I do, it won't be until she can show me she's no longer shifting her weight off the surgical leg.

Onto some good's SPRING! Now that the valley snow is finally gone, I'm loving all the new places I can take the dogs for walks again. And I'm loving all the signs of spring I'm seeing :)

Trumpeter Swans

Bighorn Sheep ewes and last years lambs

Beautiful spring buds