Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Dog-leg diary: not again!

Where dogs' legs are concerned, I find that no news is generally good news. So I haven't written a dog-leg diary for a while because there hasn't been much to report on the dog-leg side of things. Although the winter weather caused some stiffness for Fargo, we countered that with steady exercise, regular trips to the physiotherapist and dips in the hydrotherapy pool. All was well.

But recently Shahad, our physiotherapist, noticed that Fargo's left hind leg is stiff and he's not putting all his weight on it. I must admit that for all the attention I pay to Fargo's legs, I hadn't noticed this. It's quite a subtle change in his gait and it's most obvious when he walks very slowly. Shahad's expert eye detected it though, and he also pointed out that Fargo has started to lose some muscle condition on that leg. As a result, we're off this Thursday to see the vet and get Fargo's leg checked out.

Of course, there can be many reasons for lameness in dogs. But I can't help thinking this could be the return of the dreaded cruciate ligament issue. Fargo had TPLO surgery for a ruptured cruciate ligament in his right hind leg almost two years ago and I know it's quite common for the problem to affect both legs eventually. If his other ligament has gone then that probably means another operation.

However, there's no point in worrying about it before we know. We'll see what Thursday's appointment brings and focus on the positives. Because of Fargo's regular physio appointments, I know we've spotted the problem as soon as we could and that he hasn't been suffering in silence for weeks. Thankfully he's insured so he can have any treatment he needs and, whatever the problem is, it's good to know we'll be seeing a vet who is an expert in this field. And if Fargo does need surgery and the extensive rest that follows it, hopefully we're heading for a warm, dry summer so he can chill out in the garden and sniff at the world going by.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Goodbye to a dear old friend

At the end of January this year we had to say goodbye to the wonderful Charlie Whippet, who was 14 years old. It was unexpected and he declined quickly, so at least I know he didn't suffer and the vet came round so he could die on the settee at home where he belonged, being cuddled by me.

Losing a beloved dog will always be a horrible experience and, although I know Charlie had a good long life and I did everything I could for him right up to the end, it rather knocked me sideways for a while. But I still had Billy and Stanley Whippet and Fargo Labradoodle to look after, and that helped. It was very sweet to see how, as I kept the routine going and watched them adjust to their loss in the weeks after Charlie's death, they all looked after me too. In those moments when I really started to miss him it was a real comfort to be able to take them out to the park where, in forgetting their troubles in play, they helped me to feel happier too.

Charlie and me had many adventures together and I'll never forget what a great travelling companion he was. There were some hard times - most notably when he was paralysed and had to have spinal surgery in 2010 - but we pulled through that together and his gentle, patient bravery was an inspiration. Charlie bounced back from that, albeit with a bit of a wobbly gait, and I know he really enjoyed his life right up until his final illness.

We'd had a great holiday together in Cornwall over the New Year and, after we got home, Charlie had enjoyed trotting around in the snow. I'll never forget the sight of him wrestling with the other whippets just a couple of days before we lost him. Being a lot younger, Billy and Stanley always recognised that they were fitter and more agile than Charlie so they wrestled with him on his terms and were never too rough.
So, although the sadness of losing Charlie will never quite go away I have lots of happy memories, from bringing him home as a chubby puppy back in 1998, through his crazy adolescence (he could be a right tinker back then), and then his growing into a splendid adult and a beautiful old gent.

He was a trusted friend to me and a role model to the young Fargo and, later on, to Billy.

More recently, Charlie had a very positive steadying influence on Stanley, who came to us as an anxious 18-month-old foster dog but who settled in so well we had to adopt him. Stanley turned out to be quite similar to Charlie in personality, and I think he recognised that they had a lot in common. Charlie used to like to sleep on his own, but I'd often find him and Stanley curled up together like two peas in a pod. And I can still see Charlie's influence on Stan, who is much calmer than he used to be and is able to take things in his stride without getting anxious.

So although Charlie's no longer around, in some ways he lives on for us. I'll always miss him, but when he pops into my head my first thoughts are always happy ones. It was a privilege to know Charlie and I'm so glad I was with him through all the stages of his long and happy life.
Charlie, Stanley, Billy and Fargo