Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gauis' Back: A Saga

So this all started about the fourth week of September. Just a normal day. I was working the 6pm-3am shift which meant I was home during the day. I was getting some work done on the computer, or messing around the internet, not sure which. And I suddenly realized Gauis wasn't at my feet which is where he usually is during this time. I called him, nothing.

I found him curled up next to the cat in the guest room and he didn't get up to greet me or wag his tail. I picked him up and put him on the floor, his posture was hunched and he seemed uncomfortable. I tossed a tennis ball that was on the floor next to me and he made no effort to chase it. That's when I knew something was wrong. When he walked it seemed stiff and stilted, his tail was tucked. I felt down his back but couldn't get any reaction, no twinge or sign of pain. I was worried still so I immediatly put him on crate rest for the rest of the day. I figured if he had just pulled a muscle he'd be over it tommrrow, if he hadn't he'd come with me to work the next night (I work at an emergency vet).

When he's posture was still concerning to me by the next morning I just decided to take him in early. Of course by the time we were at the visits office he was agitated and screamy, and seemed less uncomfortable. Stress having overwhelmed any pain. Our vet was one of the interns (Right out of vet school, very nice). She felt up and down his spine and just like me couldn't get any sign of pain. I still though is gait was off, but she couldn't see any deficiencies (I know how my dog walks and what he was doing wasn't normal). She decided to take X-Rays anyhow, him being a dachshund and all. 

So there was a wait before I was called to the front to see them. When I got there the first thing that jumped at me was how much stool was in his colon (sorry about the poop talk). But the doctor did see some things in his back that she found troubling. The first is a calcified disk that's very clear if you know what your looking for. These are genetic and VERY common in almost all dachshunds of his age. She also said she saw disk shorting in two separate locations. This is much harder too see, can be caused simply by his positioning but can also be potentially more serious. It can meann that his disks are stressed and could rupture.

So she told me one week of crate rest and no agility ever again. I was pretty bummed and over the next week so was Gauis, crate rest and he do not get along. Especially when Sammy got to dart all around the apartment unhampered and Gauis got to watch sadly from behind bars. We started calling him our 'goldfish' during this time, due to being a pet we essentially just fed and watched from afar.

After his second day of crate rest his walking went back to normal (This happened to come immediately after he finally pooped by the way). Remember at no time during this entire period could I get him to show any signs of pain in his back. Which for a dog with a 'back issue' is just plain bizarre. 

I made an appointment to take him to go see his chiropractor Dr. Regina Schwabe   who is amazing. She does orthopedic rehabilitation and see a lot of dachshunds as well as agility dogs. If you live in Virgina she's totally worth the drive once or twice a year. I sent her the X-rays (though that was drama in and of itself with computers and formatting). 

In the mean time there are benefits to working where you take your animal, one is the ability to read there chart. You see we have a board certified radiologist that reviews all of the radiographs taken at the hospital. And there in Gauis file I could read his report too. Now he said, that though he saw the calcification, he saw no areas of disk shorting. So now I was confused. Constipation can present much in the same way back pain does, with hunched uncomfortable posture. Two vets with too different stories.Did I really have to retire Gauis from agility after all?

I was going to let Regina decide.  Well after doing her exam, she said his back felt great, better than the last time she saw him. No signs of pain. In terms of the radiographs she saw the calcification but said almost all dachshunds his age have that to a certain extent. She could maybe see some disk shortening in one area but it was very hard to tell. All in all his back lots pretty good for a dachshund of his age. Both the issues on his x-rays she said were probably entirely genetic and not caused by his agility. If anything agility helps strengthen his back and his core muscles and keeps him fit. It helps protect his back not hurt it.  And she saw no reason why he couldn't return to agility if he was showing no signs of pain.

I then asked if she though me taking him down to preferred at 4 inches was better than 8. She told me she alwasy thought jumping him at 8 was rather silly. So we'll be returning to AKC agility in preferred at 4 inches. Next trial is in January. He's loving running at 4 in class. 

So the moral of the story is always get a second opinion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Fosters Here And Gone

Life was crazy and I've had two fosters here and adopted that somehow never made it to the blog so I thought I'd take a moment just to talk about them and keep there memory here in this little dog scrap book that my Untrainable blog has become. 

 This is Charlotte (AKA: Char Char, Charcolate, Chary, and Chary-bary). Charlotte was the second best foster we've ever had. Wilbur being on top.  She came to us as a stray taken from a shelter in Charlottesville Virginia. No idea how long she'd been out on the street. After her dental she walked away with only one tooth left to her name. She was probably around ten.

 Luckily she was adopted very quickly (or she might have been staying with us). She had the loveliest disposition and was so well behaved, potty trained and a total cuddle bug. She lived in our laps. Her only negative was her propensity to dart out doors. A trait that might have been why she was in the shelter in the first place. But who could not look for a girl like her. She was a tiny tiny girl at only 6 pounds. A trait which I think is one reason she was adopted so quickly. She barley barked which was lovely.

She was the only dog that actually slept with Sean under covers at night (he is a squirmier). Even Gauis can't manage this feat. She survived the great power loss episode and hurricane of August. During which she ate and entire package of ginger snaps and puked all over the bed. This was when we had no hot water or washer or drawer. Not her best moment. She used to jump on the couch and look out the window as we left. Which was freaking adorable (see photograph below)

She stayed with us only a month before she went to her new home in Soulth Carolina. She was adopted only one day after her photo made the website. If she had stayed longer I would have worked with her on getting CGC certified. Her mom and dad are lovely and have already sent us photos of her in her new home. Her new mom is a retired veterinary technician and a real animal lover. She has many brothers and sisters including another dachshund and a Boston terrier and three other dogs. They are retired and she will get a lot of attention there. She was a dear to have I wish she could have stayed longer.  Her name is now Willow.

 This is Sammy (AKA The Samster, Sammy-bammy) was our last foster. We had him for about a month and a half. He was surrendered because his owner was in the hospital and no longer in a position to take care of him. He was nine years old but man he didn't act like it. Probably one of the most active dachshunds we've had here in foster care. You can see him digging holes in my yard to your left. He had a grade four heart murmur which you could feel through his chest. But it didn't seem to bother him much and the vet told us it was probably congenital and not a big problem since he had no symptoms. He was a good dog but could be difficult.

He was a bit hand shy and would submissively urinate if new people tried to touch him too quickly. He stopped doing this with us after about a week but I had to protect him from unwanted touching by strangers. Other than that he was really great with people and even was comfortable around children as long as they went slow and fed him first. He loved sitting in laps and taking naps with you.

He had a little bit of barrier aggression and would sometimes attack dogs on the leash if they greeted him straight on or with too much excitement. But other than that was generally indifferent to other dogs. He wasn't very socialized with other dogs. He would ignore Gauis completely. Whenever Gauis would try and initiate play with Sammy there would be a fight. This only had to happen a few times for Gauis to decide he wasn't a good playmate.

He had a marking problem and some potty training issues he was really starting to overcome while here. He was fabulous in his crate. He was an expert at finding his way out of my yard and did give me several heart attacks. But he never ran off. I got him a harness the first day because he was such a puller, and he could destroy a dog toy in 0.032 seconds. We bought his an expensive non-destructable squeaker which he finished off in about a minute flat. We were forever saving Gauis' favorite toys from him.

All of that was fine except his absolute obsession with my cat. He didn't want to eat her, he was just fascinated by her and I'll tell you her life is much happier now that he's gone. I'm glade he went to a feline free household. But as big a pain as Sammie could be he was a wonderful dog and we'll miss him.

He went to an adoption event and was an instant favorite, you can see him below with his new mom. There will be another dog in his house but she is apparently as uninterested in other dogs as he is. It's a perfect match and I'm glade he's found his forever home.
 It is strange being foster free at the moment. we're not used to having a one dog household. I'll try to introduce our new arrive as soon as they get here instead of after they are already gone next time. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trick Title: Shell Game

Our new trick for our Championship Trick title. I hope you enjoy. I had some hang ups teaching this one. Like Gauis' initial insistence on no sniffing and just guessing frantically at random. Some hound dog he is. But we figured it out.

Gauis had his first try at Senior earthdog today. He worked for the appropriate length of time, and recalled to Sean though it took 60 seconds. But he didn't get to the rat in time as he had to make a detour to bark at the judges.  He gets another go at it tomorrow with Sean, I however will be at work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Being the 'Off Breed'

For most of the sports Gauis and I do we are considered an 'Off Breed". Meaning, we aren't the typical breed of dog you see competing in that particular activity. The only thing this isn't true for is earth dog. I've been thinking about that a lot and I think like being off breed most of the time for a couple of reasons.

The first one is the public

I have come out of the agility ring after horrible runs, where almost nothing seemed to go well. My handling sucked, Gauis obstacle performance sucked you name it. Bad runs you just want to crawl under a rock afterwards. Without fail you know what happens the moment I'm out of the ring? Applause, then someone runs up to tell me how wonderful it was. Not my friends or people who know me, strangers. They tell me what a good run it was, and how Gauis obviously loved agility, and that he's a joy to watch. I'm thinking, 'did they see the same run I did? We were a mess' but then I remember that he's a dachshund. To them it's a miracle he's here at all. It's like winning first place just for showing up.

People have such a fabulous heart felt joyful reaction to seeing Gauis' training. He's always the favorite at our trick demos. But we're almost always the only little dog. I practically get mobbed afterwards. And gosh if they actually own a dachshund it's on a whole other level. I'm like a miracle worker. They want to tell me everything about their dog and what he/she can do, or more generally what he or she can't do. It's really fun to make people happy. I don't think watching a border collie run, or a golden do a perfect heeling routine gives people has much joy. Sure they are works of art to watch and there's a lot of joy in it, but people love watching Gauis. Sometimes I do feel like were the five minute rodeo clown routine in the middle of all the bull riding. We'll back to your regularly scheduled border collie runs in just a moment, first lets watch this cute little dachshund knock bars and take the wrong obstacles and double the course time. But people love it and we have fun.

The second reason I like having an off breed is no guilt,

I have friends with beautiful wonderful dogs from good agility lines and I'm always hearing them say things like... If only my dog had a better handler he'd be a champion. Or If only I was a better trainer we could make nationals, this dog deserves better. Sometimes I even hear people on the side lines make comments about other peoples dog along the same lines. I never have to worry about that. When ever I start a thought with if only Gauis had a different owner all I can practically finish it with is, He'd be 10 pounds over weight, probably wouldn't even know what sit means, and probably would be biting people by now. (Ahem, no offense to my fellow dachshund owners but I work at a vet clinic. I'm privy to a fair sampling of the dachshund community)  I'm confident there is no better owner out there for Gauis than me and that this home only makes him better and shows him to his full potential.

I think its important to not use low expectations as an excuse. Sure whatever Gauis does is gravy, but that doesn't me we can't always strive to be better or have big plans. In summary having an off breed dog has a lot of benefits I think I would miss if I went to a more traditional breed.