Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rip's Training Diary #1: Rip meets Bridget

I realize that my blog has been very Ziggy-focused lately.  Mainly, that's because my dog life has been very Ziggy-focused lately.  But Z isn't the only dog in the house, and I realized a few weeks ago that Rip will be 2 years old at the end of May.  Hmm, maybe I need to get more serious about his training?

While I train Rip a decent amount, our training thus far has been a little haphazard.  We've done a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  He knows a few things all the way, and lots of things half-way.  I am finding it hard to chart a path for Rip, so I just work on things as the feeling strikes me.  I need help.  I need structure.  Rip has the potential to be a GREAT performance dog, and I don't want to mess it up!

A few weeks ago, I went to another training seminar by Bridget Carlsen.  I went to one of her seminars 2 years ago, and used some of her training ideas on Ziggy.  This latest seminar was even better than the first (and I really liked the first) - I learned a lot, and I really like her motivational training style.

Then it occurred to me.  Bridget only lives two hours away.  Why not have her help Rip and I?  No reason why not to, other than the inertia of my own laziness and lack of planning.  So I did it - I contacted Bridget and set up a lesson time.

On Friday morning, I loaded Rip into the car for the trip to the Chicago exurbs.

The lesson was great!  We worked on a little bit of everything we know so Bridget could get a feel for who are and what we can do.  I say "we" because this is absolutely about training me, too - Rip just does what I ask (most of the time).

So what did I learn?  
Rip has some nice heeling, but he gets bored easily, so I need to keep fun with lots of tricks & games.  Rip really toned down during the lesson - most likely because he was unsure in a new place.  This means I need to work on ways to quickly re-engage him and put him into drive when things are new.  Rip only has 1/2 hour of on task work in him -- meaning next time we'll  split the lesson in 2 parts with an hour rest in between, or we'll just do 1/2 hour.  Oh, and Bridget thought Rip was really cute -- especially when he started to offer random "how about this one" behaviors while clicker training the stantion touch.

And what's our homework?
We left with a long list of tins to work on, including:  dumbbell hold, getting Rip to move his whole body laterally, twist & spin, building value in a target, heeling with tricks, touching a stantion with with his paw, going out to and sitting in a box, driving more in our finish right, and a more reliable kick-back stand.  Oh, and I also want to teach him to bark on command.

Do you think we have enough to work on?

My plan is to keep a weekly or bi-weekly training diary on this blog to help keep me on task...

This is what happens when Rip really has to think and work.
He slept the whole way home.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi IVDD: Ziggy's MRI

I published a couple of posts last week regarding an MRI.  We decided to go ahead with MRI, so we would be better educated about how to proceed with the Z.

Last Wednesday morning I left early, stopped by Starbucks, and hit the road for a 9am appointment in Ames at the ISU vet school.

The Day

When we arrived at the school, Ziggy happily marched is way into the building (walking in his sling), and started to head back to the rehab center.  This made me feel better about the time he spends at rehab, as he didn't seem upset about where we were going.  He was confused, though, when we went to the waiting room instead of heading right back to rehab.

We saw the neurologist and vet student around 9:30.  They did a neuro exam, then explained the MRI to me, confirming that we still wanted to have it done.  We then discussed what to do if they found something that required surgical intervention.  The options were to go right from MRI to surgery, or consult with me first.  I opted for the "consult with me first" option, as I really wanted to understand what was going on.

With that, they took Z back to wait for anesthesia and the MRI.  This was shortly before 10am.  They figured they would have some news in 2 hours.  I found out where the nearest Starbucks was, and went to have a coffee and read a book (not such a bad way to spend a day off).  I stayed at Starby's for an hour or so, then decided to go have some lunch.  I found a Panera, and ate lunch and read my book my book for another hour or so. Still no call from ISU.  So I went to Best Buy and wandered around.

Still no word, so I went back to the vet school.  The vet student came out and explained that things were backed up because of emergencies, but it should be any time.  It was a nice spring day, so I decided to go for a walk.  I walked for an hour or so.  Still no word.  So I sat in my car for a while and did some work email.  I went back inside when they finally called to tell me Z was headed into his MRI (around 3:30pm).

The MRI plus analysis took about an hour and half (I read more of my book).

Finally, they called me back to discuss results.

The Results

The MRI found nothing that would indicate surgical intervention.  No new disc material was found in the spinal cord, and they didn't find anything else that would be causing compression on the spinal cord.

What they found, basically, was a healing spinal cord.  They did not see any signs of permanent spinal cord damage.  Well, there's always some damage when a disc ruptures, but nothing out of the ordinary was found.  They did find that many areas of the spinal cord were still healing.  The neurologist explained that some dogs just heal more slowly than others, and Ziggy is definitely on the slow end.  Nothing was found, though, that would change the prognosis for him walking eventually.

I was relieved that things seem to be normal, but slow.  I would really prefer normal but fast, or normal and normal, but there you go.

It's funny, though, because the neurologist expressed his regrets (almost apologized, really) a few times that Ziggy didn't need surgery.  I can see where he's coming from in that no surgery means no "easy" fix, but I'm ok with that.

So What Now?

The neurologist's recommendation was that we continue with acupuncture and physical therapy.  He did suggest upping the amount of PT Ziggy gets.  The longer a dog isn't walking, the more chance that their body won't stay in good enough condition (strength and flexibility) to walk.  He's seen cases where the spinal cord and nerves finally heal enough to allow the dog to walk, but the dog is physically no longer able to walk.  He also suggested we get Ziggy out in the cart more often, and allow him to move quickly enough that he starts to pump with is hind legs.

So now The Husband and are I trying to make the "more PT" thing happen.  Ziggy is a funny dog, and after 5-10 minutes of physical therapy, he just quits.  Sits down and (if he's on the floor) scoots himself away.  How do you push a dog to give you just a few more reps??

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi IVDD: Back to ISU tomorrow

We have decided to go ahead with the MRI of Ziggy's back, as we really want to know if there is anything else going on, if there's any nerve damage we didn't know about, etc.  So I'm using one of my last vacation days and taking Ziggy back to ISU tomorrow.  Our appointment is in the morning, so we'll be leaving here at 6am.  Starbucks opens at 5:30, though, so I'll be ok :)

Since my posts have been less-than-perky lately, I thought I'd share a fun video of Rip and Ziggy frapping. Ziggy wants his Cardi friends to know that, with a wild and willing partner, a Cardi who can't walk can still frap!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ziggy the Cardigan Corgi IVDD: Weeks 18-20 - Up, then down

I just realized tonight that I've been labeling my weeks wrong.  Tomorrow is 21 weeks since Z's surgery.

Weeks 18-20 have been interesting.  I mentioned in an earlier post that on Ziggy's last trip to the Iowa State University vet school rehab program, they felt his progress was a little lackluster.  There WAS progress, though, so we figured he was just continuing on his slow progress trend.  We hadn't seen any major breakthroughs, but he was standing a bit better, was moving his right hind more, etc.

Last week we felt he had an uptick in his progress.  He seemed much stronger when standing, and he even stood on his own when The Husband took his picture!  Our local rehab vet, who does his acupuncture and helps us stay on track with physical therapy, felt Z had the biggest week-on-week improvement in recent months.  We were feeling pretty good about our boy.

Ziggy finally got wheels!
We're all still getting used to them, 
but hope it gives him a bit of freedom each day.

Photographic proof!  
Ziggy is able to hold himself up on his own 
-- for a short while (a couple of mins) at least.

This week Ziggy was back at ISU for four days of rehab.  I got calls on Mon & Tues, and they felt he had made more progress this time then they had seen last time.  Then yesterday on the call (I was in a meeting, so they left a message) - they said he was doing well, but there was something they needed to talk to me about.  (Maybe that's what prompted me to publish yesterday's blog post - which I had written a while ago but hadn't posted?)

Today I called them during my lunch hour.  The rehab specialist said that she still had a feeling that, though Ziggy continued to make progress, she wasn't seeing what she'd really like to see this far past the surgery.  Since experts are close to hand at a University vet school, she decided to call in a neurologist to check Ziggy out.  

The neurologist had the same feeling the rehab specialist did - that we'd really expect to see more progress by now. 

The neurologist recommends that we have an MRI done on Ziggy.  This will help us  understand if more disc material might be on the spinal cord, or if there is some scarring, or if another disc has ruptured, etc.  It will also help us understand if there is damage to the spinal cord that we don't know about.  If there is more disc material, another surgery is recommended.

I called the vet who did our surgery and talked with him today.  He sees Ziggy every couple of weeks when Ziggy goes in for "daycare" and said that he got the same impression lately - progress, but not great.  He is in agreement than an MRI is a good next step, as it will give us a lot of information about what's going on in there.  He also liked the idea of having it done at ISU, as a neurologist, radiologist, and surgeon are all at hand to evaluate the MRI and provide guidance.

Since an MRI is really not cheap (think montly-mortgage-payment), and surgery is even more expensive, we now have a lot to think about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Me, Cardigan Corgis, IVDD & the Lottery

I am not a particularly lucky person.  I consider myself fortunate to have a very nice life, but lucky I am not.

I don't win raffles, silent auctions, or drawings.  I have never won any amount of money with a lottery ticket.  Come to think of it, the only thing I've ever won in my life is a TV when I was in college, and the only reason I won this is that the person who held the winning ticket got too drunk and had to go back to her dorm room to pass out, and my ticket was drawn next.

What does this have to do with Cardigans?  And IVDD?  

My piss-poor luck continues here, I'm afraid.  I got my first Cardigan, Maggie, in 2000.  Overall, I've had four Cardigans.  3 of my four Cardigans have reached "IVDD age" (my term)  -- between 3 - 6/7 years old.  According to Dodger's List (a GREAT IVDD resource) and others, this is the age when the first IVDD episode is likely to occur.  

Of these 3 Cardigans, 2 of them have had IVDD episodes.  That's a 67% occurrence of IVDD within my pack.  That sucks.  Since we there are currently no figures I can find regarding what percentage of Cardigans have an IVDD episode, I can't find out statistically just how unlucky I am.  Of course, figuring that out would also require me to dig up notes from my stats classes, so it's probably for the best.  

In Dachshund's, however, it's estimated that between 20-30% of all dogs will have an IVDD episode.  So I'd be unlucky even if I were a Dachshund owner.  

My first dog to have problems with IVDD was Denzil.  His first episode happened around 4 years of age.  The second episode occurred about a year and a half after the first.  Thankfully, he never went fully down in the back, and we were able to treat him with steroids, pain killers, and crate rest.  

Denzil recovered from both episodes, and he was able to resume normal activity (e.g., daily walks).  His performance career, however, was pretty much curtailed.  I did not want him jumping and twisting, so agility was out.  And so was obedience -- he already had his CD, and too much jumping was required to train for Open or Utility.  We did do a bit of Rally, but Denzil then started to have secondary problems with arthritis in his stifles, so he got to retire to a slower life with my parents.

Denzil LOVED agility -- running!  jumping!  barking!  Hooray!!

My second dog with IVDD, of course, is Ziggy, and we're still on the journey.

All of this has caused me to do a lot of thinking about my chosen breed - is it still the breed for me?

For better or worse, IVDD has really disrupted my whole world and way of thinking as it relates to my dogs, performance sports with the dogs, and how I care for the pack.  

This is a large part of the reason I've not been blogging much lately.  What to say about all of this, and how to say it?  I have a few posts in mind that I'll share in the coming weeks.  Bear with me.
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