2-minute dog trainer – time out to get healthy

Sometimes training is put on hold for recovery from injury or disease. Tempest and I are experiencing one of those involuntary time outs right now.

Here’s what’s happening. We’re able, on occasion, to implement my 2-minute protocols and they are keeping us in the game even during recovery.

October 21, 6:27am
“Off to what is supposed to be our last trialing weekend of 2011. Tempest is just 19 months old, has earned his NA and NAF, and has run in AKC as well as USDAA. I’m hoping to work this weekend on better partnership in Jumpers with Weaves class, and keepin’ all those bars up! Wish me luck! It’s been an amazing journey so far ….”

October 23, 6:27pm
“Tempest finished his weekend a little early. Saturday afternoon a Q and 2nd in Open FAST, finishing his Open Fast title. On a family walk Saturday evening he came back from the woods on 3 legs. Skipped Novice JWW on Sunday morning, still lame at noon so skipped Open Standard at 2 and pulled from T2B Sunday afternoon. This was our last 2011 trial (probably) so we end our first trialing season with an NA and OF, plus 2 Open Standard legs and 1 Novice JWW legs. Our winter lessons start in a few weeks, after puppy gets a complete rest and break from agility.

Best news of the weekend — switching from 20″ to 24″ made Tempest struggle in JWW on Friday, but he ran Open Std on Saturday with no dropped bars at all. I’m guessing 24″ will be his AKC jump height from here on.”

October 31, 7:32pm
“A big shout out, hugs, and thanks to great friends Tamara Kurtz and Kathy Ihle Clark! They noticed Tempest’s lameness at Zanesville (he came on Sunday but didn’t run because of it) and took the time to share information with me regarding Osteocondrosis (OCD) in Border Collies. Long story short – I had my vet take x-rays and look specifically for OCD. Because it’s tough to diagnose she sent radiographs to Dr. Barnhart at Med Vet. He confirmed OCD in Tempest’s left shoulder. We have a consult appointment in a week and probable surgery shortly thereafter. If my vet hadn’t been aimed that direction we might have missed this entirely. Thank you Tamara! You went out of your way to get me talking to Kathy. Thank you, Kathy, for all the information and for reasuring me. Love you both! (Tempest says thanks, too!)”

November 7, 7:09pm
“Tempest goes back to MedVet at 7am for arthroscopic surgery for OCD on his left shoulder. Physical exam showed extreme pain and substantial loss of muscle mass (after just 2 weeks). Hope to be home by this time tomorrow, with 4 weeks of leash walking — and then a complete recovery. Fingers crossed!”

November 8, 5:36pm
“Home from Dr. Barnhart’s at MedVet. Tempest is very uncomfortable, but is on strong pain meds so hopefully will get more comfortable in the next 3-4 days. Then 4 weeks of crate rest, pottying on lead, etc.”

November 8, 5:57pm
“Finally! Tempest stood and whined at me for about an hour. He’s on pretty strong meds so I knew he couldn’t last forever, but he FINALLY eased himself down onto a cushy dog bed and is sound asleep.”

November 9, 7:03am
“After a really good (aka “drug induced”) nights’ sleep Tempest woke me up at 6:30am, standing on all four feet, wagging his tail, smiling, and wanting outside. Walked down the ramp interested in the critters in the woods (instead of totally into his own discomfort as yesterday) and peed. Back up the ramp and into his pen for breakfast, all the time standing on all four feet. Not putting full weight on left front but not dangling it or folding that foot under as yesterday. Ate a hearty breakfast, chewed on his nylabone for a few seconds, now back asleep.”

November 10, 9:56pm
“On Thursday, just 48 hours post surgery, Tempest is putting weight on his left foot, is acting comfortable and happy, and is able to sleep on either side. Started Adequin injections today (2 x week x 4 weeks) and begin with Chondroitin + Glucosamine dietary additives tomorrow.”

November 12, 1:08pm
“Days 1-2-3 post op Tempest’s potty breaks were actually much more brief than recommended — probably 2-3 minutes each. Today (4 days post op) was so beautiful I took him to pee, then we walked together to dump the pooper-scooper at the bottom of the yard. Back in the house in about 10-12 minutes, and my pup seemed to appreciate getting to walk in the sun a bit. He’s very nearly putting full weight on his foot, moving his shoulder in a natural way, and seems to not notice any pain. He’s such a good boy and — once again — I’m glad I worked so hard on calming behaviors, loose-leash walking, and good house-manners.”

November 22, 8:44am
“Tempest’s staples come out today. He hasn’t had to wear his elizabethan collar at all, lucky boy. Since I’ll have him in the car I’m going to give myself a little outing.”

November 27, 10:07am
“One more week of crate confinement for Tempest. Time has flown by, even with my impatience and desire to get on with our winter training fun. We return to MedVet for our follow-up visit with Dr. Barnhart on Dec. 7. Rehab begins Dec. 8, hopefully. By Tempest’s 2nd birthday (3/13/12) we intend to re-enter the agility trial scene.”

December 7, 2:34pm
“Tempest is officially “cleared for take-off” today. Dr. Barnhart said his shoulder is very solid and that what he needs now is exercise. Free to play in the yard and house, free to interact with Kory. Free to do agility with gradual resumption of his full jump height. I’m so elated I can barely contain my glee. It’s been 6 weeks since our last agility outing and I was figuring we’d have a gradual re-entry to activity. ‘Get him out there running and playing. He’s got some scar tissue he needs to break up and he may act slightly lame on occasion, but he’ll work through that and gain strength through the exercise.’ YAY!”

December 15, 6:18am
Well, all in all a bad evening. Tempest seemed a little restless, over-anxious to do agility, and then a seizure in the training building. And another, and another, just minutes between seizures … for 55 minutes and a total of 10 seizures. Five before we were able to pack him up and get on the road to the emergency vet, 5 more on the way. By the end of the 30-min drive he was nearly unconscious and I really thought he had died. He’s spent the night at the emergency vet clinic in Parkersburg, I pick him up in an hour, and he starts anti-seizure meds on a regular basis. Second most horrible evening of my life (first was Bud’s accident a year ago, in ICU for 2 days four hours from home).

December 15, 1:30pm
“Tempest has spent the day at my local vet’s office. Took him 5-6 hours to get even marginally out of the anesthesia. Lots of vocalizing and thrashing. So here’s the thing. I’m afraid to bring him home. I’m afraid he’ll start again and I’ll be alone. I’m afraid he’ll die on my watch. Vet just called and said he’s resting easier but still wobbly on his rear end when they walk him. Hasn’t pooped or peed for them yet, so I’m certain he’ll be more comfortable with me. Last night’s episode was such a strong correction that I’m afraid to offer behaviors of any kind. Feel like I’m operating in a fog. Go to pick him up at 4:30 – vet has a Christmas party at her house tonight so they’ll all be there. Biggest concern is brain damage due to oxygen deprivation last night.”

December 15, 6pm
“Tempest is home, still coming out of [huge amounts of] anesthesia, has lots of separation anxiety we’ll have to work on, has eaten today, pooped and peed, and is resting comfortably in a soft crate on about 6″ of blankets. Still has some lack of control in his rear and some loss of vision. Hope those improve over the next couple of days. I appreciate all the care and concern we’ve been shown.”

December 15, 6:09pm
“Poor dude, after 4 weeks of crate rest for OCD, he finally got to go to agility class last night, worked for 10 minutes, and had 10 seizures in an hour. Luckily my dear friend Beth Murray was here for class (she’s a DVM) and she held Tempest while I contacted my vet and the emergency vet. We got him to the emergency clinic within an hour of the start of the seizures. They took care of him through a bad night, I took him to my vet this morning, they resumed recovery and observation (one sweet vet tech sat on the break room floor with Tempest on her lap for 2+ hours). It was terrifying. My sympathies go out to anyone dealing with seizures — in kids or dogs. Very distressing. I’ll probably have PTSD.”

December 16, 2:12pm
“Tempest had a slightly restless evening with a bit of whining when I left the room (still vocalizing as a result of the meds). Awoke early needing to go outside. Did his business and seemed upbeat and smiley. Making eye contact, working hard to keep his rear end under control, and being my very good boy again. My biggest fear — that Tempest wouldn’t be Tempest anymore — put to rest. Gobbled breakfast, ate his pill, and has been resting all morning. Every journey out of his crate he’s steadier and more like himself. I’m blessed. Thank God for veterinarians Dr. Beth Murray (friend and student), Dr. Helen Rutter (emergency vet clinic), and Dr. Roberta Haught (home vet). And thanks to the vet tech who spent 3-4 hours yesterday, sitting on the floor holding and petting my disoriented pup.”

December 17, 8:27am
“Tempest showed great improvement all day yesterday (greeting our house guest’s dogs at the fence confidently) and was allowed to attempt the ramp into the dog yard off lead this morning. Very coordinated and seems happy to have a little freedom. Fetched his toy for me this morning, so his brain is engaging again.”

December 19, 9:27am
“This morning Tempest woke up coordinated and happy. I thought, “wow, he’s moving better and seems more himself than yesterday.” Then he walked to the back door to go outside, jumped straight up in the air and landed in a heap on his side. Stood up, did it again. Jeez. Beauty is fleeting but goofy is, obviously, forever. <g> Thanks and blessings to friend Bonny who shared that she put Mojo’s pill schedule on her cell phone alarm. After only 3 days this handy system has ensured prompt dosing when I’ve been distracted. You’re a life-saver, Bonny!”

December 28, 7:52 pm
“I think this was my best Christmas ever. I kept my expectations low (my family doesn’t fit the Norman Rockwell ideal), made sure I had plenty of quiet time, I was intensely grateful for a healthy pup and happy family. When we had get togethers I tried to remember that our enjoyment of each other was most important — not the decor of the house, not the volumes of food, not the money spent on elaborate gifts.”

December 30, 7:56 pm
“Well crap. After 2 weeks on Phenobarbitol Tempest had a seizure at 6:05pm (55 minutes before his next dose) quickly followed by a second. In between we crushed up his pill and popped it into his throat. My home vet had one of her staff prepare two doses of rectal valium and I drove 50 minutes to pick it up and race home (should have had this on hand, I know). Bud stayed with T. Said second seizure was the last in this episode. Tempest was whining in his soft crate. I let him out, on lead, and he drank a ton of water. Now back in crate and resting easy. This is sickening.”

December 30, 7:56 pm
“I would feel so alone without my FB friends. Not fake friends. Not electronic friends. Actual friends with whom I’ve talked face-to-face, cried face-to-face, hugged. All of you are cherished by me. Knowing I had friends out there listening to me during this tough time, lending support, is priceless. We have a plan in place, giving me hope for Tempest’s future with epilepsy. First, we will do what we can to minimize the seizures. If we are able to provide him with relief, but he’s unable to resume agility, he’ll go live the quiet single-dog life with my sister and her husband (they adore him). If he’s able to continue with agility, well you’ll see us bobbling about local courses. And I’ll always be laughing at the end, because agility with Tempest is going to be the greatest gift I can be granted in 2012. Blessings to each and every one of you. My sincerest wishes for a Happy New Year go out to you!”

January 2, 2012, 2:06 pm
“Tempest’s pheno is increased by 50%, and our family has been able to ask all our questions and feel more prepared for the future. Have our valium, know how to administer it, and when. Well begun is half done …”

It’s now January 11, and a lot has changed since I began this blog post. My life has turned upside down, inside out, by “the monster” of epilepsy.

Tempest’s breeder claims she has no epilepsy in her line, though I’ve read that 5% of all dogs being treated by emergency vet clinics or university vet clinics (where this survey was taken) have idiopathic epilepsy (aka “seizures with no known cause”). So it’s probable that every breeder in America has epilepsy somewhere in their line.

There are thousands of regular veterinarians treating epilepsy in their exam rooms, and these are not reflected in the survey results, so 5% is probably a low average.

Since this disease has engulfed me and my family, I’ve engaged in an effort to read everything and learn whatever I can. I’ve read that epilepsy is a big problem for Border Collies from American AND Great Britain. I’ve read that it strikes across breed lines, more purebred but mixed-breed as well. I’ve read that it’s fairly rare in cats (because a minority are purposely bred?).

I’ve experienced that breeders, in general, are reluctant to discuss epilepsy and prefer to think it is environmental (aka puppy owners are doing something to create epilepsy in their dog).

I’ve experienced that there is power and confidence in knowledge, so I’ve got my seizure kit prepared for Tempest, we’ve attended a brief tutorial with my favorite vet tech on the use of the syringes and medicine, and have practiced valium injections on a nectarine.

Tomorrow we have our first Phenobarbitol level check. The drug builds to a pharmaceutical level in the dog’s blood stream, but must be administered every 8-12 hours in order to maintain that level. There are “peaks” 3-4 hours from administration of the drug, and “troughs” 1-2 hours before the next dose.

Our level check tomorrow is a “trough” test — does Tempest have a pharmaceutical level of phenobarbitol in his system during a trough, or immediately before his next dose is due?

We’ll know by Friday morning if we need to bump up, or add another drug, to keep the epilepsy “monster” at bay.

My vet leaves Saturday morning for several days’ worth of vet convention in Orlando, FL. She’s given me her cell number. I’m praying I won’t need it.

I’ve experienced that Phenobarbitol is a narcotic which can cause lethargy, restlessness, lack of coordination, excessive thirst and hunger, and associated excessive urination and weight gain.

Each increase in AEDs (anti epilepsy drugs) results in some loss of coordination for 7-10 days.

With regards to dog agility, Tempest and I did some agility yesterday. I have yet to put him on a high / skinny dogwalk or teeter, but he’s fine with jumping and a-frames, etc.

It remains to be seen if Tempest will respond to AEDs. If he does, his quality of life will remain as before — euphoric. <g>

If he’s able to do agility he’ll become my partner pup again. If he’s unable to do agility my sister has asked to have him.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I’m not sure I could exist in a home that didn’t also contain my T-man, but my sister’s quieter city-home might be easier on a dog with coordination issues.

I’ve been surprised by the response to this from the performance dog community. Support has been overwhelming, but denial has been evident as well.

I was asked, years ago, “if people aren’t allowed to breed dogs where is your next agility dog going to come from?” My answer at the time was, “the same place my last 2 agility dogs came from — breed rescue.”

Now that I’ve experienced 20 months with my first purebred agility puppy since 1996, I imagine my next agility dog will come from rescue. I’m probably done with puppies for now.

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4 Responses to “2-minute dog trainer – time out to get healthy”

  1. Linda Stutz Says:

    Dear Marsha-
    As I read your account of Tempest’s troubles, my heart aches for you and for Tempest and for Bud. It’s stunning how much pain and how much joy our love for our dogs brings into our lives. I’m sending best wishes for Tempest’s improving health.

  2. Erica Says:

    Don’t feel like you need to be done with puppies, Marsha. Bad Boy Toby is a rescue and recently has had two seizures and he’s nearly 4 years old, as if the orthopedic issues weren’t enough to squelch his agility future. On the other hand, your runaway friend and my “biological child” Max has never had a seizure approaching 10 years old, nor did Maggie who left me at 17 years four months, in a breed that is full of epilepsy, though Maggie’s half-brother had his first seizure at 6 months old with many more to follow. He was on phenobarb for 5 years, weaned off the drug then never had a seizure again. It is a somewhat sadistic gamble that we take whenever we get a new dog, whatever the source. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart.

    BTW, nice to see you blogging again. Glad I was too stubborn to stop looking 🙂

  3. Vanita Says:

    Marsha, I am reading this post and feeling very sad for Tempest. From what I have read it seems he enjoys agility as much as you. I can’t imagine how difficult this has been for you and your family. I hope he can resume his happy Agility life but if not I know he will always be loved and taken care of.

  4. Daniele Says:

    Marsha, I am very sorry to hear about Tempest’s illness. This link will take you to a published article in Clean Run Magazine regarding Epilepsy, Agility and Border Collies http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.display&feature_id=171

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