Thursday, November 8, 2012

Brief check in

Otis is still doing amazingly well. He almost caught a fawn the other day. And a bunny the day before that. He's moving so well it's as if he never had surgery. I couldn't be happier! 

He's still getting himself into trouble. The other day at the park he got "attacked" by another dog and broke his canine tooth. Silly dog is always costing us money. :-) But otherwise, he's perfect. 

Below are a couple of photos of him with our daughter. She loves him a bit more than he loves her right now...though he does love "cleaning" up after her meals. If she drops anything, he's there. And he licks her hands and face clean when she's messy. Which is always, of course. 

I hope this blog helps someone out there dealing with this issue. Feel free to comment--it will always trigger a response from me, even if it's been awhile!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A new addition! otis is a big brother!

Well, we have added a new baby to the household. She is perfect, and just enhances our already perfect family. :-) It's definitely tough to be a mom--I don't think I can think straight just yet! I'm glad I have excellent parental leave because trying to do research right now or teach a bunch of college kids would be a tough row to hoe.

Anyhow--on the Otis front, he's fabulous. Last fall he got a bit hefty and started to limp--the vet came out and observed him, and told us that he needed to lose about 10 pounds. A couple months later (and 8 pounds down) and he's good as new. Jumping high in the air, running around like crazy. He's great. In fact, he likes to run into the stream next to the house and get muddy--so we have to bring him to the lake to rinse off. Even when it's freezing outside! We just had him at the lake and he cut his foot on a zebra mussel. Awesome. Comedy of errors, that one.

How does he like the little one? He's not sure exactly what to think. But he licks the milk off of her face and lays next to her during tummy time. We think they'll be the best of friends. Don't you?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yeah, so, long time; no "see"?

We've had a crazy 6 months around the Otis household. My mom-in-law moved in with us not long after my last post. Then Butchie the cat got sick (that's a whole other blog, apparently...GI Lymphoma, anyone?) and we got pregnant. Then mom moved out and the semester started back up again. Whew...just now catching my breath!

But in the meantime, the most consistent thing has been Otis. Our man is amazing! Our vet tells us that she's super impressed with his progress (he's stronger, faster and more beautiful than ever). He's taken to liking golf. Daddy set up a golf course out back, and he chases and retrieves the balls.

He also likes making silly faces, like the curly lips. I think this will make our daughter-to-be laugh for sure. It always makes me laugh.

He still enjoys the lake--but now he can go for hours and hours--and he romps, jumps, etc. He can get so high off the ground now! The other day he almost caught a baby fawn--he can really get moving when he wants to. I'm glad he didn't catch it, though. It might have shattered my image of my precious, sweet baby!

Ultimately, do I dare consider that hip dysplasia is behind us? I certainly hope so. I think he's about as normal as he can get. But then again, he's only gotten stronger since last time I thought that! I hope that he lives an amazing life from here on out--and that he becomes our daughter's best friend. I hope he loves her and watches over her and makes her smile. He's already taken to sleeping on the rug in her nursery.

Butchie the cat, on the other hand, likes sleeping in her crib. That should make for an interesting interaction when she gets here. I hope that he's still around in four months. *fingers crossed that the steroids work*

Hope all is well with the goldens out there...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So, how's he doing?

Well, it's now April--spring is creeping up on us up here in the north. Took Otis to the dog park today and he's really gaining confidence among his "peers". The past couple of visits he has been gregarious and independent--though he's still submissive when surrounded by more than one dog, especially dogs his own size. Funny thing--today there were about 5 other golden retrievers there, so we got a great chance to compare Otis physically to the other dogs.

Good news is that he's cuter than all the other dogs. (hehehe, mommy may be biased...) Bad news is that he's still got a smaller rear end and a shorter gait than the other goldens. Gotta keep on working on that. So that's our summer goal--keep up with the stretches. Keep up with the exercises. Keep up with the glucosamine supplements.

So now we just need the weather to cooperate with us and we'll get to it--I have to admit that we've been bringing him to the lake already to swim, even if we are in coats and gloves while we watch him! So we're ready, Otis is ready, and Butchie is ready to sit jealously by the door and watch our exercises commence. Let's get it on!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One year anniversary of "the news" is coming up.

I've been thinking about this a lot as the anniversary of the day approaches when we found out about Otis's hip dysplasia. I started this blog on February 11th, 2010, in the midst of confusion and frustration about our fate. Otis was then just a relatively new addition to our young family.

The past year has been the craziest year ever. Otis has bilateral hip dysplasia surgery. We buy our first cetera. But I've also learned a lot about what it means to love someone/thing so much that it hurts. I don't think I've ever had that feeling before. I imagine that's what new parents say when they have a baby for the first time...

So, to Otis--I love you, my little golden bear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Histiocytoma fading...

Great news. Cytology came back as a benign tumor, even if especially active. It's now almost gone! Thank goodness. The vet said that surgery would have been difficult and required a skin graft (omg). So another drama checked off the list, I suppose!

It's coming up on a year since we got the dreaded diagnosis re: otis's hips. I hope that we'll continue to see him improve as year two begins. He's such a trooper. We're still doing massages and stretches, and though we've seen some major leaps, he's still tight on that right leg and his range of motion is still restricted. More goals to set in 2011, I suppose.

The snow is some of his favorite stuff to play in--and I've posted my case-in-point below. What a dog...we're so lucky. :-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Apparently that's what he's got goin on on his paw. Doc's gonna do cytology on it anyways (i.e., she's going to take a sample to the lab) just to make sure that it's not a mast cell tumor. She thinks it's much more likely to be a histiocytoma.

Apparently, this is relatively common amongst young adult dogs, and manifests in a red, large, benign tumor, usually on the face or limbs. They tend to emerge almost overnight (um, yep, that's what happened here) and will dissolve on their own after a few months. Here's Otis's.

It doesn't seem to bother him much, but it will bleed at times when he's running on rough surfaces. For instance, when we were at the park on Christmas Eve, he ran through the snowy woods chasing daddy. (They like to play hide-n-seek in the snow.) Then he realized it was stinging and sore and went a little lame. Poor guy. I think the ice and salt irritate it some.

Doc will come back to our house next week to take samples. 'Tis one drama-filled moment after another with Otis, isn't it? I swear...

Oh well, guess that's just our lot in life with him. Luckily he brings us such joy that it's worth any drama that he brings with him. And luckily he seems oblivious to the drama, for the most part. It's only mom and dad that get to enjoy the knowledge of the extent of his problems. Truly is like having a child, I suppose.
Anyhow, here are some more pics of my man-man. Such happiness--reflects what the season means to me. Living in the moment, moving forward without looking back, and finding joy in the simple things. Ah, Otis--what a philosopher you are! ;-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Updates: again

I tell you what--this dog...

Just when things are looking up, something ALWAYS happens. At least this time it's pretty minor, I suppose. He's got this weird little bump/growth on his front paw. He licks it occasionally, and it bleeds at times. It doesn't seem to really bother him, but still. Really? *curses at the doggy gods*


Anyhow, otherwise, things are looking up. It's getting colder, but he's loving every second of it. In fact, he just dragged me outside in 10 degree weather to sniff and explore. (He's a sneak, because I took him out under the pretenses of relieving himself, but he had other intentions!) I hope that next spring I can get him in obedience classes--finally--so we can work on his listening skills. He may look like a big boy, but man does he like to act like a puppy!! We want to make sure that we continue to keep him well-socialized, too. We can't go home for the holidays this year, but we have been having some little holiday parties here and there, and Otis is always the center of attention.
 Notice how he just HAD to sit in the middle of the kitchen floor while the boys got their food. He also decided to walk amongst all 17 of them to beg for food. He puts on the cutest face when he's begging...
All in all, 2010 has been quite the year. Never thought having a golden retriever would lead to so much drama! On top of that, we've bought a house and held our new jobs for the first full year. What a whirlwind...can't wait for a little R&R...

And on that note:


Friday, December 3, 2010

The holiday season.

I've seen a great improvement in man-man lately. He's getting some "junk in the trunk" now (i.e., his hip muscles are growing) and he's very spry in the snow. He's gaining confidence too--he'll jump and run and play on the ice in ways I hadn't thought he would.

This thanksgiving, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law brought up their 11-year-old golden to play with Otis.
 These two were inseparable. Max acted about 10 years younger and Otis showed his newfound strength. What a great holiday we had! Hikes and was wonderful.

Then when I put up the Christmas tree, he and our kitty Butchie loved watching me decorate. Apparently the excitement of Christmas was too much for Otis, because he could barely stay awake as I tried to find places for the last of our ornaments...

I really hope that I continue to see this improvement through the snowy season. I worry a little that he might get a bit of arthritis when it gets bitterly cold--but our first accumulation last night (and his first rambunctious snowy playtime) went off without a hitch. I hope that as we approach the one-year anniversary of surgery number one (in February), he'll be inching closer to 100%...

Now if he'd only jump up into the car and go up the steps...


Friday, November 19, 2010

A collage

I totally created a collage of Otis. And because I love him, and I'm bored, I'm going to share it with the 2 or 3 people who randomly arrive at this blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting better and better...

Today I took a look at man-man with a critical eye. Could I still tell that he's recoverING and not recoverED? I checked his gait, his musculature, his energy. Good news? He's better than ever. But I can still see room for improvement.

Otis runs great. His gait is strong and light. He trots along like a champ--and you'd never know he'd had surgery less than 9 months ago! When he plays with Loki (his favorite of the neighbor dogs), he sprints and cuts like a running back in the NFL, and although you can tell he's quite a bit slower than Loki (with his lab/greyhound genes), he still manages to keep it close. Part of that is his smarts--he cuts Loki off and takes shortcuts. :-)

When I bribe him, he'll jump in the air. Sometimes, his back legs will come a good 2-3 inches off of the ground. But that's on a good day. He still hates to jump. And this means that mom or dad has to boost his rear into the jeep when we go on hikes or to the dog park. He also still struggles with steps--he bunny hops less on the way down--sometimes (meaning that he's starting to alternate back feet instead of hopping both at the same time), but he always takes his time going up. He's got this weird mental thing with steps. You really have to coax him about them. That's a good thing for the kitties though...Butchie will just go up or down a few steps and flaunt his independence by giving himself a bath. Oh the whining that ensues! haha! (below you'll see a video of Butchie and Otis in a typical encounter...)

Overall, I really see improvement in his movement, strength and mobility. And we'll chase each other and run and play all afternoon, and he shows no indication that he's in any pain at all. He's currently on no medication but his daily chondroitin+MSM+glucosomine pills (just a supplement to lubricate the joints). We're gonna keep working him and making sure that his movement is improving...I think he's got more room to grow and I'll keep nudging him forward until I think he's gotten as good as he can get. He's so happy now, though--and I don't regret choosing surgery at all. It's been a bonding experience--and one that proves the resilience and strength of a puppy (and his humans).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One year ago today...

Otis came into our lives and changed them forever. The trials and tribulations we've gone through with Otis were unexpected, but it's all served to solidify our love for him and his place in our family.

Health-wise, Otis is really improving. We're weaning him off of the tramadol gradually...from three pills at a time to two. He's walking better, running better, and just acting better in general. Today we took him to the dog park again (we took him last Sunday as well). Last week he acted somewhat timidly--he mostly ran around and sniffed and smelled. And when he finally got pooped, he laid down and we took that as a sign that he had had enough. This week, he was a social butterfly! He played with dogs--and not just a little bit, either! He wrestled and ran and acted a fool. It was so heartening to see! He would fall down when a bigger dog would tackle him and I'd think, "ok, here we go, now he's gonna shut it down," and he'd get up and tackle the big dog right back! Such a proud mama, I am.

These little things are the things that you hold onto and notice after months of recovery and PT. You watch his stamina improving gradually and his running get smoother. You look for his confidence to return and his attitude to shift. Sometimes you go weeks without thinking he's getting any better. And then there are days like today...when you see your hard work beginning to pay off.

I know it's going to take more months of massages and exercises and patience before he's at his peak performance. But there's something a little bit invigorating to see improvement right in front of your eyes.  Here Otis is, fresh from the groomers. Love the bandana in honor of Halloween! He walks so proudly after he's had a bath...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This week Otis had his third appointment with the physical therapist. Great news is that he's improving greatly! Thigh muscles grew from 14 1/2 to 15 1/2 on one side and from 15 1/2 to 16 on the other. Range of motion is 140 degrees on both sides. His "roaching" in his back is gone (apparently that's when the back is curved because the back legs are too far under the body--think cat pose in yoga). She thinks that he's doing so much better...and that makes momma happy. :-)

We are to continue his medication for the next two months and continue his massages and stretching. Apparently he still has tightness in his sartorius muscle (runs down the front of the thigh) and he needs to build up his hamstrings. He also needs to improve his range of motion (our goal is 155 degrees, I think). So, continue the exercises from the first post, and try to get him walking backwards up hills more. That will stretch his back legs the way they need to stretch so he can walk up steps and jump in the jeep. We're going to continue to be vigilant. Man, if by the first snow he can be "normal"? Mom will be thrilled! Hiking the trails around here in the snow is unparalleled...and we want him with us like last year. Last year, the first snow was the day we brought him home to us. Love.

On a side note, Otis lifted his leg and peed yesterday on our walk. He's never done that before! Since it requires balancing on one leg, his surgeries haven't allowed him the confidence to lift his leg before. Guess something clicked and he went for it. Hasn't done it since, but I wonder if it'll end up as his new "thing" before long. Interesting. He's also jumping OUT of the jeep now, for the first time, by himself. Little improvements. Momma's pleased.

We went to Cape Cod a couple of weeks ago and brought him with us to trounce around in the surf. He's a beach bum of a dog, let me tell you!! And if you ever need a dog sitter in the area, try Tina at A Happy Pet. She's UNBELIEVABLE. Even with Otis's special needs. I wrote a recommendation for her. You can check it out here:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Our regimen

I realized that it might be helpful for some of you out there (if you are out there) to know our PT regimen for Otis. You might want to start it immediately after your puppy gets clearance, regardless of whether you take him/her to PT him/herself. But this is just what we do, so don't ever do anything you think might hurt your puppy...when it doubt, ask your vet if this is okay.

1. Massage: We give each hip a daily massage. Starting with long strokes down each back/hip/leg. Then strong circular motions. Then we do the "deep" massage. Each hamstring and quadriceps gets a deep kneading motion (like if you put the muscle between the forefinger and thumb and gently squeeze the tension out). Get to know your dog's muscles--know his hip (which is in the middle of the side, not on the backbone), know his quad/thigh, his hamstring, his calf muscle and his achilles. Know his knee from his ankle, etc. It'll help you to diagnose issues.

2. Stretches: We gently manipulate each affected joint. When his knee was tight, we would force him to extend his knee. For his hips, we support his knee (NEVER put pressure on the joint itself!!) and push on his thigh, backwards (like if he had his leg extended out behind him). He hates it and fights us, but we stay firm and reward him greatly. He gets very agitated with the stretching, but it's super important. If he doesn't get back his range of motion, he won't be able to jump up on the couch or into the car, or go up/down the steps normally. He needs to be able to extend his back legs at 165 degrees each. Or so we're told.

3. Exercises, Easy: Sit/stand. He sits and then stands. Voila. Pretty simple, but works those back thighs. Just like if you or I were doing squats.

4. Exercises, Easy: Walk in circles/figure 8s. When he goes on his daily 5-15 minute walks, we walk him in circles (counter and clockwise) or in figure 8s. The inside leg's muscles work harder that way.

5. Exercises, Easy: Balancing. I support him under his belly and lift each back leg. He is supposed to get 7-10 seconds on each leg. Right now he has 7 on the right and 2 on the left.

6. Exercises, Harder: Walking backwards. I mean, it might be easy for some, but Otis hates walking backwards. We're supposed to be walking him backwards up hills.

7. Exercises, Harder: Obstacle course. Put pvc pipes on aluminum cans to raise them up a little bit, about 2 feet apart. He walks over one pipe, then another, etc. This helps him to pick up the back legs. Eventually you raise up the pipes, narrow the pipes, etc. Haven't tried this yet. :-)

8. Exercises, Harder: Water walk. The physical therapist uses a water treadmill, but we can't afford that. :-) So we take him to the lake. Walk him through the surf up to his shoulders back and forth. Let him swim a little in between. The resistance is good for his muscles but easy on the joints.

There ya go. :-)

Update from the physical therapist.

On Monday we returned to the physical therapist's office and heard good news. Aside from the fact that we all got stuck in the elevator...yikes...the pt thought Otis was doing well.

She thought he was walking better and his weight was distributed more evenly. On a normal dog, about 60% of the weight is borne by the front legs and 40% in the back. Otis, last time, was about 80% front and 20% back. She feels he's about 75/25 now. Which is an improvement. His left hamstring is no longer too tight for his knee to straighten and he has gained 15 degrees of movement in the hip. He's also gained 1/2 inch of muscle on the middle of that thigh and 1/4 of muscle further up the thigh. Apparently our exercises, massages and stretching are making a difference.

But the bad news? The right side shows no improvement. But seeing that our hard work is paying off just motivates you to keep going. So we're gonna focus in on that right side, keep up the exercises and medication and hope for the best when we go back next month.

Again--I can't stress enough the importance of physical therapy. Do it! Even if it means your puppy has to chill next to the hot tub instead of running around in the's only for a couple of months. With what we've already been through, what's a couple more months??


Sunday, July 11, 2010


So it's been 10 days--how's he doing? Well, better and not better, I suppose. :-)

His range of motion seems to be getting better--he is tolerating the stretches much longer, which is good. His left side is getting stronger too, as he can balance for a while on it! The right side, not so much, unless it's directly underneath him. We do a lot of the "sit" then "stand" exercise. And we also try to make him walk backwards quite a bit. I think he's starting to improve. But I'm also an eternal extreme optimist, so take that with a grain of salt!!

The only problem we've had? He's developed some diarrhea. Bleck. For the first time since he was a three-month old puppy, he had an accident on the floor. Well, multiple accidents. Poor guy. He's rounded the corner, now, but that was tough on his body. And because he wasn't eating, we couldn't medicate him yesterday either. That means he had a tummyache and sore legs. Yesterday was a bad day.

But this morning is a new day, and we're off. He's eating better (still exhausted from yesterday's trials), and we'll be back to our regimin in full force. We go back to the physical therapist in 2 weeks and his 11 month "birthday" is on Wednesday. Can't believe my baby is getting so old. :-)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Small setback.

So Otis has had a small setback.

He's been acting a bit crazy lately--laying down, not wanting to walk. And sometimes he favors his back legs and shuffles along after a long day. So I took him in to the vet on Monday. She was concerned that his back end looked too thin--she noticed some muscle atrophy. At the same time, she wanted to rule out the Lyme disease reoccurring, so she took more blood. Today we saw the Physical Therapist to see what else could be the matter and how to fix it.

We went in and told her what a normal day in Otis's life looks like. Three walks, a lot of playtime, some swimming, etc. She told us we're doing way too much with him. Did measurements on his thighs and on his hip range of motion. He's supposed to have 160 degrees in both hips; he has 120 in the left and 130 on the right. He also has tight hamstrings and atrophied quadriceps. Poor boy! We've been unwittingly hampering his recovery by pushing him so hard. :-( Bad mommy and daddy.

Apparently he wants to play and do stuff with us so he's been shifting his weight to his front end, making those muscles extremely strong--but keeping his back end weak.

The remedy? Back on pain meds (she says he's in a bit of pain when exercising) and rest. He can do two 5-10 minute slow walks a day, massages, damp heat treatments and stretching. Next week we start daily exercises like balancing, walking in figure eights, walking slowly in knee-high water and walking a small obstacle course. It could take 3 months to get his thighs back to a normal size and he may never get back full range of motion after surgery, but we are to follow this procedure for at least 3 weeks. Then we will go back and see if we've made progress and then we can go from there.

Live and learn, I guess. Note to all: take physical therapy seriously. We should have started this 6 weeks ago. After you've paid so much for surgery, it's difficult to justify really expensive physical therapy, especially when your puppy seems to be so much better and even normal in many ways. But fractures take 6-8 weeks to heal, and then it could be 2-3 months until the muscles and ligaments get back to normal--especially since he was probably favoring those same muscles even before surgery.

Sigh. At least we know now. And maybe we'll save someone out there the guilt? :-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Otis at Salt Point

He's a swimmer!! We've finally gotten a chance to take him to the lake, and he's loving it. The retriever in him is shining through. We just throw a stick out there and off he goes. He runs until he can't touch anymore and then he doggy paddles. It's super cute. He drinks as much water as he can, too. Which is also hilarious.

Otis definitely enjoys bounding through the water without a care in the world. I'm so happy to see it!! He's really progressing so well...his fur on his haunches is still short, but that will come back over time. He's almost finished with his Lyme antibiotics. Hopefully that will take care of all of his ailments and he'll live an uneventful life from here on out. *fingers crossed*

I don't know if anyone will ever read this blog, but if you do, I hope you get an idea as to what to expect throughout the "hip dysplasia" process. Ultimately, we're happy we put him through it, and three months later, he's like a brand new dog. And he's still not 100% strength yet! I'm also glad that we chose to have the surgery in the winter. Because it's a lot easier to keep a puppy from acting crazy when it's all wintery out than when it's gorgeous and the critters are outside. 

Well, off to play in the yard before it gets dark. Those big brown eyes are staring up at me...I think he's had enough rest. :-)


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Long time, no see.

Sorry for the delay, folks (if anyone's out there, anyways!). Things have gotten a little crazy lately--husband's place of work went through a major transition, my semester is ending and we bought a house. In the midst of all that, Otis is still, well, Otis.

He got castrated and radiographed last week (April 28th) and Doc said that his hips look great! He was "very pleased" with the x-rays. I hope we can get copies again. Dr. Ross says that we are to gradually up his activity over the next couple weeks until he's at full strength, but other than that, he's perfectly fine. So within the next 2-3 weeks, he'll be allowed to run, jump, play and swim all he wants! We're already treating him to long walks and romps at the park, and playing in the surf at the lake. Yay! What great and wonderful news.

BUT...we also had them do some blood work, since we hadn't given him his heartworm meds in a while. Glad we did...because Otis is Lyme positive. Sigh. Another adventure, I guess.

Apparently, Lyme disease comes from ticks, especially deer ticks. They're tiny--like no bigger than the head of a pin. And they love to live on mice, rabbits and deer. We have multitudes of all three around our house. Go figure. We have never found a tick on him, well, not since last November, but apparently there was one at some time. Lyme is a bacteria and causes fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and limping/sore joints (great, huh?). It can also cause acute pain and kidney failure. We've caught him limping here and there and having trouble standing every now and then and that's probably why. So here we were scared about his hips and some of the limping may have been due to the Lyme. Craziness.

Treatment is pretty simple. Antibiotics twice a day for a month. He'll be retested in September to make sure he's "Lyme-free". If so, we'll get him the Lyme vaccine. Should help some. In the meantime, we'll be treating him with both frontline and interceptor and hoping for the best. Would use Advantix, but apparently it's toxic to cats.

Guess our little journey will go on a bit longer...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Still going strong

As he chews on his rawhide at my feet, I am happy to report that Otis is doing well. He no longer has to be helped around with his sling and he can go up and down the few steps to the backyard with no problem. His muscles are getting stronger and he's really working them well on his walks.

It's been over 3 weeks since surgery 2 and over 7 weeks since surgery 1, and it think it shows. It was right about this time after the first surgery when I saw him start to flourish--he's feeling less stiffness and pain and he's feeling stronger. I can't wait to see him continue to improve. Hopefully, in 18 days, we'll get Dr. Ross's blessing to let him run free, and when that day comes I will be ecstatic. And considering how he fights us when he's outside and we ask him to come inside, well, I'm sure he'll be ecstatic, too!