Friday, August 30, 2013

I've Got This . . .

Today I took Cadence outside to do some variations on our post-FCE rehab exercises.  I had some fitness discs set up to do some body awareness work with him.  As I had just been doing some contact training with Fate, I still had the teeter plank set up between two raised tables out in the yard.  Cadence had been doing OK walking along a plank on the ground, so we decided that if he was doing well with his exercises, we would see if he could walk across the elevated plank.  Of course, Lowell and I would be on either side of him, he would be on leash, have his assistive harness on, and would do it in a controlled manner. 

Cadence had other ideas.  Apparently bored with his exercise discs, this is what he did to my surprise, then horror, then delight . . .

After that excitement, we continued with the original plan.  Gave him a little bit of a new challenge with the discs today but he handled it pretty well:

Afterwards we did some post-FCE agility rehab:

It was a good day.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Old Dogs and Wine . . . Just Get Better With Age

Finally getting around to posting this - this was my favorite run from CPE Nationals this June with my 11-year old border collie, Django.  This Snooker run was our last run of the weekend.  I had worried a bit going in to Nationals about how well Django could hold up to three days of trialing at his age, but it turned out I had nothing to worry about.  We may not be the fastest out there these days, but we sure are happy together.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here Comes a Comeback . . .

At CPE Nationals in June, I bought myself a silver bracelet with pawprints and the words "Overcome Every Obstacle" inscribed on it.  I thought of the training obstacles we all face, whether it is getting reliable contacts, combatting ring nerves (ours or our dog's), or keeping jump bars up.  At the time, Cadence was at a point where I was starting to enter him in trials regularly - not just one run here or there at a random trial - and I was so proud of the progress we had made as a team.  We had overcome so many of our training obstacles and in the process had formed a special relationship that I can't really describe.

Before the month was out, he had his "spinal stroke," and suddenly there was a new obstacle to overcome.  I wear that bracelet every day.

The neurologist told me Cadence could continue to play agility.  Right now, I disagree.  He doesn't have the coordination in his rear leg to safely do a dogwalk, teeter, or probably a tire safely.  But the rehab vet told us there was no reason we couldn't start to play around to see what he can do.  So we did . . .

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cadence Week 1 FCE Rehab: Don't Stop . . .

Now that Cadence has been diagnosed with a fibrocartilaginous embolism, we've been able to start him on some physical therapy, with hopes of restoring as much function as possible.  What has at least been nice is being able to return him to some activity.  As we initially assumed it was an injury, he was being rested at first, which wasn't making any of us happy at all.  This week, in addition to his rehab exercises, we have him up to walking over a mile at a time, and he has been able to run and play in the yard with Maebe again.  He even had a play date with one of his favorite girlfriends, Scarlett, and was able to play chase around the yard with her with no problem.

It's hard to say whether his gait is improving yet, but I think he has shown some improvement in his coordination.  Last week, when I asked him to walk across a dog walk plank (flat on the ground), he had trouble keeping his feet on it, but now he can walk across and even turn around. 

One thing this experience has driven home to me is the importance of doing body awareness and strengthening exercises even/especially with our healthy dogs.  All the exercises given to us by the rehab place were ones that I have done with Cadence regularly for years anyway.  So, I'm not having to train a new behavior in order to do the rehab, and I have a pretty good idea what his baseline pre-FCE was. 

Here is a video of what Cadence looks like walking today.  The very clinical term that one of our vets used to describe it is "wonky":

More interesting though, I think, is watching his progress over the last week with his exercises.  The determination on his face at about 1:57 of the video makes me smile every time:

"Why not think about times to come? . . . "

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Lightning Strike

A few weeks ago, on a leisurely evening stroll around our neighborhood, Cadence suddenly began walking funny on his right rear leg.  It didn't go away.

For a few weeks, we chased a series of red herrings, trying to figure out what was causing his gait abnormality.  Chiropractors, radiology specialists, rehab vets all weighed in, and were all rather perplexed. Finally we found ourselves at a veterinary neurology clinic last Friday having an MRI performed.

He has been diagnosed with a "very mild" fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE).  Similar to a stroke, some spinal fluid has found its way into a blood vessel and blocked it, causing some rear limb dysfunction.  Most dogs with this condition experience some degree of paralysis.  For Cadence, his symptoms are at least only a gait abnormality when he walks, and some lack of coordination in the rear.  The neurologist thought that your average pet dog owner would not even notice it.  It seems more significant than that to me.

We're told this is about as predictable as being hit by lightning.  It isn't genetic.  It wasn't caused by trauma.  Having x-rayed and imaged just about every bone in his body now, we have confirmed that structually he is fit and sound.  Oddly enough, FCE tends to happen in younger dogs, often aged 3 to 6, who are active, healthy, and athletic.  Like Cadence.

The good news is that he is not in pain, and he will not get worse.  What remains to be seen though is how much functioning he will regain.

He had his first of what will be ongoing weekly visits to a veterinary rehab facility yesterday.  We have an assortment of exercises to work on daily to improve his body awareness and coordination.  We are going to do everything we can to get him in as good shape as possible.  We aren't giving up.

So this isn't what we expected, but this is our journey now.