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Pets At the Vets – Torn ACL Recovery – Part Seven

23 Sep

Pets at the Vets – Torn ACL Recovery – Part Seven

Sutures Come Out & Cleaning Day

On Tuesday, Sept. 20th, Casey’s metal sutures came out. Apparently painless, Casey didn’t seem phased. It didn’t take more than three minutes to remove the thirty-some clips. Now she was okayed to “lick” her shorn leg. The outside layer of skin had closed over nicely. Now we had to focus on her bone healing. I channeled Lassie or tried to – she was the postcard standard for calm, obedient dogs.

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 – The Cleaning Team arrives this morning… and given how the dogs love to greet them, I have to be extra vigilant to prevent Casey from undoing her progress. I supposed it was like caring for an infant to whom you could not explain what was happening to her.  Casey likes to walk with the team through each room in the house, often stealing a sponge or dropped Kleenex. I had been cleaning the exercise pen myself since the surgery, but today I decided to let the pros take a swipe at it. There were remnants of knuckle bones and shredded fabric toys in nooks even I didn’t know about. They would find them.

I brought the three Golden girls into my office at the front of the house. It is to a comfortable and familiar place to ensconse them, albeit lured with treats. It was better than having them outside, as some pet owners must do given their space (fence) vs. work day constraints. It should come as no surprise, that pet surgery puts the onus on the pets human to pick up the slack — and stack the odds for a favorable surgical outcome.

Since I had been laid off, we knew when we entered upon Casey’s TPLO that I would be with her 24/7 until I found work. Also, we suspected I would need times outs from the stress of being ever vigilant. We factored in hiring one of our neighbor’s teenagers, Nikki, and working with our dog-sitter, Karen, to provide additional “in-out” access and companionship for the Goldens.

But back to the cleaning team, Maddie was still leery of vacuums, but her sisters were not. She tolerated the intrusive always growling machine. Sometimes she snuck outside until the team closed the door after them. However today, Casey was beginning to feel a “lot” better and it showed. Her pals knew she was rearing to play and were only too eager to accommodate.

As I write this, they have each staked out a square of carpet and are lying down. Since the minimum dose sedation meds still send Casey into la-la land relatively easily, though not keeping her snoozy for the full eight hours, we stick with the minimum dosage. Since we are both aware of the dangers of hyper sedation in people for long periods of time, we certainly don’t want that to happen to Casey. However we are cognizant of the dangers she could do to her bone without understanding what she’s doing.

We feel that Casey has figured out that she is on the mend. Of course what dog couldn’t figure this out after waking up in the foreign-smelling, scary Vet’s office groggy, shaved of fur in odd places, achy, and unaware of the circumstances which put them there.

From the way Casey’s paws “ran” in place while sleeping, I believe she dreamt of a romp with her pals across a beautiful field. All too soon, they will be up. Each  craftily contemplating how to get more treats out of me. Barking works. They will also give much thought as to how to fake me out as to when they have to go “outside,” what to whine at that will prompt a response from me (which might in turn generate another treat or at least kudos for their being such good dogs). This will be still a long haul. For Casey, me, and all of us.

Will Casey return to her Blue Ribbon Agility champtionship finishes? To the Rally-O she loves? Her evening walks? Will she run a sunny open field without limping? Will she be part of the seventy per cent of Retrievers who successfully make it through the post-operative process? Bone to bone healed to perfection? I will keep you informed.



Pets At the Vets – ACL Recovery – Part 6

22 Sep

On the morning of Sept 18th, Casey slipped a few paces ahead of me and leapt onto one of the elevated backyard planters. Damn. While only fifteen inches that was too high. Per medical notes, I lifted her down. She was not to jump down herself thereby putting additional stress on the bones we hoped were healing. We would have lots of “old” habits to break during her recover. All of us. That was one of my jobs. Not to let her risk the bone mending progress by preventing her from jumping up — or down. Retraining her to not jump gleefully onto one of the beds or the sofa, as she was used to doing. Hopefully I had not failed to watch my charge with her one quick leap. Casey had been such a compliant dog til now. Actually she still was. It was I who had let my guard down, if even for a moment.
Actually, Casey was a wonderfully good, well-mannered dog. To acknowledge why I must give kudo’s to Sue Myles ( of Orange County whose 36-years of cognitive “positive” reinforcement dog obedience experience certainly paid off for us with one of the best listening and communicative dogs we’d ever had the pleasure of sharing our lives with.  When we spoke to Casey, she would often cock her head one way as if trying to assimilate exactly what we were saying, weighing the pros and cons, and deciding to do it our way.
We had heard that Sue Myles was the go-to gal for all types of doggie obedience work. And everyone was right. Immediately upon finding ourselves in the middle of one of Sue’s beginning classes, Casey responded well. She was a fast learner. Under Sue’s watchful eye, all dogs were quick learners… as were their human parents. Sue was humorous and entertaining in her own right, but also very cognizant of the inherent dangers which could wait in bringing different breeds together, and made a point of letting us know that she grouped her classes accordingly. Immediately everyone felt secure being under Sue’s watchful eyes. And learn they did.

I see now that it is we, our pet friends, who must learn to read our four-legged pals so much better than we do. Sue made it seem eminently possible and not at all too formidable. And in short order she had all of our/her dogs doing things no one would have believed before class.

So now, after about four obedience semesters and having moved on to “Agility” with Sue’s friends Kevin and Erin, Casey was a model student. The timing was perfect. Casey was an “A++” student. So was Cindy. I mention this only in the context of Casey’s recovery. Since I’ve been with Casey 24/7, I’ve witnessed her inherent trust in both the commands she knows from us and her ability to appreciate “long down stays” and “go to your mat” have helped her greatly. She still gets to use her mind, even though her body is still enclosed in the exercise pen.
It’s hard to believe that she only had the TPLO surgery fifteen days ago. With her stitches out yesterday, Casey is now free to lick. And, we suspect, that’s just what’s she going to be up to as the new fur grows back.
Thank you, Sue Myles, for having created the opportunity for Casey and us to learn a “long down stay.” Already, this is holding her in good stead. While she probably does mind lying in the exercise pen for long periods of time, she knows that she is pleasing us. And, just to add a dollop of anthropomorphism in, I think she knows that we have given her the chance to walk, run, and do her beloved agility again.  It’s going to be up to us, the collective us, for the next few weeks. The two bones must grow together for her to heal properly. #

Pets At the Vets – Torn ACL – Part Four

18 Sep

Facts on a hand-out may state that it takes dogs approximately two months for their bone and surrounding soft tissue to heal. Highlighted is the case for “mandatory” confinement of our post-surgery friends.
Another of those inexplicable conditions of full recovery which we can not adequately share with our dogs is reduced playtime, movement, walking through the house, even on carpets, especially hard wood or tile floors. Even going to the bathroom must be controlled. With the cone on or off (your call), your best friend must be led outside at the appropriate times to relieve themselves. Care must be taken not to allow them to jump on a planter or change elevations suddenly. Keeping them on a “short leash” has new meaning to you and your best bud.
The bottom line is that while you may be a dog whisperer, your average “dog’s best friend” must put in a day full of “leavings” and “doings.” You have to get the kids off to school, shop at the grocery, stop at the dry cleaners, pop in to the bank, tire store, or pizzaria. So given the unique circumstances of your household, you will have to figure out the details surrounding your dog’s recovery. Time is critical. The healing process moves on without our explicit intervention.
Since the “plateau leveling” procedure causes any pain your dog experienced to go away, your best friend is again forced into a situation we have created.

Controlled activity is still a good two months away.