And here's an "awwwwwwwww" moment that I was able to capture last night.
And now on to what exactly I'm worrying about at the moment. When it comes to the dogs, I'm generally a little more prone to worrying. For example, when Heffner was about nine months old he got the puppy pappiloma virus. At the time that I found the first couple of warts in his mouth I had been reading some random dog book about the various maladies that they can get. At that unfortunate point in time I had been reading about oral cancers. Yep, so I kind of internally freaked out a little bit and thought that my adorable nine month old puppy had oral cancer. I got him in to see the vet and she explained what it was. He was over it within a month. Problem solved. But that's kind of generally the slant that my worrying takes. "Thankfully" it's predominantly internal and I'm not running all over the place spout my many worries and fears as things crop up. Although, now that I have a blog, maybe I really WILL become a doggie hypochondriac!;o) Just kidding.....mostly.....
Anyhow, I'm prone to worrying about the dogs. For the most part I have absolutely no reason to. In the almost four years that we've had Heffner, the only serious ailments that he's had have been kennel cough and a pinched nerve in his neck. With Bess, it's been nothing. So we pretty much only see our vet once a year for their annual exams. So I'm not one of those people who worries about everything and also takes their dogs into the vet constantly. I'm mostly just an internal worrier, who gets worse with more education and caffeination. However, since my dogs are incredibly healthy and in great condition, when something is "off" it does bother me. I'm all about prevention and I would much rather head a problem off in the early stages than ignore something and in the worst case have a crippled dog down the road. Since my dogs are going to live forever (I don't think they're aware of this yet, but my husband is all to aware!), I pay attention to these little things and they bother me.
After all that rambling I'll actually get down to the whole point of this post.;o) Last night was Heffner's usual agility class. Everything was fine. Our instructor is slowly increasing the difficulty of the courses she's giving us and being more demanding on us as handlers. Thankfully in class, Heffner very often makes up for my handling mistakes (if only he would do that consistently at a trial!!). The night was going along really well and he was just nailing the courses. As we were waiting our turn, I was playing the Look At That game. He's a reactive dog who has made HUGE leaps and bounds, but I continue to play this game with him in class. As he's standing in front of me looking at whichever dog is running the course and then automatically looking back at me for a treat, I notice that he's kind of standing funny on his right rear leg. He's got it kind of cocked out. He's not obviously favoring it, but also not putting full weight of it as evidenced by his feet. I thought it was just that the area he was standing on was a little uneven. So I move him around and I notice that he's kind of got a hitch in his step with that leg. Again, I thought maybe I was just not seeing it right. I have him stand for a bit again and he's still not standing quite right on it. I move him some more, and he's still got a slight hitch in his step. At this point, it's our turn and everyone is putting the jumps up for us. I walk out to our instructor and I ask her to take a look at how he's walking and see if she sees it too. She totally does and says that it looks like he's got a "hitch in his giddy up." Pretty much the perfect description.
She felt his rear and back leg (she's a CVT and canine massage therapist) and couldn't necessarily tell if something was obviously wrong. I felt him over too and he didn't show tenderness any where, he moves the leg fine, wasn't limping or very obviously favoring that leg, and there wasn't any heat in any specific area. Kind of baffling. He hadn't shown any discomfort while running the course and seemed basically normal, but we ended the night right there.
As I was driving home, I was tossing thoughts around in my head to see if I could remember him acting obviously off at any point in the recent past. Nothing sprang to mind. Then I remembered that there had been a few classes where Kathy had mentioned at the end of them that he seemed a little stiff in his rear. I didn't think too much of it because all we had done the day before was going running, but that's our normal Mon. evening routine and he seemed totally normal at home before we left for class. But then I got to thinking that maybe this has been a problem that has been minor enough that it doesn't bother him most of the time and he has gotten used to compensating for it. Which then led me to start thinking that maybe this problem was something that was slowly building and becoming an actual more apparent problem.
Heffner doesn't have the best conformation when it comes to his rear. He's pretty straight with regards to rear angulation and has a steep croup to boot. I haven't had his OFA hip x-rays done just yet, but was planning on it this spring during one of the cheap health clinics. So I have no idea where his hips are at. This could quite possibly "just" conformation faults coming into play with regards to performance events. Not something all together pleasant to think about, but something that I have been kind of preparing for as I've learned more and more about the importance of conformation, specifically with regards to performance dogs.
To alleviate my worries, I chatted some about this with hubby and he agreed that it would be best to get him checked out. I'm pretty much going to stew and obsess over this incessantly otherwise. I contacted the local rehab veterinary office, because I've heard such great things about them, and got him an appointment this Friday for a performance evaluation. If you go to the web site you'll see how thorough their exam is. This is EXACTLY what I need for Heffner! I need someone who specializes in this area and can do a thorough physical exam of my dog and tell me where he's lacking, why, and what I can do about it. I've actually wanted to get Heffner evaluated for a couple of years now. Bess I'm not at all concerned about because her conformation is great and she's well suited for the performance sports.
I'm going into this with the intent of finding out what, if anything, is wrong with my dog, where his weaknesses are, and what I need to do to strengthen him. I'm more than happy to do all manner of exercises to build up specific areas to help him out. I just need a specialist to tell me what it is that I need to do.
Meanwhile, I've got a dog who otherwise thinks that absolutely nothing is wrong and probably wonders why mommy keeps playing with his back leg and looking worried. He's seriously the same exact dog. Lots of energy, eating fine, sleeping fine, being a momma's boy the same. It's just that his gait is not correct and something is amiss with that back leg and it's going to bother the snot out of me until I know what!
In the mean time, I'm using this as an excuse to be lazy tonight and stay inside with the dogs and just chill. I've got tomorrow off and had plans to take both dogs up to the mountain to run them together for some skijoring. The plans have changed slightly. I'm still going to take both dogs, but I'm just going to run Bess and have Heffner off leash with us. That way he can self regulate what pace he wants to go at. This also finally gives me the push I needed to start running Bess by herself. She's the one that I'm going to be racing in January and February. I decided to retire Heffner from racing because he doesn't care for it all that much and he has a much harder time ignoring other teams when we're passing than she does. However, she doesn't understand STOPPING on her own very well. I could end up a very bruised and battered dog mom tomorrow! At least with all the rain that we've been getting down here there will be tons of new snow on the mountain!! Wish us luck for tomorrow and I'll try to get some pictures and video.