The dog in winter … just because

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, or even if you drop in occasionally, you’ve probably noticed that I write about my dog from time to time.  This is one of those times 🙂

Nu (Nuala) is a quirky beast.  First, she pees like a male dog.  Yes, she lifts her leg.  It’s a learned behaviour adopted from dog-friend Daisy, who in turn learned the skill from her dog-friend Colonel.  This is a particularly useful skill in winter, when snow banks often crowd the sidewalks.  Trust me, it’s better than the embarrassing (for me) pee in the middle of the sidewalk or driveway, which often occurs just when another pedestrian or the homeowner walks up.

She used to climb the banks, but I’ve had to curb that inclination.  More on that in a bit.

Nu also has a couple of behaviours reserved for winter.  She’s a sniffer.  The rest of the year, she walks with her nose to the ground and often finds the most interesting (read disgusting) things on the side of the road.  Used tissues are a favourite, but occasionally she’ll go for the feces of other animals or the leavings of feral cats (bird corpses mostly).  It’s so disappointing when your pet actually behaves like a dog 😛

Her reaction to having these things extracted from her mouth has resulted in one of her many nick-names: Clamps.  Nu will clench her mouth shut, and physically curl her body to prevent either Phil or myself from getting to the offensive bit.  She becomes completely rigid and I’ve often had to lift most of her 80 pound weight to get at whatever tasty she’s found.

The snow-nosian pupWhen the first decent snow falls, though, the sniffing takes on a whole new dimension.  Nu buries her entire face in the snow, snuffling and digging through it in her attempt to find whatever delicious smell has attracted her. She emerges as the snow-nosian pup.  The snow melts pretty quickly, but sometimes we see the abominable (adorable) snow dog.

I walk Nuala using a Halti.  She can haul anyone clear across the driveway when she has a mind to, so it helps to keep her in line without causing strain on her neck.  She hates the thing though, and during the rest of the year, she’ll rub her chin on the ground in an attempt to scratch beneath, or remove the Halti entirely.

In the winter, this behaviour turns into what I like to call her seal impression.  Nu slides on the snow, nose first, clearing a path for the rest of her to follow.  Her front paws fold back (kind of like flippers) and she slides across the snowy yard, wiggling.  She really does look like a seal.

In recent years, Nuala’s had a few minor health situations.  A couple of years ago, she sheared one of her molars in half.  This necessitated a lengthier-than-expected dental surgery that left her disoriented and whining in that particular post-surgical way.  Any of you who have gone through it with your pet will know what I mean.  Stumbling when she tried to walk, and moaning through a clenched and quivering jaw.  It was truly pathetic.

Last year, she developed what we thought was arthritis, and she was started on a regimen of Metacam and Cartrofen which seemed to be working, but this year, after her Cartrofen booster, she started limping more than usual, not less.

She wouldn’t put weight on her right rear leg and when we took her in to the vet last week, the tentative diagnosis was an ACL injury.  Yes, animals get them too, but unlike humans, you can’t tell them the reason why they can’t run around like a yahoo anymore, climb snow banks, and get overly excited over company.

Here are a couple of helpful videos from Vetstoria.  Note: The second one shows the actual surgery and those uncomfortable with graphic medical information should steer clear.

We’re trying to keep her quiet, and ‘easy,’ ‘whoa,’ and ‘no’ have become a large part of our communication these days.  If she doesn’t improve over the holidays, Nu will be admitted to the vet’s for a day where she’ll be sedated and a definitive diagnosis made.  At this point, she’s resisting the manipulation that could potentially reveal the extent of the injury.

Because the ligament is soft tissue, an x-ray won’t show anything about the ACL.  It will show any ancillary damage caused to the bone, however, so that too might be in Nuala’s future.

If the ACL is significantly torn or detached, Nuala’s headed for surgery, either in Ottawa or Guelph, and that’s an issue for us because both Phil and I work and Nu doesn’t travel well, even over short distances.  One or both of us would have to take the time off work, and neither of us has the vacation to accommodate such a trip.

Though expensive, the cost is not the issue with us.  Our last dog, Zoe, had a couple of Zoesurgeries in an attempt to remove the cancer (hemangiosarcoma) that she developed.  The bill was over five thousand and in the end, the cancer had spread and still resulted in her death.  Sad days, those.

Our cat, Thufir, developed diabetes, and we treated him for years with metformin and then insulin before he finally succumbed to complications.  Phil and I believe that pet ownership includes the responsibility for the animal’s overall health.  These unforeseen crises are some of the reasons we have credit cards and a line of credit.

So that’s life with Nuala these days, who’s earned yet Thufiranother nick-name, the Hoblin, as a result of her current injury.

Will likely update you in the New Year with the developing situation.  I won’t lay claim to prescience, but I have a feeling that surgery will be in our collective future.

Do you have a pet with health issues?  How are you managing it?  My best wishes to anyone dealing with anything serious.

5 thoughts on “The dog in winter … just because

  1. (((((Hugs))))) I hope she’s ok.

    I totally agree! Pet ownership means taking responsibility, for EVERYTHING! I would sell everything I owned to pay for treatment.

    With 2 cats now reaching their senior years I’m sure there will definitely be things I’ll have to deal with in the future (as I’ve done so many times before).

    Good luck!



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