Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Who Knew Getting Old Makes You Dizzy?

I sit in my office chair looking out the window at a tall oak tree. I see waves of pollen blow through the wind.  I notice my cherry tree is switching from blooming flowers to growing leaves. Wait! There is movement in the camellia right in front of me. It is a mother Ms. Robin and her babies in a nest. I suspect this is the same Ms. Robin who builds her nest in this bush every year and each year a mockingbird comes by and throws out her eggs to lay her own. Nature can seem cruel at times but yet be so beautiful and forgiving as well. On the floor beside my chair is Snow. For the past several days I have been helping her through an episode of vestibular disease. For those of you who do not know about this disease, it is very similar to a bad case of vertigo that can last for up to a week, maybe less, maybe more. This is her first episode and I do have to admit, when you do not know your dog has this disease, it can be really scary watching the signs develop. She woke up at 5AM running into the walls in my hallway unable to control her legs and her eyes were darting left to right uncontrollably. She was nauseous and drooling and to top it off we were having a thunderstorm, which really scares her. She must have thought the whole world was out to get her. I quickly got her Thunder Shirt™ on and stayed right by her side until morning. I thought she might have had a stroke and worse she might not be able to walk on her own ever again. Much to my relief though, the diagnosis is just vestibular disease, and these episodes will come and go. Just something she and I will cope with for the rest of her life.

Those of you who do not know how Snow became my dog may be shocked to know she was given to me by clients who were moving and thought she was too much for them to handle.  She was labeled aggressive and was going to be euthanized unless I would take her, work with her issues, and determine what was best. We all knew it was in Snow’s immediate best interest to be re-homed.  As her pet care provider, I had already sensed that she was just confused and misunderstood. Yes the sweet and overly obedient Border collie many of you have met over the years was once in need of guidance.  Just between you and me, I knew even then she was supposed to find her forever home with me. This was almost seven years ago this July 4th and what a rewarding seven years it has been. I have spent a lot of time reprogramming her and I have often wondered if her previous owners were to see her today, would they even recognize her? She still physically looks like the same dog but she sure doesn’t act like it. Today she is a Canine Good Citizen, having passed the CGC test with flying colors as she demonstrated good manners and obedience. Her evaluators even commented that she was especially polite and attentive.

The transformation Snow has gone through was my inspiration to return to school last year to become a certified trainer. I knew when I selected the K9 Solutions Academy that I wanted far more education than just textbook learning and that I would get it at the Academy.  I do have to admit, I am very proud of the work I did with Snow long before I thought about making a career out of it. I just wanted to fix my dog and now I want to help others do the same. Just last week Snow assisted me with a private training case involving severe aggression. I wanted the owners to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They needed an example of what can happen when you “teach an old dog new tricks.”

Since the first day I met Snow she has been totally dependent on me.  Seven years ago it was for her survival; at the moment it is for walking, feeding, and reassurance that things will get better. She has not left my side for several days now. My whole house is littered with runways of rugs to help her navigate from room to room. Today she has improved enough that she wants to do the walking all by herself but she wants me close enough that I can catch her the moment she begins to wobble. If you have ever known a Border Collie you know the amount of focus they give to their leader and that the intense starring can almost be unnerving. It takes that weird feeling that someone is watching you to a whole new level! But Snow does it not only out of respect but out of gratitude. As I look at her peacefully sleeping at my side I am reminded to live “right now.” You see, our pets live in the moment. Something we all struggle with from time to time. And at this moment she rests peacefully knowing I am proud and honored to have her at my side. This afternoon we’ll spend some more time in my office and I’ll  check on Ms. Robin again just outside my window.  I really hope Ms. Mockingbird doesn’t come by and evict her again this year!

Follow this link to learn more about vestibular disease in an article shared by Falls Village Veterinary Hospital, Raleigh.


  1. Thank you for this posting. I share your devotion to a canine loyal best friend. Two years ago my then 6 year old dalmatian developed vestibular disease. It seemed to show up out of no where with a head tilt severely to one side which made balancing on all fours impossible. What made matters worse is that I lived on the second floor with only a steep metal staircase to get up and down. He's the world's tallest dalmatian at 80 lbs. He and I were both scared. We got even closer then. Luckily within 3 months the symptoms seemed to disappear. The only residual affect is his difficulty in eating out of a bowl. Seems he still mistrusts his ability to bite the food and not the edge of the bowl. We've worked it out and he eats off of a tray. Who knows if it'll ever come back, I hope not. But if it does we'll get through that too because that's what best buds do for each other. Best wishes to you and Snow. I'm so glad you two found each other.

  2. I hope Snow feels better quickly!
    K9 Solutions