Monday, May 10, 2010

Loss of Innocence

I woke up in the early hours of the morning, at a time Don calls oh-dark-thirty, and had a random thought that disturbed me so much I couldn't go back to sleep for a long, long time. 

Our last dog, Merly, was scared of EVERYTHING.  Life was a terrifying experience for her.  I thought for a long time that it was our fault--that we'd trained her wrong, or not enough, or too much.  Then I learned more about animal psychology/behavior.  I found out that while we might have been able to alleviate the fear, had we known more about it, we could never have made her feel totally safe, thanks to her early upbringing and her basic personality.

 So, when we got Lance, we decided to do everything in our power to make sure he didn't suffer from any of the same terrors.  We crate trained.  We took him to trainers who started their Early Puppyhood Education class with the statement, "Imagine what your child would grow up to be if the entire time he was growing up, he never had to hear the word 'no'."  We spent every spare moment we had for three months socializing him with people and dogs and situations of every conceivable type.  We nurtured and protected and encouraged and loved.  AND IT WORKED!  Neither of us had ever seen a happier puppy!  His ears and head were always up, his eyes were always alight with love and mischief, and he never met a stranger, human or canine, that he didn't like.  His life motto was "Hi, I'm Lance!  And life is GREAT!"  That's the way he was until he hit 8 months, that is.

At that point, as we were warned would probably happen, he got hit with panosteitis.  'Pano', as it's commonly referred to by the owners of large breed dogs, those who most often go through it.  It is, to put it simply, 'growing pains.'  It typically occurs in the long bones of the legs, jumps from leg to leg, and can take anywhere from days to months to go away.  There is no avoiding it, and no 'cure'.  Analgesics help control the pain, but still, sometimes they can hardly walk from it.

For the past two weeks, he's been favoring his front left leg, and doing everything from limping slightly to laying and whimpering so continuously it sounds like he's crying.  Worst of all, exertion of any kind makes it worse, so we can't play fetch with him, or take him for walks, or take him to the dog park.  The vast majority of training involves him standing or sitting or walking, so that's out, too.  All of a sudden, he's in pain, and we've stopped playing with him.  I can't imagine what he's thinking.  He must imagine he's being punished for something he can't figure out.  He's still getting as much love and attention as we can give, but it's not enough.  He's a puppy!  He needs exercise for developing muscles.  He wants to run and play.  And he doesn't have the capacity to understand why any of this is happening to him.

He's changed.  His ears and head are more often down than up anymore.  He sleeps SO much.  And he's not as happy and carefree as he used to be.  I don't know if he ever will be again, after having gone through this.  (His right front leg is getting better, but yesterday he was favoring his back right leg.)

AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO TO FIX IT.  Or even if it can be fixed.

1 comment:

CousinDon said...

I know Sweetie. What I hope is that kids and puppies are resilient and that he'll forget this soon.