Friday, October 11, 2013

New Adventures

Cadence is now well past the 12-week point after his fibrocartilaginous embolism - past the point where the neurologist told us to expect the most improvement to happen.

So how is he?

He walks kind of funny.  We've finally put our finger on what he's doing - it seems like he would prefer not to trot (he CAN trot, and actually looks quite normal doing it, but it must be harder for him to get those neurons firing the right way to trot).  So, in order to compensate, he takes an exaggerated step with his rear legs, often swinging them out to avoid interfering with his front.  I think that is causing him to walk at a "pace" (both legs on one side moving forward at the same time), and creates the impression that his hip sort of "dips" with each step.  It looks weird, but so far he is able to maintain it no matter the distance or terrain, and doesn't worsen.

He is a bit clumsy at times.  It seems like he can do just about anything I've thrown at him - dog walk planks, standing on various-sized platforms, foot targeting, spinning, weaving, jumping.  But sometimes he falls walking across the linoleum floor in the kitchen.

The toughest, and most surprising, thing though has been the blow this has all had to his confidence.  He has always been a careful guy who sometimes needed to check things out before feeling comfortable, but he has always been one to recover quickly and to not give up.  But since his FCE, he has had occasional episodes of anxiety when out in the world.  Sometimes on a walk, he will put on the brakes, flatten, tuck his tail between his legs, and turn away.  Not all the time.  Not predictably.  And not paired with anything I can identify going on with him or the environment.  This kills me to watch.

This shouldn't be directly caused by the FCE, but clearly they are linked.  His rehab vet thinks that maybe it worries him that he isn't as comfortable in his own body right now.  Things work differently and take more effort, and some times maybe that just stresses him out.  We hope if he continues to get more comfortable learning how to move again, that this anxiety will pass as well.  We hope it is temporary.

So, I find places where he can run off leash with the other dogs (legally and safely) and let him practice negotiating the terrain on his own.  I schedule hiking dates with his favorite doggie-friends.  I let him pick a different route on the trail if one feels better to him.  I sit down on the trail with him until he feels OK again.  I hide treats among the grass and leaves and let him use his nose to track him down.  I ask him to do his favorite tricks.  We bring his best friend Maebe along for support.  I give him some natural supplements that are supposed to calm, and spray his walking harness with a "calming" spray.

He'll go weeks with no episodes and I will think he's gotten his courage back, then out of nowhere will have a little meltdown in the middle of the block.  I like to think we're making progress.  I hope we are.

At home, he is still my happy little lap dog who just can never get close enough to me or get enough chest rubs, and who makes me smile every time I look at him.  He swims, wrestles and plays chase with Maebe, and loves learning.  We do mini agility courses with low jumps, low contacts, and spread-apart weaves in the back yard.  He's working on some freestyle moves, even though I don't know that I will be putting dancing shoes on anytime soon.  He loves shaping exercises and figures the new tricks out as fast as always.  We're planning on taking a nose work class this winter.  And we're still going to physical therapy weekly, and hoping for some more progress.

We are no longer doing therapy dog visits, on account of the slippery wood floors and stairs at the facility we visited.  I also don't want to add stress on top of whatever is triggering his sudden bouts of anxiety.

Fate is coming with me to his agility class now.  I admit, that was bittersweet at first for me.  I adore her, love training her, and can't wait to compete with her, but at the same time it was hard to get used to not being there with him.

I want so much for him, but I am realizing that is about me - that he is actually happy with this quieter world.  He has all he has ever asked for.

And he is still the most handsome, charming man ever.  Maybe I am the only one who is wildly entertained by watching him stand in a glass box filled with water, but to see what a character he is, watch video of him waiting for the underwater treadmill to fill.  He loves water, and likes his treadmill sessions, but he does not enjoy the sensation of water slowly creeping up on him, and does his best to keep his tail and feet dry as long as possible.  It has become a regular source of entertainment for us and the staff.  I swear he is not doing what it looks like he is doing!

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