Walk slowly, the paperwork said, it will encourage your dog to use the surgery limb. Walking at a normal pace skipping may occur and even complete lack of use of that limb. I walk slow, really slow, to see if he will just use the limb without any other prompting. If a skateboard or a truck appear or make noise, he picks up the surgery limb and skips as far as his leash will allow. If a door suddenly opens, skipping. If a dog comes toward us, skipping. I keep at it because this is what my discharge instructions say, I have no other direction or information, walk slow. I also need to make sure he poops, and he needs a little physical movement to get that going, so I allow some skipping since I’m also looking for healthy poops. It’s hard to allow it then not allow it and to give him clear messages, I might be confusing him.
Sometimes as we walk slow Orion stops, makes eye contact, and then skips a step or two, stops, makes eye contact, skips, and repeats this no matter what my pace is. I don’t think he understands that slow equals please bear weight on your surgery limb, please use that limb. He needs more information. While standing still indoors where there are no distractions, I hold a handful of food and look at him. He offers a few behaviors. I am delighted when he rests the toes of his surgery limb to the floor. YES I chirp, then give a treat. He looks into my eyes, intentionally picks it up and sets it down again. YES. Cookie. repeat. Now we are actually communicating. Now he is actively working on the use of that leg. I’m thinking about how to proceed, maybe add a cue and reward the use of the leg while in motion, indoors first then add the cue and the motion to our outdoor walks with all the distractions. Is he avoiding using the limb because it is painful, or because it has just become new normal for him? Is it a habit? How can I help him on both fronts? Pain medication will continue so we can minimize that part of the challenge. Re-training him to use the leg I will continue to work on. But I must say that the directions “go slow” seem really inadequate. I want more structure, more problem solving, more things we can make tiny victories out of many times each day. If I don’t have more structure, I create it. This is not helpful to my dynamic with my rehab coach, I wish I had been more thoughtful about this. I started trying various things to encourage him to bear weight on that leg without consulting her. I’m working hard to balance work and Orion care, to manage my emotions about how difficult this is, to take care of things on all fronts and I’m so tired and raw. I need to dig deeper, to find new undercurrents of strength, to be the best teammate and collaborator and partner I can be. Slow, I say to myself, just be mindful and take it slow.Careful, baby steps with good form. Slow. It’s important to do this right.