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Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

You can teach an old dog new tricks. Especially when the old dog is this 65-year-old man learning how to walk again after a total hip replacement. Two close male friends, who had the procedure in the last 24 months, assured me, “It was a piece of cake. No pain at all for the first 4-5 days, and then going forward, the pain was so minimal I just took some over-the-counter Tylenol as needed,” they said. If you have a friend tell you this, don’t pause or stop to contemplate your next move. Just turn around and spit right in his eye. My outcome was nothing like the relaxed recovery these gentlemen experienced. In between the time of their surgeries and mine, surgeons had decided to no longer use a nerve/ pain blocker, blocking the pain for the first 4-5 days. The block allowed the patient to exercise leg muscles without experiencing the excruciating pain accompanying the rehab. Yeah, I didn’t get one of those. Go figure.

What does my hip surgery have to do with shelter animals? Shelter animals have surgeries too. A couple of months ago, we had a 7-month-old Golden Doodle named Jona come to the shelter with an injured femur broken in two places. He was hit by a vehicle. His owners could not afford to pay for the orthopedic surgery to fix the leg, so they decided to surrender Jona in hopes he would recover fully. HHS posted about Jona on social media and raised over $10,000 for the surgery, which was very successful. Jona stayed in a foster home for about ten weeks and was adopted into a new forever home at the end of October.

Like Jona, I am learning to adjust my stance and gate, so walking is less painful. Relearning how to use leg muscles can be very painful and challenging for both man and beast. I hope to recover as well as Jona.

Many shelter animals are brought to the HHS with significant injuries. Everything from broken femurs to large cancerous masses to deep lacerations and open wounds caused by an encounter with a predator, albeit wildlife, or vehicle. Some of the injuries are too severe and cannot be repaired, but the majority of the problems can be treated. In many cases, a crushed, broken leg cannot be saved, so amputation is required; however, dogs and cats are very resilient so adjusting to getting around on three legs (commonly known as being a tripod) is relatively easy for most animals.

As the title of this article states, Teach An Old Dog New Tricks. Learning a new way of walking after an amputation or maneuvering around a home after having both eyes removed due to infection will al-ways be challenging for an animal, young or old. Time, patience, proper care, and education will help the patient achieve the highest level of recovery in the least amount of time.

If you have a pet and are going through surgery that will limit your ability to maneuver, please prepare for the impact of the surgery on you as well as how it will affect your pet’s daily routine of your pet(s). Pets, especially dogs, have a routine. They do their business at a specific time each day, eat at the same time, sleep in specific rooms, like your attention more at one time than at others, etc. If you have knee or hip surgery, you will use a walker for improved balance and mobility. Your pets may have never seen a walker before, and their reaction might be one of fear or defense. Prepare your pet for the experience and life adjustments that result from surgery, just as you make the adjustments yourself. If your small dog is always under your feet when you walk, take extra care to teach them to respect your walker and your space.

Animals learn differently when responding to different situations. Lastly, remember, adopt, don’t shop.

Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the HHS, Daytona Beach. He can be reached at 386. 274.4703, ext. 320, or barryk@halifax