Hello, Belly Rose thought her story would be useful for owners of dogs who are on restricted exercise, be it pre or post surgery, cage rest, arthritis, degenerative myelopathy or other conditions where the same ideas could be used to help their pets.
Thank you so much for telling your story Belly.
Aunty Jane xxxxx
My name is Belly Rose and I am a 14 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I live with my human Mum who I adore, and also used to live with my best friend Mr. Darcy, who sadly was needed in doggy heaven last year.
I have heard my Mum talking, and she thinks I have something called degenerative myelopathy. I don’t know what that is, but it is obviously not painful. I know things have gradually started to change – perhaps it’s what they call old age.
I have noticed that my legs gradually do less of what my brain tells them to – they always used to let me do anything that I wanted to, but they started to ignore some of the messages and I would trip or stumble occasionally. Gradually the legs seem to ignore me more and more often.
Mum took me to see the vet who was the first person to talk to Mum about my weak legs and possible degenerative myelopathy.
Next we went to see Aunty Jane for hydrotherapy at 121 Animal Therapy. She and my Mum got on really well and spent nearly all their time talking about me! Then Aunty Jane introduced me to my favourite thing in life (well – after my Mum and my food and friends) – the doggie spa!
She let me relax in there and it warmed up all my muscles – it was wonderful. She told me that the work was next, and she and I then went into the haunted fish tank (the humans call it an underwater treadmill). It fills up from nowhere with warm water, and then Aunty Jane tells me to get ready to walk (I had tried doing a little walking when the water stopped coming in), but nothing had prepared me for the fact that the floor would start to move beneath my feet!
Quickly I regained my composure and sent the usual messages to my legs – they started to work – it was like magic!
We stopped for a rest and Aunty Jane explained to Mum that it was something to do with buoyancy and the properties of water – I didn’t really understand properly, but I think it makes me lighter, which is very good because it means that Mum holds meat or cheese for me to run after and eat - so I guess that stops me from losing too much weight.
We did the same thing with Aunty Jane helping my feet too and then back to the spa! I slept so well afterwards – for most of the day and dreamt of playing with Mr. Darcy and running in the woods, which was brilliant.
Somehow my legs started listening to me a bit more at home too. We started seeing Aunty Jane on a regular basis and also met Aunty Lisa who gave us lots of physiotherapy exercises to do to help maintain my mobility (I’m not quite certain what that is but apparently I don’t want to lose it).
We have made lots of changes at home and to what we do. Mum had a special support for my back legs which means I can still use them, but she helps by carrying my weight. We still go for walks, but I don’t walk too far myself.
I have my own “buggy” which Mum pushes with me in it. This means we can still go to all my favourite places – especially the seafront where I meet all my old doggie friends which is great. Sometimes we even stop for tea and everyone comes to chat which is brilliant – I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see all my old friends, when my legs started to ignore me. Sometimes Mum will push me to my favourite place and then I can get out and have a little walk!
I think Aunty Jane is a bit mad – when we go to 121 Animal Therapy, she regularly brings in new things that she gets from the car boot sale (it must be a shop near where she lives as we haven’t ever been there). After our treatment we have new toys or games to try out at home – some of them are great and keep me busy every day. It’s something to do with canine enrichment – from what the humans say it helps with my mobility, core strength, activity levels, positive mental attitude and helps keep me busy even though my legs don’t hear me.
One of our first items was my personal vibrating platform! Initially I would stand or lie on it when it was turned on – it then starts vibrating which makes my legs tingle a little and when finished I would be able to go for a walk. Often my legs seemed to wake up after this and then would listen to me more for a while afterwards. This progressed to having a top on it so I could lie on it. Often it made my lazy left leg improve.
At 121 I started swimming too – this is great fun – I think I could now win a swimming competition if it involved style – I can do circles, straight lines, pirouettes, figure of 8s – whatever I want – it is almost like being able to go for a run on my own, but Aunty Jane is always there with a hand on my harness. It does still tire me out quickly and it’s really hard not to fall asleep in the spa afterwards!
Next Mum stopped feeding me kibble from a bowl – she puts it round me so I have to reach out for it in different positions round me, which makes me keep using all my muscles and my nose – it can be hard work but is a much more exciting way of eating and keeps my mind stimulated too.
Following that from the same shop she appeared with a dog play station. It is just like one that babies have, but you can use shower curtain hooks to attach dog toys to it. I really like the exfoliator – if I hit it with my paw a treat will fall out! I never know where to look next – it’s so exciting and means that Mum and I are still kept really busy playing, working and interacting even though I can’t walk like I used to.
The ball pond was next. Aunty Jane let me try one at 121 – it was great fun, but too big for our house. She got a baby bath from the car boot sale which is now my personal ball pond at home – I stand or lie in it to find hidden treats! We also have a snuffle mat where I search for treats.
I still go to 121 for hydrotherapy regularly. I have laser treatment which seems often to make my legs kick much more. I have double bubble (spa session followed by a swim followed by another spa session) – it really tires me out, but I feel so good because I can still do things and be active using my own steam, but have my Mum and Aunty Jane to help me when I need it. It is nice to still have some independence.
The next new toy was some artificial flowers. Mum hides treats in these and I have to hit it with my paw to get it out! I only like the blue ones – if she puts it in a pink one then I bark until she moves it to a blue one for me (they didn’t know I could tell the difference in colours).
Things were starting to get a little harder at home, I don’t like Mum being in another room without me, but she can’t always pick me up and carry me because it might hurt her back if she did too often. The car boot sale came to the rescue again – a special cart! It was designed for children to put bricks in and push round. With my Mum’s special cushion in it it is perfect for me, so she can push me round the house with her!
Humans might say it is very sad, but it is not. Although the messages from the brain are often not making it to the places I sent them to, I still have my Mum (she’s very special, and is the most important person in my life), I go out every day and meet all my friends, I have lots of exercises to do, I have fun, mental stimulation, work hard at home and regularly interact with my human and doggy friends.
I thought that telling my story might help other dogs that I don’t know especially arthritic Archie. They could be in the same situation as I am or might just need some advice to prevent them from getting bored after an operation when they’re not allowed to do the exercise that they used to.
I am always excited to see if there is a new toy from the boot sale for me when I visit 121. If the humans use their initiative, they can find lots of cheap or free things to entertain us, or by using recycling materials (egg boxes, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles etc). They are only limited by their imaginations – get your human to use theirs to help you.
I’m pleased to say in my book - it certainly is a dog’s life!