Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Coach

Coach turned one year old on August 13th.  To say that he is at a difficult age would be an understatement.  I have never raised a puppy that was "normal" in terms of health.  Jazz was my first puppy experience and he was born with Lyme disease.  He was so sick for so much of the first year and still on Denosyl for the next year.  This is also my first experience with two dogs in my home at the same time.  To say that I have been overwhelmed, nervous, delighted and confused would be putting it mildly!

Coach is making me crazy these days and I experience the awful "I'm an idiot/lousy trainer" feeling on a regular basis.  I think it helps to remember how far we have come in a year.  So here is a list of the things we have learned:
1.  Learned when and where to pee and poop - mostly.  (We have some issue about pooping on the sidewalk instead of in the grass on a walk??  This is recent.)
2.  Learned to come when called.  (Of course recently we have learned to NOT come if something is really really important or if we are WAY too busy.)
3.  Learned basic skills of sit, down (this one is hilariously enthusiastic and always sounds to me like it hurts,) stand, heel, wait, stay (still a little shaky), OK as a release and back.
4.  Learned beginning agility skills of here, jump, tunnel, front cross and rear cross (ground work only so far), run the A Frame (contacts are still a work in progress,) teeter (hooray!) and free as a release that means "go for it!"
 5.  I almost forgot the most surprising gift of all.  He fetches!  I have never had a dog who fetches.

All of these wonderful skills are sometimes great and sometimes shaky, but I keep reminding myself that he has learned a lot in a short time.  He earned his Rally Novice title at 9 months of age!  He even got good scores doing it.

Here are things he has not learned:
1.  He has not learned to keep his screechy little mouth shut.  He seems to understand the word quiet, but doesn't really like it.  I read that I should try to understand his motivation.  Good grief - he screeches when he wants something and doesn't get it.  We are working on this, but I think it will be the toughest thing we will ever have to learn.
2.  He continues to jump on everybody.  He loves the whole world and wants to show it by knocking off your glasses, washing your whole face and ears if you let him, and generally leaping around until people back away in fear.  I think we are making progress on this one.  Thank you to my lovely family and friends for their patience and persistence in making sure he gets no reward for this foolishness.
3.  He has not learned enough agility yet to do sequences.  He isn't supposed to be able to do that at his age, but I really can't wait for the first "dancing with your dog" agility moment.
4.  He is not completely reliable walking on leash.  I am hedging on this one because he is almost as good at this as Jazz is now, but not as good as I would like.
5.  He is still too crazy to sleep with me at night or to be left out of his crate unsupervised.  I feel bad about that, but this one is just a matter of time.
6.  Hmmm - reading this list I realize that he just hasn't learned impulse control yet.  There's a big surprise!  Sometimes I'm not sure I have either.  Oh well.

So - he is a year old.  He is getting a little bossy and giving me more trouble than he did six months ago.  But mostly, he is healthy, smart, beautiful, funny, and he really likes me.  He runs agility like a wild man, loves all people and dogs, seems to have more confidence than is absolutely necessary, is not afraid of thunderstorms (what a blessing - thank you GJ,) and he really likes me.

Happy Birthday sweet baby boy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I have decided that the very worst part of this whole surgery is the incision.  If there were no incision we wouldn't have had to use that dratted "cone of shame!"  The last two weeks, the incision seems to be a bigger problem than the knee.  It continued to drain clear liquid, his whole leg was hot, and the drain incision at the bottom was swollen almost to golf ball size.  I took him for his second acupuncture just as these symptoms appeared and they drained it, put some stuff in it, wrapped in a loose bandage for a day, gave me more antibiotics, and I have to soak in Epsom salts and Triadine for a while.  What a mess!  It makes me feel so bad for him.  The swelling and redness went away within a day and the draining seems to have quit.  The staples are out and the main part of the incision healed well.

There are so many little things I wish the surgeon had done or told me.  I wish they had not shaved the undercoat off of his hip bone.  It seems awfully far up there and if they had stopped shaving one inch lower, he would not have gotten the sore spot on his hip bone.  I couldn't put a soft bed in his expen for a while because he had trouble laying down if he couldn't slide his front legs.  I was also concerned about the drainage from his incision making a disease-filled mess of a soft bed.  Now that those problems are ended I have put a bed in for him and the hip bone is fine.  Seems like such a little thing, but maybe it could have been prevented.

The second thing that would have been helpful from the surgeon concerns diet.  I never thought about what kind of nutrition might speed the healing process.  His appetite returned pretty quickly after we got done with the Tramadol and I was feeding him his regular food.  My vet asked about this and we discussed the calcium needed to heal that bone.  She recommended that I switch to small bite puppy food for a while.  Jazz needs the calories right now and it is very high in the nutrients needed to grow bones.  I can't prove that it helps, but it certainly makes sense to try it.

The exercises are going pretty well.  I don't think Jazz will be a model of speedy recovery, but I think he is doing fine.  We are about three and a half weeks past surgery and he walks on the leg and puts weight on it when he squats to poop.  The rehab schedule has us doing sits and stands and walking figure eights.  The sits are still crooked, but getting straighter every day.  He still isn't strong enough to do more than three in a row and I have just started using a wall to force them to be straighter.  The first time we tried a figure eight, he hopped at the curve where the weight changed to his injured leg.  It helped me see the benefit of that exercise.  I had to widen the curve a little, but today we did a fairly tight curve with no hopping.  The rehab schedule also has him walking on a long leash so he can trot a little if he wants.  He does not want.  Maybe tomorrow.

I find the rehab process very interesting.  He is making progress every day.  The grass is wet in the morning when we walk so I get his feet wet and then have him walk on the driveway so I can compare his foot prints.  This morning the two rear feet were identical.  He still limps a little, but each day something improves.  He is getting much harder to confine and does a pretty good job of dragging me if he sees something interesting on our walks. We continue to increase the length or our walks and I try to gauge how much he can do to make progress without getting too stiff and tired.  He comes with me when I go to agility classes and I include him in our obedience sessions.  We do our sits and figure eights when it is his turn.  He is a pretty cheerful patient.  I suppose I enjoy the rehab for the same reason I enjoy training in general.  I like to see a dog grow and learn.

We have had a few scares and I was grateful to hear from others that this is pretty common.  I have hard wood floors in my house.  I have been careful to keep the fur clipped between his toes and his toe nails short so he won't slip, but of course he did fall a few times.  I put nonslip rugs all over the floor, but if he gets excited he seems to find the one spot that is still slippery and falls.  It broke my heart to see him fall and then be unable to get up.  He whined and I was certain that he was broken again.  He would not put the leg down.  I was truly terrified!  I got him on firm footing and we walked around very slowly for a few minutes.  He seemed to test the leg and then began walking on it again.  What a relief.

I take Coach out in the evenings to play catch and Jazz is not allowed to join in yet.  He hates being left out.  I must have failed to properly latch the expen a few nights ago.  I looked up and Jazz was standing at the gate looking very pleased with himself.  He had pushed out of the expen, made it through two dog doors, and trotted to the gate to join us.  Luckily, he didn't do any damage to himself.  I wish I were not so careless,  but I am pretty sure I am not the only one to make these mistakes.

Thanks for all the good wishes and moral support.