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The Story of the One-Eyed Rockstar!

There’s been lots of excitement and adjusting to new routines here in the house since the arrival of Rocky and Bella. One of the biggest adjustments for Rocky however had nothing to do with the new environment, but with an overdue medical issue that needed to be addressed urgently.

The Diagnosis: Glaucoma

Rocky was diagnosed with Glaucoma a few weeks before he came, and though he was receiving medication for it his eye had been damaged badly enough that his eye would have to be surgically removed. This was a condition that I knew nothing about, so I had to do some research on it quickly!

For a more complete understanding of Glaucoma in dogs you can click on this, but I’ll try to give a short explanation here as well. In a nutshell, Glaucoma is when the eye is unable to drain fluids as normal which leads to massive pressure building up within the eye and causing permanent damage to the eye itself. This can happen very suddenly, and though medication can treat and slow the symptoms, 9 out of 10 times the eye will eventually have to be removed. This also causes great pain and discomfort for the dog so it is something that must receive medical intervention as soon as it is suspected and identified.

dog glaucoma

The Treatment: Eye Removal

With the pain and pressure slowly building in Rocky’s eye the only option was to have his eye removed. And seeing as “sooner” had already come and gone, we were now already at the “later” stage and he was whisked off to the Vet on the second day after his arrival at the house.

As we already knew the prognosis and that this was overdue we didn’t even have time to sit and worry about whether we were making the right decision, all we needed to know was that he was in pain, which made it a simple decision. We weren’t however sure of how well he would adjust after, what possible complications there may be etc, so we were a bit nervous.

After dropping Rocky off at the Vet after an evening of fasting we were told that he would be operated on that morning, and that he would be able to come home that evening. The Vet called to tell us that the operation had gone well and that there were no complications – a great relief! When we collected him later we expected him to be a bit grumpy, but he was very happy, though a bit groggy and “drunk” from the anesthetic that was still in his system. He slept like a baby for the next 2 days – though to be honest, I don’t think that had anything to do with the operation because that’s pretty normal for him anyway.

Rocky was healing beautifully! The area that was stitched looked a bit raw, but there was no swelling, bruising or pain for him. The wound never bothered him, so luckily we also managed to go through the entire healing process without needing a cone – hooray!

dog glaucoma eye removal

Ten days after the surgery we took Rocky back to the Vet to have the stitches removed. The Vet was very impressed with how well Rocky had healed. The only thing he was sure to make us understand was that we would need to watch Rocky’s other eye carefully as in many cases a dog will develop Glaucoma in the other eye as well. Fingers crossed this doesn’t happen!

The Recovery: Life as a One-Eyed Dog

We were so pleased at how well Rocky recovered, but I must admit that for the first few days it was very strange to look at him. I had seen many pictures of dogs with eyes removed on the internet, but to see it in real life is still a bit disconcerting to be honest. The stitches made it look worse, but now that they are out and his fur is growing over the area we hardly even notice it.

One forgets that it’s us vain humans who place so much value on having “normally” functioning bodies that fit the accepted look. Rocky couldn’t care less about how he looks, and neither could we!

..... I do however have an idea or two for next years' Halloween costumes ;-)

….. I do however have an idea or two for next years’ Halloween costumes 😉

The one question everyone asks is whether he is ok, and if he walks into things. The answer is of course ‘No, he doesn’t walk into things!’. Dogs take disability in their stride, with no time for self-pity or refusal to adapt. In fact, I would say Rocky is even more energetic and lively after the eye removal – probably because all that pain and discomfort is gone. Rocky had also already adjusted to life with only one eye due to the cloudiness and pressure before the operation so he pretty much already knew how to get around.

Totally Rocking the One-Eyed Look!

Totally Rocking the One-Eyed Look!

Rocky’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Glaucoma

Tool(s) Used: Veterinary Care, Eye Removal

Cost: Medium to High, depending on your Vet fees

Ease of Implementation: Moderate. We followed all the Vet’s instructions meticulously and Rocky proved that he truly is a Rockstar by healing and adjusting to one-eyed life beautifully!

Rocky’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. With the removal of his eye Rocky has been happier than ever, and hasn’t really even been too concerned that through the entire thing he had been uprooted and been moved to a new home. I would call that the most effective outcome one could hope for!

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Note: When I was looking for information I stumbled across a blog called “The One-Eyed Dog” where people can post about their own experiences and concerns. Go check it out if you’re curious or are going through eye removal with your own dog.

Introducing Rocky Rockstar and Bella the Beautiful…

Our family has grown once again! It seems like just the other day that my only dog was Phoebe and that because of her extreme fear of other dogs I couldn’t even consider allowing the canine family to grow… And then came Cooper crashing into our lives… and now we have two more (unplanned) additions to the family!

“I say, thirteen is too many dogs for good mental health. Five is pretty much the limit. More than five dogs and you forfeit your right to call yourself entirely sane.
Even if the dogs are small.”

– E. Lockheart “The Boyfriend List”

I’ll post more on the blog about these two new cutie-pie’s, but in a nutshell, the way they got here was through a long series of re-homing events. These two had originally been my Boyfriends first dogs that he got as puppies in 2005 and 2010 respectively when he lived in another city for work. They then moved back into the family home with him when he moved back into town, and then stayed there when he moved again last year as his niece and nephew loved them and they had free reign in the large house. But as they were about to move again in October new homes were found for them with family members as the new place they had to move into doesn’t allow pets, and I was too concerned about Phoebe and the cats accepting new dogs (not to mention the sheer amount of animals that would be in the home!). All was going according to plan until literally the day of the move when the new homes for them fell through.

What to do now?!

We knew that with no other good homes available we would have to take them in, and if they didn’t adjust we would deal with it either through training, or finding a new home with trusted families. Only time would tell how the household would adjust.

We’re a few weeks into the new arrangement, and I can report that all the pets were a bit rattled in the beginning but are now adjusting wonderfully. There are obviously a few hiccups we need to address (which I’ll post about soon!), but overall, the newly extended family has been mostly successful!

So there’s the back story, and here’s the part you’ve been waiting for… the introduction to the new additions! <***drumroll please!***>

Rocky Rockstar (Chihuahua, 10 years old):

rocky

…and Bella the Beautiful (Pekingese x Jack Russell, 5 years old):

Bella 2

For those regular readers trying to keep track of the animals in our household, here’s a quick (updated) recap:

Dogs:

  • Fabulous Phoebe
  • Super Duper Cooper
  • Rocky Rockstar
  • Bella the Beautiful

Cats:

  • Angel
  • Cleo
  • Katz

So now we’re an ever-growing, big, happy family of all species!

In this entry there’s no usual “Effectiveness Rating” because we’re still finding our feet, but I’ll update with all the trials, tribulations and successes as they occur in the future. Be sure to pop in to check on any new developments!

Super Duper Cooper lives up to his name!

There are lots of celebrations in the house this week because Cooper passed his Basic Obedience Certification. He has really lived up to his super name by being so wonderful! Cooper seems a bit overwhelmed and confused at all the attention he’s getting, but he sure as heck isn’t complaining about it 🙂

So proud of the two men in my life! Congratulations!!

So proud of the two men in my life! Congratulations!!

We’ve been preparing the dogs for their upcoming qualifications and despite missing a few training days due to a crazy bout of flu, a weekend trip away, and general winter-time lethargy, the dogs have excelled!

Because Phoebe and Cooper have conflicting class times (and they go insane when they see one of us training with the other dog in a different class!) I couldn’t be there for the actual event, but luckily we have a friend who kindly offered to be photographer for the day, so I don’t feel as though I missed out on too much.

The Course is a 9 week course offered through Dog on the Couch in Pretoria, and is open for any dogs who are past the puppy stage. The class consisted mainly of these adolescent dogs, with Cooper being the eldest.

What is the Basic Obedience Test?

This is a non-standardised test offered by trainers that are generally aimed at making sure that your dog is able to learn, understand and do the most basic of commands.

So what exactly did the test entail?

The test is a culmination of the training and knowledge learned in the past 9 weeks. The course consists of a weekly “practical” session on a Saturday morning where focus, commands and hands-on help is given, followed by weekly email hand outs on “theory” information is given as to how and why certain dogs learn.

A basic summary of the learning is:

  • What general breed characteristics each dog enrolled has. In this part each owner must do research on the breed of their dog, it gets discussed in class, and certain key behaviours are discussed as possible predictors of the dogs strengths and abilities that are genetically coded. Examples are whether the dog has a long history of breeding for a specific purpose such as hunting, security etc, and what the common health ailments are.
  • The basic principles of positive based training techniques and methods.
  • How to learn to begin reading your dogs’ body language and how this affects their interactions with you, other people and other dogs.
  • The importance of getting your dog to focus on you and understand what it is you want to teach them and do for you.
  • The importance of, and use of, treats, lures, bribes etc in the form of food, toys and praise and how to gradually use them less and less.
  • Basic commands: sit, stay, down, roll over, stand, walk to heel, recall, recall on the move, and focus.

Can we see what the test entailed?

Yup! Here are some pictures of those dogs that were tested that morning:

Perfect "sit"s all round

Perfect “sit”s all round

"Down"

“Down”

"Stay" up close, and with increasing distance

“Stay” up close, and with increasing distance

Walking to "heel" on a loose leash

Walking to “heel” on a loose leash

"Roll over", "Recall", "Focus" and getting some well deserved praise!

“Roll over”, “Recall”, “Focus” and getting some well deserved praise!

All the dogs who attended that morning passed the test. It was a fun morning for owners and dogs alike who were joined in camaraderie rather than competitiveness. All dogs received certificates and prizes, with one special award going to “Dobbie” the Springer Spaniel for “Most Improved Dog” – and what a truly deserving dog he was!

Well done to Dobbie and Mina on receiving a special award for "Most Improved". Lots of love and dedication went into that! :-)

Well done to Dobbie and Mina on receiving a special award for “Most Improved”. Lots of love and dedication went into that! 🙂

What was the result?

Of course Cooper passed! Though it can be a challenge to get him to focus on the work when we are at home and on walks, it’s clear the hard work has paid off because every week in class he does exactly what he’s supposed to, when he’s supposed to. He managed to pass all parts of the test with flying colours – much to our pride and joy!

Well Done Cooper!

Do you recommend the Basic Obedience Certification to others?

Yes! Yes! and again, YES! I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get a grasp of the basics with a professional. These courses are important for all dogs – whether you’re just starting out with a puppy, or even if you have an older (slightly reactive) rescue dog like us. It lays the foundation of setting boundaries and harmonious living for both you and your dog for life.

I especially encourage people to take this course because of all the extra theory work that is learned as well. This isn’t just a hastily put together basic course, but rather an informative one about all the other important aspects of being a dog owner such as the psychological well-being of a dog, learning more about other dogs, basic health care, learning about dog body language, interactions and so much more!

Will there be more?

Hmm, I’m not sure. Phoebe passed this test last year, and since then she’s completed her KUSA Canine Good Citizen – Bronze Level, and will soon be doing the Silver accreditation for this, so she’s quite far ahead of him in terms of actual qualifications, but they are very different dogs with different needs and things that they enjoy, so it will depend on how much Cooper enjoys ‘structured’ learning.

For the time-being we are going to enroll Cooper into the same Fun Class that Phoebe attends every week – as a Basic Obedience qualification is a prerequisite – and more importantly, this is the only class that is ‘on leash’ and appropriate for our reactive dogs. It will be nice to have some bonding activities with both of us humans and both dogs every week. We’ll see from there what works for each of us.

Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Cooper’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. This is one of those things that is not only great fun for you and your dog, but also so important for you both. We learned a lot about how Cooper responds, is motivated and enjoys learning in general. Though I would never say he was “out of control” when we got him, this course has definitely helped to establish some boundaries and create a language between us where we all know what to do and what is expected for maximum communication effectiveness.

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Have you completed a Basic Obedience Course or Certification? How important do you think it is to get “formal” training for you dog?

Admitting you need help – Finding a Dog Behaviourist

The first step on any difficult journey is admitting you need help. And boy, did I need help!

Enter the Behaviourist.

To get a better idea of the first steps of the journey with Phoebe you can read this post. But in summary, through a ‘series of unfortunate events’ Phoebe unexpectedly arrived in my home full of fears, anxiety and general shell-shock. It was time to call in the professionals. For Phoebe’s well being, as well as my own.

With my previous canine best friends I had completed brief Obedience Courses, which was more to just get a little bit of control and social contact for my new companions, there was never a need for more intervention. And to be honest, whenever I heard about people consulting Animal Psychologists or Behaviourists I would scoff at them for being either Drama Queens, or at my worst, even make snap judgements that clearly they weren’t capable of doing something as simple as looking after a dog.

Boy, did Karma decide to teach me a lesson about my ignorance!

After many tears and frustration I managed to find a great behaviourist in my area. After just the first consult I already felt more empowered and confident that I could deal with all the challenges Phoebe was presenting.

The behaviourist I found was calm, authoritative and a strong champion of positive reinforcement and cognitive training. She did in depth evaluations, answered all my questions, and continues to encourage and teach me. We had an initial consultation, and she tailored the Basic Obedience Classes perfectly by matching me up with another strained rescue dog, and then slowly introducing us to the rest of the class – all at a perfect pace for both Phoebe and I. I cannot sing her praises enough.

obedience certificate

I know that there is still so much hard work ahead of us, but knowing that I have such a strong pillar to lean on really helps. We got Phoebe through her first Basic Obedience qualification, she attends weekly classes, and we’re even going to take a shot at getting a “Canine Good Citizen” certification this year – I’m realistic that the “greeting other dogs” category will likely be her downfall, but I want to at least try, if we fail there’s always next year!

My strongest recommendation to anyone who has a reactive/scared/difficult dog is to find a behaviourist to help you out. In fact, even if you feel your dog is doing just fine, I still recommend consulting a behaviourist the day you get that cute puppy just to know how to avoid any future problems – remember: “Prevention is the Best Cure“!

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Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: All. Separation Anxiety, Reactivity, Fear, Play, Obedience, Stimulation

Tool(s) Used: All. Most used resource is time – time to attend classes, go on regular walks, implement tips and techniques

Cost: Medium to High. This will vary depending on consultation fees, issues addressed and regularity of attending classes / consults

Ease of Implementation: Low to High. It will depend on what techniques and issues you are working on.

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5

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Have you ever consulted a Behaviourist for help with your dog/dogs? What was your experience?