Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's Not Do This Again

Last Saturday was a good day. Sunday was quiet, which makes it good. Monday was a little disappointing because Kodiak's lesson was cancelled due to weather, but otherwise it was fine. I don't really remember anything about Tuesday, so it must not have been bad. The week went to hell starting Wednesday, though.

I woke up that morning to discover Belle dragging her right rear leg. She couldn't move it at all and her foot was knuckled under. I had an early meeting that morning but I managed to get in touch with the project manager and get my portion pushed back so that I could take her to the vet. Poor Belle was in significant pain from the middle of her back down and had no feeling in her right rear leg. Her pads were warm, though, which indicated that she still had circulation in the leg. The vet took a couple of x-rays and ruled out trauma (hard to get hit by a car when you don't leave the bedroom), a spinal tumor and a ruptured disc. The current thinking is that the problem could be a soft tissue tumor or a slightly damaged disc, neither of which would show up on an x-ray. The vet said that if its a damaged disc, it could take a month for her to get back to normal. And the longer she goes without the use of her leg, the less likely she is to regain full mobility. They gave Belle a shot of steroids to try and reduce any inflammation and sent her home with pain meds. She's been living in the spare room since Wednesday evening, which lets her stay quiet and allows me to monitor her eating, drinking and litter box use.

When we got home Wednesday evening, I discovered that Duncan had some trouble outside. Courtesy of the anti-seizure meds, he can't balance himself properly when he poops which means he occasionally ends up with it on his fur. And then he comes inside and sits down. Wednesday, he apparently sat in several places in the living room and kitchen. If Reyna's behavior was any indication, he also sat on her favorite bed. After cleaning up the mess and getting everyone fed, I decided to blow up my air mattress so I could sleep in the spare room with Belle. Turns out the air mattress had a not-so-slow leak. I ended up sleeping on a pallet of every spread and blanket I could find. Not much padding for a hard wood floor, but I managed to sleep well enough.

Belle wasn't too inclined to come out of her carrier, so she just pulled everything towards her.

Everyone was up early Thursday, as usual. No improvement with Belle's leg, unfortunately, but she was eating, drinking and peeing, which are all good signs. Shortly before I left for work, Reyna decided she wanted to let me scratch her belly. I thought I saw something that looked off, so I got her positioned for a good look at her belly. I couldn't believe it - she had two masses in the exact same spot as all the masses we dealt with last summer and fall. One had already ruptured and had the same type of drainage tract; the other hadn't yet ruptured. I took a couple of pictures and sent them to Dr. L. According to him, we have three options. 1 - Exploratory surgery to see if they can finally find the problem (nope). 2 - Expensive tests to see if they can finally find the problem (nope). 3 - Antibiotics to prevent infection from setting in while the open sores heal (only choice I can afford). Since the vets couldn't find the cause of the masses when they first appeared, I have serious doubts they'd find it this time. So, Reyna gets a month of antibiotics and we all cross our paws and hope these two masses are the only ones.

Thursday evening, I discovered that Duncan had a grand mal seizure shortly before I arrived home. Between the altered behavior and the very large puddle of saliva on the kitchen floor, there's no doubt about it. He made it 28 days this time.

Friday evening, as I was leaving work, I was rear-ended while sitting at a red light. The good part is that the woman who hit me wasn't going fast enough to do much damage to the truck. The bumper is a little scratched up, but not enough to worry about fixing. The way I was sitting when she hit me left me little sore, but again, nothing major. Just the icing on the cake for the week. I decided on the way home that I would go to Wal-Mart Saturday morning (I'd been putting it off all week) and then the house would go on lockdown. I'm more than a little afraid of what's going to happen next.

Rather than try to walk, Belle has been doing a very impressive beached whale impersonation. She'll lay down and then flop herself over or drag herself with her front paws to her food plate or water bowl. The only way I can get her up is by irritating her into trying to get away from me. In her defense, its hard for her to maneuver and if her foot snags on something she can't easily free it. I watched her try to turn around in her litter box a little while ago, and instead of turning she fell because her leg got twisted under her. Its pitiful to watch, but there's not much else I can do. Belle seems to have regained some feeling in the upper part of her leg and I occasionally see her trying to sling the leg around. There's still no feeling in her foot below the heel and the pads have been cool since Thursday night. Its hard to gauge just how uncomfortable she is, but she definitely does not like me checking either back leg. She's been worse about that today (Sunday) than the last couple of days. She's eating less each day and she hasn't pooped since Wednesday evening (an accident in her carrier), neither of which is good.

This shot doesn't show how far Belle's foot knuckles under when she moves, but it gives you an idea. If she can't get it under her, it just sticks out behind her when she stops moving.

I set the room up so that I can keep the door open (I don't like being unable to hear if one of the pups has trouble during the night) and the pups have been fascinated by being so close to one of the cats. Except Kodiak, of course - he's still nervous about being that far down the hall. When I go to sleep, Reyna is guarding the door. When I wake up, its to see Duncan keeping an eye on us.

I don't know what's going to happen with Belle. I do know that I am so very, very ready for this string of bad days to be completely over.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy 7th!

My sweet boy turned 7 last Thursday!

On Saturday, we celebrated with cake from Gourmutt's Bakery (they did a lovely job, as always).

Duncan also got some cookies from his Aunt Mary.

The birthday boy was very patient while we took photos.

Right up until he decided he was ready for the cake, that is.

This year, Duncan decided he was old enough to eat his cake in bed.

As part of his birthday celebration (although the timing could be a coincidence), I decided to start slowly reducing his phenobarb dose. Even with the small reduction, I'm already seeing signs of improvement. He's showing interest in his jolly ball again, and tonight he jumped two in a row four times! Another indication that lowering the dose is a good thing - Duncan put a beat down on Kodiak when the pup snarked at him a little while ago. Duncan had gotten to where he would try to hide from Kodiak rather than stand up for himself. Tonight, though, Duncan obviously remembered that he is the big dog!

Happy birthday to a wonderful boy! May you have many, many more!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Earlier this year, as I was scanning the list of classes offered by Teamworks Dog Training for what had to be the 8,000th time, I decided it was time to get more information about the Virtual Agility League. I was trying to find classes that Kodiak could take and, ideally, pass without having multiple meltdowns. Nothing looked particularly promising, but I knew I needed to keep him in training of some kind. I contacted Michele Godlevski (owner of Teamworks and founder of VALOR agility), told her about my dogs and asked if she thought VALOR might be something worth trying. Naturally, she said yes. I decided to start with Duncan since I didn't know anything about agility and I didn't want to risk screwing up Kodiak before he had a chance. As we all know, Duncan took to jumpers agility just fine, as long as I run the course in a way that compensates for his natural tendencies. For various reasons, Kodiak didn't actually have his first agility lesson until June 17.

Kodiak had a very hard time with his pre-agility class, he stresses over new people and places and things and sounds and textures and smells and everything else, and he often forgets that something he did yesterday didn't actually kill him, so I wasn't really expecting a lot for his first lesson. Not surprisingly, he was concerned about the gate to the agility field and all of the new equipment. Somewhat surprisingly, he was taking cookies from Michele (although not quite ready for petting) and not too worried about her being in his general area shortly after the lesson started. We worked him on jumps (which he loves) and tunnels (which he likes) and the table (which terrified him). It was really nice to watch his ears and tail perk up every time he sailed over a jump. He wasn't too interested in paying attention, so we kept him on leash for that session.

His second lesson was the following week. Jumps - yay! Tunnels - okay! Gate - scary! However, he was willing to get on the table that time. Big yay! He also took several obstacles off leash with only occasionally having to be directed away from the fence. The biggest thing, though, was the plank. Michele had a flat plank on the ground that we wanted Kodiak to walk along. The first time, I had to put him on the plank. The second time, he eeeeeeeeased himself on and managed to walk without looking too stressed. Off to the jumps for a break, and then an amazing thing occurred. We were going past the plank on our way to something else and Kodiak deliberately walked over to the plank, stepped on it, and walked its length. Twice. I say again, it was an amazing thing. I was so proud of my little boy! Michele and I were both very excited about his progress and she mentioned that for his next lesson, we should see if we could get him to touch the A-frame. Crazy idea, right?

Monday was Kodiak's third agility lesson. This is where I remind you that Kodiak has consistently demonstrated that he is afraid of the world. Keep that in mind. Third lesson, afraid of the world. He seemed a bit skittish, so we decided to keep him on leash so he would have the physical connection with me. We started with jumps and tunnels, then headed off to the table. "The table? Oh, yeah, I've been sitting on the table for years." Everything was going well, so we headed for the A-frame, hoping we could get him to touch it, figuring we'd be feeding him lots of treats the whole time. He walked towards the A-frame, stopped, looked at it, and then strolled right up the thing without a care in the world. He stopped at the top, looked around ("I'm king of the world!"), and strolled down the other side. You could have knocked me and Michele over with a feather. We turned him around and up he went, no resemblance at all to the pup who was completely freaked out by the little baby ramp in the pre-agility class a few short months ago. The plank thing? From the week before? That was nothing compared to this. And Kodiak wasn't done.

The A-frame went so well that we said what the heck, let's try the dog walk! Michele wanted to start him nice and slow (its much narrower than the A-frame) so she had him step on the lower portion from the side and walk down. Kodiak seemed a bit confused by that, but he was willing to humor the silly humans. After a couple of tries, Michele told me to pick him up and put him a little higher on the ramp facing the ground so that all he had to do was walk to safety. We did that once and then Kodiak decided to take matters into his own paws. I was getting ready to pick him up again when he strolled right up the ramp, along the full length of the dog walk and down the other side, no worries at all. He immediately turned around and did it again. Apparently, he didn't need to start nice and slow.

After such unprecedented success, we figured we'd break out the video camera and see if we could take him through an entire course off leash. I still think it was a good idea, even though it didn't work. It turned out that Michele is okay, but Michele with a video camera is worrying. Kodiak couldn't get his focus back on me and kept turning to see what Michele was doing. To distract him, I decided to take him over a couple of jumps. Well, I distracted him all right - I forgot he was on leash and didn't manage to get it over the jump support, which resulted in the leash pulling the jump over right after Kodiak's front paws hit the ground. That was it for him; he wouldn't go over any jump after that without me literally pulling (or pushing) him over it. I have to admit I'm actually surprised that was the first time I'd ever done that with him. Even though running the course was no longer an option, we had him go over the A-frame and dog walk a couple more times so that he would end the lesson on a good note. He wasn't as enthusiastic as earlier, but he was still willing to do the obstacles. The video is a little dark (it was nearly 9pm) but you can see him on the A-frame. On the dog walk, you can mostly see his brown legs.

He has a lesson next week and I'm hoping he'll be willing to go over the jumps by then. I've managed to get him to jump the one we have in the back yard, so maybe he'll be okay (enough) by Monday. Paws crossed... Regardless of how things ended, I'm so excited about how far he's come in only three lessons. I really do think VALOR agility is going to be a wonderful thing for him.