Keep safe!

Keep safe!
You are responsible for your own safety and that of your dog. The walks listed in this blog are not detailed guides. Plan your route! Click the landrover image for safety advice from Bowland Pennine MRT.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Thank you for the memories

The saying goes that only one thing in life is inevitable, that one day it will end. We were blessed to have such an amazing and loving dog and he has been our world for nearly 12 years. I think I captured most of the highs and lows of our journey together. When I started this blog to see what ‘blogs’ were about all those years ago I had no idea what a treasure it would be. I did wonder a few times what I’d write for the last post. I think the following says it all “Thank you for the memories Finney.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gentle walks around South Ribble

The West Pennine Moors and huge expanses of Lancashire’s sandy beaches are starting to feel like a distant memory these days. We a lucky though to have plenty of nice gentle walks nearby which the dog copes with just fine, although I think I know where he’d rather be.

A walk down up and down the road these days can take half an hour, with his head in the grass sniffing every tuft.  Not the most exciting walk for me but he seems to enjoy it and is full of joy when he realises he doesn’t have to go in the car (he’s never been a fan). Such a familiar walk does give me a chance to judge how he’s doing in terms of eyesight and general health. He steps on and off curbs with no problem in daylight, but it’s harder at night. Having said that, he is far more confident than he was and bight walks are not so different to how they were thus time last year.  I don’t think he can see far, he doesn’t tend to react to dogs on the other side of the road but will acknowledge them when we walk past.  His sight is still good enough to get by day to day without bumping in to things, so doing well!

Longton Brickcroft has been our most visited spot in the past few months. The wide flat paths and plenty of sights, sounds and smells to stimulate the senses have been great.  Worden Park also remains a favourite and he has an occasional run (scamper might be a better word) off lead when it’s quiet. Up to about 30 feet away he can see me I think but further than that I probably blend in with the surroundings.  His ball is still very much the toy of choice but I am pretty cautious and we want no more sprains or torn ligaments.

In terms of general health we’ve had ups and downs. He lost his hearing completely after a nasty ear infection but happily and amazingly it has come back to some extent.  His skin has at the same time flared up at times and despite various antibiotics it’s still not great, but nowhere near as bad as the weepy sores he had a few years ago.  The main problem with antibiotics has been an upset stomach in the past week or so, we he’s off them now as I couldn’t stop him being sick and he lost his appetite , which is just unheard of!  All in all though he’s doing ok, and this morning did actually eat all his food with enthusiasm.

Looking forward to a few nice walks over the New Year, maybe back in the Lakes. A few weeks ago we had Friars Crag all to ourselves, which was pretty special.  I’ll be stunned if that happens again!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

So that was summer

Autum is well and truely here. The nights are drawing in, the rain keeps falling and the first of the autumn storms have already visited us. Summer, albeit without too much sunshine, feels as if it was a bonus this year. Four months or so after cataract surgery I’ve no regrets. He continues to get by ok and in good light is very happy. In the dark or poor light he still gets around ok with the occasional bump. It’s a far far better position than we were in back in May. Walking wise we’ve not done a huge amount. Most walks these days are local, with Worden Park our destination of choice. The wide spaces and good paths are pretty much perfect. I’ve let him off lead from time to time when it’s quiet but have to make sure he stays reasonably close so he can still find me without heading off in the wrong direction. I’ve bought a fantastic 8m long flexi lead, for parks and countryside not pavements, which has made walking a bit less stressful and definitely safer. I’m more concerned that he might hurt his eyes if he headed in to bushes or reacted if surprised by another dog than I am about him runnng off.

Whilst we’ve avoided sandy beaches for obvious reasons it didn’t stop a 2 week holiday in Cornwall last month which was wonderful. I’d not thought we’d get back there but happily we did, taking in some short coastpath walks, plenty of pubs and fishing villages. As usual he obsessed about pasty crumbs and the smells of fish and chips.

All in all, a good summer. I hope autumn and winter continue to be happy and maybe we’ll even get back to Cornwall next year!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Brothers Water - Miles Without Stiles

After another checkup at Vet Vision in Penrith a short walk was in order so I decided to check out one of the Miles Without Stiles walks. Given these are intended to be accessible for most, with (clearly) no stiles and good solid paths, they are pretty much ideal for a short walk with a dog who is still finding his way or less mobile.

We parked at the Cow Bridge car park and followed a good path down to the shore where the dog had a little paddle, on the flexi lead of course. It's in these unfamiliar surroundings that I get the best sense  of how good or bad his sight is. He can follow a path well but his near sight is poor, so he fails to spot rocks jutting out of the water for example. The same challenge applies to rough paths, where he doesn't pick up small obstacles.  Sometimes it's as if he loses me visually if there is a lot in the background behind or beside me, but he soon picks me up. I feel fine with him off lead in a big wide park field but not in this kind of environment.

As far as walks go it's lovely, with fine views up towards Kirkstone and across the water. Once we reached the farm we were joined by an aging farm border collie, who seemed to enjoy hiding behind various objects before jumping out and barking at us. I was a bit uncomfortable with this but to be fair I think he was just toying with us and it was his patch!

Back again to Penrith in three weeks time as the pressure is high (29) in his right eye, which also has a bit of a scratch that needs to heal. Back on more drops, which is a disappointment, but of course worth it to reduce any risk of longer term issues. Fingers crossed all will be fine.

I'll certainly look for another Miles Without Stiles walk for our next visit.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Soaked on Jeffrey Hill

After the trials of the past few months I thought we'd have a stroll on Jeffrey Hill this afternoon. There were plenty of dogs on leads signs around, and even more sheep!  Sadly the heavens opened pretty much as soon as we left the car.  What in the past had been a gentle stroll up to the trig was tortuous in the rain, and sodden underfoot, so quickly defeated we just mooched around a while getting drenched, before heading back to the car and a blast of the heater on full.  If anything, a lesson that even the gentlest walk can be tough in certain circumstances, and I think I'll now stick to the park in the rain!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Gregson Lane Dog Training Club has now closed

After many years Gregson Lane Dog Training Club has now closed.  Thank you to all the wonderful people and their dogs who have attended over the years, and to the volunteers that made it happen. It was the place that we took our pup 11 years ago, and never left.

If you are looking for alternatives I suggest asking your vet, fellow dog owners or the various local Facebook groups that exist. The Chorley area has a particularly good one if you search for it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A happy dog friendly holiday in Northumberland

We have just returned from a fantastically dog friendly week in Northumberland. Sadly no beaches for us yet as sand and eye surgery don't mix, but it was wonderful all the same. We stayed in a small village called Lucker, close to Bamburgh.  It's a strange place at first sight as almost all of the village consists of holiday cottages, property bond apartments and a holiday park, all owned by a handful of property companies.  Stablewood Cottages, with whom we stayed, also run the village pub and a bistro across the road.

For us it was pretty much perfect. The property (The Old Mill) had been recently renovated and was superb.  Three floors meant lots of exercise for the dogs leg, which was good.  Away from the coast meant no problems with sand in his eyes too.  The Apple Tree pub, also dog friendly, was excellent as was sitting outside its sister establishment, the Apple Core.  

Excellent pubs abound on the Northumberland coast.  The Joiners Arms, Jolly Fisherman (for a drink) and White Swan all met with our, and the dogs, approval.  Mid week we had to make a trip back to Penrith for a checkup with the vets and found another gem, the Carts Bog Inn, just off the A69 near Hexham.  

We didn't get up to much walking other than round the village.  Craster to Dunstanburgh castle was a real hit though, as was a stroll round Bamburgh. I didn't care too much for Seahouses but can see the attraction of the boats out to the Farne Islands.  One day we'll be back to do that.

Hopefully we are now over the worst of his recent trials and tribulations.  The crate and pen were packed away today, together with the cone of shame.  We have a clear kitchen for the first time since February.  Here's hoping for an uneventful and fun summer!

Friday, June 16, 2017

What to expect the the first few days after dog cataract surgery

I'd never expected this blog to be a record of major medical events in the life of our dog,  it it seems to be working out that way at the moment.  My motivation, after hours of googling to find snippets of advice or reassurance to help me make my own mind up on whether to go ahead with treatments and, just as importantly, to be able to plan well for the days which follow.

If you have read earlier posts you'll know the last choice was a hard one, to elect for cataract surgery for our 11 year old springer spaniel or not, following just 3 months after a second cruciate operation.  The initial tests indicated some fairly significant retinal degeneration, which essentially means that the retina itself stops working, and eventually is likely to lead to total and irreversalble blindness.  The initial signs include poor vision at night, which I had noticed over the winter, and general clumsiness (harder to tell as he's never been the most sensible dog).  The cataracts themselves can be a by product of this disease, so whilst cataracts are the obvious outward sign, they are not necessarily the primary cause of blindness.  If the retinal degeneration has progressed significantly there may be no point in cataract surgery, as removing the cataracts doesn't fix the retina.  However, there may be a chance that removing the cataracts gives enough vision for the dog to have some vision back, albeit not perfect and maybe just of a limited time until the disease of the retina progresses. It seems like it is relatively easy for a an opthalmic vet to conclude whether there is some retinal degeneration. What is harder is to know how much sight might still be there, and for how long, if cataracts are removed.

All of the above was the subject of a consultation and subsequent phone call to our ophthalmic  referral centre. They were very good, talking through the issues, making sure I understood there were no guarantees but ultimately making it my decision, which was hard, but armed with a head full of some facts, masses of emotions, a pretty good cost share insurance policy and a credit card, I opted for surgery.

One of the things that I had wondered about was aftercare, particularly planning for how much time to have off work.  In fact, aftercare started 5 days pre op, with some drops to administer 5 times a day.  These didn't need to be spread perfectly evenly so I was able to do a drop around 6 am, just before leaving for work about 8.00 then again at about 5, 8 and 11 before bed. I also managed to call home on a couple of days to spread them further.  We do have a dog walker who comes when we are out all day so could have asked her if it had been a problem.

On the day of surgery I left him about 11.30 then hung around in the Penrith area for the day, waiting for the call to say he was ok.  The call came earlier than expected, as he was still on the operating table, to confirm the retinal degeneration in one eye and to ask whether to proceed to the next.  Again, a hard choice, but to some extent thought through in advance, so I stuck to the plan of seeing what was possible.  To be fair the next hour or so was agonising, knowing that he could by then have been out of surgery and recovering.  The call to say he was ok did come though, thankfully, but retinal degeneration could be seen in the other eye too.

At this point it was all sounding very pessimistic to me in terms of whether he would see again, so As I headed home I was really just relieved he was through it and convincing myself At least we'd done what we could to help give him some sight back.

Next morning I arranged to pick him up around lunchtime.  He had had some pressure spikes in his left eye, which were now controlled.  I was greeted by a friendly nurse and an array of drops, medication and instructions.  There is one 5 times a day (as pre op), 3 drops three times a day, 2 once a day, tablets once a day and his usual metacam once a day.  You have to leave at least 5 minutes between drops so a 'medication session' can last half an hour or so.  His cone of shame has to be on every minute of every day.  The medication did seem a bit daunting at first, but a few days later it already felt more manageable.  That may be in part because was the weekend, so no issues fitting it round other daily chores like going to work!

The instructions given on discharge were very clear, particularly in terms of things to watch for. And so it was that the day after discharge, when one eye looked cloudy, I made a call to the out of hours service and, after giving telephone advice a go, headed back up the M6 Motorway to Veterinary Vision to get it checked out face to face.  The was 'a lot going on' in his left eye, so after a good examination, more drops and an injection we were done. The lesson here is try to get a referral centre you can get to, if needed, within a few hours. I was so happy we got there on the Saturday as I have no idea if it might have resulted in more significant complications if left a few days.

So, you'll still be wondering if he could see post op....YES!  I wasn't too sure when I picked him up but by the time we got home after an hour and a half drive it was AMAZING to see him lead me through the front door, to when his food bowl used to be before blindness set in, the out to the garden.  Yes he was a little shaky, but could obviously see. Now, two weeks later, all is still good. The moment he sees another dog on walks is brilliant. The way he comes up and stairs for attention is wonderful. Of course retinal degeneration is still there, so I doubt his sight is perfect, and I can tell it's not so good in the dark, he is far from blind. Whist of course he would have coped with no sight, life is just so much better for all of us. I have no idea how long it will last. Maybe a few months, hopefully for the rest of his lifetime, but at this point I'm just happy we had it done.

Next checkup is at three weeks when hopefully some of his (expensive) medication will start to reduce. From today the cone of shame is hopefully off much of the time which is great!

There are various videos on my YouTube and Instagram feeds if you want to see before and after.

Monday, May 29, 2017

11 weeks after cruciate surgery and cataract surgery this week!

my last post was just before I visited Veterinary Vision in Penrith, to see what the options were in terms of his sight.  It was a hard day (for me).  After an ultrasound scan and some tests I felt a bit overwhelmed, particularly as he seemed more confused than ever whilst we were there. I guess it wasn't surprising really, an hour or so in the car, unfamiliar place and unfamiliar smells.  I think I'd prayed for a magic answer, that with  an operation he would have his sight restored and we'd live happily ever after!  Life isn't ever quite that simple.  The vet did think the cataracts were operable, but with some degenerative vision loss thrown in, he may or may not get some or good sight back, and maybe for a short while.  I got some good advice, to go home and think about it!

That afternoon I took the opportunity to visit a rather wet Pooley Bridge where we had a stroll by the lake. The dog was so excited to paddle in the water, but it was breaking my heart that he would happily have run over a cliff edge to reach it had he not been on a short lead.  It was good to see him happy and excited though.

Over the week he did start to cope better around the house, and can now find his way round downstairs without hitting things too hard. The collar with cable tie antennas was good for the first few weeks, but he doesn't need it now.  He does get fed up though, refusing to leave his bed this morning for example, until he is bribed with food or told to move rather sternly. The only time he really livens up is when we are on the park, he still loves it there, and happily he is fine on the flexi lead now, so has a bit of a trot round playing with his plastic bone.

So on Thursday we head back to Penrith for surgery.  He has 5 antiobiotic drops a day in each eye for the 5 days prior to surgery.  He doesn't seem to mind that too much.  Aftercare doesn't sound too bad when compared to his cruciate surgery, just quiet time, a cone and drops.  We'll see how that goes but I think he is due some good luck, so fingers cross he will be able to see something next weekend!

His leg is great. Another week or so and it should be completely healed.  Over the past week he has been better on the stairs (closely supervised/helped) and climbed (with help) on the sofa this week. Obviously he can't be left on the sofa and has to be helped down.  If we get his eyesight sorted he sound have a fun summer!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

8 weeks after cruciate surgery and coping better with a blind dog

We passed the 8 week milestone a few days ago.  His leg is still looking good. There is no limping and completely weight bearing.  Walks are no problem at all and most days over the past week or so we have had at least one half hour trip to the park, albeit on the lead.  As with last year he has a little more supervised access out of the pen but that's an entirely different issue in terms of his eyesight.  Similarly, stairs are hard work. I am still using the sling for extra support but also to help stop him from a fall should he miss a step.  Stair gates are a must!

Of course his vision hasn't miraculously come back so our main challenge, and his, has been learning to cope with that.  I made some cable tie whiskers to attach to his collar which have been really helpful round the house.  It just gives him a split second warning he is going to bump in to something! Outside on the lead is better, especially in a big field with nothing to bump in to!  He happily carries a rubber bone round the park and we play 'find it' using smell and touch rather than sight.  It is impressive how quickly he is adapting but still not the same as being able to run free and cope with uneven surfaces and steps. 

On Monday we go for a consultation at a specialist Opthalmic Vets in Penrith. Looking forward to seeing if we have any surgical options.