Agility Spaz

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Speed Limit

Canine rehabilitation is an interesting proposition. If anyone had told me five years ago that I would be spending half a day each week driving my dog to another city to torture her by putting her on an underwater treadmill, I would have said they were crazy. Then again, five years ago I had never trained a dog. I had yet to encounter the sport of agility. I had fallen in love only with humans, never with a canine, and definitely never with a sport. Given an injury to my fuzziest best friend, the choice between doing nothing vs. doing something was an obvious one. Surgery not needed at this time but reconditioning recommended? Sign us up. If there was a way to reduce the probability of future injury for Viva, we were in.

That was before the bit about controlled walks. Week One of Viva's reconditioning program included walking on a treadmill, walking on an underwater treadmill, and a series of home exercises to do between rehab appointments. Squats, which consist of repeated sit-to-stand without Viva's front legs moving forward, were a piece of cake. Weight-bearing exercises likewise left me and Miss V. pretty much unfazed. Hold her right hind leg in the air for fifteen seconds while dangling something tasty in front of her mouth? Can do. Walk her slowly through the rungs of an extension ladder laid flat on the ground? Pff. Been there, done that, way back in puppy agility. Then came the dreaded controlled walk.

For the controlled walk, Viva has to stay in heel position with her head up, moving no faster than a walk, for between a half hour and forty-five minutes. Even with the bonus of hills and serpentines thrown into the mix, are you kidding me? For someone happiest moving at six yards per second on an agility course (that would be Viva), being permitted to take only a single step in the same amount of time is sheer torture. Worse than the underwater treadmill, except when the jets are on. (Jets=scary!)

Viva is resigned. She figured out the first week that "Easy!" means she will be prevented from moving forward at a trot, so she's begun to respond to the command. Click, treat. That makes life a little bit better in her world, but she still gets frustrated. Every so often (but at least five or six times on each controlled walk), she lies down, rolls onto her back, and shimmies. And shimmies, and shimmies. In between her shimmies, she shoots me this look, as if to say, "You still planning to continue this controlled walk thing when I stand up? Think I'll shimmy some more." I lost my cool a little bit on Monday, picking her up off the ground in order to keep going with the walk, and in that moment felt a kinship with any parent who has picked a child up off the floor mid-tantrum. Don't get me wrong. Viva was doing something that felt better to her than a controlled walk, and I don't begrudge her the physical relief. I do wish I'd taken obedience a little more seriously back when we were still taking obedience classes. Especially since I have a hunch there are more controlled walks in Viva's future. She actually gets tired midway through these walks. Different muscles are involved, I guess, than the ones she uses daily for tearing around the house.

We are adding tight circles this week to the reconditioning protocol, and Viva got to trot on the underwater treadmill at Rehabilitation Appointment #2. I'm told she gets to start ball workouts pretty soon. Not chasing balls as much as standing on them. We'll see how much of a speed limit is involved . . .


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