Tag Archives: attitude

  • Grateful for the Journey

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Chase and I are planning a party. We’re celebrating one year of the Dog Gone Reading Program at the Valley Library, where the kids read to Chase to improve their reading skills. Ginny the librarian, the kids, and their families will join us on a Saturday to celebrate, hear Chase’s story, present participation awards to the kids, and share some treats. Chase led me into this work, and he and I have felt such joy from seeing the kids improve their reading skills. We love to hear the kids read, and have enjoyed helping them learn more about dogs. Chase doesn’t have a kid at home, so he gets to spend time with kids. It’s a win-win. One benefit from this program that I didn’t anticipate is the opportunity for kids to learn about and become comfortable with dogs. Most of the kids don’t have a dog at home, or haven’t spent time with a calm dog that they can read with. One little girl was afraid of dogs and told me that Chase is the only dog she isn’t afraid of. He instinctively bows in front of her so his face is lower than hers. I think he’s sensitive to her fear and is trying to appear smaller. He’s also wagging his tail like crazy in a silly play bow, which is hard to resist. This little girl and her family are considering getting a dog, and have researched different breeds at the library. I do my best to answer their questions. I know they won’t enter into dog ownership lightly. One day the little girl told me that ‘Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility!’ She must have heard that at home. But you and I know the rewards are worth it.

    We have something else to celebrate. Since Chase began his cancer journey in July and Bandit began his in September, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride. Chase had surgery in July to remove a tumor from his colon, then had 21 rounds of radiation therapy in July and August. On February 18th, a CT scan showed no evidence of disease. So we are hoping now that Chase is cancer free! One of my dreaded thoughts about possibly losing Chase to cancer was that his loss would be taken hard by everyone at the library as well as our own family. Chase is not a young dog and will be nine years old this year. Yet we hope he has many healthy years left. In February, just after the roller coaster reached its peak for Chase, it began a steep descent for Bandit, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September. The change of pace came steep and fast, and we had to adjust quickly. Bandit had been taking a daily chemo pill since September. Regular blood and urine tests had showed that he was doing well. He went for our usual long walk and insisted on several games of jolly ball every day. But in mid-March he began showing that he was in pain. We were all sore from walking on the ice and snow, and at first I thought he would feel better once the snow melted. We gave him additional pain medications, but they didn’t seem to help much. On March 14th, we learned that Bandit’s kidneys were failing and his white blood cell count was very low. The disease he had fought so valiantly was winning. We weren’t able to alleviate his pain and I did not want to ask one more thing from this dog who had lived every day to the fullest and had given me so much already.  On March 14th I went for a walk with Chase and Cay, leaving Bandit in the house. I thought the walk would be too much for him. But the following morning, Bandit insisted on going for one last walk up on the hill. I was astonished that he could climb the hill, but true to his always intrepid spirit, he led the way. He and I spent some of our last precious moments together up on that hill where we have walked almost every day of his life. There, my Bandit, my inner fire, brought me the ball, played in the snow, rolled in the dirt, and took everything in for one last time. I think he was doing it for me. On March 15th, knowing that Bandit’s condition was not reversible, and that a morphine derivative was not alleviating his pain, we set Bandit’s spirit free from the body that was failing him.

    I cannot begin to tell you how much Bandit has changed my life. But I suppose if you’ve been reading along, you may already know. A miracle brought this little red charmer to me in 2004.  He appeared as a bolt out of the blue http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy, so I had to step up just to stay ahead of him. He jumped out of bed every morning ready to face the day. And, until his body failed him, he was always ready and eager to work—in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, tracking, chasing the ball, you name it. I had never herded livestock, let alone cattle, before determining that I would give Bandit the chance to do what he was bred to do. He earned many ribbons when we were competing, including many second places. But the only blue ribbon he earned was for herding cattle. Moving a herd of cattle around a field with him gave me a sense of peace and accomplishment like nothing else. When 55-pound Bandit was rolled by a cow, he jumped right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. To me this was a great example of how to live your life. If anyone could pack 15 years of living into 10, Bandit could. He changed me to a glass-half-full kind of person. Attitude is everything. Prior to Bandit’s passing, and several times since, I have been visited by bald eagles. Whenever I feel especially sad, one or several of them appear. There seems to be an amazing, intriguing connection. I’m not quite ready to write more about Bandit just yet, but I promise I will write more next time. Our little pack is mourning, and yet we have a party to plan. Remembering Bandit, my true companion, my inner fire.

  • Equine Arthritis: Dealing with the Pain

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Ask anyone who suffers from arthritis what it’s like, and you’ll hear just one word repeated and repeated – pain. And you won’t have to look very far to find people to ask. In some cases, you don’t even need to ask – you can tell just by watching them move; they don’t like to because it hurts.

    We’re not alone in coping with this painful monster – our horses, like humans, are quite prone to arthritis, and they hurt just as much as we do.

    We hope medical science will soon be able to control it, even cure it, both horse and human, but until then, because it’s a chronic degenerative disease, the prognosis isn’t good. Once it’s in our joints, it’s there for keeps, and if left untreated, it just gets worse. So we compensate: we medicate to mitigate the symptoms. We avoid activities that we know will hurt.

    Lucky us, humans can do that. Horses not so much. They rely upon us to see and recognize their symptoms, then do something about it to ease their pain, just as we do our own. Problem is, sometimes we don’t “get the message” when our horse hurts. But the clues are there, you can bet on it. We need to recognize what their body language is saying.

    Fortunately, most of us can spot a horse that’s in obvious pain, though we may not be able to pinpoint exactly where it’s centered. Here are some of the general symptoms that tell us that our horse is hurting:

    • An obvious limp • A listless, depressed attitude.

    • Decreased appetite.

    • Lies down more than usual

    • Doesn’t move around as much as usual, less interested in playing • Separates himself from his herdmates

    • When standing, eases the weight load on an involved leg by “pointing” a forefoot or “flexing” a hind foot to let the opposite leg take up the weight burden.

    • When ridden, seems stiff, may refuse certain movements such as collection, jumps, certain turns and the like.

    We get a break when examining specifically for arthritis: it is a disease that’s centered in the joints, which narrows down which areas we need to concentrate on. Here are some of the symptoms of arthritic pain:

    • Joint swelling • Warmth around a joint

    • Reduced ability to move the joint

    • Stiffness, especially in the morning

    • Misshapen joint

    • When picking his feet, you notice less dirt, hay, manure packed in

    When we do see the symptoms, we bring in the vet to do another evaluation, and if our suspicions are confirmed, our next thought is how do we get rid of the problem? Can’t we just take a pill?

    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet – not yet, anyway, though science is trying hard to develop one. As a chronic degenerative condition quite possibly stemming from an autoimmune problem, and at this point is incurable, we can’t get rid of arthritis by any simple medication.

    Fortunately, we can deal with it and make our horse’s life immensely easier. There are effective lifestyle changes that can reduce pain, improve function, and arrest further joint damage. First, start a slimming down program if he’s overweight. That alone will greatly help joint pain in his legs and feet.

    Controlled movement will help relieve stiffness and reduce pain and fatigue. Gentle daily exercise is excellent therapy, particularly important because affected joints need plenty movement to prevent permanent restriction of motion. Thirty minutes per day of steady walking, if his lameness permits, is usually enough. It will help to pick up an affected leg frequently and flex or extend the joints a dozen times or so. Free-range turnout is an excellent lifestyle for all horses, but note that it does not replace actual therapy.

    Though inconclusive, some positive results have been reported from supplementation with bioflavonoids, and especially glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates. These two natural substances are readily available for purchase; they stimulate formation and repair of joint cartilage. In addition, add antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, plus a generous dosage of omega-3.

    Applying a liniment such as Absorbine is quite helpful. It creates a mild inflammation that increases blood flow and eases the pain. Bandaging is also helpful because it holds in heat, but it’s mostly effective only on the fetlock (ankle). Other joints are better served using Neoprene wraps, but be careful if you use Neoprene over liniment – some liniments are irritating under Neoprene, and it is important to avoid irritating the skin. Read the liniment label for warnings. Massage the dosed area for ten or fifteen minutes after applying liniment and before bandaging.

    Those sore joints will very much appreciate heat. Gentle heat is the magic touch for the pain of arthritis under everyday conditions. But his arthritis may flare up occasionally, and become much more painful. When it happens, ease up on his walking therapy, and use cold therapy instead of heat. You can use a garden hose (no nozzle), for example, and hose down a particularly sore knee. Temporary increases of antioxidants and glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate will bring some added relief. Please note that while bandaging will help control swelling, it also holds in heat, just the opposite of what you want during a flare-up, thus you may have to forego bandaging temporarily. Use discretion and never over-do.

    During a flare-up, increase the dosage of bioflavonoids, vitamin E and especially vitamin C, and be sure glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates are dosed to full recommended levels, to help minimize further joint damage.

    You can safely dose with Bute at flare-up time, but be careful. Only the worst cases require constant, repeated dosing, and that has some potentially serious side-effects. One is the suppression of an enzyme, resulting in the reduction of the stomach’s protection against ulcers. If the situation calls for frequent dosing of Bute, you can also supplement him with a half to a full cup of lecithin each day. Lecithin effectively protects the stomach wall from damage, is tasteless, and is relatively inexpensive. There are other products to control ulcer pain; discuss them with your vet.

    Once a flare-up has eased, phase out the cold therapy and get back to hand-walking for brief periods several times a day. Long-term, exercise is of paramount importance.

    If you shoe your horse, squaring the toes makes breakover easier and smoother, thus easier on arthritic joints, but be sure to keep the feet at their natural angle so you don’t complicate matters. Don’t use caulks, trailers or grabs on the shoe, and use shoe padding to raise the heel angles slightly.

    Finally, consider his nutrition. Ideally, his primary feed should be low-sugar roughage, such as a grass hay like timothy, selected for proper mineral balance and sugar content. As previously suggested, supplement it with Vitamins C and E because of their excellent anti-oxidant qualities, and with high omega-3 fatty acids such as Omega Fields’ product, HorseShine. Round it off with a cup of canola oil per day.

    Don’t expect a cure from these steps. There isn’t one. But you can most assuredly make life easier for him.

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