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Archive for November, 2013

Ever since we lost our last beagle, about two and a half years ago I started questioning veterinarians.  He was clearly sick.  The first words out of the vet’s mouth when she saw him was, “He has Lyme Disease.”  But then the SNAP test came back negative.  So she decided he must have ruptured a disc in his spine, and recommended crate rest and drugs.  I recall asking about x-rays, but was discouraged as the vet said it might not show up, the symptoms were all pointing to it and he was a beagle, who are prone to IVDD.

Two and a half years ago, I was not a good enough advocate for my dog.  Ten days later he was still clearly in pain, the medication was not causing an improvement.  I called back and asked more questions about Lyme Disease, only then when I directly asked was I told that false negatives on Lyme tests were “common.”  I asked if there was another test and again was discouraged from doing this by being told it would be several hundred dollars to run it.  The impression I was left with was that it was extremely costly, not worth it since they’d already “diagnosed” him and that they weren’t really interested in doing it.  But I knew my dog wasn’t getting better, so this time I followed up with another question.  I asked what the treatment for Lyme was, and if it would harm my dog if we put him on it.  Only three days later he was doing much better.  A few months later we lost him, and looking back I feel perhaps I still wasn’t being the best advocate for my dog I should have been, but I starting to learn.

So now I try to be a better advocate for my dog.  I research and read.  I have notebooks filled with information I’ve learned, and definitions for things I never studied having just a B.S. in English.  I study and talk with other dog owners, breeders and vets.  Things I took for granted years ago, now I know better (like the idea that you “must” vaccinate annually).  And I’m using that information to be a better partner in my dogs’ care.  Because of me and my pushing, my vet has now agreed to titer testing.  I’m helping educate him as I educate myself.  The other day when our first titer results came in his first words to me were “I’m going to give you a lot more information than I would another patient.”  I smiled. He knows I have questions, that I’m wanting to learn and do the best I can for my dogs with the information I have now.  He knows I won’t blindly follow his recommends, and takes the time to explain them.  Sometimes I’m amazed he puts up with me, other times I think he enjoys the challenge.

My blind faith in their recommendations is gone.  I now ask why.  I now work to understand, so that I’m not just taking someone else’s word for the fact that this is best for my dog.  Because I’m the only voice that dog has.

On the other hand, as I struggled through the research, and emails and phone calls with my vet, as I challenged his protocols and fought for what I feel is best for my dogs, my husband says to me, “Well, I’m sure you know what’s best.”

That kind of blind faith is overwhelming.  I can only hope that he’s right.  I have so much more to learn.

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Family Photo!

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This week there has been a lot of training. And yet it still never feels like enough! Before the Golden was born, the Breeder had a Puppy Shower. It was a lot of fun, and there were gifts for the attendees as well. One of those gifts was a little journal/notebook. This book has an entry for every day of the Golden’s life since he came to live with me. It’s what I refer to before doing a blog post to refresh my mind of everything we’ve done during the week. I noticed tonight as I was reviewing it that I’m running out of pages. I’ll need to buy a new journal soon. My little boy is growing up!

This week we’ve added a lot of things to our training list. I really need to make a list of all things we’re working on — mostly so I don’t forget to train something! We’ve started working on switches, and around (sending him around an object), as well as holding the dowel rod while moving (which really did not go well tonight!). I’d forgotten what a distraction leaves in the wind are. The Golden is happily reminding me. We are still working sits, and downs and stands, also finding stationary heel. Rear end awareness is going well, and “face me” on the stool was awesome tonight. Usually I move only one direction at a time. I’ll work clockwise for a bit, then break, and come back and work counter clockwise, but tonight he went too far one direction and adjusted himself, moving back the other way, so I built on that taking steps one way, and then the other. He was fantastic.

We traveled to a new location this week for a new class. We are taking a Games and Tricks class, which is a lot of fun. Most of the Labrador’s classes were at this location, but it was the first time there for the puppy. I was very pleased with his focus and concentration and willingness to tug! That’s another thing we’ve been working on tugging and playing in different places.

And yes this does mean I’m currently doing classes four days a week. Tuesday we have Performance Puppy with the Golden, Wednesday is Novice and Open with the Labrador, Thursday is now Games and Tricks with both the Labrador and Golden, and Sunday is Weave Poles and Agility. And we are already starting to work out what we want to be doing in January. Goals for this coming year are the Golden’s Rally Debut. Perhaps this will be at the Golden Retriever National, since it is close to where I live this year (and I’ve been told by the breeder I must go!). For the Labrador I think we’re going to work on training Open (and Utility), but compete in Rally Excellent. I don’t think we’ll have things trained and ready to start in Open this year (but maybe we’ll surprise ourselves!). And of course we’ll compete in agility. I already have plans for March and April (though I need to remember to check the March dates and make sure they don’t conflict with the Rally National).

Oh! One more thing to mention in what’s turning out to be a very rambling post. Tomorrow is the Golden’s first appointment for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which is “a groundbreaking effort to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases. It is the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken to improve the health of dogs.” I am excited to participate.

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Today the Labrador earned her CD and her RA! She qualified in both classes, and earned first place in both! I’m still in shock, but at least the nervous/excited energy is starting to wear off.

I am so very proud of her. I left class on Wednesday night feeling certain there was no way we’d qualify. I was considering pulling my entry or just not showing up. Thursday night I worked with her some in the front yard and decided we’d already paid, we’d go and see what happens, though I was still convinced we wouldn’t qualify. Friday night I was a bundle of nerves.

We were the second dog in our Novice class, and once again most of our points were lost on the heeling. We have a lot of work to do there, but she always makes me laugh. This time she took a step on the Stand for Exam, so we’ll have to work on that too since I believe in Utility the exam is much more thorough. The judge let us know we’d qualified so far as we left the ring, and I was ecstatic. We went back in for the long sit and the judge called for us to leave our dogs. I got almost to the other end of the ring, and the judge alerted us to a problem. I look back to see my Labrador still sitting, but being loomed over by a much bigger dog, who seemed very determined to sniff every inch of her. My girl held her stay as long as she good, but once the owner of the big dog was there, and the judge, she gave me this apologetic look and took a step away from all the pressure. I don’t blame her one bit, but I was sure we were done. The judge asked me to stay with my dog, but then added that I shouldn’t worry, he’d redo my long sit! So we waited for the minute to be up for the other dogs, did our long down, and then remained alone in the ring for a redo on the long sit. Amazingly we were the only dog in the class to qualify!

We got a nice break between this class and the Rally class. The course seemed simple, and the walk through went quickly. Then we were in the ring and the leash went off. There were no cones on this course — so no figure either, or serpentine or spiral. It was just the signs, and the jump. We retried one station (loosing 3 points) because I didn’t signal my stop very well, and she didn’t sit, but other than that I left the ring having no idea how I’d done, and honestly wondering if maybe I’d missed a sign as it seemed to go by quickly! I didn’t miss anything and we again got first place!

Two blue ribbons means the Labrador got two cheeseburgers! She’s also right now out back enjoying a bone. What a wonderful day! We go back tomorrow, entered again in Novice. It won’t count for anything, but it will be good experience and practice.

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