Clue update, 6 weeks

We’re now at six weeks post injury, so I thought that the Internets deserved an update.

The very good news: When I look at her, I really see “Clue” now–the look in her eye is her normal sparkle and she is back to her constantly happy and confident self. Since there are no other dogs here, she’s moved from pack leader to entire-pack functioning, so she is doing her best to patrol (not so easy when she’s confined) and mark and let out soft little woofs every few minutes to let us know that Something made a Noise. Those are all normally Bronte’s jobs.

She is THRILLED by visitors and is longing to play with other dogs. She looks good too–still thin, but not gaunt. Her preternaturally good topline and tailset are back to normal and she’s not roaching anymore. This–along with her fighting to run and go up stairs and jump on people, and the fact that she wants the kids to sit beside her again–is a sign to me that she’s not feeling any pain.  She did end up completely losing her entire coat, topcoat too, so she looks like a Beagle, but it DID stop (for a while there I was very worried that she was still sick or had a thyroid problem, because wow she has no hair left) and the short stuff that’s there is thick and shiny.

The not-good (none of these rise to the level of BAD, but they’re things I wish hadn’t happened): Her “bad” back leg, the one where the hip was half-dislocated, is still gimpy. She limps, sometimes very noticeably, on it–which, since she shows no sign of pain otherwise, suggests to me that she’s not feeling that it can support her normally. I think it may feel to her like it is stiff or freezes up, or maybe there’s some loss of sensation, because she’ll be favoring it only a tiny bit and then suddenly it’s a huge limp that throws her onto her front legs. Doug (who takes her for her one short walk a day, in the morning, just a tenth of a mile or so) keeps telling me that she’s limping in front, but it’s actually that she’s choosing to almost skip in the back and carry herself in the front, and makes her go lurrlip-lurrlip as she trots instead of trotting evenly.

As a result, the diagonal front leg–the one that gets most of the weight–is turning out a lot more. It’s remarkable to see this compensation and it has made me believe all the breeders who say “NO STAIRS BEFORE ONE!” The turn-out on that front leg is easily 20 degrees more than it has ever been; she has always had perfect one o’clock turnout on one front and maybe one-fifteen or one-thirty on the other. The one-thirty foot has moved to two-thirty when she’s carelessly sitting or standing.

In the rear, she’s cow-hocking on the bad leg and she holds it so only the tip is touching the ground when she stands relaxed, which also makes the good leg look weird–she throws it out sideways.

So, in the end, the movement that more than one judge called “flawless” is not so flawless anymore! I could be wrong, and we could still see improvement, but I suspect she’ll always walk a little funny and that as she fatigues it will bother her more. She’s off her restrictions in another couple of weeks, so at that point I’ll let her start choosing how much to exercise and we’ll see if anything gets stronger.

Training-wise, anything we can do standing still or lying down is drilled daily. She knows how to whisper, roll over, find a toy when it’s hidden, high-five, etc. As usual, she LOVES training. I’m working on teaching her “yes” and “no” as bridging cues; it’s a very difficult thing for a dog to understand (both that they need to offer a behavior and not be asked for it, and that when you say “yes” the behavior isn’t finished, but instead they should keep going and figure out what you want, or if you say “no” they should abandon and begin a new behavior). Some days I think she totally has it and some days I think she’s just humoring me! She will stand and look very intently at my face and then run through every behavior she knows, fast as she can, and end by whisper-barking while she stares at me. If I want her to do something new, I need to sit and wait and wait and wait while she barks at me until, still staring at me, she’ll start doing other things veeerrry slowly, like she’s talking to a complete dunce. And then I say “yes” when she moves the correct part of her body and we try to go from there.

This makes me feel like quite the accomplished trainer until something happens like it did yesterday, when she came to me and asked to go out to pee, and I said carelessly “Well, we can’t go until we get your leash, so where is it?” and she promptly ran to the doorknob where it hangs, grabbed one end, pulled it off the knob, and dragged it back to me. All behaviors I have NEVER taught, never even close. I’ve never taught take it, or hold it, or drag, or bring it. The inevitable conclusion: She’s much, much smarter than my training and she probably thinks she’s trying to communicate with a very slow, sadly delayed child.

She’s lying on her SUPER AWESOME astronaut-approved memoryfoam bed beside me right now; her lips are moving, which means she’s dreaming about barking at something. Probably me.

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5 thoughts on “Clue update, 6 weeks

  1. I am just going to throw this out there for you. I have collies (and a pembroke!). I had a dog shipped to me and he came out of the crate limping – now there is a whole long story to this but the end is that he was a fat puppy (9 months) and when we x-rayed him he looked fine. Well I can’t show a limping dog so he was going back but life intervened. In the meantime I tried crate rest and he went on a diet to loose some weight. None of that worked. I decided life in a crate was just too boring – he was not on pain meds so I figured that if it hurt him he would stop and let him go run around in the backyard. As his muscles strengthened his limp got better. Now he is a kind of skinny (on purpose) 19 month old dog and if you are a good judge of movement he does not have the reach he should have but the dog can run like a gazelle and hopefully will start showing in rally this year. I guess what I am saying is that when Clue comes off of restriction and gets to do more free moving she may muscle up and that may help her. I know corgis have issues due to the dwarfism that may trump what happened in a collie but I also know that less weight and more free exercise has really done the trick for a dog that didn’t look like he would ever stop limping.

  2. great news…. and even if her movement never full returns to what it once was, as long as she’s comfortable and can live a happy healthy life, that’s all that *really* matters. I’m just so glad that she’s recovering so well for you 🙂

  3. I think you will continue to see improvement in her stance and movement for at least a year. We have a Cardigan boy who came to us about 5 months post back surgery. He moved in much the way you describe. He often stood with just the toe touching on one back leg. His back was roached and he sort of hop-skipped in the back and took the brunt of his weight on his front. He also paced while at a trot. We were given the ok by our vet to let him “police himeself” as to how much excercise. So we gave him free reign over our 10 acres.

    Much to our surprise, a year later you can hardly tell he had surgery. He runs, stands, plays like a normal Cardigan. He even gave me the suprise of my life the other night by jumping on the couch (to escape the puppy lol). I have never seen him jump on anything. Of course, I immediately discouraged the behavior as we have already decided that if he goes down in the back again, we are not doing surgery.

    Anyway. The point is, everytime we think “Ok, this is as good as he is going to get.” We realize a few more months down the road that he is better than before.

    Good luck rehabbing Clue.

  4. I’m so glad Clue is improving in health. Wow, what a smart little cookie, she is! I love the training stories!

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