When I was in 4-H and I had to keep records of my dog activities, I remember finding a quote. I was intrigued but it's one of those things that I can only now truly appreciate. Now that my first dog is gone. I trained and showed Buzz because I enjoyed it. Because we enjoyed it.

"A title proves that your dog inspired you to that special relationship enjoyed by so few; that in a world of disposable creatures, this dog with a title was greatly loved, and loved greatly in return." -Sandra Mowery from Why Title a Dog?

There are some titles I value more than others, simply because I know how much work went into being successful. I never mentioned Buzz's titles in my tribute to him. That's not what our relationship was about. But training and showing to get those titles, that is what our relationship was about.

The titles I am most proud of:

UCD (United Kennel Club-Companion Dog) earned on 1/19/2008. Obedience used to be "boring" for Buzz. This was when he would leave me the most frequently. This video is of his third consecutive qualifying UCD run, for his title. I was THE MOST PROUD. I still am.

Novice Versatility Award (NADAC award for completing the requirements for all class titles-NAC, NJC, NCC, TN-N, TG-N, and WV-N). Buzz earned this when he earned his WV-N on 3/15/2009. He was never good at weaving, but it's something we worked on. A lot. My goal was never a NATCH for him. My only goal was to get his Novice Versatility. And we did. Thank you Annelise.

ARCH, RLV, and RLVX (APDT, now WCRL Rally Champion, Rally Veteran, and Rally Veteran Champion). We started doing this type of rally because the signs are more exciting, the courses are longer, there is space to heel between signs, and I could feed him in the ring. The most important though is the availability of the veterans class. Long after Buzz could do Level 1, 2, or 3, he could still compete with me. He absolutely LOVED doing WCRL. I loved that I could still get out in a ring with my boy and watch him shine. He earned his last title, RLVX, on 7/27/13. I still cry every time I watch this video.

I've learned to live my life without you. I'm trying to never forget the lessons you taught me. Titles are about teamwork and relationship, never take either for granted.

My Buzz Lightyear.
Sir Buzz Domino
Novice Versatility, RL1/2/V Award of Excellence
May 5, 1998 - May 20, 2014


Gabby's First (and second) Title(s)

I was so caught up in school and work that I never acknowledged Gabby's first title. Which is actually a huge milestone. And she doesn't just have one title now, she has two!

The road to getting Gabby trial-ready has been a long one, and it certainly isn't over. The above photo is what I want, and these days what I get most of the time! More of the above, and less of the below.

The good news is that the more we work on it, the better she gets! Her first trial, she had a 50% qualifying rate going 2/4 over the two days. Despite that, I was thrilled with how she worked. I'd had her for less than a year, and had been training her for less than 6 months. I entered the trial because we only have 2 per year. I entered the trial hoping I could see where our holes were, and make trial environments a happy place for her! Both of her qualifying runs were in the Veterans class.
First trial!
This is a video from her second trial. So much improvement in her ability to work. Much longer duration heeling. And her heel position remained clear. There is no halfway, she is either heeling with all components there, or she isn't. Which is exactly what I want.
Obviously, the end result is heeling with more duration. But I was SO happy with her. In her second trial, she qualified in 4/4 runs! 100% qualifying rate! She qualified in two Veteran runs and two Level 1 runs! Qualifying in veterans earned her FIRST TITLE! Aroha's ESRA Gift of Gab RLV!

We got really lucky and our club decided to host a one day WCRL trial in December last year. I entered her in Veterans and Level 1 again. And in this trial, she worked as the dog I train. I was so incredibly happy with her. I walked into the ring with my fabulous girl and she blew me away.

Qualifying in Level 1 earned her RL1 title! And qualifying in Veterans earned #2/5 for her RLVX.

Aroha's ESRA Gift of Gab RL1 RLV


Sporadic Blogging (but I have pictures)

School is over, I graduated (in August...)! Now I just have to take my VTNE in December. The dogs haven't been getting out as much because of a lot of reasons (my injuries, their injuries, time, daylight, I can think of more excuses if I need to) and I also haven't used my camera all summer.

Yesterday we remedied that.

I haven't used my camera in ages, and neither Gabby nor Diego are used to being photographed so most of my initial pictures look like this. They looked nice but as soon as I crouched down to focus, they started moving toward me. Oops.

And then I forgot I had a zoom. But Gabby gave me some great faces anyways.

I always seem to end up with a lot of photos like this. And I'm always worried she's going to stick her nose on my lens! This worry is justified, because she has!

And then I took a bunch of Diego rolling because I find it so adorable.

He really is a handsome dog. He just doesn't often stop long enough for me to admire him!

Oh the derp. I can't stand it.

Rolling was the theme of the day I guess.

Again with the handsome!

Group photo time! Diego looks nice, Gabby looks nice... and Bailey looks stoned.

Diego looks moderately sad. Gabby looks great. Bailey looks less stoned.


Gotcha Gabby

Gabby's "official" gotcha day is October 6th. She entered my care on June 4th. And her date of birth is November 30th. 

On September 30, 2013 I emailed Ellie, one of our regional coordinators, "a hypothetical situation." 

If I were hypothetically interested in keeping Gaby, would I be allowed to?
 Anyone who knows me a little bit, knows that I adore this dog to pieces. She does virtually nothing wrong and she is as good as gold. Gabby came into my life when I needed her most. She learned so many important lessons from Buzz, she helped satisfy my desire to train when Buzz no longer could, she provided company for Buzz when I worked long hours, and she sat with me while I cried and cried and cried when he was gone. She has been invaluable in helping my heart to heal from the immense loss of my heart dog. Gabby and I have bravely forged our own path where we are learning how to work together. She makes me so happy. She is so joyful. 

And she wouldn't be mine without the compassion and generosity of English Springer Rescue America. Being Gabby's foster means that I know how much money was spent on her care. And I know that her adoption fee was less than half of her veterinary care cost. Thank you for helping me find my Gabby.

Happy gotcha day Gabbers.

Aroha's ESRA Gift of Gab RLV


Bailey's Behavior Modification Medications

Some of you know that Bailey has been struggling physically and mentally lately. Really struggling. She couldn't seem to settle unless she was sleeping and she was often restless even then. Unfortunately her "just not right"-ness has actually been going on for about a year with quite vague symptoms that seemed to change week to week.

She takes a variety of prescription medications as well as supplements. I've learned it can be quite difficult to manage so many medications successfully, there are so many potential interactions! One of the things her vet(s) and I have discussed recently was the possibility of incorrect medication doses. In medicine there are "relative overdoses" and "frank overdoses." The simple way to explain it is that a "frank overdose" means the patient received too much. A "relative overdose" means that even if the correct, calculated dose was administered, it was too much for that patient.

I'll start by saying I am so very lucky to have the resources I do. As we reviewed Bailey's symptoms, time-frame of onset, various diagnostics, and medications for the hundredth time I heard "what if one of her medication doses is now wrong for her." And we all paused. So we started looking up side effects of ALL the medications she takes. Fluoxetine is metabolized by the liver. Earlier this year, Bailey's liver values were elevated. She was started on a supplement from Standard Process and at her next recheck, her liver values had normalized. She, however, did not normalize. Hyperserotonin syndrome is not common as far as I can tell, and the onset is usually very quick with serious consequences if it isn't addressed. However, many of Bailey's symptoms were the same. She was more anxious, she was nauseous, she was ataxic (all four limbs didn't seem to get the correct signals from her brain), and she was restless (just to name a few). We had tried to rule in or out so many other causes without success. Nothing else added up the way this did.

Bailey was weaned off her Fluoxetine completely (and very carefully) over the course of 6 weeks. The lower her dose got, the more she improved. Both physically and mentally. She is no longer ataxic, she has more coordination than I've seen in a year. Her appetite is much better. And she is able to relax.

I've hesitated to share this publicly, because I am an advocate for behavior medication in dogs. Her life changed, for the better, because of it many years ago. As dogs age, their bodies change. It was a lesson for me to keep looking for an answer, because there was one for Bailey.


Geriatric Care: Exercise/Pain Management

A very delayed part two in my Geriatric Care series.

Exercise is important for cardiac health, muscle strength, and mental health. Many older dogs struggle to maintain the amount of muscle that was easily built in younger years. At work we tend to see older dogs losing muscle as a result of pain because exercising becomes increasingly difficult.

Step one has to be pain management. Talk to your veterinarian (or a rehabilitation veterinarian if you are lucky enough to have one nearby) about diagnosing and managing pain. A general place to start is finding a high quality joint supplement. Dasuquin is recommended by many veterinary professionals as the go-to joint supplement. In addition to that, the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management is an organization devoted wholly to the management of pain. There is a "search for member" tab at the top to assist in finding a local veterinarian experienced in pain management. In Minnesota alone, there are 51 members!

An alternative complimentary approach is using Low-Level Laser Therapy (therapeutic laser) as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Buzz benefited greatly from regular laser therapy. His overall comfort level improved, his mobility was better, and he certainly didn't mind spending quality time alone with me. Not all lasers are created equally, so it is definitely a treatment that should be prescribed and overseen by a professional.

Once pain is under control there are so many options for strengthening. At work we utilize underwater treadmill therapy in conjunction with specific exercises tailored to each dog. We have exercises that target specific muscle groups to engage them, or relax them, based on the needs of the dog. 

An example of Buzz's exercises at home included a chest elevation stretch, weight shifting, and front limb range of motion. The exercises were prescribed twice daily, and I was pretty good about getting them done at least once daily. Doing his exercises took about 10 minutes start to finish. His exercises changed frequently based on how he seemed to feel while I was doing them, and after. A few exercises he really enjoyed, I made a point of doing regularly (chest elevation stretch and spinal traction). Before I started working at TC Rehab, Buzz saw Dr. Julia every month or two for re-evaluation. 

Structured exercise is very important in keeping a geriatric dog happy and healthy. While enjoying smells in the backyard and interacting with other dogs is still considered exercise (and can be great mental stimulation), an exercise regimen can help to keep your dog more comfortable and active as they age. It is very important to remember that we want to give them enough exercise erring on the side of too little rather than over tax their bodies and make exercise painful.


How to make a Happy Gabby!

I picked Gabby up on 5/4/13. She did a lot of lying around. Her previous owners described her as a turtle. 
exhibit A: lying in the kitchen
Well, we discovered she moved like a turtle because a) her vision is poor, b) she has hip and elbow dysplasia, c) she is hypothyroid, d) she was obese, e) had a bladder infection, and f) she had broken/infected/painful teeth.

she was just a little "thick"

Over the last 12 months Gabby has:
a) gotten a diagnosis of PRA 
b) had her hips and elbows xrayed to confirm arthritis and dysplasia
c) confirmed hypothyroidism with bloodwork and she started Soloxine last fall
d) lost 20 pounds -- TWENTY POUNDS
e) treated the bladder infection with antibiotics
f) had a dental last summer and very obviously felt so much better after

she frequently looked angry
I have a lot of photos of her that I never shared publicly, because they really aren't flattering, but because of how far she's come... I'm sharing them today!

tubby lumpkins

exhibit B: she looked like a pregnant pig
As she started to feel better, she started doing more. Like playing with toys, and playing tug with me!

She enjoyed going for walks where she could just putter around at her own pace.

I took this picture the day I announced to the world I'd decided to keep her!

A few people have asked what I've done and continue to do for Gabby. Some people even asked if we were going to do surgery on her hips. The answer to surgery is more than likely, no. As she continues to lose weight and build muscle, we have only noticed decreasing pain, not increasing. That's very promising for us to be able to manage her well with all the things we've been doing, for many years to come.

This is what we've done for Gabby:
  • I started her on Cosequin as soon as I got her. It is my go-to joint health supplement, because they've done the research. A couple months later, she was switched to Dasuquin (the next level). Just like everyone in the family, she continues to take her Dasuquin every morning.
  • The first week I had her, she went to the vet for a general health check up where we discovered she had a UTI and an ear infection. She was put on medication to treat both conditions.
  • I added in a Vitamin B complex. B vitamins are great for everyone and they seemed to put a pep in her step. She continues to get this on a regular basis (we both take it every morning).
  • In early July, she had a dental with four extractions. She felt SO MUCH BETTER getting those teeth out of her mouth!
  • By August, her vet and I determined there was likely an underlying cause for her to be losing weight so slowly despite a very strict diet and exercise plan. So a thyroid panel was run. She is hypothyroid and was started on Soloxine.
  • At some point around here, it was decided she should be on an omega 3 supplement. She has been on Grizzly Pollock Oil and Solid Gold SeaMeal since then.
  • On October 6, 2013 I announced I'd decided to keep her!
  • In November, Gabby had an eye exam with Dr. Larocca. It was determined she is afflicted with PRA. She had been taking an eye supplement for some time, but the supplement was changed to Opti-Vue with Floraglo Lutein. So far, her eyes seem to be holding steady!
  • This winter was a little tough for all of us with it being so cold but I continued to monitor her caloric intake and she really enjoyed playing in the snow. She learned to wear boots and a coat so we could be outside for longer than to just potty.
In the last couple of months, she's had a full functional exam at work. This entails taking range of motion measurements of all four limbs, checking for pain, measuring muscle mass, assessing gait, and determining core strength. She has started Adequan (an injectable chondroprotective). She's had her four-doses-every-four-days already and now we're at the four-doses-once-a-week before we go to once every 3-4 weeks. She has also started working out in the treadmill at work regularly as well as doing exercises at home! Last, but certainly not least, regular veterinary spinal manipulation therapy (chiropractic) rounds out her "get fit, feel great" health care plan. 

Gabby's current medication/supplement list:
So, even though her xrays look pretty terrible...

With weight loss, joint support, and rehab... Gabby is having a blast in life.

**Disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian. Gabby's protocol has been developed and adjusted as needed by a veterinarian!