So I’ve discovered that Cutter’s not too motivated to become a canine Michael Phelps. While I didn’t expect he’d be dock diving at any point, I was hoping for a bit more participation on his part. Because of the huge benefits I see (more on this in a bit) we continue to go to the doggie swim spa (see post “He Swims” from March), and he continues to tolerate it. He’s not eager to get in the water so much, but he does enjoy getting to go somewhere besides the vet and the sniffs around the spa property are great. He goes into the pool house with interest, though it’s his belly leading the way, hoping for a cookie from his therapist, Carol.
Cutter will be 11 years old in two weeks. That’s a pretty major milestone for a Rottweiler, and especially one with idiopathic epilepsy for the past 6 1/2 years. One could call him lazy without stretching the truth, but in his defense he is dealing with the double-whammy of mega-drugs of a sedative nature (to control seizures) and the general weakening that comes with age. He’s still actively engaged in life, albeit at a slow pace, with lots of rests. Now that it’s spring, and warm enough (not to mention DRY enough) for me to stay out and throw the ball for Goofy (Farley) incessantly, the Rottweilers come out and enjoy the fresh air with us. Cutter grazes like an old bull, tearing up mouthfuls of lawn like his alter-ego, Ferdinand the bull. What comes out the other end often looks like a pony visited our yard. Then he lays down and watches the world go by, just like Ferdinand. Life is good.
Going to the pool/spa is part of his life now. He’d probably be just as happy if we never went again, but the benefits I’m seeing are worth every penny. I call him my little money pit, and I cringe when I think of the cash I’ve spent (not that he isn’t worth it!) on his care, with special diets, expensive medications, and costly specialty vets and ER– easily in the neighborhood of $10k since 2002– but it’s so nice to spend money on something that doesn’t feel quite so stop-gap as the vets and drugs and that so obviously promotes his well being. These visits, and especially the bodywork by Carol, have improved his mobility and coordination to a degree I’d only hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still baby-elephant slow, following Dinah around the yard and tripping over tussocks of grass, but after a swim therapy session it’s clear he feels loads better.
His swimming hasn’t progressed much; he’s still not very coordinated, plus his slow speed doesn’t work too well in the water. He lists to one side (his right side is less responsive due to the neurological aspects) and he takes on water to such a degree that we have to put a neoprene water wing around his neck in addition to his life vest. The thing is, he knows Carol will support him and he’s perfectly content to let her do all the work and move him around the pool like a big cork. We “force” him to swim by bringing out the cookies. His head even comes up out of the water as he races (for him) across the pool for his reward.
The bodywork that Carol does, though, is the magic. She massages and works his entire body as he’s floating in the therapeutically warm water. For a good 40 minutes as she and I talk dogs she works his muscles over his back, his legs, his shoulders and thighs, his neck, and pretty much every inch of him. He relaxes and stretches his front legs and his rear legs dangle in the water (she supports his body as she works) and we make him swim across the pool a half dozen times. He gets out of the pool and it’s immediately obvious he feels better. There’s a spring in his step and he’s brighter and more engaged. At home I notice he’s sitting nicer, with his legs tucked under him s they should be (instead of the splayed sprawl when he hasn’t been to the pool for a couple weeks), he gets up easier, and again, he’s brighter and more alert.
We recently had to go a month between visits; first due to finances (I have to limit some of the outflow), then because of a four day seizure cluster. After the cluster he reeally needed a visit. By the time we got in I was getting worried about him; he was dull and low energy (and that’s saying something) and I was concerned about his health. We got home after the visit and I have my Cutter-butter back, sitting pretty for a cookie on the slippery kitchen floor. Yess!! He has yet to make the connection between the pool and how good he feels afterward (he still has to be lifted into the pool), and I doubt he ever will. But I have, and that’s all that matters.
One last note. I took six or eight candid photos of Cutter with Carol at the pool, and in every one Carol was smiling at Cutter as she worked. If that doesn’t tell you you’re in the right place with your dog, I don’t know what would. She obviously loves her work, and that terrific positive energy, along with the massage bodywork, is part of the magic, and is beautifully evident in how good my beloved Cutter feels afterward.