Today was a frustrating day. Cadence would NOT take her right lead. I would say she got it maybe 5% of the time. the weird thing is that when I turned her loose and she ran around the arena, she took the right lead perfectly every time. That means my longeing is somehow pulling her off balance, even though I am trying very hard not to have any pressure on her halter when I cue her. I was so frustrated! we did longe a bit outside today, and that was fun to get out in the big sand arena. She did pretty good out there, though her right lead was nonexistent.
To add to my frustrations, she decided she would balk going in to the trailer. I did get her in twice, but it was a long, slow process and she was NOT wanting to go in. Why now, after she had been doing so well? Oh yeah, I can tell you why. It is because I sent my thousand-dollar-plus entry in to the Tom Powers Futurity the other day. Here come the dark clouds....get away!
I left yesterday on a whirlwind "tour of dog shows" with Noodle. Unfortunately, Mark's dog was not healing well so he had to stay home with him and Pretzel. Pretzel has been fairly agitated in his crate with me, but he tends to settle down and stay quiet when he knows I am not home. Weird, I know!
I headed down to Columbiana, Alabama for one of my favorite shows. Yeah, it is a favorite, but only when Mark is with me. Alone, it's not much fun. However, Taleatha brought Marshall down here so I could do a photo shoot of him, and we took Noodle and him for a nice hike in the woods at a local state park. Noodle loved having him around...someone to wrestle with in the hotel room again! Too much fun! I got some really nice photos (scroll down to see them!).
Accepting my limitations is sometimes the hardest task I face. I don't like to believe something is impossible. This has driven me for years, but sometimes you have to step back and be realistic. Realism sucks! But in being real, one can re-focus on a new goal with a new purpose. So 2019 will be a year of re-focusing. Setting my sights on new things, accepting my changes in direction, and being happy for the joy of the moment. Sounds good, doesn't it? well...we shall see!
So we started off our show weekend on Thursday and Friday in Columbiana, Alabama. Noodle and I are still having problems syncing together on our gait, but she showed wonderfully. However, we couldn't seem to squeak out a group placement. On Friday we did make the cut in the owner-handled group, but then I blew it thanks to my bad hearing (I didn't hear the instructions clearly and failed to free stack for the judge...ugh...one of our best things, too!)
We left after the show Friday and hit the road to Paducah, Kentucky. Doing this would help cut my Sunday night travel time to home in half. Paducah was nice, Noodle showed great, but man it is hard to get the judges to notice my somewhat smaller female "ghost" of a dog! We did squeak out an owner-handled group 4 on Sunday, so it was nice to go home with at least something to show for all of our hard work. Oh well, you know how these things go - some weekends you are at the top, and some you are the invisible (wo)man.
I am so frustrated and I have zero idea of how to fix this. Cadence is still taking the wrong lead cantering to the right. She will take her right lead all the time when she is loose on her own, but on the longe line she always takes the wrong lead. I have made sure i have NO pressure on the longe line to throw her off balance, I tried cueing her to canter right in the corner, I swear I have tried everything! Sometimes if she takes the wrong lead, she will buck and end up on the right lead, but more often than not she is perfectly happy to counter-canter to the right. I am at a total loss as to what to do. I sincerely regret sending in those Tom Powers entries now.
On a good note, she did walk in the trailer (after balking) once for me. I guess that is one sliver of good news to hang on to. Just wish things would brighten up for me. Tomorrow, I re-evaluate Pretzel out of his crate and we will see if surgery might be an option. I have resigned myself to accepting what will be will be, but I must admit I do feel rather pessimistic about the whole thing.
Ok, so remember how yesterday I was 100% discouraged and frustrated? Well, 24 hours later I did a complete 180 degree flip in my attitude. I took a combination of advice from various social media friends, and went to the barn with a new idea. Today I took Cadence out and went straight outside...away from the indoor where we had so much frustration. It was absolutely gorgeous outside - sunny and 60 degrees. I started longeing her to the right first (which is her not-so-good way), and I decided that I was not going to ask her to canter. I was just going to walk and trot her and let her pick her own pace. Lo and behold, she picked up the canter on her own 3 or 4 times, all on the correct lead! This just proves my theory that it is something I am doing that is throwing her off...even though I have been concentrating really hard on making sure I do nothing to mess up her natural way of going. I reversed her, and walk-trot-cantered her a little bit (which she did perfectly), and then reversed her back to her bad way. This time as I trotted her I watched carefully and as soon as I saw her lift her shoulders to prepare to canter, I cued the canter...perfect transition into the correct lead. YES!!! It is a step in the right direction
I decided to skip the trailer lesson today, and instead do a little mane braiding to get her used to having braids pulling on her neck. I just did simple braids about halfway down, but I tried to pull them kind of tight. She did NOT enjoy the braiding process. This is unlike Corky, who loved the primping that went along with being a show horse. I did this purposely to get her used to the braids, and also to see how she handles having braids in her mane overnight (better to find out now than the night before a show, with ,i>real braids!). We will see how they look tomorrow.
This evening, I took Noodle out on the property and let her run. There were two or three killdeer that were hanging around, and Noodle snapped into a full point on one of them. This was the perfect opportunity to work on her stadiness and "whoa". the best part was, once the bird was flushed it only flew about 100 yards and landed again, giving us a chance to work the bird over and over again. I was seriously impressed with how steady Noodle was, after hardly no training since October. We worked on these birds for almost an hour, and it was a blast! One would think that Noodle would be exhausted after this, but nope...she still had plenty of energy to do our late night agility practice. I sure wish I had her stamina.
OK, the biggest news, or should I say "non-news" of the day....Pretzel's re-check. I shot a video. I think he looks better. Is he better enough to consider surgery? I don't know. I sent the video to the neurologist, but he never called me back today. Frustrating, because I want answers NOW, of course! I just want to know one way or another. Please.
Friendship is an interesting thing. When I posted on social media about my problems getting Cadence to take the right lead, I got a lot of responses. Some had ideas I had already tried, some had ideas that were completely wrong, some had nothing but criticism (delete!), but a chat with someone on the phone about it made all the difference in the world. This is why I have always said that my most valuable training tool is the friendship of fellow horse/dog trainers.
The new idea - even though I am making sure I am not putting any pressure on the longe line or her head when cueing the canter, she is looking at me because of my position that is staying across from her shoulder, and this is causing her to be ever so slightly off balance. the solution? Get slightly behind her hip when cueing. Sounds simple, right? Hot damn it worked like a charm!
I did a lot of things slightly different that helped contribute to my success (or so I believe). For one, I went straight outside to work (another beautiful spring day!), skipping the indoor where all of the tension and stress was happening. Secondly, I started her on the longe line to the right (her bad way) instead of to the left like I usually do. Not sure what difference this made, but I felt I should note it here for future reference. She picked up the correct lead several times for me. Then I reversed and worked to the left...no problem. Reversed again and worked again to the right, and success again! Now granted, I only asked her to canter maybe 2 times each direction., The whole training session lasted maybe 10 minutes. She nailed everything perfectly (and in her usual breathtakingly beautiful movement), so I stopped. We worked a bit on the ground, working on moving her feet on command (i.e. future showmanshipper), trotting in hand, etc. Then we headed to the trailer. She balked pretty hard, but I did get her in and for the first time I actually hooked her to the trailer tie while she was eating sweet feed out of the bucket. She did test the trailer tie a couple times, but I stayed quiet and just asked her to come forward, which she did. This time I made her stay in the trailer the whole time until the grain was gone, then backed her out nice and slow, and called it a day.
Oh - and for our third success of the day - check her braids out! Compare them to yesterday's photo...looks almost identical. This means she did not rub them overnight. HUGE SUCCESS!!! Nothing on earth is quite as frustrating as a horse that destroys your beautiful braids overnight. Granted, these weren't actual hunter braids, but that will come. Baby steps...
On the Pretzel front...is no news good news? I have no idea in this case, because the neurologist never called me back. Frustrating. I will call again tomorrow.
Today was farrier day for Corky and Cadence. I longed her a little bit before her appointment, and a little bit afterwards. She had a few mistakes, but she was successful far more often than she was wrong...YES! I also worked on trailer loading. She balked pretty hard to go in the first time. Once I got her in, she was very comfortable. I did unload her and she walked right back in, so that was a good sign. It is time to put the divider back in and start getting her used to being really closed in. that's a toughie.
I should mention my total frustration with the neurologist and everyone involved in Pretzel's diagnosis. After several phone calls, the tech in the neurology department finally called me back, and her information was incomplete and actually completely wrong for my dog. When I pressed for details, it was obvious she either had NO idea what to tell me, or she was given the information on the wrong dog. Needless to say I was pretty darn angry, and I let them know. The neurologist is out of the office until Monday, so Poor Pretzel will have to continue his crate rest and wait until Monday before we find out what our next step, if anything, will be. I hate this! Hate it!
But on a good note, I took Noodle over to my friend's place where she had some quail and we did a little bird training. the first couple birds were iffy...she got right on top of them birds with her point and was trying to get through the little release cages they were hidden in. The third point was outstanding - she pointed from about 5-10 feet away, held it, I released the bird and shot my blank gun, the bird took off for the trees waaaaay far away and Noodle went after it, and lo and behold she managed to grab that bird in the trees and brought the bird right back to my hand in a stellar retrieve! She is entered in 2 runs in a hunt test next Saturday. For lack of any other goal, I am going to try and get some Junior Hunter Advanced qualifying runs on her. Hey, why not?
Life, today, went up a few degrees in craziness. Pretzel's blue collar puppy from his first litter - "Chevy" came from Connecticut to stay with me for a few months to try to become a show dog. It was interesting watching his interaction with Noodle. He apparently has never had a dog get after him for being too pushy and invading too much space. Well, Noodle took care of that task! He was very pushy and obnoxious around her, and after a while she put him in his place. After that, they got along like best friends. I think Noodle is SO happy to have someone to play with again, since Pretzel has been incapacitated for 5 weeks.
I have been working had with Chevy to teach him the basics of being a show dog. He is almost 18 months old, so it is a tough lesson for a dog that is used to having the freedom of running around a horse farm all day. our first lesson was just to stand still - hard for any Weimaraner of any age! I got a few photos of him while we practiced. he truly is a gorgeous dog, and the absolute spitting image of Pretzel - even down to his bark and his facial expressions.
It was a gorgeous day, so I worked Cadence outside. I think she works better outdoors than indoors (which is a plus for the Tom Powers, but a minus for Congress). Workers were driving the tractor around the outside of the arena, and she barely even looked at it. Bonus! She longed fantastic. I decided to try my portable battery clippers on her. I did a little bit on her legs, but when it went near her face she flipped out. Oh boy, I see a lot of clipper training in our future. these portable ones are really loud and they tend to grab the hair, so I will wait until I get my good clippers out to start training.
Chevy has settled in with the family, and he and Noodle are having a blast together. It is fun to watch them together. Chevy is still so puppy-like, it is fun to have a puppy in the house again. His training is going in small spurts. I took him to PetsMart and walked him around, stacking him in the aisles and having strangers put hands on him. I will need to do this a few more times before his first show next weekend. He needs to get more comfortable around strangers. Baby steps!
After a million phone calls and e-mails, I finally heard back from Pretzel's neurologist! Here is what his e-mail said:
I’m glad to see the improvement and it does make me more optimistic surgery will be of benefit. If Pretzel were to have surgery, we would like to schedule it on a Wednesday and I would prefer he be on a lower dose of prednisone to prevent delayed healing (hence the recommendation to decrease the dose).
Pretzel would have general anesthesia to have a ventral slot performed. During the surgery I would remove disc material that is compressing the nerves and the spinal cord in his cervical spine. The incision would most likely be made from under his neck. The operation typically lasts 1-2 hours. We would then have him on IV pain management postoperatively. We would reassess him the following day and switch him over to oral pain medications. Some patients are able to go home the following day, some require more time. It will all depend on how he looks after the surgery. Sometimes patients may seem worse afterwards due to an increase in inflammation from manipulating the nerves and spinal cord. This is not concerning as these patients normally start showing improvement within a few days of the surgery.
Once he goes home, having his activity restricted is crucial. He will need to be in a crate most of the time. He will not be allowed to run, jump or play. We also would prefer he not use stairs. You should make sure he has a harness instead of a neck lead. When you take him outside to use the bathroom, he should be on a leash to prevent any running/playing. He should not take any walks during the initial resting period. You can have him out of his crate as long as he is under direct supervision. He should not be allowed on slippery floors. This degree of confinement will last 4 weeks. Ten to 14 days after his operation, he will need to have his staples removed. This can be done with your primary vet. In 4 weeks we would like to re-evaluate him. As long as he is doing well, we will be able to gradually introduce more normal activity. His prognosis for a full recovery is good. Because he does have multiple chronic disc herniations, he may never be a normal dog. There is also always a risk that he develops another disc extrusion in the future that may need operated. There is also a chance that if he has too much activity after the operation, his surgery could fail resulting in possibly another surgery.
So I guess I am happy? I mean, I am happy he is a surgery candidate. But the phrase "he may never be a normal dog" breaks my heart. So I can't be completely happy. I want him the was he was a year ago - happy, running free and easy. Can we get him back to that? I don't know, but I have to try...money be damned.
Today's session with Cadence was stellar! Watch this completely uncut and unedited video - never a wrong lead! Then we put the divider back in the trailer, and she walked right in. I didn't close the divider yet, but I want to get her used to having a slightly more confined space before closing it. I went to bed tonight with a smile on my face.
I need another dog injured. yes I do. BOOM, and it shall be. Noodle and Chevy were outside running around in the mud on the property, they ran and played and had a grand old time. Noodle came back in with blood coming out of her toe. She had a split toenail, split all the way to the core (right hind foot, farthest right toenail). Off to the emergency vet we go! $180 later, the vet cut off the bottom half of her toenail, put her on anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, and sent her home with instructions to rest. Yeah, right. Now i just hope she is healed up enough to show next weekend. It's terribly hard to keep it clean, with all of the mud outside. UGH. So she sits, pouting, with a sock on it to keep it clean, and a basket muzzle to keep her from licking it.
Overall, today was a pretty darn decent day. I started off the morning taking a Rally lesson with Noodle. Yeah, we have a lot to work on, but I have a plan and we are making inches of progress each time.
I headed to the barn today to work Cadence and was able to work outside (yay!). She was wonderful. Got all her leads, and loaded in the trailer several times. I did hook her to the trailer tie again, and this time I stepped off to the side instead of standing right at her head, and I rubbed on her back. She tried to back up felt the pressure, and pulled hard and broke the trailer tie. Damn. At least she didn't come out of the trailer - she pulled back and then stopped at the edge of the trailer. I was able to ask her to walk forward beck to the front of the slot. Then I unloaded her and re-loaded to make sure she didn't have a bad experience...no problem. I guess i am ordering a new trailer tie tonight!
Finally I got the phone call I was waiting on - Pretzel's surgery is a go, and it is for this coming Wednesday...2 days from now! Suddenly i feel scared. It is so risky, and so much has the potential to go wrong. Gotta think positive, and spoil my boy for the next day or so!
I took Chevy to a drop in handling class to give him some time in the ring. Unfortunately we were the only ones there, but we got a lot of work done and he seemed pretty comfortable. My next priority is to get him somewhere with a lot of dogs, possibly agility run throughs on Thursday.
I opted to skip my late night agility training and spend this last night with Pretzel. I really hope I am making the right decision. He has no idea what he is in for. These past 6 weeks of crate rest have been bad enough, but another 4-6 weeks of crate rest post surgery will be far worse, I believe. I worry about his recovery, worry about what the surgeon will find, worry that he will do something to re-injure himself, worry that they will find too much scar tissue to even finish the surgery, worry that he will not recover, worry worry worry.
I dropped Pretzel off at MedVet at 8am. He clearly was stressed and did NOT want to go with the tech, which is unusual for him. No doubt my own stress is rubbing off on him. I carried his harness and collar out to the car and cried.
To add to my day of stress, I managed to burn up the brakes on my old truck and my horse trailer while hauling the trailer to the repair shop to have some work done. On a good note, the brakes started burning up about 3 miles from the shop, so I was able to get it there safely. Then I went home and promptly got the big mower stuck in the mud on the property. By stuck, I mean I freaking buried those wheels in the mud. On a good note, Mark did rescue me by pulling me out with the old mower/tractor (and didn't even get mad at me!).
But all of that paled in comparison to the awesome news from the surgeon that Pretzel' surgery went GREAT, ne came out of anesthesia just fine, and his prognosis is excellent! This is the BEST news, the rest of the day is completely irrelevant! He will stay in the hospital until Monday. They will be monitoring him very closely. The power of prayer is alive and well!