Coping With A Dog’s Carpal Agility Injury

Quinn In His Cast

I feel a number of things about Quinn’s injury, and I’m not quite sure how to sort them all out. I thought maybe blogging about them would help me figure out my feelings. Because Quinn, well, being a dog, he lives in the present moment, and he’s dealing with his injury and cast as dogs do, dealing with how he feels Right Now.

He’s not dreading that he won’t be able to do agility… maybe ever. He’s not thinking that he’s stuck in his x-pen and cast for months. He’s not dreading his lack of activity. So these things I think are good, even while at the same time I know that he wants to play and I know how much he enjoys the sports.

First of all, I’m concerned about Quinn’s health. And, for the rest of his life, he will now lack health in his left front ankle. He had to undergo a full arthrodesis of his left carpus, which means his wrist bones were fused together and his wrist will no longer bend. His tendon was destroyed and can no longer support his wrist, so the fused bones will do that instead.

How is a person supposed to feel about something like this?

Ultimately, this is my fault. I asked Quinn to compete in agility. I trained him to perform the teeter, and while I thought I had trained him properly, he had an accident anyway and he didn’t control the tip of the teeter and it went down before his feet did, he slipped off, and landed on his wrist, fracturing the bone and effectively destroying his carpal tendon.

I feel guilt. I feel sadness. I feel anger. I also feel disappointment and I may, depending on how he recovers, end up mourning some of our performance career.

There was a recent post on The Cognitive Canine that I thought was appropriate for my particular situation. It’s called Tennis Racquets and Doubles Partners. She talks about how some handlers think of their dogs as the Tennis Racket needed to perform their sport. And other handlers think of their dogs as partners in their sport. I agree that there are a lot of people on both sides of this. Myself, my dogs are my partners. First and foremost they are my friends and my companions. And next, they are my agility dogs.

Limited Activity

So is it acceptable to feel, in addition to guilt and sadness about Quinn being injured because he’s my companion, also feel disappointment that we may no longer compete in physically active sports? I’m sure he’ll be able to continue with Nosework and Barn Hunt, and probably even the limited jumping that Obedience requires, but what about agility and herding?

I don’t know. I’m rather a pessimist at heart, and my knee-jerk reaction is that he won’t be able to do these things anymore. And that saddens me too. I enjoy doing agility with my dogs. It’s always been my cornerstone dog sport. It was my first dog sport, and I still enjoy it.

So as I write this out, I think yes, it’s probably just fine that I not only am saddened and heartbroken about Quinn being hurt, I’m also saddened and heartbroken that we may never be able to do agility again.

Of course, I’m told to wait and see. But how can a dog jump reliably without being able to bend his wrist? Reading Dr. Google… it seems like many dogs actually can return to jumping after full arthrodesis. But is that something I want to ask Quinn to do? Do I want to have him perform the teeter again? Am I going to proof the teeter for my other dogs more, so they understand it will move out from under them? That last one I have an answer to. You bet I am.

One of my good friends and I are always commiserating about how impatient we are, and we wish we could have a Future Glimpse just to see what is going to happen in the future. I could use one of those now. Just to know if he will be able to jump and herd again or not. Then I could just get over wondering about it and deal with it now.

But that’s not how life works.

So for now, I will concentrate on Quinn’s recovery. His comfort level for today. I want him to be as happy as he can be, even wearing this cast that I put him in. He gets bully sticks and little play sessions. I’m going to clicker train him to do some fun little things like a lip lick. I have such a great dog community that provides Quinn and myself wonderful support. And I’ll work on paying off the cost of his surgery, that was upwards of $3,500. And yes, I’m also frustrated that this injury cost so much money, because I don’t that kind of money just laying around. And I’d sure rather spend it on dog show entries!

That was the most expensive agility trial I’ve ever been to.

Quinn had a Severe Agility Injury

Recently I was in Sacremento at the Collie National Specialty with my smooth blue collie, Quinn. About a year earlier he had sprained a toe, and he was just fully recovered from that injury (boy, do toes take forever to heal!) and we were all ready to have a couple fun days of herding, a couple fun days of agility, some fun in the breed ring and then do some rally.

His herding went really well, and he got his first HT leg with the help of a friend who handled him, as I’m not too great handling him in herding myself. The first day of agility was for fun, because he’d only had one trial, in February, and nothing before that for nearly an entire year, so we were just getting back into the groove. Quinn will be five years old this month (April 2017) and taking all that time out to heal from a toe was rather annoying, but we did it. During that time we had a lot of fun in Barn Hunt (he’s great at Barn Hunt and runs at the Masters level) and started doing some UKC Nosework as well.

Anyway, to make a long story short, he and I were all ready to continue doing agility and have a great time, and while he didn’t Q in his Standard run on the first day, we had a most gorgeous Open JWW Qualifying run and I thought yay, we are back, and we are going to have a great agility career!

Well, the second day of agility, disaster struck. Quinn is not a fast dog. Most collies are not fast dogs in agility, as speed goes. But he’s steady and solid, his contacts have always been good and reliable… until the Standard run where he didn’t tip the teeter right and it fell out from under him. He must have rolled his left leg wrong, because he fell on his wrist coming off the teeter. He cried… oh boy did he cry.

Quinn Being Iced

When a traumatic event happens to me, I go into “Take Care Of It” mode. When I’ve been in my car rollovers, I took care of things and didn’t break down until later, or the next day. This was the same thing. I stood by him, comforted him, and hoped for the best. The agility community there was wonderful, and so many people tried to help, offer love and comfort and care, which was awesome. I cannot express how much I appreciated the support I felt there. Collie agility folk are wonderful.

If you’d like to see the agility video, here it is. Be warned, there is crying on Quinn’s part after the teeter. And it’s a heart-breaking cry for a dog lover.

I was hoping, as was everyone else, that he’d shake it off and be walking fine the next day. We had conformation and rally to do! If he would have been able to get a Q in Rally, or even just show in the breed ring, he would have qualified for a versatility ribbon, which I’ve never had a dog get before, and I was excited to get one with Quinn!

Alas, it was not to be. Quinn didn’t recover the next day. He kept limping, though he didn’t cry anymore, thank goodness. Here is the teeter part of his run clipped out, blown up, and slowed down, if you’d like to see what happened in more detail.

I can’t watch it anymore, it breaks my heart. I don’t like seeing any dog, especially my own, be injured in any way. And having them cry, that is the worst thing I can imagine.

Quinn’s Swollen Left Leg

Quinn and I stayed at Collie Nationals for another day, but my heart was breaking, seeing him in pain, and unable to participate in the activities around us. And seeing all the pretty, sound, happy collies. So we left and came home early. I was so grateful that Quinn’s breeder was with us for this entire experience, as she’s wonderful, and such a great support.

When I got home, I rested Quinn, and he seemed okay. I took him to our close emergency vet, and they took x-rays and said that his carpal bone had been fractured, but from what they could see, he wouldn’t need any surgery… well, after a few days went by, Quinn started to hyperextend that wrist. And I didn’t want to wait any longer so contacted a Canine Physical Therapist friend and sent her the videos of Quinn that I’d taken of him hyperextending.

My PT friend sent his videos to the vet I already had an appointment with the following Tuesday, but when he saw them, he said that Quinn needed to go in right away because he suspected he had a carpal hyperextention injury. And that is not good. That basically meant his tendon has been ruined. And that, of course, broke my heart all over again.

So Quinn had surgery the vet next Monday. He had full arthrodesis, which means his carpal bones needed to fused together because the carpal tendon was ruined and could no longer support his ankle. 🙁

All this from a teeter injury. All this from the teeter falling out from under him. All this for the sport of agility. I never thought this would happen to one of my dogs. I never thought that agility would cause such a major injury in one of my dogs. I know agility can be dangerous, but I have always been careful. I’ve always trained my dogs well. I’ve always felt like my dogs will be safe and sound and have fun. But now, well, now what do I think?

I’ll post again about the thoughts I now have about my poor dog, Quinn, my sweet collie boy, and the consequences he’ll be suffering through for the rest of his life. Ah Quinn, I’m so sorry. The surgery to have his bones fused cost over $3,500.00. And while cost is no issue when it comes to the health of my dogs I don’t, unfortunately, have that kind of money laying around. But we’ll pay it, of course, and we’ll make sure Quinn gets the best care he can.

I’m sorry Quinn. I’m so so sorry. 💔 💛 😭

Chronic Pain and Dog Sports

Quinn

I suffer through a lot of body pain, which my doctor has told me is most likely Fibromyalgia. In addition to a general sense of pain in my joints and muscles, I also get very, very tired after I spend three or four days on my feet with the dogs at a show or a trial.

If you suffer chronic pain and still push through and do sports with your dogs, what do you do?

I personally take about 2 or 3 days after a trial to rest and sleep and get back on my feet again. I’m fortunately enough that I don’t work, I’m retired, so I have that luxury. When I was working, I worked a desk job as a computer programmer, so that also helped me to recuperate. However, it didn’t allow me to sleep!

I also take some medication to help my situation, but I won’t go into details. I try not to take pain meds, and I don’t really think they help all that much, anyway. Things like Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. I think they can be dangerous if used too much so I try to stay away from them.

I also have a lot of chronic neck pain, and I try to rest my neck and get massages whenever I can.

I am fortunate that my dogs are patient with me on rest days. They want to chase the ball or play a little, but they will sleep with me if I ask them too. They are good dogs!

Dogs Bond No Matter What

2016-10-028Every day when I look at my dogs, and snuggle with them and love them and play ball with them, I can’t help to think about how every bit of their lives is determined by me. They really don’t have much of a choice about what they do. If I want to sit around all day, they sit around all day. If I want to train or play agility or nosework, they do it with me too. Fortunately, they are easy going spirits and also love to work and play and so far are enjoying everything I offer for them to do.

2016-09-058And they love me with all their little doggie hearts. I love them too, of course, I could not imagine not loving them. But they bond to me so strongly, follow me around, and even, like Connor, pout and are sad when I’m not home. Fortunately, I’m able to be home with them most of the time, but I do have to go do people things sometimes and leave them home by themselves.20161031_170652

I can only imagine the sad dogs of the world who love their caretakers so much, and bond to them so completely, and then are treated poorly or neglected. This breaks my heart. I’m sure it’s the same with human children. They have no choice but to love and bond to their caretakers.

I don’t know why this concerns me. Maybe I was involved in dog rescue for too many years and saw too many dogs treated poorly.

2016-10-22-02-43-24So what I’m just really trying to say is that we, each and every one of us, needs to be very aware of our dogs, their needs, their emotions, and their well-being, and treat them as best as we can. They will bond to us no matter what. They will love us no matter what. They deserve the absolute best from us in every single way. It’s our responsibility to give them the wonderful, safe, happy and healthy lives that they deserve.

Take good care of your dogs, your cats, and your kids, because they are the true innocents and give of themselves completely. Let’s honor that and give to them everything we can.

Training on the Green Grass

Yay summer is here! I have been out of town for a really long time, most of June actually, but I am back now and training again. I need to post about my long trip. It was a lot of fun and I drove almost 6,000 miles. 🙂 But I’m glad to be home and have nice weather to train outside!

Connor has been competing in agility regularly now, and now that we are in Excellent I am seeing our issues. He is not as confident as Jet. He’s been popping his weaves consistently, and he’s lagging behind me, not driving forward like I know he can do. So I’m working obstacles and sequences to try to gain him more confidence to get him to drive ahead more and complete the weaves. I even pulled out of our July trial in order to train and hopefully build up his confidence more. Here’s my training videos of him for today and yesterday. Yesterday we worked on his jumps, and today we worked on his weaves and teeter. I’m using the push-back game to hopefully get him to drive towards the obstacles more. And I’ll do this with sequences more too.

Connor and the jumps:

Connor and the Weaves:

Connor and the Teeter:

Maze and I continue to have fun learning what is best for him. Starting to train some 2×2 weaves by getting him to just go through one set. He does seem to poop out on my pretty quick… but we got some really nice throughs in! I don’t know if he stops trying because I don’t reward him with the toy if he’s wrong… or if I worked him too long. With the baby-teeter I set my watch to only work for 1 minute 30 seconds. But then I felt a bit rushed at first wanting to get so much in. LOL I am not used to setting a timer but maybe I really do need to get used to it.

On the sit-stays I didn’t set a timer, just worked and saw how he did. He’s doing good with that. I had a private lesson with Julie Daniels when I was on my trip and it was awesome! I have to joke that I needed a lesson with a pro to get my dog to do a stay.. LOL, but Maze is a bit of a challenge for me, and her method works great!

Maze Through 2x2s:

Maze baby teeter. He’s doing sooo so so well with this! We have been working a lot on moving things:

Maze sit/stay: