Posts Tagged ACL injury

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Backwards: Even Trainers Have Problems Sometimes!

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Backwards:  Even Trainers Have Problems Sometimes!

My blog posts updates have been far less than timely and for that, I profusely apologize. Life and clients intervene and exhaustion takes over but I will do my best to write more frequently for this platform. My last post was about Kenzo’s second ACL tear and how I would keep Mela, our newest addition sane during his recovery.

I am not sure that I succeeded as well as I could have I could. I cite work and life again, but it is my responsibility as a dog parent to keep my crew members sufficiently engaged. If engagement is less than stellar, I must take the blame for that. And indeed I will.

Let me elaborate. Several months ago, Mela started experiencing what I call frustration intolerance. How that manifested in her was in moments of extreme over-stimulation, she started to redirect on Kenzo by biting him in the cheek. Now that sounds worse than it is because for one, he weighs 175# to her 46# and for two, he has more fur on every part of him than most creatures alive. He just turned his head most of the time. All she got was a few snippets of fur in her mouth if that.

Side by side comparison

Kenzo and Mela enjoying the trail together

Of course, I interrupted this behavior. And in any situation that I could do so, I rearranged how I handled it to prevent this from happening at all. For example, when I allowed her and Trent to jump into the car first for a trip to the park, she was obnoxious to Kenzo when he entered after her. So now he goes to the car first and all is well. But on walks, when a critter was sighted or scented, it was less predictable at how stimulated she would be at any given sighting/scenting. The same could be said for mutual barking at the door when the mailman was doing his job.

Of course I know what I would advise my clients to do so I went to work. But it took far longer for me to work on this than I would have liked if I had been a client of mine. The cobbler’s kids and all. But also like I sometimes hear from clients, Mela is surprisingly unmotivated by food. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I say it too. All dogs eat. Yes, they do but I have never seen a dog less interested in seriously high value food when they have a history of life on the streets of a rough part of town for a minimum of three weeks. You’d think she would think what I was offering her was the equivalent of a doggy smorgasbord. Not so much though. I hate to say it but Miss Mela is quite the diva.

Normally, I would create interest in food as a reward by charging the clicker to make that a valuable sound. Kenzo and Trent love the clicker. Yet the first time I tried it, Mela fled from the room and remained spooked for the balance of the evening. In fact, it took me nearly a month to get her to even take a treat in the kitchen again. I had to start practicing fun cues in the living room instead of the kitchen, in order to be able to cue a hand targeting behavior. She is again comfortable in the kitchen but it was a long road to get back there so I won’t be trying the clicker again just yet. And yes, I have tried all of the quieter clicker options such as a muffled I-click and a ball point pen. She is noise startled for what should be benign noises and fine with loud noises such as thunderstorms. Go figure!

I had hoped that when Kenzo was fully healed from his second TPLO surgery and the ensuing infection that followed in the other knee and a few other sensitive to bacteria body parts, that he would be interested in engaging in play again. But the over-stimulation assaults that Mela subjected him to, although not frequent, were enough to make him uninterested in returning to play with HER. A catch 22, when one is aware that one will make the other go away. But no amount of force can create a playful mood. Quite the contrary actually.

So I scheduled an appointment with my veterinarian to discuss behavior medication. We decided to put Mela on ten milligrams of fluoxetine. I saw enough of a change within the first day that I was hopeful that this would allow her to be at the right stimulation level so that I could work with her more successfully. That hope was dashed when she stopped eating everything four days into the meds. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. The only things she consented to put into her body for five long days were a doggy ice cream cup and a dehydrated trachea. She skipped all but part of one meal. She turned down chunks of cooked chicken and her favorite treat of dehydrated liver. At only 46#, she could not afford to practice that kind of anorexia.

So I took her off the meds and asked my vet to switch the capsules to tablets so that I could try her at a dose of five milligrams instead. I am happy to say that she has been on that dose now for about three weeks and her appetite is good. Her stimulation level can be a bit more than I would like at times, but after being on the meds again for about two days, she was more consistently walking away from Kenzo when they were both sniffing something intense. Kenzo is now showing signs of interest in play.

Every evening after dinner, which is when they used to play, we go into the living room and the crew gets their after dinner goodies. That might be anything from doggy ice cream to a bully stick, beef tendon, trachea or dehydrated chicken foot! Kenzo then lays there for about ten minutes after he is sure that everyone is done and there won’t be any leftovers for him. Then he exits to lay in the short hallway that separates the living room from the kitchen. This past week, he has been coming back in after a short time laying in the hallway and looking engagingly at Mela.

She pawed him gently once, trying to ask for play. That gesture is far removed from her usual M.O., which is snarling (her version of play) and biting at him somewhere on his body. He did not return the gesture but did play with a toy briefly before leaving the room again. The next day or so, when he returned to the room and looked at her, she grabbed a toy and brought it to him, offering it to his face, with no snarking thankfully. He nudged it and then exited the room. Neither of those instances offended her. It’s obvious when she is offended, thankfully!

But we had a slight setback the other day. Mela, being the diva that she is, rarely consents to urinate in the yard. But this time, she did and Kenzo was crowding right behind her and being rude so that he could pee over her spot when she was done. I told him to move away but by the time I stood up from my spot on the porch, she was done and scooted away towards the steps. Then she turned around on a dime and headed straight back at him and laid into him forcefully! I had to scurry down barefoot and pull her off of him. Thankfully, Kenzo just turned his head. He went up the steps and stood by the door and grinned, appearing to realize that he had it coming for being intrusive! There were no play gestures that night but interactions since then have been great.

In conclusion, for now, I believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I will continue to try and recapture the bond that these two had so that they can have a better relationship with one another again. And I will continue to help Mela make better choices when she is over-stimulated about something, as well as to reintroduce some sort of marker sound aside from a verbal one, so that her brain can be more easily reached in times of higher excitement.

Fell free to share your own story in the spaces below.

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The Best Laid Plans: When Life Doesn’t Go According To Plans

The Best Laid Plans: When Life Doesn’t Go According To Plans

Regular readers know that Mela the Chow was added to my household in late November. We had been on the lookout for a female addition once I felt comfortable adding to my household, after losing my sweet Siri. It seemed an act of the universe to find Mela in the manner that I did. Surely that meant that all would progress smoothly?

Not really. The world is not a vacuum and although some scenarios seem artfully arranged by the universe, that is not an excuse to believe that said scenarios will be problem free. Such was the case with adding a high energy dog that was to be the playmate for Kenzo, who was desperately missing his playtime.

Kenzo is slowly recovering from his ACL surgery.

Kenzo is slowly recovering from his ACL surgery.

As the fates would have it, just one month into Kenzo feeling enough kinship with Mela to engage in regular evening play, he tore his right ACL. The scream was telling, during the second yard play session of the first snowfall in my area. My heart stopped as Kenzo ran towards the stairs leading to the house from the yard and I hoped against hope that it was just a sprain. But I recognized the particular limp and the look on his face. I immediately called my vet for a referral to the specialty hospital in my town, so that I could secure an appointment with the surgeon who performed the previous ACL tear.

All I could think about, aside from the pain that he was enduring, was how on earth was I going to maintain their relationship during this tribulation? And how on earth was I going to keep Mela mentally stimulated enough without Kenzo’s assistance? This has proven challenging at best.

Mela could not immediately grasp why her new friend would not engage in play with her, when he had been doing so, with an eagerness, every night for the past month. It was a case of a young child not understanding what the older child was trying to say. I had to run interference several times a day, to prevent Kenzo from getting frustrated enough with her to lash out and to prevent her from injuring him further.

With little success, I tried to orchestrate the act of playing while lying down, which Kenzo was game for but Mela did not understand. They could have continued to play tug quite happily with Kenzo in a prone position. He did try to engage with her in that way and I tried to support that engagement. But Mela quickly went back to what Mela likes best, which is rough and tumble physical play. That was out of the question for Kenzo for quite some time.

It was a rough initial month after the injury, while waiting on the surgery date. With passing time, Mela understood that Kenzo was no longer interested in play but what was confusing to her was that it was evident that the spirit was willing but the body was unable, at least for now. On one day, with the pain dulled by pain killers, Kenzo did offer her a return play dance but I had to quickly intervene before things were made worse.

Fast forward to the surgery that has finally happened and things are moving along well. She now fully understands that he was somehow broken and now has been fixed but is still on the mend. She seems to know that play will again be in their future and for that, I am grateful. She is starting to try and engage him before he is cleared for play. That won’t happen for another month at least, but she at least finally seems to understand that the problem isn’t mental but physical.

As for what I have done to try and entertain her while he has been laid up, there are a number of things, none of which have been fully good enough, I fear. She and Trent have vastly different play styles and although he has shown some brief play while on leash during their now joint walks, that hasn’t transpired for more than a few seconds.

As for walks, until recently in Kenzo’s progress, the walks just consisted of just Mela and Trent. Crittering is Mela’s very favorite thing on this planet so crittering is what happens on most walks. What that entails is them deciding on where we walk, leading the way. They both get far more smells under their respective belts now. My goal is mental weariness from these walks so they are lengthier now and they were lengthy before! They all are getting quite a bit of mental stimulation in the way of puzzle toys in the house.

Mela has a favorite game in the yard that involves crittering as well. She stalks whatever critter that lives under my pool deck and follows it’s scent all over, ending up waiting by the lattice under the deck for him or her to make a move that has yet to happen. And of course, we play with toys in a seemingly endless manner, because Mela could play for hours.

Now that Kenzo is in the rehab portion of his recovery, he has started joining us on walks. But rather that enhance those walks. It shortens the conjoined ones. So I walk them all together for the equivalent of two city blocks. Then weather permitting, Kenzo goes back into the car and I walk Mela and Trent on another much longer walk. This seems to help Mela to relax far more than anything else does.

As for me, the extra walking is hopefully assisting with my spring weight loss goal. I count down the days until Kenzo gets cleared for not only longer walks, but actual playtime. I expect that both he and Mela feel the same. I look forward to the day that I can smile watching them reconnect with play.

Please feel free to tell me your own recovery stories with your own multiple dog crew below. I need ideas!

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