"Of course I'm pleased with myself. Just look at me. I'm perfect."
Juicy has been quite pleased with herself these days. She's slimmed down by 4 lbs since May and 6 lbs since January. I couldn't be more pleased. I am completely at fault for her weight gain. When my own health relapsed I spent many days sofa bound and the days I could walk, only accomplished 2 short miles, which is a long cry from the 4-5 miles she regularly took when she was younger. Over the last few months she's had so much pain in her shoulders and back legs that we really had to take charge. Though we did a lot of physical therapy and acupuncture it wasn't enough to keep the pain away. For one thing she was well-overweight. For another, even after PT and massage, she'd continue to re-injure herself by performing crazy stunts down or up steep slopes on the trails where she'd inevitably pull or strain a muscle and cause knots in other muscles. Plus there may have been some pinched nerves from her exuberant moves. This is all due to having hip dysplasia and moving in unnatural ways to accommodate the hip pain. What good is PT and releasing tight muscles if she keeps re-injuring herself over and over?
So we took charge. First, I put her on a strict diet, which started right after Mr. Wild Dingo left for two week business trip. She lost 2 lbs within those two weeks. I would still like her to lose 3-4 more pounds which will be difficult now that Mr. Wild Dingo is home. I have been keeping my evil on him though and she's growing more used to getting fewer treats. Those first two weeks, she was aghast at the lack of treat dispensing, let alone the new Anti-Cheeses regulations. She would look at me after dinner with big wide eyes and an open mouth trying her best to be cute to earn more food. But I am evil and am very good at ignoring her. Still, while I fix dinner, I toss her some baby carrots and raw broccoli and she loves it, so that's what she gets as treats.
Second, I enforced a no more off-leash romping on the trails policy. I can hear all the husky owners saying, "Huskies should never be off leash!" But Juno's always been very good at staying close to Loki and me. Still, she loves to do her own thing, go off trail and down or up slopes so steep, it'd defy gravity if anyone could climb them! At the very least an on-leash-only-walkie rule would at least keep her from doing something to hurt herself. At first I thought, if she doesn't get to run, she can't burn calories but at this stage and her age, it's just not worth it.
"Gimme da treat, lady! This exercise is piece of cake. Of which, I see you are not providing, even though I totally stuck this landing."
Since the weight loss, plus the on-leash only policy, Juicy has been extra bouncy around the house and more playful with Loki. Both she and Loki keep the play in check so not to hurt herself, she's fairly conscious about hurting herself in rough-housing and knows how to back off or protect herself, just not when she barrels down a slope. Loki's always been very gentle with her as he senses her pain. But honestly Internet, she's climbing the stairs to the bedroom at night with greater ease and it's easier to get her up from a snooze to go potty before bed. When she's in pain, it's like pulling teeth to get her up to go potty. Now she just pops up and goes right out the door.
It breaks my heart to see her in pain and I'm glad we found some practical solutions. We've also put her back on the water treadmill to beef up her jodhpurs as they've become very skinny from lack of treadmill work. I had stopped treadmill work with her because of my relapse. I was too sick to leave the house for more than what was absolutely necessary at times. Of course she loves the water treadmill and when we went to our first appointment back since January, she jumped right into the tank, even without her swimsuit on!
"Look Daddy-O. I take you to physical therapy to be my cheerleader, not my competition! Now bug off!"
A few days ago, someone was admiring her on a walk. We were stopped at the ATM and Juno got up to move away from the person as she always does. It's her way of protecting her sensitive backside, as she's never sure if someone will go up to her back end and give her a rough scratch or pat like many people think dogs like. As I explained to the lady why she moved, she understood and said her lab's back legs did the same type of shaking when he got older. She never indicated how she addressed it but it seemed she didn't do anything. I don't know the woman's full story, but it seems that there are so many fantastic solutions today to managing pain with structural issues like hip dysplasia than there were years ago. Also, so many people just want a pill to make it better and it's never that simple. Managing a structural challenge or disability in a body, human or animal, requires quite a bit of thought in terms of motor movement and how to strengthen some areas while releasing tight knots in other areas. While I did give her Rimadyl for 3 days initially during the worst part of her pain, I cannot imagine using a drug as damaging as that one is to the kidneys and liver to manage pain for life. It's not worth it. I'd rather put in the work, make the sacrifice of PT appointments with my network of vets and therapists and manage her weight. There are also added benefit of on-leash-only walks: no more poison oak from hugging her, no more ticks crawling on her and no fear of her running into a rattlesnake or coyote.
"I swear I won't interfere with Juicy's exercises, Momma. But will woo play those games with me too?"
She's now at 61 lbs. I'd love to get her to 58, her slimmest weight in Switzerland. If I get her to 60 or 59, I'd be happy with that too. After all, just those 4 lbs and leash walk rule has made a huge impact. Oh and the PT is super helpful too! My vets rock!
As I end this post, I'm observing Juno play bow and hip-check Loki and Loki biting her scruff. Wow! Just like puppies again. Sigh.