Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Good-bye Sweet Boy

Monday I found out that Seppel had a mass on his heart, likely hemangiosarcoma. I was supposed to bring him home for the week and then let him go but he started declining that afternoon and I had to make the decision then.

My heart is broken. That's what I keep saying but it is the best way to describe how I'm feeling.

I am so sad that our IPO journey is over.

I am so sad that my training partner and friend is gone.

I feel like the universe told me I could get Stuck, my next IPO dog for the price of losing my first training partner soon after. I know this is an irrational thought and I am not a religious person, but in some respects that is how it feels.

I am so sad that he is no longer in my home. His tail was always wagging and every time you touched him his whole body moved. He was always happy, all the time. He never had a bad day.

I miss him waiting at the end of the garage when I would call everyone in. His ears would go flat as if he was saying "I don't want to go in, I want to stay out here and do something with you."

He was always the first to the door, ready to go. He LOVED to play chuck-it and when I would take him out last he would come bounding out of the car like he was saying "I'm the best at this game! Play with me!" He would always put 100% into going after and bringing back the ball. He was my favorite to play with because he loved it so much.

He also loved the flirt pole. He would play with it forever with me.

I miss him being my copilot. He was the best car rider and was always in the front seat with me. When I would go get coffee he would inevitably drool on me - every time. It drove me nuts and grossed me out and now I wish he would do it one more time.

He was just starting to become more engaging with me and we were just starting to have fun training. I feel like we were closer than we have ever been.

I miss how expressive he was. He was so reactive to everything and you could read it in his eyes, his ears, and his forehead what he was thinking.

I miss how I could get him to bark at anything, he was easily wound up and it was great. 

I miss his love for cardboard boxes. He shredded so many boxes at work and if I tied him near the recycling cans he would steal things out of them and shred them. He was so crazy sometimes. It makes me sad that he will never be able to do that again.

It makes me sad that all of these things that he did and has done were the last time that he would do them. It is so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he's gone and that it is all over with.

It makes me sad and angry that I couldn't even have a few more days with him to do the things he enjoyed. I am so sad that his last day was spent in a strange hospital and not at home with me. I know I made the best decision I could at the time but I am so sad because I had no idea I wouldn't be bringing him home.

I am so sad that he went out the way that he did, he was just about to turn 8 years old. That isn't old at all.

It feels so unfair.

I miss him so much. His presence in my life was so big. I know that I am fortunate because I have other dogs and my house isn't empty, but my other dogs are not him. I love them all individually and the hole he has left is huge.

Having Seppel completely and 100% changed my life. He taught me about responsibility and management. Because of his energy level he turned me into a better dog owner - because of him I exercised all of them regularly and made it a priority. He taught my parents that pit bulls were not bad dogs. He taught me so much about training, not just because of who he was but because of him I sought out classes and people to learn from. Seppel fit into my household really well. Our first year together there was a lot of learning and things were a little rough, but once I figured him out things got better and better. In our recent engagement class he did nearly anything I asked. It made me feel really proud of our relationship - that he trusted me to do some of the weird things I asked him to do, and he never questioned me.

The last several weeks I felt like something was wrong with him, I never could have imagined that thing was going to be as bad as it was. I don't know how I will repair myself. I just feel so devastated right now. A quote I found on Instagram says it perfectly:

"Cause you never think that the last time is the last time. You think there will be more. You think you have forever, but you don't."

Rest peacefully buddy. I love you so much, I miss you so much, but I am glad you are no longer suffering.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Three Years post FHO Surgery

I started this blog originally to chronicle my experience with my very first pit bull type dog. On June 19th of 2013 Seppel had FHO surgery on his right leg. I would say most folks find my blog researching this surgery. I chronicled our experience on this blog because when I was researching it I could only find information on dogs a few days post surgery and nothing really too detailed.

Just to give some back story, Seppel came up sore back in 2013, his hip and iliopsoas muscle were painful. We xrayed his hips which revealed unilateral hip dysplasia. At the time we had been doing IPO protection training for a year and because he leads such an active lifestyle he was only going to continue to re-injure himself. I took him to an orthopedic specialist who didn't exactly recommend an FHO. The gold standard surgery is a total hip replacement that would set me back $4k even with a professional discount. However he agreed that my dog would continue to be painful if we didn't do anything.

I scoured the internet looking for resources on FHO dogs. I contacted a few people looking for FHO outcome information. It was extremely hard to find information on dogs after they had fully recovered. I decided to go through with the surgery and I really couldn't be happier. We've had no problems since the surgery and he is physically able to do all the things he could do before except he's not painful.

Here is a video I put together which shows his first few days after surgery, some rehab, and recent pictures and video of him doing things now.

Monday, June 13, 2016


I don't even know how to start this post.

Seppel and I had a terrible weekend, that ended up working out okay in the end.

This past weekend my IPO club put on a seminar with Joel Monroe - an amazing trainer.

 My training director and friend suggested that I work my new dog Stuck in obedience and work Seppel in protection because she wanted to hear what he had to say about Seppel's work.

When I brought Seppel out for protection on Friday he immediately started making his garbled growling noises. Joel asked me if he could do a hold and bark and if he would be dirty. I said he can be dirty but he can do a hold & bark. I sent him in and he immediately tried to bite the sleeve.

It pretty much just snowballed into a terrible time after that. It was really embarrassing to have a dog who I know is trained and knows what he should be doing, but chose to turn into a stress ball instead. This was in front of everyone else at the seminar and was very frustrating. In the hold & bark it's like he went into barrier frustration and no matter what would not bark. To top it off he seemed to get really stressed out.

I was bawling on the drive home that evening and the mood continued into the next morning. I was dreading working him in obedience and even started to get anxiety. I almost decided I wasn't going to work anyone at all. I took him out and he seemed a bit flat for his toy, just as I was beginning to lose all hope I got some food out and his eyes lit up. I took him out to the field and we did a little bit of heeling - he was great. We did some back-tie play and I was able to show his retrieve and jump. Joel suggested that if we weren't ready for a full IPO1 we should do Tracking and Obedience. It gave me something to think about. We went back out for protection that evening and kept everything light. We didn't worry about getting him to bark, just played around and even did a side transport. It ended really well and I felt my confidence get built back up.

Honestly, I went through so many emotions this weekend. It was absolutely terrifying walking onto the field Saturday afternoon after such a terrible protection session the night before. I had so much anxiety about having to do it and so much fear that my dog would let me down. In some ways it was very empowering (after the fact), that I was able to go back out there even though we had such a bad time the night before.

I'm sure the raging question is - if Seppel isn't very good at IPO and if more often than not I'm having a bad time, why don't I just retire him?

Honestly, I am getting closer to that point. If we start having more bad days than good days, I will stop. It isn't worth it to ruin our relationship because he's not really meant for this sport. However, I guess what helps to keep me going is all of the good days and good moments we have. When I look back at where we started and see where we are going now and feel like it's just within our reach. When I really sit down and realize how much he's taught me and how far we've gotten, I am just not ready to just throw it all away just yet.

There are a lot of things that no amount of training will change for this dog. I get that and I am trying to really put into perspective what I want to nitpick and what I realize I will just have to accept.

Since this past weekend I have set a goal - I want to go for our IPO1 tracking and obedience in the Fall. I am working out a tracking schedule and plan to buckle down and really get him tracking and hitting his articles. For the obedience portion we need to learn how to retrieve over the A frame and do a send out, as well as build duration with his heeling. I think this is an attainable goal. The protection portion will either take care of itself or will be something else we will have to work on. Ideally I want him to earn a full  IPO1, but we will just have to wait and see. I feel so thankful to have such a wonderful club to work with and wonderful people to help get me through the bad times and the good times. My IPO club and the experiences that have come with it have been invaluable.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

FHO and Seppel got a Sister

Seppel is nearing his 3 year anniversary after having right side FHO surgery. I am getting a video put together to show all of the things Seppel can still do even after having FHO surgery. Almost three years later he is suffering no ill effects. Here are a few recent pictures of him.

While this blog is my blog about Seppel, I thought I would talk about my new dog Stuck. Since Seppel and I joined a new IPO club, my eyes were really opened to a few things about Seppel. I think he enjoys IPO, but I think it also stresses him out. We had an opportunity to try French Ring and he seemed to enjoy it a lot more, his whole body language was different. In french ring they work in prey and I think he just enjoyed it a lot more. Unfortunately French Ring is not big in my area, so I can't switch sports with him. When we started going to our new club Seppel started displaying some odd behaviors, he would get weirded out working with new helpers, he would get over stimulated just out on the training field. It was very frustrating and I often left club feeling hopeless and lost on the drive home. I love Seppel, I love doing things with him, but he is a weirdo. I know that he can be weird about some things, but I had no idea until we left the comfort zone of our familiar training field just how weird he could be about some things. After a lot of convincing, my dad had an epiphany and agreed to let me get a dog specifically for the sport of IPO. Around the time he said 'yes' to the dog, my training director from club had brought up an almost 2 year old female malinois from California who was looking for a new handler.

Stuck has a lot of really good foundations and a great start in tracking, obedience, and protection. Her breeders show at the world level and it really shows in the training she already has on her. Stuck should be able to get to an IPO3 no problem. [Can I get her there is the question?] It's been a really big change going from my pet dogs to a Belgian Malinois, I did start a blog for her also: Stuck on You so if anyone is interested in following her adventures there you go.

I still am going to try my hardest to get Seppel his IPO1. I have a lot of really good people in club to help try to get us there and I am confident we can get it done. However, now that I have Stuck I can take a lot of the pressure I was putting onto him off, so we can have more fun. I'm going to be starting an engagement class with him next week, really hoping that we can learn a lot and help our training relationship. Seppel is an awesome dog and I appreciate all of the things he has taught me and I am so proud of all the things I have taught with him. I am also super proud of the things we have accomplished together.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fit Dog Friday: Pain Management

I thought the information I have to share today would be a great topic for a Fit Dog Friday post. For those of us with older dogs or orthopedically compromised dogs, pain management plays an important role in keeping them mobile and fit.

I have written about it before but my dog LiLo has hip dysplasia. I discovered it when she was around 3-4 years old when I took her for a long camping trip. She had always walked kind of funny but when we came home from our trip she was very sore. X-rays revealed that she had started to get arthritis in her hips.

I can't say for sure but I believe I started giving her adequan injections when she was around 5 years old [possibly sooner]. Up until now I have maintained her hips with monthly adequan injections, fish oil, and the occasional dose of an NSAID. The adequan has been a miracle, I feel that without it she would not have the range of motion she still has and that she would have been worse off earlier on.

Over the last few weeks I've noticed LiLo has become increasingly sore after activity. LiLo loves to play ball and flirt pole, I've noticed the last few times after playing ball she is so sore afterwards that she can hardly walk. This is something new, she has always been kind of sore after a hard workout, but not to this extent. I took her swimming a few weeks ago and even that caused her to be very sore, she was even limping on the front end.

I started giving her Metacam daily a few weeks ago, as well as tramadol.

I am a firm believer that our animals when painful should NOT go without pain medication. We know so much more now about pain than we did years ago and there is no reason not to treat your pet's pain.

I had an old timer tell me that they withheld pain medication from their dog because "if he feels it, he will rest and not over do it." I'm just going to say it, that is bullshit. Who has the opposable thumb? If your dog is hurt and needs to be quiet, instead of allowing them to suffer, you give them pain medication and you crate as needed, sedate as needed, and leash walk as needed. It's called management.

Anyway, I digress, LiLo will be 11yrs old this year and I intend to make the time I have with her as comfortable as possible. I have always been leery about giving NSAIDs daily due to their toxicity to the liver and kidneys. I feel like I have been extremely lucky that we did not have to go that route for so long and I am willing to do it now because she really needs it. The truth is, for me it is all about quality of time, not quantity. I would rather LiLo have a few great years than have many miserable years.

I am hoping that by managing LiLo's pain properly she can still continue to lead a fairly active lifestyle. I intend on taking her swimming a few times a month for something low impact and will still allow her to play ball or flirt pole but will probably lower the duration for those activities so that she can participate, but won't be so sore she cannot walk. We'll see how things go.

There are different types of NSAIDs, the most commonly used ones at the practice I work at are Vetprofen/Carprofen/Rimadyl and Metacam. I talked to my boss and we send Vetprofen and Metacam most often because they seem to produce the least amount of side effects and cover a more broad spectrum as far as pain. It's a bit more technical than that, but that's the basic reasoning. There is previcox and deramaxx but those drugs tend to be harder on the guts. The truth is, all NSAIDs have side effects and what works for one dog may not work for another.

LiLo and Seppel both have a rough time with Vetprofen, when used daily they vomit and I think Seppel actually started to get an ulcer. I have used previcox on both of them and when I inquired about using an NSAID daily, metacam was recommended. LiLo has been on the metacam almost daily for the last few weeks and it doesn't bother her tummy at all. I give it to her almost everyday, especially if I am going to throw the ball for her or let her play flirt pole. So far when she has been active the medication has worked and has prevented her from being nearly as sore as she would be without it. Without medication she is miserable just a few hours after activity.

I think it is really important in aging or orthopedically compromised dogs to address their pain and treat it adequately. I know as she ages LiLo will slow down, and that is fine, but I also know managing her pain properly will help keep her healthy and as active as she can be, even for an older dog.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Seppel's Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve! My friend got Seppel a bunch of boxes to shred for Christmas, he couldn't be happier!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Picking a good IPO Club

I was writing a post on a forum I mostly lurk on and I decided I should probably write a blog post to update my and Seppel's current situation.

I titled this post "Picking a good IPO Club" because I would like to share my own experience and give some tips on finding a good club.

After this last trial in October I was feeling really down. We had a really bad training experience prior to the trial and then the trial itself was just an absolute mess. The judge barely passed us, I think he passed us because he knew that we were new and wanted to support us. I appreciate that but I don't feel like we earned our title at all.

I have been in an IPO club for a year. I waited three years training only in protection to join this club. The reason I wanted to join this particular club is that I know the people who run it and I thought it was going to be a really good opportunity. I did not know how the club was run. I do have experience with IPO clubs, I have worked with two in the past.

My general thoughts on how an IPO club is run based off of my prior experience:
  • Tracking: everyone lays a track. If you are new a trainer or club member will help you lay your track. Depending on the dogs the tracks will age and then each member will track their dog one at a time, the rest of the club can watch from a distance but most club members choose to follow the person tracking because you can learn a lot watching other dogs track/watching how other people handle their dogs.
  • Obedience: Everyone works their dog one at a time. One dog goes on a long down while another dog works OB, the training director of the club helps with OB, or another member of the club helps with OB. You work on whatever you need to work on.
  • Protection: Everyone works their dog one at a time, there may or may not be a training director helping with protection - depends on the experience level of the helper.

So given the above you can understand what I was expecting from the club I was joining. Unfortunately the club I joined had no organization whatsoever. Everyone lays their track, lets it age, and tracks their dog with or without other people watching and then they leave! In obedience, one dog went on a down, another dog worked. There was no trainer available for help. Every week I watched people do the same thing - heeling patterns ending with retrieves. I myself even did the same thing because I was just doing what everyone else was doing. As the year progressed one member did stand up to try to help the rest of us out. She is not a dog trainer but she has an IPO 3 dog and was willing to watch [those of us who wanted her to] us track and even helped some on our obedience. We did not do protection most of the year because our helper was unreliable. The helper thing is a major party foul but I was okay with it because we were getting private protection lessons so it didn't really effect us.

Anyway, when we had this really awful training experience before our trial I was wanting to completely give up. I talked to a few friends who meant well, but they said that maybe my dog was only a club trial/at home field dog, that maybe that is just what we would have to do. I get that, I was starting to believe that myself, but that is not what I want. That isn't the kind of dog I want to have. I am not unrealistic about my dog. I know we aren't going to show at regional/national/championship level, I am fine with that. However, I am not okay with only being able to trial at home because that is where my dog is most comfortable. When I talked this over with a fellow IPO friend who was in another club she offered me so much more than "I guess you'll have to settle." Instead, my friend told me that maybe we just needed more experience, she told me that my dog would likely improve as he gained more experience and that he might not be perfect but that in our club we were not getting the experience that we needed. Another friend weighed in pointing out that another club would have either a.) told me right away my dog wasn't cut out for this or b.) would likely have helped to give us more experience so my dog would be better prepared. I liked these answers a lot better than "I guess you just have to deal."

So, that being said, I made an executive decision and quit the IPO club I was in. It was a hard thing to do because I didn't want anyone to take it personally. I have nothing against anyone in the club but the club is just not a helpful or educational environment to be in.

I thought I would share some things to think about and look for when choosing an IPO club, obviously I did not really know what I was signing up for when I joined the first club. I think these things can be applied to any sort of dog club or group training situation, hopefully this is helpful.

  • Is the club competitive? Initially I thought I did not want to be in a very competitive club because I didn't want to be pressured, but if no one in the club is striving towards bettering themselves then you can expect you probably will not be receiving much help. 
  • Is there an active training director? Again, in the beginning it was nice not having someone on the training field telling me everything I was doing wrong. Unfortunately, without someone watching us we cannot grow and improve.
  • What sort of training methods does the club use? I think this is a very important one for IPO. There are some very heavy handed people in this sport and if you are looking for PR only training it can be really hard to find. It's a good idea to feel out the training director and other members to see if they train in a way you would be okay training.
  • Do the other club members appear to be successful? It's important to look at the people who will be your fellow club members, do they look like they are having a good time? Do they have goals? Are they actively trying to train their dogs?
  • Does the club have meetings? Does the club vote things in? If you are actually joining a club it is important to learn how it runs as a club. The first club I joined never had a single meeting and because of it we missed out on hosting a fall trial. They also made a big deal about membership, "you are here because we want you here" and then they[the powers that be?] randomly allowed new people to join without asking for input. Which wouldn't be such a big deal if the club had an active training director.
  • Ask to come to training a few times. This allows you to see how the club is run every week and allows you to see how the members interact and train. Most clubs should allow you to do this before joining, in fact, they should encourage it to see if they even want you joining their club.
Those are some of the main things I would look for when checking out a new club. Since I quit my previous club I have joined a club that my friend is in. I trained with them a few times before committing to joining. This club was 100x different than my own club! They had multiple people shadowing folks on the training field, they had a white board that they wrote dog names down on so that we had an order to go in. The training director and a few other knowledgeable members were around to help anyone who wanted help training. It was refreshing to have an order and a purpose. I started to feel like maybe Seppel and I had some hope, that we could fix his heeling and fix some of the other problems we were having. Everyone in this new club usually has good suggestions on things to try and everyone wants to be helpful. Everyone is really friendly and outgoing. Another thing as well is that this club does not feel cliquey. No doubt some people in the club are better friends with each other than others, but I have not felt like I am an outsider. It's important to feel comfortable and feel like people want to interact with you, that you aren't just a burden.

I am very anxious and hopeful to see where things go with Seppel and I. I hope to take him as far as he can go in the sport and I feel very fortunate that if I get another dog [not any time soon!] this club will be great support in helping me raise my first bred-for-the-sport IPO dog.