Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More Holiday Musings

Well, I had the day off again today so spent it at home with the dogs doing some cooking and organizing and just hanging out. Nothing major to report just trivial stuff.

1. I'm so used to Gata being big compared to all the other Tervs that we used to hang around that it seems really strange that she now seems small compared to Tor. She is definitely quite significantly shorter than him. I guess I've become home to "big" Tervs that are still as fast and athletic as any of the pocket rockets so popular these days  :-)

2. Tor is the noisiest dog I have ever known. He definitely likes the sound of his own voice and is more than happy to lodge a complaint if he thinks I am giving Gata too much attention. But, even aside from that, he is just a noisy dog. He "talks" in his sleep and in his dreams, he sighs/moans when he changes position while sleeping ...   He's just noisy, not in a bad way, just kind of a goofy Tor thing :-)

3. Gata is definitely showing signs of her old injury and all the time off. It doesn't help that she likes to rough house with Tor but inevitably comes out on the short end of the stick. I think getting her back to her former level of fitness is going to be a challenge but one that I am committed to.

4. Took both dogs out with the bike today. Gata has the movement to really enjoy this kind of exercise and took to it like a fish to water for the most part. We went around the block 2x, ~1.5 miles, and she seemed a little sore on her right hind at the end. So we'll just play it by ear and see how it goes. Tor did fine. He was comfortable enough to start looking around. There was much more going on in the neighborhood today so a little more challenging all the way around. He doesn't move like Gata and is as likely to run/lope along as trot. So when he got the looky lous I just sped up a bit and made him work a little harder. We passed  quite a few dogs, which is a little challenging for him since he really wants to check them out. But I sped up a little and gave him plenty of verbal  feedback (both positive and negative) and he did fine.

5. I have to admit, the idea of biking with the 2 of them together, seems absolutely crazy at this point. I can only imagine how fast and powerfully they could move the bike if they really got going forward and worked together. That might be fun in a sled over snowy fields, but scares the crap out of me in the context of neighborhood streets.

I think that is about it for the time being. I'll try to post about the Clothier Workshop sometime later in the week.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Picture :-)

Christmas Update

Can't believe that it has been so long since I updated the blog, but lots has been happening - both good and bad. On the good side, things are going well at work. I really love my job and am looking forward to running my own program in 2012 rather than finishing up someone else's as I did this year. On the bad side - my health has been pretty bad since moving out here. My asthma and allergies, which I had come to take for granted out in California, have resurfaced and made things very difficult - much as they did when I was a kid.

For the last 6 weeks or so I have been fighting a sinus/upper respiratory tract infection. Ironically, I thought that everything around me smelled funny (didn't realize it was in my own sinuses) so I went out and bought a couple of air purifiers for home and work!! Sigh ... A couple of weeks later I was in the docs office begging for antibiotics. The first drug, Augmentin, worked OK but not completely. Just before the end of the 2 week course it became pretty obvious that there was some drug resistance so I started a new 10 day course of Levaquin. A few days into that and my lungs were so tight that I could barely walk from the car into work and had to start on oral steroids. We went with a very conservative 2-day taper but by the time I was down to 20 mg my lungs were exceedingly twitchy again. So back to up to a higher dose for 5 days and then a slightly longer taper. So far so good. 1 more day on the higher dose and then I start the taper again. Hopefully, I can get off them without any trouble this time.

 Anyway, the dogs have tolerated all of this pretty well. Since my lungs are extremely reactive to cold air, I haven't been able to exercise them as much as they would like, but they have really been pretty good. We've been doing lots of stuff inside at night and some work outside during the warmer part of the day on the weekends. I have been able to get them out in the mornings for some real work only infrequently.

 Also on the bad side is some stuff that I have been seeing with Gata. She is more out of shape than ever before in her life so that may have something to do with it. But, I have seen 3 episodes that look very much like seizures. They seem to be restricted to her hind legs. The first occurred while she was sleeping and I really wasn't sure if it was a dream or a seizure. She did this once before that I am aware of when she was 3. The 2nd incident occurred in a similar fashion but she woke up during it and looked back at her hind end as if to see what the heck was going on. The 3rd incident she was getting ready to take a nap and was definitely drowsy but not yet asleep. In addition, all 3 incidents occurred within a few hours of doing a little more physical work with her on some of those nice weekend days. It makes me wonder if it is in some way related to what I had been seeing as EIC during the heat out here.

 Anyway, after more consultation with the vet and further literature review on my part, I have decided to start her on low dose Phenobarbital (PB). She has been on it just over 2 weeks and her initial blood work suggests that she is tolerating the drug well. PB is known to impact liver function so we will keep an eye on that. This also means that I will be less likely to give her any NSAIDs when she tweaks something. So, it is a pretty serious situation. So far though, I have not seen any more seizure-like activity.

 I'm not entirely comfortable with this decision, but it is the lesser of 2 evils, in my opinion. I know that plenty of people believe that seizures (of whatever origin) are not that big a deal. I don't agree. It is one of those situations where my science training is definitely in conflict with the prevailing public opinion, especially that most common in Belgians. So, I will monitor her closely and watch both drug and liver enzyme levels closely. I am not talking about this much but have decided that I am not going to keep it a secret either. Belgians are known for both epilepsy and EIC at some undetermined prevalence/incidence level. While I recognize that some people will hold Denise responsible for "producing epilepsy" in her lines, I DO NOT believe that there is ANY information available on any of the dogs in Gata's bloodlines that would/should have raised red flags. And, truthfully, I am almost certainly more aware of any bloodline health or temperament implications in Denise's bloodlines at this point than she is. Pedigrees have always been something that fascinated me - in horses and now in Belgians.

 In addition to the PB, I will modify Gata's nutrition to help support her liver function and will begin a serious conditioning program. I expect to do a variety of things to build her overall conditioning back up to acceptable levels before we begin any more serious training for either Schutzhund or Agility. In addition, I will have a full set of spinal x-rays done before we begin bite work - just in case there is anything there that would preclude returning to active work.

 Our conditioning program will make use of several things:

1. Road work on the bike - I intend to work both dogs with the bike, primarily at a brisk trot. I will likely alternate them in the evenings - 1 biking and 1 going for a long walk with me. I need to get back into shape, too ;-) Tor got his first session with the bike today. He did quite well - only tried to stop a couple of times and quickly realized that wasn't going to happen. All right hand turns today - 2x around our big block - about 1.5 miles, I think. Gata just went for a walk around the block 1x with me.

2. Interval Training - We started this before I got sick. Basically, this is something that I can do with both dogs at the same time in the dark - morning or evening. This is classical interval training - a specific number of long throws with the chuck it emphasizing sprinting followed by a timed rest interval and then repeated. During their timed rest interval - 3-4 minutes, I will exercise :-) Again, serving 2 purposes :-) Before I got sick, I was able to get the dogs up to 5 sets of 5 reps throwing the chuck it ball as far as I could in opposite directions for each of them. This takes about 35-40 minutes. I'm not quite sure where I will stop with them. At some point, there will be diminishing returns with respect to their sprint endurance but I'm not sure where that is yet.

3. Bite work - I will do a bit of bite work with them before working them on a helper. I don't anticipate delaying Tor's work with a helper to any significant extent. As soon as things get back to normal after the holidays I hope to get him on a helper again. It is definitely time. I will wait awhile with Gata until I believe that her conditioning is appropriate and I am certain that there is no residual soreness in her body from her lack of work or rough housing with Tor.

 All right there is lots of other stuff to write about - most notably a workshop by Suzanne Clothier that I attended. But, I'll write about that sometime in the next week or so. It won't be nearly as detailed as the Connie and Peter Scherk and Florian Knabl discussion - partly because she provided handouts :-) But it was still incredibly interesting and definitely changed my perspective on a few things. I am really looking forward to attending more of her workshops in the future :-)

 Between my improving health, a beautiful day outside, and my 2 wonderful canine companions it has been a lovely Christmas day. I talked to family and friends and have generally had a great Christmas :-) Now let's hope that 2012 turns out to be a good year for all of us :-)