As many of you will know my then 8 year old Border Collie “Encore” suffered a major traumatic event 3 months ago when she collapsed seizing one morning which could not be stopped. With good medical care and the outpouring of prayers from this dog community Encore survived where little hope of survival was given. No absolute diagnosis for Encore’s problem was ever given however we do know she has a mass in her brain (non cancerous) which may have been the cause or an artifact of the encephalitis which brought on her the seizures.
The explanation I have been given is that it is suspected that a “long term untreated chronic illness” was what caused all of this in Encore. This diagnosis goes hand and hand with my belief she has been suffering from some form of a tick borne illness for the past 4 years (even though only one very weak positive has ever shown up on any of the many tests that have been run . . . including one draw from her cerebral fluid).
Regardless of the “why” today focus on the “how.” How do we get Encore to be as happy, comfortable and functional as possible. Yes we are still reducing meds (she lives in a bit of a phenobarbital fog) and monitoring her responses to avoid any relapse. But for me I am focusing on making sure Encore is mentally stimulated and physically as fit as she can be. Encore loves to work, so keeping her busy is important, but it also gives me an outlet to accomplish it all.
One of the biggest “ah ha” moments I have had throughout this journey is how incredible important body awareness exercises are to our dogs. Sure they give us something to do with our puppies, something that helps develop strong supportive muscles. And yes they can contribute to an adult dogs; flexibility, core strength, proprioception and balance. However my big “ah ha” moment came when we were trying to evaluate exactly “what” Encore could and could not do during her rehab. By having a load of body awareness exercises and “tricks” I could ask her to perform and we could get a brilliant evaluation of what she knows. I had tons of video clips of her performing these skills before her illness and could show the neurologist what was and wasn’t possible for her before and after.
I can go back to these exercises weekly to see how far she has come or where she is still challenged and what she needs more work on. I encourage you all to create the best foundation possible of these tricks and skills for your own dog! You never know what a blessing they are to Encore and her team of specialists today.
Another “ah ha” moment I had was when I was trying to get Encore to “wave” with her right paw. Her brain injury is on her left side so her right side of her body has been most effected. Initially I asked her to wave and she didn’t move her paw an inch . . . not one inch. So I would ask for her left paw waving and rewarded that before I would try again on the right . . . I was looking for even the slight movement of the right front paw. Every time I asked her to try on her right side she would get more and more frustrated demonstrating it with her increasing vocalization. From my point of view Encore was getting frustration because she was trying to get her paw to wave but couldn’t figure out how to do it. My big “ah ha” moment happened when I thought; what if that just wasn’t true. What if rather then being frustrated because she couldn’t create movment she was frustrated because she believed she WAS moving the paw and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t rewarding her!
Soooooo change of tact for me. What I did next was used one of my big blue FitPaws foam pads and put it on an angle in front of Encore. I cued her to touch it with her left paw . . . she did and I rewarded. She could see the paw on the blue pad as she got her reward. Next I cued her right paw . . . no vocalization as she appeared to try and try and then finally lift that paw a few inches on the the blue pad. UNFREAKING BELIEVABLE! Judging from both of our reactions you would have thought Encore just won another gold medal. Her rehab has come along so much faster with my new mindset; it isn’t that she can’t do it . . . it is that she thinks she is already doing it!
Here is an update on Encore’s progress.
For those of you that get an “error” message due to copyrighted music you can watch the video without the hip music at this link.
So the journey continues, rather than prepping Missy En for her next big agility trial we are prepping her for whatever lies ahead. To her it is all “work” and that she loves. To me it is playing with my special girl and that I love. Today I am grateful the opportunity to go through this journey with Encore and for all of those who support and help us out along the way.
What a wonderful recovery. I hope her brain mass doesn’t cause a chiari like malformation that can cause midbrain trauma.
You are such a great Mom to Encore
Sending Reiki healing energies to her.
What a wonderful girl! She is so lucky to have lived with you, who takes such good care of her and love her so much. What a treasure. Thank you for making this video and sharing what you have learned.
ANGELS COME IN ALL FORMS…..GOD BLESS ENCORE, WHOSE STRUGGLE AND JOURNEY IS A ROADMAP FOR ALL OF US….
Wonderful! So proud to call you my teacher.
What a VERY LUCKY girl Encore is!
Enjoyed seeing Buzz and DeCaff too.
So many levels of amazing are embodied here. Amazing the far-reaching effects of what some might consider just “tricks”. Amazing the cleverness and mental toughness of the grand lady Missy En. And amazing your ability to think scientifically and outside-the-box to problem-solve and find solutions.
Hmm – longterm chronic illness… hasn’t Enocre in the past had episodes where she would just lay down, acting a bit distressed? I vaguely remember you talking about it and saying she may not have had her cookies or something to that effect when it occured at a trial. MY BC Tux would have periodic episodes, where he would just lay down, panting and a bit distressed but we could never find anything wrong.Then at his last agility trial, he did it after a jumpers run and would not tug or take treats. He was fine after a bit. That was the beginning of the month. For the weeks after that he seemed just a bit out of it at times, staring in to space. Then at the end of the month, the grand mal seizures started. 🙁 I now realize that laying down episodes were probably seizure activity. So if Encore has done this in the past, might something to watch for.
Wish I would have know about the stuff you are doing for her rehab! Think it would have helped Tux. She is looking good. 🙂
Liz, Encore’s issue at trial (her hypoglycaemia) would exhibit itself the opposite way actually. She would get hyper and over arousal and not respond to verbal cues. Blood tests show her blood sugar very low and the issue went away when I gave her a mid day meal prior to her runs. Best of luck with Tux!
Inspring work and progress from you and Ms. Encore. Thank you for sharing – gives me hope for my own dog’s journey to wellness.
Thanks so much for sharing with us!!
Wow, Susan, that was a brilliant, creative idea. I am overwhelmed. I wish you and Encore the absolute best.
I wanted to tell you how wonderful Encore’s progress is and how happy I am for both of you. My Greyhound, Zephyr, went through almost the exact type of thing two years ago. He was diagnosed with immune mediated encephalitis with unknown origins. Luckily we got to the neurologist in time. The MRI showed inflammation in 1/3 of his brain. There was no specific mass though. They couldn’t check spinal fluid then because he had too much swelling. The next morning he started seizing, wouldn’t stop, and I thought I would loose him. He was a lot like Encore; unresponsive, blind, could barely lift his head, etc. That evening we started chemotherapy treatment with CCNU. I stayed with him just like you did with Encore. One of the happiest moments of my life was 3 days later when with a lot of help, basically holding him with a harness and carrying him, he tried to walk and and wanted to chase me and my other greyhound. It was a long road of recovery, like yours. Four months later his MRI was 100% clear, but spinal fluid still slightly abnormal. We did a total of 4 CCNU treatments, then 6 months of procarbazine, and 16 months of prednisone. Zephyr is doing wonderfully, has shown no signs of the encephalitis, and is a happy healthy boy! Sorry this is so long, I just wanted to let you know of his success in case it would help you and Encore. I know the worry of it all is horrible, especially when you don’t know the cause and if it will come back. Best wishes to you both.
On another note, I was in your 1st Recallers class. 🙂 It’s paid off many times. Recently when I left the gate open then let the hounds out and turned to see them running toward the street. I ran to the front, as they hit the street I yelled “Zephyr, Astro, Come!” They stopped, turned, and ran right back to the door. Also, Astro and I have started competing successfully in agility. Thanks!
Susan, I can not begin to tell you what a blessing you and your outlook are to me and subsequently to my dogs. Your perception about Encore thinking she was waving was terrific. Talk about thinking outside the box. It is so heart warming to see you together and to see how good she is doing.
Praying for your journey.
I’m glad your girl is happy and has shown so much progress! Last year in April, my agility Field Spaniel suffered a stress fracture chasing a squirrel in my yard. He was in a splint for 6 weeks and then we did therapy for 6 more. He not only came back stronger, but also competed at the AKC Invitational Event and went on to finish our first MACH in January. I wish you continued success with Encore! Also, would you please say hi to John for me. I know him from years ago when I used to show Flat Coats in obedience.
How inspirational!! Love to see the tail wagging again!!
Wow! Dealing with on-going seizures, at least once a month here and no sign of them stopping! A tumour as well…lots of meds to keep it under control. She will do anything for food especially with her heightened sense of awareness of food.
She regains control of most of her motor skills after each seizure so far…still loves her daily walks. Life is good but for how long? Blessings for Encore and her recovery.
Susan, it was lovely to see encore recovering well, 8 years ago my old dog of 13 had a stroke, I am a human Bowen therapist,so I knew how good Bowen was for humans who have strokes, I then trained as a Canine Bowen therapist, my dog lived till she was 15 1/2 and started doing her agility again, only over very low jumps but she enjoyed it. deaf as a post,tail wagging and barking, I wished i had know of the body awareness exercises then.
Lovin this update!
And I agree all the baseline gave you such a great tool for assessment and I think too important was that Missy has such an awesome understanding to “keep trying” when she was struggling, she knows reinforcement is just around the corner and she would never be “corrected” for her “trying” being “incorrect”…..I think this too is a powerful point to all for recovery as well, and your dogs understand this in spades Susan!
One of those reasons why I stick around SY courses;-)
Wow, very moving and inspiring. What a lucky girl to have you working so hard with her to support her recovery. As difficult as your journey has been, I admire how you’ve taken the opportunity to share what you’ve learned and discovered with us. Thank you!
A great lesson for us all not to make limiting assumptions for our friends no matter what the challenge. Well done Susan well done Encore (that name really does suit doesn’t it)
How beautiful she is and how well she is doing. I am simply amazed at how much you have been able to accomplish.
Tears of joy for you and Encore Susan. What a long long way she has come in such a short time. Your love for each other just shines through and hits me on so very many levels. Thank you for sharing your experience with her. 🙂
Aha! For me, this is exactly analogous to when you are trying to direct a dog through an agility sequence and getting only barking and off course obstacles, thinking the dog is being stubborn or whatever…and then suddenly grasp that from the dog’s perspective, they believe they’re doing exactly what you asked.
This realization was a huge aha moment for me. Now if I cue my (experienced) dog and they don’t go where I expect, I assume that the dog correctly interpreted the cue and try modifying its presentation until it produces the desired result.
Great to see Encore make an appearance on the blog again!
Thanks for sharing this journey with Encore. I have no doubt you will help many people/dogs by your willingness to share this.
I remember when my Lexi had a stroke at age 3 which affected her left side and caused a head tilt. We didnt have access to rehab and body awareness games I didnt know about till last year. I rehabbed her on my own using tricks and excercises she knew including assisted swimming at the lake. She’s long passed but your blog today is a great reminder to record my current dogs levels. Like you said you never know.
So wonderful to see your Encore doing so well. I admit I teared up too… Just seeing the love and devotion you have for your babies and and of course her wagging tail/victory laps should make anyone feel joyful inside. Wishing Encore more continual progress and victories.
You are just amazing, I so appreciate how you worked through Encore’s frustration to get to a different place for both. Thanks so much for sharing and helping me think better.
Wow, makes you really stop and rethink assumptions you make about your dogs behavior, or lack of behavior. Great insight. So glad Encore is doing so much better. Keep going girl!
that was awesome !
Life is full of surprises, AWESOME to see miss Encore doing so well 🙂
That was such a great video! The joy in both of you brings out so much emotion in me. I hadn’t seen anything about Encore in some time, and seeing this made me smile and tear up at the same time. Dogs are absolutely amazing with their acceptance and resilience. Thank you for making the video and then sharing it with the rest of the world.
Love how that tail kept going through the whole thing! Glad she is continually making strides forward!
And I hope you bought John a new toothbrush…
Beautiful. Wonderful seeing her running around. Thanks so much for sharing.
So happy to see how much she has recovered! Thank You Lord!
Keep up the good work Susan! love sharon and her pups Bindi, Cody and Terra.
Absolute LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!! What a grand girlie she is!!! Excellent work with her Susan, sooo wonderful to see her zooming around on her victory lap and Buzzy jumping too! 🙂
You both are inspirational! I am grateful for having this view into your journey.
Outstanding progress. But I have to admit I had to watch it twice because of the tears in my eyes.
Encore is looking great!! Thanks for keeping us posted.
Kerry, she has had some acupuncture but none recently, thanks for the reminder!
So happy tosee Encore and you doing so well never under estimate the power of prayer. Thank you for the update.
Are you getting any acupuncture done for her neuro deficits?
She is so lucky to have such a smart, thoughtful observant creative owner! Who else would have come up with an exercise that enabled her to see her foot in action? And what a smart dog to respond…Very impressive and joyful.
Great to see Encore’s progress. Quite an amazing road to recovery. You have done an incredible job with her.
How wonderful to see her running around like that – looking very happy!
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with Encore with everyone. She is looking just great!
Good to see how well Encore is coming along.
I had to chuckle when you were working on the footwork and said “Can you calm down just a little?”
I need to try the balancing pads with my foster dog who seems totally unaware of anything behind his front legs.
Made me tear up…so happy she has come so far already!! Great job Missy En and Susan. Your love for your dogs is so heart warming! Continued success!
Susan, your strength & perseverance are astounding. It’s wonderful that tricks, body awareness & games that we often take for granted can mean so very much for our dogs’ quality of life & joy. Here’s to many more victory laps, Encore!
Oh, Susan, that brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been wondering how she was doing and it’s so wonderful to see her running around & so happy. What a blessing that you two have each other!
What a wonderful video, and how far Encore has come! Sending wishes for continued improvement from myself, Inka, and Starr x