Monday, March 30, 2009

Tennis Ball Hunter

Bailey, my Labrador Retriever, is an intense hunter. Of tennis balls, that is. And sometimes sticks or very large branches. However, when it comes to living things that run, fly or otherwise scamper around... she has absolutely zero interest.

While this is a wonderful thing when you take into account the fact that I also have cats and birds as pets, I do think it's odd. I got her from a great breeder in Colorado and what I find amusing is that her bloodlines are full of champion hunters.

Now, I did NOT get her for hunting purposes whatsoever (I'm not a fan of hunting at all). And at the time, I didn't really understand the difference between the hunting and show dogs - I just wanted a lab from a good breeder. And what I also find funny is that out of a large litter of puppies, I just happened to choose what was probably the only non-hunter of the bunch.

Lucky for me, I say. And hey, she IS a hunter. Of tennis balls. So to all tennis balls out there... beware.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let Go of the Rope

Easier said than done, I say.

My typing skills are temporarily severely diminished, as I suffered a nasty rope burn over the weekend. This will likely be a short post, because of my typing frustration.

How did it happen? Short answer: I didn't let go of the rope. Somewhat longer answer: I was working on trailer loading with my mare (she has major issues with it)... she spooked and caught me off guard. My instinct was to grab the rope instead of let go. Bad choice in this case.

Afterward, I took a look at my hand and thought "oh that's gonna hurt". And I was right. Second and third degree rope burns... the worst part was cleaning it and trying not to be a crybaby. :-)

Luckily, my sister (who is a PA) was there and got me cleaned up, treated, and wrapped my hand so it looked like it belonged to a mummy. She put Silvadene on the burned areas and let me tell you, that stuff works miracles. By the next morning, the pain was nearly gone and the healing progress was amazing.

Here is my trailer-challenged mare (and The Rope That Caused Me Great Pain):

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Good Walk

Bailey and I are making progress (although I'm afraid to say this out loud, for fear of jinxing it).

We've started taking two 5-minute walks around the yard a day, with many "Walk! No, I said WALK!" phrases interjected in them. She's putting weight on her surgery leg, although she often tries to adjust her stride to make it easier on her (she starts "pacing", where the two right legs go up together and then the two left legs)... when she does this, I attempt to slow her down so she is forced to walk correctly.

It's getting easier for her each day and I can usually tell when she's reached her limit when she starts holding her surgery leg up and hopping every few strides. I have high hopes for a normal and active summer ahead for her.

For those out there who also enjoy photography AND dogs (how can you go wrong with that combination?), here is a link to a photo journal/book someone put together while going for walks with his dog out in the country (and he did all this in 30 days!)... enjoy!

Musings On Photography: Done

A Good Walk by Paul Butzi (direct link to the PDF)

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Cat Eats Weird Things

I am completely serious - he really does. I think he must be brain-damaged in some way, as he has always been a little "off" since he was a very young kitten. Since I know he was born in a hay loft in a barn, I've always wondered if he fell out of the loft on his head or something.

While I know he is a "mutt" in the cat world, he looks like a Siamese with white paws and he's little... like a kitten. I think the last time he was weighed at the vet, he was 6 lbs. I've had him since he was about 6 weeks old and he is now a very senior cat at 18 years old.

Tigger has been with me a long time and through many life changes and cross-country moves. He was given to me by some friends during a very difficult time, right after someone I was very close to passed away. Those friends (a married couple with very young children) took me in to their home for months afterward and gave me this kitten during that time. I think it was an effort to help me heal and maybe in some ways it did. In any case, Tigger has always been a special cat because of the circumstances that brought him into my life.

Now, his weirdness is a whole 'nother story. He eats really bizarre things. Like the tip of his tail. He has chewed on the end of it since he was a kitten. No vet has ever been able to find anything wrong with his tail and they've all concluded it's just a behavioral oddity.

He also likes cotton and wool. Ask me how I know... sigh. He has eaten holes in many of my clothes, sheets, blankets, shoestrings, etc. He even once ate a strap on a purse that belonged to one of my friends (sorry Sue!).

In the last few years, I finally found some information online on this condition -- it's called "pica" and refers to the act of eating non-food items. It is commonly seen in Oriental cat breeds (Siamese, Burmese, etc) or their crosses. While there are various theories on the causes for it, no one seems to know for sure what triggers it.

Amazingly, Tigger has never had an obstruction from swallowing any of these things. And now that he's older, the occurrences are more infrequent. And while I love him dearly, I will probably avoid Oriental cat breeds in the future for this reason.

Here he is eyeing my sheets and blankets, contemplating a snack:

More info on pica can be found at

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Special Connection With Animals

Some people have it. A lot of people think it's nonsense. I believe it's true and know I've witnessed some with this gift. What I'm talking about is people who have a special connection with animals.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean people who LOVE animals (although I think you do have to love them to have this gift). And I'm not talking about the kind of person that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "animal communicator" (this makes me think of those who charge people to communicate with their pets - over the phone even!). I'm referring to someone who truly has a gift to understand and connect with animals of all kinds (not just their pets). A person that animals - all animals - are inexplicably drawn to (food bribes don't count!).

This heartwarming story was passed on to me today and I wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Little girl gets into the heart and mind of a distant, wary dog

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Option to Walk on a Tightrope...

There was a very informative post this week from Dolittler (one of my favorite pet-related blogs, written by a veterinarian I wish I could take my animals to!) about one of the CCL surgery repair options out there. It's called Tightrope and it's one of the newer techniques available. It is said to be a better choice than the traditional extracapsular repair for larger dogs (over 30 lbs). However, as Dr. Patty Khuly states:
Consisting of strong bone anchors and a super-strong, braided polyethylene band, the TightRope device has become so popular that it’s become synonymous with the procedure itself. Surgeons I’ve surveyed, however, urge caution in the face of popularity: It’s not a new procedure at all, they say, it’s more like a “new and improved” version of an extracapsular that may not be so “improved.”
See the full post at Dolittler for her great info and advice.

My dog Bailey had the traditional extracapsular repair (using a wire, rather than sutures), as that was the only option presented to me at the time. While I wish I had known about some of the other options when making my decision, I don't know if it would have changed my final choice. The Tightrope technique is new and still unproven long-term and some of the other techniques out there (TPLO and TTA) are quite a bit more involved and invasive (although arguably more successful in their outcomes). These other techniques are also considerably more expensive than the traditional repair and while I want what is best for my dog, I do have to take the cost into account (especially in this time of economic uncertainy).

Bailey will be 10 years old this summer. She is at an ideal weight and is in fantastic athletic condition (she frankly still looks and acts like a young dog), which her vet believes will give her the best possible chance for recovery. My biggest challenge will be to keep her calm and safe from reinjury during her long recovery period (she is VERY high-energy... sigh), as I understand this is one of the biggest risks with this surgery.

Time will only tell if I made the right choice for Bailey. At this point, I can only hope I did.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Incision Update and a Renegade Staple

Bailey's incision is looking really great - I'm actually amazed at how well it's healed (except of course, that one little spot... sigh). I also found one staple hidden at the bottom of her incision that the vet missed while removing them. Hopefully my sister (a Family Practice PA) will be able to swing by and help get that removed, since I really don't want to have to go through the ordeal of taking Bailey back to the vet (more on that later) for something that minor.

Here is the latest picture (with the staple highlighted):

Now that everything looks so good on the outside, my main concern is how things are healing inside her knee. It's so hard to know if she's progressing as expected there. I've been working on our range of motion exercises, but it's been difficult since she immediately tenses up her muscles (can't blame her). I've been looking for pointers online on how to deal with this, but haven't found anything very helpful yet.

When I took her to the vet a few days ago for her first checkup and staple removal, we did have an "oops" moment. I made the mistake of taking her right up to my car (where the door was open), thinking I'd lift her in from there. Well she had other ideas... she tried to jump in. I grabbed her collar and stopped her just in time, but it threw her off balance and she landed on her surgery leg. Much yelping and whining ensued, along with trembling - I knew that had to hurt. I was very worried she had done some damage to the vet's handiwork in her knee, but she seemed to check out ok there. I do think it set us back a little though, since she seemed to be more sore for a few days. Next time I think I will lift her AWAY from the car and carry her there, to avoid this issue in the future.

She's still restricted to a small section of my bedroom (carpeted, which is very important for good footing) and only goes out for bathroom breaks. I've been watching her closely outside for clues on her healing progress. She varies from 3-legged, to toe-touching, to actually putting some weight on that leg and walking (well, limping) on it. At this point, I can only hope she's on track and try to be patient over the next few months.

Patience, patience. Someday there might be another tennis ball in her future. Until then, they are hidden.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Passive Range of Motion Therapy Exercises

Bailey and I have made it past the next hurdle - her staples have been removed and we've been given the go-ahead to begin physical therapy. Hurray!

Small problem... here are my written instructions, word for word:

Weeks 2-4
  1. Range of Motion exercises
  • 15 repetitions three times daily
  • Move leg in a fluid motion from an extended (standing) position to flexed position

And that was it for weeks 2-4. Ok, so how do I know if I'm doing this correctly?? How far is too far and how flexed is too flexed? Do I hold the leg a certain way to do this? No, the vet didn't demonstrate for me, which was unfortunate. It was busy when we were there though, so he may have been distracted.

Well, I didn't want to just jump in and try moving her leg around without some kind of idea on how to do this, so I started searching for examples online. Luckily, I found some great YouTube videos on how to do this:

Passive range of motion #1

Passive range of motion #2

I think we're ready to get started... my fingers are crossed that she cooperates.