Darla is recovering just fine from her knee surgery of a few weeks ago, with one exception: She refuses to actually walk on her new, very expensive leg. She’s not in pain, and our veterinary surgeon at Peak, Dr. Kurt Schulz, examined Darla last week and confirmed all is well with her knee. This is a problem with … her head. You see, she can use that leg when she wants to scratch her chin, for example. That’s right, she can reach all the way forward with it, move it back and forth, apply pressure, and do just about anything she wants with it. Except walk on it.
According to Kurt, this is not uncommon, especially with smaller dogs who find they can quickly and easily adapt to being three-legged in the initial aftermath of blowing out the knee. Indeed, we were amazed at how fast Darla became adept at being three-legged — the very next day after sustaining her knee injury, she was moving around the yard at a clip that suggested she’d been three-legged for a long time. Larger dogs, like Aaron our Maremma, find it much more difficult to be three-legged, and prefer to start using the “new” leg as soon as they can. We had the opposite problem with Aaron, in fact; our challenge was to keep him from overdoing it.
After massaging Darla’s?leg here at home, pulling on it to get her to retract it so she’d have to use the leg muscles, and walking her up and down one of our sloping yards to wear her out so she’d want to use that leg, we found nothing we did really worked. It was time for professional help. Thus we had already scheduled an appointment to see’the physical therapist at Peak last week, Nancy Zimny, a?certified canine rehabilitation therapist. Following?Kurt’s examination of Darla to rule out any physical or medical causes for her reluctance to use the leg, Nancy took over.
Nancy was actually a?human physical therapist for most of her career, and was a?full-time Associate Professor of Physical Therapy in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science at the University of Vermont for 27 years before retiring in 2008. Nancy told me that what we’re seeing with Darla is something she’s seen in human patients over the years, too. She spent about an hour showing me various techniques to use with Darla, from ways to massage her leg and back muscles to “tricks” to get her to put her foot down — like putting a plastic bag or a bell on the “good” leg, prompting her to want to lift up that leg with the disconcerting feel or sound and thus put the “new” leg down. We also did several exercises, as you see in these photos.
In the one at top, the goal is to get her to weave her way through the traffic cones, while wearing a hairband wrapped around the toes on the other foot. Again, a strange sensation that should help prompt her to give that foot a rest and put the other one down. The weaving through the cones is designed to make her turn on her back feet, increasing the likelihood she’ll end up using the foot she’s keeping in the air. I’m holding a cup with a little bit of peanut butter in it to motivate and reward her.
In this next shot Nancy is taking Darla over a very low “steeple chase” — it’s not easy to step over those poles on three feet, though Darla did her best to do so!
Nancy sent us home with a set of cones and poles so we could do these exercises here at the farm, plus two pages?of detailed instructions outlining the other exercises and techniques to use with Darla. We have another appointment in three weeks to check her progress. The reason we need to get Darla?using that leg is because eventually her muscles will start to atrophy from inactivity, and then it becomes a self-reinforcing problem.
2014 Fall Shelter Challenge Begins
The fall?round of the Shelter Challenge for 2014 is underway. It began October 13?and ends November 23. You can vote every day at?http://www.shelterchallenge.com/. To search for us, type in our name, Rolling Dog Farm, and Lancaster, NH 03584. We’ve won thousands of dollars in the previous contests, so your daily votes do bring in serious money for our disabled animals!
Please note that I cannot help with technical or voting problems. If you find yourself having issues, please consult their FAQ page and their Rules page.
Thanks for your votes!
Shirley and James says
It took our dog over a month to walk on her leg so no worries.
HERE’S HOPING DARLA WILL SOON START USING HER LEG WITHOUT ANY FURTHER DELAY. CHANCES ARE WHEN SHE HAS THE RIGHT “FRAME OF MIND” IE: SOMETHING TO CHASE PERHAPS, SHE WILL BE OFF & RUNNING.
Barb Ribinski says
It doesn’t seem like Darla knows or cares that you don’t really have extra time to spend with her on her therapy. Please get with the program, Darla. Everyone is trying to help you.
Kathleen A. Rivard says
Darla, the little darlin’ definitely has a mind of her own. She wants to keep that fourth leg in reserve.
Golly! What do you and Alayne do with all your free time? Hugs to all of you!! Darla, get with the program. Mommy and Daddy have plenty to do without this “dog and pony” show. Maybe it’s just a bid for more of your loving attention.
Tonya Allen says
I’m sure Darla’s enjoying the fact that she’s getting yet more attention! Maybe she’s always wanted to do agility, and this is her way of getting started.
Diane Borden, Chehalis, WA says
Oh my!. PT for dogs. You guys definitely go the extra mile. Ever have “horse wrap” around. The stretchy, sticky gauze stuff is readily available at most feed stores. My daughters Chihuahua ripped out a toenail on a back leg and had to wear horse wrap on that foot for about 6 weeks, and would NOT put it down. Most of the time he was trying to “donkey kick” the wrap off of it. Another option for an “annoyance” on the Darla’s good leg. Get it thick enough and it’s almost like a cast.
Miss Darla has ALWAYS had a mind of her own…..what a stubborn girl! That said, if she is anything like my two, that peanut butter will motivate her to do about anything. For those of you who are thinking Darla is using up a lot of valuable time, dogs are SUPPOSED to do physical therapy after knee surgery…..it is a major part of the recovery process. I had to drop my dog off at the vet three times a week for a month to do hers PLUS do things with her at home too. Glad to hear she is no pain and the surgery went well!
Marta Rawlings says
When I tell people about Rolling Dog Farm they think I am trying to get them into a scam. They just don’t believe that a couple could change their lives so drastically and start taking care of a bunch of disabled animals. It just sounds like the start of a story to sell someone the Brooklyn Bridge. Then I hand them a copy of your newsletter or I pull up your website. I never suggest that they make a donation, I figure the website will get them to do that if they are inclined. I do suggest that they vote in the Shelter Challenge since that doesn’t cost anything.
I think what Steve and Alayne do every day is like the folks I have heard of giving up a great job, cashing it all in and going somewhere to help the people. At least people can say “thank you”. But then every animal can say the same thing with a wagging tail or a kiss on the fingers. I am so glad that I have heard of you and your fabulous farm. I have been following your story since you were still braving the winters in Wyoming. Now you spend your winters in New Hampshire. You must love snow!
Every morning I start my day with a cup of coffee. Then I sit down at my computer and vote for my favorite shelter, Rolling Dog Farm, on the Shelter Challenge. It just takes a minute and my vote may help you get one of the awards. Then I send you a donation every once in a while. It is so little compared to what Steve and Alayne do every day. Thank you for taking care of all of those magnificent critters!
Hey Darla! You can do it! Or is that a sly way to get your own personal trainer & agility class? 🙂
Coincidentally, I’m rehabbing my new knee with nice folks at Peak PT in Issaquah WA. Yours looks like more fun! Keep up your progress! Sending you good karma.
Christopher Davis says
I suppose from Darla’s point of view, that knee’s already proved to be unreliable – the fail seemed to her to come out of nowhere – so it will take awhile for her to give her knee another chance to show it can be trusted – and you can’t use words to convince her it’ll be fine.
When my daughter was five she broke her leg – and when the cast came off earlier than expected she was the same – wouldn’t bend it – peg-legged walked & nothing I could say would convince her to do otherwise. Then we saw the big doctor in the hospital for her follow-up – she asked “can I run now?” – and when he said yes, she hopped off the examination table and ran up and down the corridor. When I pointed out to her that I’d been saying the same thing for days, she said “Yes, but you’re not the doctor”. So there you go.
Oh, my goodness – if it’s not one thing, it’s another, right?? 🙂
Darla, I’d be happy to put my Angel on the phone and she can bark at you about how to put that leg down. She had knee surgery a couple of years ago and it was a long healing process. She also didn’t want to put her leg down in the beginning, but after a while she caught on. Don’t get too upset, Steve, she’ll get it 🙂
How many times have people tried to “get out of their heads” to accomplish something?
Animals can have the same issue, as we see with Darla. We know Darla can walk on
all four’s, we’re all her fans and are cheering her on. Keep up the great work Darla and
much gratitude for all the patience, support and love everyone has been giving her.