When therapy is not so therapeutic

Last Christmas, Willie injured himself jumping into the van. We were going for our afternoon walk like any other day. Only on this day, he suffered a terrible injury.  We’ve been treating him with acupuncture, careful exercise, massage, essential oils and rest. He’d been doing GREAT. He was off all pain meds and seemed so well managed. We had been referred to a rehab vet that specializes in treating terrible injuries and had been waiting for months to get in to see her. She is a fantastic vet and spends a lot of time on the animals, to really assess the extent of the injury. She uses pool therapy to strengthen the animals and work out the muscle spasms. I had seen photos along with a video of other animals, in rehab pools. In fact, I have some of those images on Willie’s website. So, we were expecting the same kind of sweet images from this experience. Well, that’s now exactly what happened. Willie would like to share his encounter with pool therapy. It’s a reminder that we are all different and that what works for one person or animal is not necessarily going to be appropriate for all.

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Willie tries out Pool Therapy

“My visit to the new vet was very interesting, and not what we expected. Momma took me to see a special vet that could check how my back is doing. I hurt myself really bad right before Christmas last year, and momma has been taking extra special care of me. Momma thought I was doing great, but the new vet says my back is still not very good. The new vet says I probably herniated a disc, and that’s what momma said from the beginning. So, the new vet showed momma where I have the most trouble and showed her new stuff to do with me. The vet says it could take a whole year to get me completely well.

A big thing this special vet does is put her patients in a special pool with her to help us get strong. Even though they put the floaty jacket on me, and the doctor held on to me the whole time, I was so afraid. By the end, I was getting the hang of it and understood what we were doing, but by then, I was so tired I could hardly paddle. The vet was surprised and said she never saw a dog act like me in the pool. I am a Golden Retriever, and we are supposed to be natural swimmers. I was so excited to get in the pool when I first got there, and I saw another doggie in it. But when it was my turn, oh boy did it ever scare me. Momma made sure I could see her the whole time and stayed very close. When I was the most scared, I tried to get out several times and I hurt a front paw. The people didn’t realize it until I got out and couldn’t walk on it. They were so upset about it, but sometimes these things happen when doggies get so frightened.

Right before I got out, I was settling down and was not so afraid.  The vet examined me again after I got out and said my back was better, and said I was not as strong as I really should be. She thinks the pool will help me a lot and says by the third time, I won’t be afraid anymore.

Momma was so upset about me getting hurt and took extra special care of me last night. I had to stay downstairs in my bed and she brought my dinner and medicine to me. She put special stuff on me to help me heal and hugged me and loved on me. She was crying about me being hurt, but I told her it was ok. I don’t think it was her fault, and I know she wants to make sure I’m well.”

We returned to our regular vet yesterday to have Willie rechecked. He was not in very good shape. It seems like we undid 3 months of careful work in 15 minutes of the pool. There’s no blame to be assigned, except to myself. I should have insisted Willie be taken out of the pool when we realized how afraid he was. We have this expectation, this preconceived notion, that Golden Retrievers are water dogs and natural swimmers. Well, I can tell you that is not so. This was a big, big lesson to me to watch him more carefully. The vets learned that not every animal is going to respond to the same therapy the same way. I am glad to know how unstable his back really is at this point. We were under the illusion he was strong and about back to normal. Well, he’s not. He hides his true feelings very well, so it’s up to me to pay much more attention to his body language. I will be more careful with our daily activities in the future, and we will stick to what’s working for him. I highly recommend acupuncture  for dogs. It’s very gentle and quite effective. I think if a dog has had positive associations with water, then pool therapy is the way to go, but if this history is an unknown, then be prepared for all outcomes. It may not go the way you expect.

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Patty McGuire with her beloved best buddy.

Patty McGuire resides just outside Chalottesville, Virginia with her best buddy, Willie. Willie has his own blog at www.everybodyloveswillie.tumblr.com. Willie is a Rescue Golden Retriever, and has been with his forever family for a little more than three years.

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