And It’s Over, Faster Than You Can Say ACL

Last week I wrote about Nola’s promising agility career. We were scheduled to go to our third class on Saturday. But, after noticing a slight limp this week, and a vet visit, Nola’s agility days are over.

I’m not really sure what happened. I got back from Miami on Saturday of last week and Sunday we took Nola for a swim at the river. That afternoon I started noticing a slight limp on her back right leg. I asked Jim if he had seen anything unusual while I was gone. He said he noticed she was a bit tense with it when he gave her a bath. Over the next few days I watched, when we walked, when she ran, and I couldn’t say for sure she was limping. But something just didn’t look right. By Wednesday, I decided I would make an appointment with out vet. What was the harm? If it was nothing then we would be out $40. That’s chump change when it comes to the health and well being of my baby.

Well, it wasn’t nothing. It turns out Nola has a slight tear in her anterior cruciate ligament, more commonly known as an ACL. For those of you who lucky enough to not know anything about the ACL, this ligament, which also is called the cranial cruciate ligament in animals, connects the back of the femur (the bone above the knee) with the front of the tibia (the bone below the knee). The ACL is responsible for keeping the tibia in place beneath the femur and stabilizing the knee joint. The vet did a couple tests, including the drawer test and the tibial compression test. (Read more about the injury from Pet WebMD) He knew right away she had at least a tear. He thinks if it was completely ruptured she would be showing a lot more signs of distress, like completely lifting the leg.

What does this mean? Well, short term it means she needs lots of rest. No walks. No swims. No jumping. Just laying down and resting, which is what we did all weekend (see my post on Facebook). She has started on some anti-inflammatory medicine and we have to go back in a week to see if there is any more damage that the swelling hid initially. Long term, it means probably no more agility, a high risk ACL rupture, and a higher risk of injuring it again.

It also means our Fourth of July lake plans are cancelled and it will mean a very hyper dog if we can’t find something to stimulate her mentally to replace the physical activity. What’s even more sad is that we were in the works to foster another pup, Angus, at the end of this week, but the vet recommended we do not introduce another dog into the house until Nola is fully healed. Since it could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks (or longer depending on what we find out next week), it looks as though fostering will be postponed indefinitely.

After lots of tears, and researching everything I can about ACL injuries and treatments for dogs, I’ve come to accept the situation for what it is. We will rest her for the next couple weeks in hopes that the injury heals on it’s own and doesn’t get worse. I have seen how the recovery from surgery can be long and painful (my friend’s dog Payson is just finally able to walk after his PTLO surgery months ago) and I don’t want that for my Muffin. Even though it is going to be tough trying to make an active dog into a couch potato, we will do whatever we can. We will use toys, bones, bully sticks, and maybe some low impact training to keep her as immobile as possible, and just hope and cross our fingers it will heal back up on its own!

Nola Does Agility

Summer has arrived and so have the outdoor agility classes. We have been wanting to sign Nola up since we first saw her jumping from dunes on the beach, jumping over fallen trees and running like the wind anywhere and everywhere. We also wanted to do another training class with her to strengthen our bond since the last obedience class we did was probably a year ago. I did some research and contacted several different training facilities in the Portland area. The only one that still had openings for a Saturday morning class (who can actually go to a 4pm class on a weekday?!) was a place called PoeticGold Farm, in Falmouth. Luckily they were also the closest one to our house, so we signed Nola up.
(I apologize for the blurriness of the iPhone photos and videos. The more I blog, the more I realize I need a better camera!)

The first week was a little tough. It was a new place with new smells and new dogs. Nola had a bit of a hard time concentrating, she just wanted to explore. But, we started learning the basics of agility. Targeting was an important thing to learn and something we never really taught Nola. We did a lot of click-treat whenever she walked on, touched, nosed, or even looked at objects of different shaped and sizes (think trash can lids, sleds, saucers, plastic bin covers) to get her used to some of the equipment.

We also started getting her used to the plank. This board on the ground is the precursor to the dog walk, which is higher off the ground. At first we just walked her on it. Then, we would throw a treat at the end, make her wait and then tell her to go get the treat. We tried to mix it up, using chicken as a treat, but also her squeaky toy. She mastered this in no time!

Then we tried the table. The table is an obstacle that the dogs must get up on and stay for a certain period of time while running the course. Jim got her to lay down for a few seconds, but it didn’t last too long.

Her favorite thing the first week was the A-Frame. She was a pro, going up and down without much coaxing from us.

We ended the first day with a short tunnel. Nola did not like that at all. We were a bit surprised because during her puppy classes she had no fear with things like this. But, it took the trainer to coax her into it and Jim and I at the end with her toy to get her to go through. After a couple times of receiving rock star praise when she went through she began to feel more comfortable. (After this class we went to Christmas Tree Shoppe, bought a pop up leaf bag, cut out the bottom and made our own tunnel. After some more practice, Nola mastered it!)

The second week we started doing a little more on the equipment. We went through the big tunnel, which again Nola seemed terrified of. After the trainer shortened it a little and Nola got a few running starts, she was great!

Then came the jumps. I knew our pup would do great at this. We started off at 14in and lead her over the bar with a treat on the other side. Nola had perfect form, with an arched back and good sense of where her back legs were so she didn’t knock down the bar. The second class ended with some pre work to get used to the weave poles.

Overall, we really liked it! Nola was exhausted when she got home. This fun, sporty class didn’t feel like obedience training, but it definitely showed us where the gaps in our basic training were. Like most dog owners, we got Nola to a point where she is obedient on a daily basis, but we haven’t really continued to teach and hone her sills. The ‘touch’ command is something we need to keep working on, as well as her recall and a command for when we need to ‘send’ her down an obstacle.