This peanut therapy ball is part of Risa’s ongoing rehab.
Risa has been free from confinement for 2.5 weeks now and has had two physical therapy appointments. I’ve been doing a lot of her therapy at home spending about a half hour twice a day doing massage, stretches, and various exercises to strengthen her body and help her move better and pain free. She’s back on three pain meds after I stopped the muscle relaxer and weaned her off the nerve pain med. She seemed painful again on just the two pain meds and the return of cold weather hasn’t helped so she’s back on the gabapentin (just twice a day instead of three times). I’m hoping to get her on just two pain medications for long-term pain management. At her age, it’s unlikely that physical therapy will be enough to keep her pain free. Ideally, I’d like to have her on the Novox long term and just use the gabapentin as needed. Once the warm weather finally sticks around, I think she’ll be okay with less pain management. The cold really seems to affect her negatively and I hear that’s not uncommon.
She’s still doing really well. Last night was our first official training session since I called it quits mid-January. I carried her into the basement training space (she can’t do long sets of stairs anymore) and she was ELATED to be back down there. I kept things very low-key and easy for her since it’s been so long and she’s still recovering. I could tell she wanted to do more but I didn’t want her to overdo it. She was exhausted afterward.
I discussed her long-term prognosis with her physical therapy vet at her appointment on Monday. Much to our dismay, the doctor recommended avoiding activities that involve running and lots of twists and turning. It’s with a very heavy heart that I’m pretty much retiring her from canine freestyle. I already had to retire her from lure coursing but I was hoping we might be able to keep freestyle and Rally Free. Unfortunately, it looks like those activities might be too taxing on her body and put her at risk of reinjury. My heart is crushed. This was our first sport. The first one we tried. Where we first stepped foot into the competition ring. Our favorite thing to do together. The sport where our bond together was palpable. Where she smiled and grinned from nose to tail from start to finish. Done. Just like that. No fanfare. No reflection on the journey. . .just over. I’m crushed but I know it’s in her best interest to hang up her dancing shoes competitively. It’s possible I could choreograph a routine with movements she’s still cleared to do but it’d be difficult and I’m not sure I want to put that pressure on us. She loves freestyle and, despite her issues, is the type of dog who will do it because I asked her to not necessarily because she wants to (or can). In this case, the problem is that she does still want to. Her body just isn’t going to be capable of doing it anymore. As is the case with lure coursing, I can’t ask her to do something that might put her quality of life in jeopardy. I think we’ll still dance for fun in a very modified form. But her competitive journey in freestyle and Rally Free is probably over.
Fortunately, her vet thinks she should still be okay to compete in obedience and rally if she wants to. I have two titles in progress in both sports. She has one leg towards her Preferred Novice in AKC obedience and one leg towards her Novice title in ASCA rally. My goal at this point is to finish those titles this year and retire her. We’re starting a class in nosework later this month and I think she’s really going to enjoy that. It’s a great sport for dogs who are reactive, injured, or aging. Risa fits all three! She also loves to use her nose so I think this will be a good fit for her. I’m unsure if we’ll ever attempt to compete in a trial in nosework (or in barn hunt which she has also enjoyed). I just want to keep her mind and body active as she ages since she’s always enjoyed participating in various activities with me.
Depending on how she does in regards to recovery and other factors, this may very well be her last year in competition. I knew it was coming but I hadn’t expected it just yet. However, with her serious back injury, it has to come soon. It’s been an incredible ride trialing with this dog. A dog who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have been as successful as she was. We’ve struggled with her fears, dog reactivity, focus, and just training things! I have learned so much and we’ve both come so far. We’re not ready for it to end but the end is definitely near. It’s sad, for sure. But we have so much to be proud of and happy for. I’ll try and keep that in mind moreso than sadness that comes with knowing we’re nearing the end of what has been a fun and challenging journey.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” –Charlie Chaplin