Free Canine Rehab for Merle
In April 2017, we adopted a Tripawd named Molly from Last Hope K9 Rescue. Once she settled in, we started fostering dogs on the hunch that it might help build her confidence to be around other dogs. Molly craves canine companionship, but doesn’t really know how to make friends. In the presence of a familiar dog, Molly is relaxed, comfortable, and just the best version of herself. We noticed immediately that she sometimes had trouble keeping up with our four-legged foster dogs. She is athletic and strong, but needs frequent breaks. So we started looking for a three-legged sibling for her. In January, we saw pictures of Merle, a six-year-old Bluetick Hound at Last Hope K9. He was found on the side of the road in Arkansas with massive injuries to his legs and abdomen, most likely the result of being struck by a car. Although they tried to fix his broken front leg, the pins didn’t hold, and it was determined that he would be better off without it. His leg was amputated in July 2017.
For Molly and Merle, it was not love at first sight. They met with low growls, barking, and a couple of lunges. Merle’s fosters agreed that given Molly’s anxious and reactive nature, we might not be the right family for him. Still, we felt compelled to try again. Merle seemed like such a great fit for our family–an easygoing (lazy) hound with a high tolerance for toddler shenanigans and the ability to handle long trail walks. We arranged to have the dogs meet again. Long story short, the second meeting was much better and Merle joined us in late January. He had a smooth transition and seemed to enjoy his new life. He and Molly became fast friends and often cuddled together to share a small patch of sun on the rug. His exercise was cut back drastically during his first two weeks home because our youngest had surgery and was on bed-rest. Merle’s foster family had been taking him on long (2-3 mile) daily walks and runs. He was getting four or five shorter walks each day with us. Once our toddler was back on her feet, we were able to resume long daily walks with him.
About a month after Merle joined us, we signed up to foster another foreleg amputee–this time a puppy (Nessie). She was still recovering from her amputation when she came to us. Also, given her proportions (Basset Hound mix), she had the extra strain of supporting a long body on her remaining foreleg. Nessie was energetic, but not able to walk long distances. Again, Merle’s activity level took a dip. He seemed to be loving life though. He adored playing with the puppy and started to show a lot more pep. When the puppy left, we tried to go back to our long walks, but his energy levels and stamina seemed to be off. We wondered if maybe he was depressed about the puppy leaving. We built up to longer walks, but he still seemed to be out of it in the evenings. We thought with more exercise, he would be less droopy, but instead he starting to get more grumpy and anxious. He seemed jumpy around the kids, and started growling at us. I had a feeling that he was in pain–his gait has always seemed very awkward and lopsided to me. He also has sensitivity in his back legs. He is the kind of dog that pays no mind to his body and will keep going even when he is tired or in pain. So we took him to a behaviorist and explained that we thought his behaviors were related to pain. She brought along a canine massage therapist who agreed that pain (all along his spine and in his legs) was most likely the reason for Merle’s shifting behaviors. The two of them recommended that we take Merle to Animotion Anial Rehabilitation Center.
Dr. Kim Dinan at Animotion is wonderful. She is smart, compassionate, and has a great sense of humor. She spent a lot of time with Merle and pointed out the areas where he seemed to have the most sensitivity. She recommended a course of treatment that would involve regular use of their underwater treadmill, exercises at home to improve strength and flexibility, acupuncture, and laser therapy. Merle got to show off his funny dance/walk on the treadmill that day. We also went over three or four stretching routines to do with him daily. The exercises include side crunches, “cookie crunches,” and shoulder stretches. We try to do five reps during each session and fit a couple of sessions in each day. Dr. Dinan also recommended encouraging him to move in ways that would increase his core strength and balance. We have been putting cushions on the floor to create an uneven surface that forces him to engage more muscles to stabilize himself. In just a week and a half, we notice that he is sprinting up stairs, wagging his tail much more, and is back to his snuggly ways. He is a happier dog. He still has a long life ahead of him (it turns out he might only be around two years old!), so it is critical that we help him to strengthen and condition his body so that he can live without chronic pain and discomfort. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to help Merle live his best life.
~ Kay (aka: twinklelight)