Bad Hips and Career Changes

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It’s funny, in a sad way – the reason I met Bauer in the first place was because of bad hips.

I was really into agility, and Chance, my “do everything” dog at the time, had hip dysplasia and weak knees, and agility was not in his future. I lamented about this to a friend, told her I needed an agility dog.

So she told me about Bauer – who was about 10 months old at the time and driving his owners crazy with his high energy and crazy antics. He would be a great agility dog, she told me.

Bauer’s mom and I got in touch, and I started taking Bauer to agility classes once a week. It gave him an outlet for his energy, gave his family a break for a few hours and gave me my agility dog.

Several months later, his family asked if we would like to have Bauer, and we said yes. Our home was just a better fit for him, and he enjoyed having other dogs around, and we had more time to do outside activities with him. It was a very responsible and loving decision on their part, and I’m so grateful that they cared for him in his first year before he found his way to us.

So Bauer and I kept doing agility, and started competing, and he did well! He was slow, and had a bit of an awkward gait, so I jumped him at a lower height than he measured into, and kept him lean. His old owners had his hips x-rayed around six months, and they were fine, but you can’t always tell at that age. While he was with us he had a few chiropractic adjustments that seemed to help with the way he carried his back end.

He turned two at the end of January, so we figured we would x-ray him again. His agility career was just taking off, and I had high hopes of using him for mobility assistance – many non weight bearing tasks he was already trained in and helping with, but for a dog to assist with balance, they must be very sound. When I left him at the vet to be sedated for x-rays, I actually lamented to Chris that I was spending a whole lot of money to find out there is nothing wrong with my dog.

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Well, I was wrong. And I’m glad I spent the money.

Bauer is dysplastic in his left hip.

It’s nothing crippling – he will still live a normal life, though he likely will have trouble when he’s older. Joint supplements and keeping him lean will help. But agility? Lure coursing? Jumping? Mobility work? No longer an option.

So here is my dog that was brought into our family as my “active, do everything dog” and now he can’t really… do anything. That’s not exactly true – he can still go on walks and go out with me to dog friendly events and restaurants in the summer and he is still the best playmate for all our foster dogs and Snoopy’s best friend and he’s still our big fluffy guy. But it’s disappointing, for me and for him.

Of course I have Jeni now, for agility and active things, when I can manage. It was helpful to have  Bauer at trials – if I needed help I had him. Jeni is my heart dog, for sure, but she is a spaz and I have to look out for her. Bauer looks out for me.

But we will carry on… this may change my plans for a puppy in the future, I may need a large breed dog instead of another Icelandic. But maybe not. Interestingly enough, right when we found out about Bauer’s hips, my doctors suggested a procedure that may eliminate my balance problems in the first place. Maybe not – I’m nervous it won’t work and I will be stuck with this long term. And it’s not fair to ask Bauer to help me out with it, when he’s not healthy himself. And it’s not fair for him to be my sport dog – even though he loves running so much. It’s hard for me to have to take that away from him, and he won’t understand why.

So, new activities for Bauer. He’s been getting into nosework, and that is low impact. Maybe, new plans for me. But whatever happens, Bauer is just a dog, that is loved, and will be with us for the rest of his life, hip problems or not, and I’m sure we’ll find new adventures to have together.

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6 thoughts on “Bad Hips and Career Changes

  1. I just discovered your blog yesterday, but I am so glad I did. I’m still getting to know you, your dogs, and their stories, but what is clear is the deep bond you share with them, and the love they have for you, and you for them.

  2. Wow that stinks about the hips. Our field trainer once commented that a dog would need pretty bad hips to have to give up field work. In fact his own golden had dysplastic elbows and passed over 50 master tests. I would think nose work would be a good alternative for Bauer.

    • I’ve been told the same thing – apparently some agility people even run their dogs with dysplastic hips but I don’t feel right doing it. Jumps and contacts are very strenuous on a dog’s joints already, and if they’re not 100 percent it’s setting him up for a lot of pain in old age. But luckily he can still live a pretty normal life otherwise, I just want to give him the best chance to be healthy and happy as long as possible. It sucks to lose out on some plans I had for him but his health is most important. I don’t know much about field work though – it may likely not be as strenuous on a dog’s joints as agility is!

      • I don’t think field work is near as hard on joints as agility and there is a lot of swimming. Freighter’s hips were x-rays at the beginning of December and we were on pins and needles waiting for results, because you are right it could very well have changed plans.

      • Yeah – swimming is good for them! We have been taking Garth swimming to build muscle in his back leg and I think Bauer is going to have to start joining. Both of them have to been bribed to actually swim though – I miss my Golden mix who needed bribing to get OUT of the water.

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