Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dancing with the Dog - as close to Shirley as I'll get!

Since it's Mother's Day, it seems appropriate I should write about my dogs.  No, I'm not going to tell you they gave me some wonderful gift or a sweet card - they didn't (other than the gift of themselves!).

I have spoiled dogs – I know that.  Especially Sophie, who I have pampered even more in the last few months, since her first ER vet episode and subsequently diagnosed seizure.  Fortunately there have been no recurrences, so maybe it wasn’t a seizure or maybe it was a one-time thing.  However, at our regular vet (where the seizure was diagnosed), they also mentioned that she has Laryngeal Paralysis.  Common in big dogs (I am SO tired of hearing this about multiple conditions), here is the technical explanation from the Internet:

“The nerves and muscles that control the movements of one or both arytenoid cartilages of the larynx cease to function, and instead of opening during inspiration and closing during swallowing, the arytenoids remain stationary in a somewhat neutral position. Specifically, the muscle that causes abduction of the arytenoid cartilage, the cricoarytenoideus dorsalis muscle, ceases to function. This leads to inadequate ventilation during exercise and during thermoregulatory panting as well as incomplete protection of the airway during swallowing.”

Whew!  My simplistic understanding is that the larynx flaps don’t operate properly and breathing is compromised.  After I did my internet research and found out what complicates it and what should be done, I made some changes.  Both of my dogs now only get leashes with harnesses.  I elevated their food bowls (manually, not with an expensive food system), their food always has water added to slow down eating and I am even more diligent to keep them out of the heat.  Sophie, since she will usually come when called (at least eventually) and doesn’t go in the street, has the added bonus of getting to go “out” in the front yard, so that she doesn’t have to go down and up a full flight of stairs.  This also has the added bonus of her getting a treat (kibble) when she comes in – that’s always been a tradition of letting her go in the front yard off leash.

But occasionally, and especially when it’s not too hot out, I still encourage her to go in the back yard.  Sometimes she resists this and I have to go down the stairs with her.  I’ll go down two or three stairs and so will she.  Then I have to go down a few more stairs and so will she.  We do this “dance” until she’s close to the bottom and she gives up and goes on to do her business.  The other day I realized that our “dance” reminded me of an old Shirley Temple movie:

Now when I was a very little girl, I loved Shirley Temple movies and think I probably wanted to be her some of the time - not when she was being mistreated, but when she was doing fun things like singing and dancing!  So, I guess I have almost arrived.  I am doing the Shirley Temple dance (albeit down instead of up) and with a dog instead of a man, but, hey, it’s close!

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