Tucker is a 14.5-year-old Sheltie, and I love him. Years we spent walking for hours, hiking every weekend and generally not stilling still. In typical sheltie fashion, he is an avid ball dog and would never tire from playing fetch (in his younger years).
Watching him age has been an awakening. The first 13 were all about “us,” but now its all about him, and how much I can thank him for the first 13. Last year we had to hide all his tennis balls because his shoulder would hurt afterwards and days of limping followed. As long as he didn’t see them, the game was out of his mind, and he was happy. He walks were slower and shorter, but ever-present. Usually, just me and him – as his slower pace could be frustrating to my teenage kids. This summer while being sprayed by the hose (another of his favourite games) he ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee – he couldn’t walk at all. My heart broke.
We discussed options with his doctors. He was small (only 19.5 lbs.), but elderly. Would surgery be an option? Could he heal enough on his own to walk again? He’d never be completely stable, and arthritis would affect things, but he already had arthritis, so it wasn’t my main concern. In the meantime, he was getting his teeth cleaned because he had a painful tooth that needed to come out, and it was during this procedure, we found out he had an irregular heartbeat. My decision was made with no orthopedic surgery for Tucker.
Initially, I carried him everywhere – out for a pee, up to the bed, whatever he needed. Then slowly, he could stand on his own – knees shaking and follow me. Awesome, this is like physio, for him, but we missed our walks. Well, of course, the solution was a short trip to the pet store and a 10-minute assembly job later. A Pet Stroller! He is so determined to walk on his own, and we start slow and see how far he can make it before his hindlegs start shaking. Sometimes it is only a block, other times all the way around the small block. I always let him take mini-breaks. Then voila its stroller time! He settles in and allows me to clip his collar in for safety – then we are off! He gets to see the world a little higher than he has his whole life. Feel the wind on his face, and he travels faster than he has for years!
Walking Tucker is now one of the highlights of my day again. Passing fellow walkers, they always smile when they see him leaning his head against the side, relaxing and enjoying the ride. I always ruffle his head when we stop so he knows I’m there – and let him out a bit from home so he can finish our walk on his own 4 feet. Always so proud of himself!
Last night my cat walked with us (well, she followed us despite being told to go home) and I think he felt he had something to prove – he walked faster than he had in a long time. Maybe we are on to something!
Written by: Rebecca Menary, RVT