Permission to Walk

Casey was given permission to start doing short, 5 minute, on leash walks as soon as his bandage was removed (following his ACL/Cranial Cruciate Surgery). Being all terrier β€” meaning he’s quite resilient and self-assured β€” Casey was ready to give it a shot. The literature we were given indicated he might not bear weight on the foot for up to 2 weeks, but that we should be looking for some toe tapping within a few days. Well, my boy toe tapped from the minute the bandage was off. Within the week he was balancing himself on the bad leg to pee!

The following week we had some very wintry weather, not terribly conducive to lengthening our walks to the 10 minutes as prescribed. So I decided to do our walking in the basement. How boring to walk aimlessly around a basement for 10 minutes…so I added some music and all of a sudden we were dancing πŸ™‚

As soon as the music started Casey’s tail started wagging. He was delighted to walk to the beat. Yes, there were treats involved, which made the entire experience much more fun. The change in Casey’s attitude was instantaneous. Here was another instance of being able to use his formal training (canine freestyle) to help him rebound from his injury. Adding music has been so successful that we have incorporated the “dancing” as part of our program even when we’re able to go outside for longer walks.



Be forewarned you’ll likely need a tissue or two.


This story talks to the resilience of dogs and how they can bring out the best in us when given half a chance.


One step at a time

We were fortunate that Casey came home on a Saturday, as it gave us lots of time to spend together as a family. However, it became extremely apparent how much of Casey’s life had involved movement and having a job to do.

Our usual routine was something like this: a morning walk (a mile or two), a play session where he’d chase a ball or practice some dance steps (for breakfast), an evening walk through the neighborhood and an evening play session involving a variety of toys & treats (aka “dinner” some nights). Now, with limited mobility there wasn’t much that Casey was interested in. I prepared a Kong stuffed with liverwurst & kibble β€” Casey didn’t even lick it. I tried cream cheese and peanut butter with no success. He was depressed, likely in pain, and not interested in making an effort to do anything. It was disheartening.

Finally we had a small breakthrough β€” I was able to get him to play a game of touch*. I sat on the floor next to him and presented my palm to him (close enough so all he had to do was reach forward) and he touched his nose to my hand. At the moment he touched my hand I marked the behavior with a click and gave him a tasty treat β€” chicken. It was a start and I was thrilled. He had a job. In addition to giving him something to do it helped build his interest in eating again.

This was just the beginning of how I was able to use Casey’s years of training to help us navigate the obstacles we encountered during his weeks and months of recovery.

*About touch β€” it is an orientation exercise that has lots of applications in dog training, I teach it in puppy class as an emergency recall and it’s used in upper-level classes to teach a dog to work at a distance and develop involvement with other objects (like ringing a bell or turning a light switch).

To teach touch put a small piece of food (lure) in the palm of one hand and then present that hand, palm forward with fingers facing down, to your dog. As the dog reaches to sniff your palm/fingers “Mark” the contact with a Yes or a Click and give a treat out of your other hand. Once your dog gets the hang of touching your palm with his nose remove the food lure from your presenting hand.

Next time β€” more progress and how training continues to help in recovery πŸ™‚


Casey comes home

We picked Casey up at Metro on Saturday morning. He was wearing one of those awful e-collars (plastic cone) and his left-hind leg was heavily bandaged all the way up to his hip. In spite of it all, Casey seemed to be doing pretty well.

I asked the discharge nurse how he’d been for his pills (I knew the answer before I asked) and was told that they managed to get them into him but they did mark his kennel with a “warning” sign. Giving Casey his meds has NEVER been easy, so I could just imagine… I was not looking forward to the next few weeks of pills and liquid medication.

Fortunately the ride home was uneventful, I held Casey in the back seat of the car. When we got home we spent a low-key day as a family in the living room. There was snow outside β€” so the bandage had to be covered and I had to do my best to make sure he would not slip on any ice when I took him out.

Casey didn’t have much of an appetite, even though he had not eaten in over 36-hours. He refused to eat at Metro, which was not a surprise. In preparation for his homecoming I’d roasted a chicken (a favorite dish) and finally managed to get him to eat something. He was still recovering from the anesthesia, which I think affected his stomach and digestion. He was also in pain, so pain meds were important, even if he didn’t want to take them.

Casey had to wear the e-collar to make sure he would not get to the bandage, however it looked uncomfortable. I’d borrowed a soft blow-up version from a friend. While the new one worked Casey could still get to the bandage if he really tried, so for bedtime I decided he really needed to wear the cone.

None of us slept much that night! First of all Casey was on restrictions β€” no steps or stairs β€” so he had to be carried to bed. Every time he’d get picked up he’d growl (talk about unappreciative). I’d modified his bed, removing his wicker frame, so he could just lie on the mattress. That wasn’t good enough, Casey was used to spending a little time each night on our bed before going to sleep in his own (yes, he’s VERY spoiled). But now he wasn’t allowed on the furniture (fear of jumping) so that started his cries of unhappiness. The cries continued almost all night. It was impossible to tell whether they were cries of pain, discomfort, sadness, misery or all of the above. Casey had never cried like that before. It was heart wrenching.

Somehow we made it through the night but the lack of sleep didn’t help any of us… we carried on.

Next time, how we made it through the next 12 days.

How it happened

You might expect that you’d have some warning before your dog goes completely lame; unfortunately that’s not necessarily the case. While my Casey is 12.5 years old, he’s always been a very active dog. I routinely considered all of his activities to be “cross-training”: daily walks, weekend hikes (usually 3 – 4 miles through some wooded trail), daily training (even if for only 10 minutes) in dog sports including: agility, obedience, rally obedience, freestyle and most recently (since his injury) nose work.

Up until his accident, I hadn’t seen any indication of lameness. Yes, he has some arthritis in his shoulder, likely from a fall many years ago off a piece of agility equipment, but nothing that hampered his gait. Since we walk on leash daily I regularly watch him move/his gait and hadn’t seen anything. On the evening when the tear happened, we were coming back from our walk down the street (the whole walk’s about 1/2 mile) and Casey was feeling playful. He nose bopped my husband’s leg (his cue for let’s run) and they both took off in a quick sprint. In an instant Casey was on 3-legs. No cry of pain, just unable to bear weight on his left hind. My husband carried him home.

It was quickly apparent that he could not put any weight on the leg. I iced it, gave him a prescription pain pill (which he’d gotten for an interdigital cyst some time previously) and a baby aspirin. Of course his injury happened after 5:00 on a Friday night… I called his vet’s office but they were closed until Monday… Since he was not in obvious pain I decided to wait until Saturday before calling an emergency vet. On Saturday I spoke with several professional friends/colleagues and they all said that the only place to take Casey was Metropolitan (Veterinary Associates). Hands down Metro was touted as THE best place for an ACL injury. As a point of reference, there are 3 other emergency vet clinics within 5 miles of where I live, and Metro’s 25 miles away…I figured it would be a bad idea to take Casey to a close vet, only to know I’d refuse surgery if they suggested it. So, I called Metro to see what they would/could do for him over the weekend. They said basically all they could do would be to make him comfortable. Since Casey wasn’t in any great discomfort I made the personal decision to wait and take him to his own vet before making any additional decisions.

Casey’s vet wasn’t able to see him until Tuesday but when she did see Casey I knew we’d made the right decisions (for us). She confirmed there was likely a tear of his ACL and that Metro was the place to go. She took preliminary radiographs and pre-op blood work. Due to his age, I wanted to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery before we went ahead to see the specialist.

On Thursday 1/24 Casey met his surgeon at Metro β€” Dr. Jacqui Niles. She took time to examine him and explain what she was looking at/for. Casey, who generally hates being “helped” with anything, was being very cooperative and downright pleasant, until Dr. Niles did one last manipulation β€” that one hurt! In no uncertain terms Casey let her know that if she ever did that again he would bite her. Dr. Niles confirmed that he’d torn his Cranial Cruciate and that surgery was really the only way to get him back on 4 feet. She explained what would be involved (she does about 3 of these a day!), including the cost (quite substantial I might add) and said we could have a few minutes to discuss it privately. My husband said, no we didn’t need to discuss it; we were here to have the surgery. My husband’s a saint πŸ™‚

Anyway, Casey had surgery the following morning. We dropped him of by 6:30 am and had a call by 9:30 that he had done well and was in recovery. We could pick him up the following morning. I went to bed that night realizing this might be the last good night’s sleep for a while. I had no idea…

More next time πŸ™‚


Back to blogging

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, sorry, I’ve been busy with other non-dog related things 😦

I thought when I came back I’d blog about the changes to the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) testing, however, this too has been temporarily sidelined. My Casey (12.5 year old Cairn Terrier) had a complete tear of his ACL (accurately called a cranial cruciate ligament in dogs) and a 1/2 tear of a meniscus in mid-late January. He underwent surgery, completed by a specialist at Metropolitan Vet Associates in Norristown, PA. (A great place if you need emergency or specialty care.) The joint was stabilized surgically with a nylon monofilament. And while I’m pleased to say (knock on wood) that he’s doing well β€” it’s been a LONG month!

Fortunately, since I train with a local dog club (, I’ve had a great deal of support from friends & colleagues who’ve helped me get through some of the more stressful times.

When this first happened, and after the surgery, I looked on the Internet for information and didn’t come up with much that related to what I was going through. So, for that reason, I will dedicate my next series of blogs to this type of injury and my experiences as we’ve gone/are going through recovery.

If I can help someone else get through a similar situation, the posts will be worth it.

Until next time πŸ™‚


Matchmaking follow-up

Well my shy little PBGV is coming out of his shell very slowly. I do not believe that the sweet Corgi has won him over, yet. I think he may be thinking she has too much enthusiasm. However, the PBGV did seem to work better in class this week, so I’m not giving up hope.

Here are my suggestions for working with a fearful dog in class:

When I have a less than confident dog in class I like to have the fearful dog work in a designated area (perhaps but not necessarily gated off) so that they can get comfortable (start to feel some security) with the space they are in. I start the class out working on some stationary exercises like name recognition, sits, downs, attention/watch, even some meet and greets (people only). This gives the dog a chance to scope out his classmates and determine that they are not a threat (assuming that’s the case). Once the dogs are performing these tasks with some fluidity then I will start the moving exercises like loose leash walking.

While working on loose leash walking, especially as a group, I will distribute cones equally spaced around the room, one for each dog. That way each handler knows they have a cone to “go to”, which helps keep the dogs separated. (Note; you may need to reinforce the importance of this spacing, people have a tendency to group together.) This is very important if you have an anxious dog(s). The movement of multiple dogs can be very stimulating/threatening to a fearful dog so everyone needs to be paying attention.

The handler of the anxious dog should give their dog full attention when they are walking. Perhaps offering a hand target from time to time and reinforcing (treating) good behavior VERY frequently. They should also take periodic breaks if their dog’s been working well in the group. Perhaps even leaving the room or going outside so the dog can have a few moments to really relax.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t rush the process of instilling confidence. The dog needs to develop confidence in himself as well as in his handler.

Hope this is helpful πŸ™‚