Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Doggy December - Day 10 - Dodgy Legs

According to the vet, our beloved Milly is cross between a Jack Russell and a Corgi and has been fortunate enough to inherit the best traits from each breed. If people can say words like 'Spanador' and 'Groodle' with a straight face then surely there can be a new breed called Jorgi?

Milly could run faster than a whippet and turn 180 degrees like the crack of a stockman's whip on a five cent piece. Fellow dog walkers frequently commented on her speedy skills and she barely stopped for any congratulatory pats until after our oval running sessions were completed: after all, there was running to do RIGHT NOW (or then) and any cutesy touchy-feely stuff could occur afterwards at any time.

For those three years she was my Personal Trainer. She insisted that we get up at 6am about three or four mornings a week, trot to the school oval and do our fifteen laps totalling 6km. Well, fifteen laps for me was about sixty for Milly if her additional distances criss-crossing to chase magpies, sniff other furry buddies’ butts, roll in old sandwiches and ensuring she left her ~ ahem ~ 'Chum Nuggets' in the middle of the cricket pitch were also taken into account.

One day she started to limp for the rest of the day after our morning run together.

The limping stopped on the second day, so I just assumed she'd pulled a muscle and it would soon go away. Then, however, she started slipping on the floor when she tried to stand up in the mornings. The problem seemed more serious, so we trotted down the street to the vet.

Once in the examination room it was increasingly clear that Milly considered her vet appointment about as much fun as a mouthful of sugarless carob. In spite of the vet’s reassuring voice, head pats and liver treats, Milly’s ears immediately flattened when the thermometer was inserted without so much as a "Do you mind if...." beforehand. And who could blame her - each time she went there she got poked up the bum to get her temperature taken; had her skin scraped until blood appeared for skin samples, a long needle jab under the collar for protection against various worms and kennel cough and, this time, her hips and legs manipulated until she cried out in pain.

$500 later, she was knocked out for x-rays and taken home with dilated triangles for eyes and a tendency to tip over sideways like a cow midway through rigor mortis. She was too stoned to do anything more than whimper occasionally, clearly puzzled as to why the room was spinning like a frisbee and we humans were appearing in triplicate.

It was bad news for a four year old in the prime of her running career. Milly had acute arthritis and was no longer allowed to go running. Ever. In fact, we were informed that she needed to have two weeks of total rest, which meant no walks, no time off the lead in the park or enjoy any form of happy laps around the garden when Love Chunks got home from work.

It also meant losing three kilograms of weight to ease the strain on her back knees. She'd stand by the fridge, hoping that I'd open it again and say, "Oh sorry mate, that tiny handful of 'diet crunchies' I gave you was merely the appetizer. Let me open the magic white door again and give you the bone, bacon rinds, doggy moosh in oily juices and leftovers you so richly require and deserve." No such luck: not only was she bored and puzzled, but she was also hungry; two favourite activities now being denied her.

The irony was that I still had to keep running on the oval because my knees were too buggered to cope with cement footpaths and bitumen. Milly would hear my alarm go off and whip herself into a furry frenzy of excitement: 'Kath's up first, so that means we're going RUNNING. Whoo Hoo!' Not any more for you, my little friend.

The first morning I jogged off without her, she managed to slip under the side gate and I could hear the ‘clicka clicka clicka’ of her nails on the footpath. I turned around to see her exuberant face, telling me, “It’s OK Kath, everything’s all right. I’ve got the situation in hand. I managed to get out and I’m joining you.” I felt like the scummiest person on the earth when I picked her up in my arms, walked back to the house, locked the gate and saw her confused face behind the bars before I ran back out of the garden into the distance.

Since then, she's only able to go on two five or ten-minute walks on a lead each day, with no chasing of pigeons, other dogs or cats because her legs give her too much pain.

For a few months after her diagnosis, I continued to run on my own, saying my usual ‘Morning’ greeting to the other oval regulars such as the owners of Sheba the German Shepherd, Hoover the kelpie, Ben the sheepdog, Rowley the terrier and Izzy the spaniel, calling out, “At home, she's got arthritis” when they invariably called out, “So where’s Milly today?”

I used to feel glad when the salty sweat trickled into my eyes because it disguised my tears. It was simply not the same running on my own and not be able to hear the joyful jingling of Milly’s tags as she hooned along beside me.

At least with the treadmill, she can pop in and visit me.


River said...

I feel so sorry for Milly. Arthritis ain't fun, I've got it myself. In the last few years I've slowed down so much from the way I used to be. I hate it and I just know that Milly does too. But when she feels the pain in her joints I think she understands why the running is no more.

Baino said...

Ah tell me about it. I have arthritis in my toes! God my feet hurt. Having a labrador, arthritis is always a worry as is hip displasure but no, my mad dog skittled on the slate floor then belted out the back door and damaged a cruciate ligament, $3,500 later and a brand new titanium knee . . .I know! But what do you do! That was 3 years ago and she's right as rain. I'm now waiting for the other knee to go! Hers . .althoug mine's a bit gammy too!