Sunday, July 25, 2010

Surgery

Jazz had knee surgery (TPLO) on Wednesday the 14th or July. The decision seemed inevitable by the time I talked with my vet and the surgeon. The cost is very high and I am grateful that I can come up with it. I am certain this decision will be much more difficult if he needs the other knee done in the next year. (They tell me his chances are 50/50 that he will need the other knee done.)

I have such good friends and everyone has offered advice, sympathy and help. Thanks to all of you. Michele forwarded a copy of a pamphlet with very detailed post surgery therapy instructions. This pamphlet can be ordered through www.topdoghealth.com. I am very grateful for this information and recommend this website to anyone whose dog is going through any kind of joint surgery or injury. I showed the pamphlet to my surgeon and he was very impressed. I am doing my best to follow these instructions.

The first stupid human trick I want to describe is that I wasn't watching him closely enough while he was not in his "cone" and he pulled the two bottom stitches loose a week after surgery. It is very embarrassing to have to admit this to the surgeon. They put the two stitches back and now I have to give him antibiotics. Bad mom.

I think that Jazz is on the slow end of the recovery curve so maybe this blog will offer encouragement to others whose dogs take their time recovering. I know some dogs walk out of the hospital. Jazz is very comfortable on three legs and did not use his leg until two days ago. I massaged, gently flexed, heated,iced and walked to no avail. Jazz was eating very little and had lost quite a bit of weight. I finally took him to Dr Mary Anson who is wonderful with him. She did acupuncture and showed me some pressure points to do acupressure with. I swear this is true - he started using his leg to balance while we were in the office waiting to pay the bill.

That night (the second Friday after surgery,) he took two or three steps in a row as we walked. I did learn that slow walking in this case has to be really slow so he is forced to use the leg. I actually ended up praising and treating each time he put his foot on the ground. Saturday morning he walked about half the time and by Sunday afternoon he was almost never hopping on three legs. He still curls his foot and puts weight on the top of it to pee and poop. I will give that a day or two and then try gently putting the foot down properly. I am also massaging that foot to help his circulation. His walk this evening was shorter because he started hopping and I figured that means the leg is tired. I made sure to ice him down well.

Another thing the Dr Mary told us was that I could put some zinc oxide on the clipper burns on his legs and on the incision to help them heal more quickly and feel better. I'm not sure how much it helps him, but I feel a lot better being able to do something for him.

He has only eaten canned food so far. I cannot convince him to eat his regular dry food. I usually have to hand feed him the food. I talked to a friend who said the same was true of her dog. I have no idea what that is about, but I am willing to do anything to get food in him so he stops losing weight. I think some of his lack of appetite is due to the Tramadol he is getting for pain. He had the last dose this afternoon. I hope he will eat better in the next few days.

I worry about him all the time, but I have faith that he will eventually be as good as new. I am grateful that he is a good dog and settles in to his crate or his exercise pen in the dining room. He has not been difficult so far. The hardest part is that he wants to walk farther than he is able to. He sure does love a walk and is able to drag me around even with his bad knee. I have to be very careful not to let him put pressure on that leg, so it is a very short leash for us.

Here are a few surgery photos. If you have to go through this, you have my sympathy. I will try to describe the recovery process as we go in hopes that other people will know a little bit about what to expect. Thanks to Becky for her journal also.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Last Run?

We all know that life is short and bad things often happen without warning. In my case, I have had some warning over the last year or two. Jazz had been limping every once in a while for almost two years. We switched him to prescription joint diet food and I have been very careful to warm him up and cool him down when we do agility or other activities. He has always kept his weight down - he eats when he burns calories and doesn't eat when he isn't exercising. (That's a nice trick I wish I had!)

Tuesday evening Jazz was standing in the yard and suddenly started crying. He is not really a crier so I was terrified. He was unable to put any weight on his left rear leg. This is the leg that has been causing him trouble, so I was really worried. I iced it a little and felt it all over. I didn't feel any breaks and it didn't seem to swell up that much. The best we can determine, he just stepped off the sidewalk and twisted his leg. I waited until morning and took him to the vet. He has torn his ACL and probably has cartilage damage in that knee also.

All I could think was - let's fix this! I am very sad to discover that fixing it will probably not be very easy. I am writing this before we have xrays or see the surgeon. I have read some of the material on knee surgeries and talked to lots of people who have been through this. I think I have talked with someone whose dog had each of the surgeries and someone who did not do surgery. I have talked to people whose dogs sailed through and are doing beautifully years later and people who had terrible experiences and limited success. I am so frightened for Jazz.

He has been hopping around on three legs since Tuesday night as we wait to see the surgeon this coming Tuesday. My heart literally feels like it is breaking, but he seems fine. He is taking pain meds and seems pretty comfortable. He is not panting or drooling and he is sleeping fine. He bounces up with his tail doing it's little pom pom shake and even stole a toy from Coach. (I am not dumb enough to let them interact, but Coach laid the toy down and turned his back. Jazz snagged it and is currently sleeping with the toy under his chin.) He cannot put any weight on the injured leg.

I am so grateful for the image of what is likely to be our last agility run. We ran the Open Jumpers course in the sweltering heat. We dropped a bar, but ended with a dash to the finish over the last three jumps. Our friends cheered, I laughed and Jazz wagged his tail and felt pretty good about himself. I am so very glad that we ended that way instead of last fall when I was letting myself get disappointed. I cannot imagine this being harder than it is, but I think I would have been even more miserable if I had ended on that note with him.

I found myself angry with Coach this morning, because he was romping around and I could only see him as a threat to Jazz. Poor little guy is just being a puppy. I will have to watch that and be careful not to neglect him. He is a great dog, but he is bigger than Jazz now and outweighs Jazz by five pounds. We will have to be careful and I will have to make very sure that Coach gets opportunities to play with my daughter's dog and burn off all that energy any way we can.

I hate leaving Jazz at home and taking Coach to training. Jazz is so shocked that he could be left behind and so unhappy about it. I have to learn to deal with all that guilt or I will make a mess out of both dogs! Coach is being surprisingly gentle around Jazz and is even more glued to my side than usual. Either he's afraid I'll start leaving him too, or he knows something's up and needs a little reassurance. Either way - he's a good little brother and is getting lots of practice on "leave it" as it applies to Jazz.

This is a fairly disorganized post. It accurately reflects my state of mind. I think I am usually a pretty optimistic person, but there is a lot of sadness in my life right now. I am determined to be positive and stop feeling sorry for myself. I really admire people that can be supportive, caring and cheerful in the face of adversity. I want to be one of those people. I hope this is the very hardest lesson Jazz still has to teach me. I may not be up to any harder ones.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Handler Training

Jazz and I finished our novice preferred standard AKC title this weekend. It was great and I am very happy to be out of novice. I am happiest to report that I have accomplished a few handler goals.

My biggest goal was to stop worrying about titles and find something to be happy with in every run. I don't think you can fool a dog into believing you're happy if you're not. They hear what you think instead of what you say. I never chastised Jazz or punished him in any way for bad runs. They were usually my fault at the time and certainly my fault in the long run since I am the one that trained him! The problem was my disappointment when we ran poorly. He could tell it was a problem and he lost confidence. I have worked very hard to get my "mind right!"

Saturday we ran a nice standard run in novice and then proceeded to Open jumpers. I was not convinced that I had the right approach to the course and I was a little flustered thinking I would forget where we were going. This is certainly the best way to mess up your dog's run! Jazz started cheerfully and immediately realized I was confused. He ran a few feet away from me and started barking at me. I have been embarrassed by this, frustrated by it, and confused. Saturday, I realized how funny it is. Poor dog - goofy handler! I patted my legs and asked him nicely if he would please come back and play with me. I know I was using a very cheerful voice because I was trying not to giggle. He came bouncing over with a happy look on his face and was all set to play again!

Unfortunately - the very next thing I did was to jam him into a jump and front cross too close to him. Bless his forgiving heart, he let me get away with it and we finished cheerfully. This is the second thing I am trying to learn. I memorize a course in order and with all the crosses and handling sequences I hope to use. This is fine if things go well, but if they go wrong, I am clueless! I often get lost if Jazz goes off course at all. Saturday was a case in point. Why in the world would I put him on the wrong side, too close to the jump, tell him to take the jump and immediately cross to the other side? That's just dumb. I think the ability to improvise, think on my feet and make changes depending on circumstances is mostly a matter of experience. I just need to keep working at handling and keep this in mind.

So we finished a title and I am glad, but I am extremely happy that Jazz and I had a very good time. He was proud of himself and happy to be with me. He has a little bit of arthritis in one knee and I find myself being grateful for every weekend that he is physically and mentally ready to play. It's very clear that he can play or just wander through the course because I ask him to. I am working to put the "play" back for him. I have my mind right and plan to keep it that way.

A final note on Sunday's jumpers run. It was VERY hot in that barn and the barn door was open next to the weaves. We ran fairly well until the weaves. Jazz entered nicely and a beautiful breeze blew in the door. He froze, sniffing the enticing smell of horses and feeling that cool breeze. For a second there, I stood with him and enjoyed the breeze. It was definitely not an agility moment, but I think I may remember the breeze in his fur and his nose sniffing away at the horse smell long after we are done competing. It makes me smile.

We dropped a bar a little while after that, but I said "let's run" and we ran as fast as I could over the last three jumps. It was fun and we were both happy with ourselves. So - I will continue to enjoy him, work on being more flexible, and remember those sweet moments we share. It really doesn't get much better than that!