October 10, 2015

IMG_2221Healing vs Heeling

Our lives are changing around here. As we enter our 8th year of dog walking, there’s a definite shift in the air. Triple Dog Pet Services has contracted with three other dog walkers, which is great because we don’t have to walk 12 dogs in a day on our own, and as we move away from doing all the dog walking, we are also shifting our focus. Well, Gretchen is shifting her focus, which means that Dezi and I are shifting as well. I know Dezi is fine with this since he couldn’t walk 12 dogs in a day like I could (being that he’s 14 year old now), but I’m still adjusting to the changes. True, I’m going to be 9 years old soon (how did that IMG_2292happen?) so not working so hard is probably a good thing, but still I like to work so I’m trying to find new ways to be a helping, working dog.

We still walk some dogs, like Woobie and Bella and Monty (some of the original gang) and now some of the new gang — Charley, Mr. Brown, Gus, and Mabel (the newer gang), but most of Gretchen’s focus is on massage, acupressure, and swim therapy and as much as I like receiving those therapies, I can’t really help with IMG_2243them.I guess you could say we’re moving from “heeling” to “healing.” My role is  shifting too because now I get to tell a whole different set of stories– the stories about the dogs (and cats!) who are receiving acupressure, massage, and swim therapy through Triple Dog Pet Services.

Today I’d like to focus on one dog in particular — a dog I have not met, but really hope to meet someday. Her name is Sarah and as you can see, she is absolutely beautiful (see why I want to meet her?).


Sarah is an 8 1/2 year old Rottweiler mix. Gretchen and I think she’s mixed with a Swiss Mountain Dog, but there’s no real way to tell. As Sarah got older, she developed an occasional limp so her loving and devoted Dad took her to the vet to x-ray her back and rear legs. The x-ray not only captured what the vet requested — back and rear legs — but the radiograph caught a bit of Sarah’s left humerus (that long leg bone in front). While the radiologist reported early signs of arthritis in the back and hips (not IMG_2340unexpected given her age), he also spotted something else on the small slice of humerus captured in the x-ray and alerted the vet to take a closer look.

Unfortunately, osteosarcoma was detected (bone cancer) in Sarah’s left leg so she was  quickly scheduled for surgery and her left front leg was amputated to the shoulder. Unfortunate as the diagnosis was, the “luck” of catching it so early gives Sarah a great chance to overcome this horrible cancer. If the radiograph had just covered the areas the vet had requested, the cancer would have spread quickly and Sarah’s chance of survival would have been very very poor.

But now Sarah receives chemotherapy and the doctor is extremely optimistic that the cancer has not spread. Osteosarcoma is very aggressive and extremely painful, so catching it this early is a blessing.

Gretchen first met Sarah shortly after her diagnosis through another client (they live in the same IMG_2343building downtown). After Sarah had the amputation surgery and her first round of chemo (and once the incision had healed), Sarah’s Dad set up a massage sessions because he wanted to provide Sarah with the best start to her new three-legged life. As you can imagine, it’s hard enough losing a limb, but to lose a front leg on such a large dog, well, it’s even more strenuous on the body.

But shortly after her surgery, Sarah was moving around beautifully albeit throwing most of her weight to the right side of her body (w/out the front left limb it was the only way she could balance herself and get around). Still, it was a lot to get used to and Sarah, although very athletic, tired quickly with her new “gait.” Her muscles tighten up as well and so her guardian thought massage would be a great way to relieve the stress in those overworked muscles.

IMG_2226For many dogs, massage is a new concept. They’re not used to strangers coming to their door, sitting down with them, and rubbing them all over so generally, even the most social dog is a bit uncertain. Sarah was no different, but once she realized what massage was all about (about 10 minutes into the session), she was loving it!!

Four-legged Sarah was very active and athletic. She went on lots of walks, played fetch, and enjoyed walking to work with her Dad and helping him at his office. Three-legged Sarah was much more limited plus the chemotherapy treatments really wiped her out. To keep Sarah strong and limber as well as helping Sarah strengthen her depleted and chemo-zapped immune system, Gretchen recommended two additional therapies — swim therapy and acupressure.

Swim therapy is a great way for Sarah to get much needed cardiovascular exercise and it offers her a non-weight bearing workout that does not over-stress her already overstressed musculoskeletal IMG_2228system — her muscles, joints, and bones. Under the wonderful guidance of the fine therapists at Splash Dog Spa, Sarah took to swimming like a champ and now swims weekly to help her build strength and stamina, something she’s not really able to do with just walking. In the pool, Sarah can use her body like a four-legged dog with no need to compensate for the missing limb. With a life vest on, she swims as straight as can be and the exercise not only provides her with a great workout, it helps her stay mentally happy as well!

Acupressure is a great way to help maintain a healthy body as well and in Sarah’s case, her depleted and depleting immune system (zapped from the chemotherapy) needed as much support as it could get. During the massage session, Gretchen is able to support Sarah’s immune system by stimulating specific acupressure points or acupoints. While Sarah enjoys the massage session, she loves the acupressure most of all, usually falling asleep during the point work.

Sarah’s guardian is providing Sarah with the best care possible from the finest veterinarians in the oncology field to a variety of different modalities, like massage and acupressure. Our paws are all crossed that Sarah can beat this cancer diagnosis and I know everyone involved in her care, is honored to be working with her!

And yes, we are honored to be working with all our dog walking clients too!



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