Thursday, January 22, 2009

hip dysplasia - part 1

There have been some inquiries about Sophie's hip seems the mention of something in one post often leads to another post...which is not a bad thing. I wrote this column below back in March of 2008 just after she was diagnosed. There are two columns that I will share with you from that time in our life. A year later, I am happy to say she is doing very well....strong, healthy, signs of limping or pain. Our dreams of seriously competing in agility are over...but we have built new dreams and are living them together every day.

So from March of last year....Our Footprints.

For the second time in my life, I stood in a vet’s office receiving news that made the air too thick to breathe, that made my legs grow weak and that made my heart stop beating for an instant. My Sophie…my tear around, 100-mile-a-minute, lovin’ life, oh-so-young Sophie…has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and the beginning stages of arthritis. In short, it is a degenerative disease that can be extremely painful and debilitating. A disease that will get progressively worse as she ages and that will very likely make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to run, jump, play…even walk one day. When our vet gave me the news, after I brought Sophie in for a limp that wouldn't seem to go away, I felt my sadness, my anger, my grief swell up inside of me, threatening to burst at the seams. It seems that Fate sends me the animals that need me the most in this world. While I never have any regrets caring for my animals with special needs, it is not without a fairly high price of heartache.

A few days of research later, I had put together a plan for Sophie that, hopefully, would help manage the symptoms of the disease and that could enable her to live a happy and healthy life. I had learned that her condition could be aggravated, even worsened, by a lot of intense exercise, jumping, playing tug, etc. I was significantly more calm and positive than I had been in the vet’s office…but something was still troubling me. A part of me still felt unsettled and a piece of this new puzzle was missing. So I piled Sophie into the car and we went for a walk in one of our favorite parks.

As we were walking, with Sophie on her leash to try to keep her from stressing her hip, I looked out to the wide snow covered fields and saw a flock of birds sitting in the quiet morning sun. Sophie saw them too and whimpered to be let off her leash to chase down those birds. And I realized then what that missing puzzle piece was. I didn’t want all my moments with Sophie to become vet visits, unhappy leash walks and telling her to settle or lie quiet. That was not Sophie…that was not living to her. So I unclipped that leash and she burst onto the field, tail wagging. I took off after her and we ran in happy circles together…just like we have always done. I looked back at our footprints in the snow and realized this is how we would leave our tracks through the rest of our time together. Sometimes those footprints would be running and playing, sometimes walking and sometimes, no doubt, they would be resting. It is possible our trail might end up being shorter, but it will be built with the footprints of the living. And I know that one day will arrive, all too soon, where my tracks will be a single set in the snow…but I will be able to walk knowing that while she was here Sophie’s paw prints were filled with fun, with joy and with love.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand - strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOOHOO - What a Ride!" ~ Author Unknown

Look for part two of this story tomorrow....She's Lucky To Have You.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt post. I'm happy that Sophie is doing so well. I thoroughly enjoyed the post from last March.

Hilary said...

You unleashed your own heart when you undid that clip and let her run. Lovely! said...

Sorry to hear about Sophie's hip, but glad to hear she is doing better now. (I can't even imagine!) I love that last picture with her head in the snow! Too cute!

T said...

What a beautiful and heartfelt post. I know how you must have felt when you first found out about the HD. My Jake will be 11 years old this June. He was diagnosed with severe HD in both hips at 8 months old. It was recommended to have full hip replacements done. We found out about the HD because we had brought him to the vet for a shoulder injury when he landed wrong catching a ball. We opted to have a full set of xrays, just so we would know. My husband and I cried for 2 weeks. Jake was to be my husbands obedience competitor.

We chose, not to do surgery, as he had no signs of pain, no limping. We decided we would take each day one day at a time, and play it by ear. We did go on to compete with him, but we promised ourselves his training with jumps, would be a minimum. He went on to earn his UD. At 7 years old he decided he wasn't going to jump anymore, and we listened, so he was retired. He continued to do therapy work, until he was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. From the day we found out of the HD at 8 months old, we made sure we aloud him to just be a dog, and feel free and run and do as he pleased. We let him tell us what he needed, and what he wanted.

It sounds like you are doing the same with Sophie, and just like Hilary said, you unleashed your own heart, when you took her leash off.

Susan D said...

That's a great way to look at life. I have the same quote posted on my Facebook account. I love it! While undergoing chemo I realized that even when I was sick, I would still enjoy my life as long as God allowed me to live. Blessings, Susan

Robert V. Sobczak said...

It doesn't seem to slower Sophie down any: dogs find a way!

Barry said...

I agree with your decision 100%. What a painful choice to have t make though.

Sharon said...

This is why YOU were chosen to have Sophie. YOU are worthy of each other and life is better for both of you because what you will go through together. Cherish all the moments you have together. I envy the closeness you will share:)

Kathy said...

What a touching story. I am anxious for part 2. I agree you and Sophie were meant to be together.

Pam said...

Beautiful post. You and Sophie were DEFINITELY meant for each other. I am so glad she is doing better now.

Carolina said...

This brought a tear to my eye again. I love your writing. I'm not sure if I already told you this, but our Biggles was diagnosed with OCD in both his heels (sort of brittle bones, with bits broken off causing inflammation and arthritis in the joints) when he was about 6 months young. God, the first time you hear that. I can so imagine how you felt, you described it very well. I felt exactly the same. Fortunately the vet told us that he could get old, be it on painkillers and medicine to keep the inflammations down all his life. But we also should keep him on the leash for the rest of his life, and preferably let him walk only in straight lines (?). As soon as he would be one year old we should carefully let him run next to a bike, to strengthen his muscles.

A couple of years before that Phoebe was diagnosed with a very mild case of the same disease and that vet told us to please let the dog run and play, because always being careful and afraid would not give the dog a better life. I could have hugged that vet. He was right. And really, Phoebe has never shown any signs of pain. She never took any medicine. So we decided to do the same thing with Biggles. Let him be a DOG!

Biggles' OCD is however a far worse case. He hás to get his pills and powder every day. As soon as he was diagnosed we thought that swimming would be good excercise. We found a special doggypool with warm water especially for dogs with inflammated joints (and I think it's good for HD too, not sure) near where we live, lucky us, there a two of these pools in the Netherlands. It worked!

We told the breeders of this diagnose, they were shocked. They breed according to all the rules of the Labrador organisation, dogs are screened for all sorts of diseases before you can breed with them as you know of course. But they are not screened for OCD in the heels. And apearantly the combination of Biggles' mum and dad wasn't a good one for OCD, because two other dogs from this litter were diagnosed with the same. One of them, not even as bad as Biggles his case, was immediately put to sleep by the owners, because they didn't want the hassle and the costs of medicine.
That broke my heart! You have never seen a happier, livelier, crazier dog than Biggles. He runs and jumps all day long. He really enjoys life. And if you didn't know, you would never think he only uses the muscles around his heeljoints to walk because the bone doesn't really exist.

Some people!
A very big kiss from Biggles to Sophie. I hope she keeps doing well. She certainly found exactly the right people to live her life.

Carolina said...

Hydrotherapy appears to be good for dogs with HD.
It helped Biggles a lot! Maybe there is an animal fysiotherapycenter with a pool near you?

Mason Dixie said...

Wow what a heartwarming story, mom has tears in her eyes. Play away Sirius. Thanks for stopping by. I will visit often to keep updated. =)

gigi said...

Big puppy dog tears here! So glad things this day are better. May they continue to be good. Look forward to the next post!

Stacey's Treasures said...

Thank you for sharing this story. You are so right! You both have to enjoy life.

Rob said...

Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the big dog. But it's your story of hip dyslasia. I echo Mlldred's comments about the heartfelt post. You spoke for all of us who have to struggle with crushing news of serious health problems with our beloved and devoted companion dogs.

EllieC said...


You are a great writer.... I just found your blog, too and have enjoyed "catching up" on your adventures with Sophie :) Beautiful photos, too.

I know what it's like to have a dog with special needs, and this post brought tears to my eyes. It's obvious that you care very much for her. It is SO important to let our dogs enjoy life... she'll tell you when she's ready to slow down.


DayPhoto said...

Oh, I cried for you and for Sophie!

Our dog had hd for 15 years, we found out when she was 6 months old, she hated the vet from that point forward. Would try to bite him, etc. I had to stop taking her, they both became very afraid of each other.

She lived a long time, I let her do whatever she wanted, sometimes after getting to the field she would lay with her hips in the irrigation ditch until she grew numb, then up she would come.

In the later years she road with me on the four wheeler and then the last two years she would stay home waiting for us to come back.

Still she would walk every morning down to Misty's house rest for several hours and walk back. She was coming home when she had a heart attack and died.

She was a beautiful dog.

Just let your dog be a dog, he will know what is best for himself.


Natashya said...

A very touching post, I agree with you - let Sophie live the way she wants to, she will tell you if she is not up to running.
It is so hard to remember that we will likely outlive them - I can't bear the thought of it.

Ed said...

She deffinatly is a character..
Hope ya get the hip under control.

Ed said...

Sorry about Sophies hip, The pics are adorable as they all are.

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...


Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind comments.

Sophie is beautiful. I am sorry to read that she has hip dysplasia. I shall come back to read part two and have a better look around your blog.

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

Sorry forgot to add...

Your photo's are lovely, i love the last one of Sophie with her head buried in the snow. :-)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sophie will lead you along the way! She is so lucky to have you..and vica versa! :)

laurie said...

yep. you gotta let a dog be a dog.

what do you give her for pain management?

siobhan said...

Hi Andrea,
I really enjoy your blog, you are a great writer. I wondered if you wrote that quote at the end of this post or if you are quoting someone and if so who?
it was great to see you before christmas.