Monthly Archives: September 2008


Swimming at the Russian River on Labor Day went really well. Ali had a blast, as usual. Thank goodness he loves tennis balls so much – the compulsion to retrieve them keeps him excited to swim and swim! I believe I mentioned the amazing physical benefits of swimming for a dog in Ali’s condition, but the psychological benefits are also immeasurable. A few days later we had an appointment with the underwater treadmill and Ali took a few steps in a row (unassisted) with his right foot! Remember last time I mentioned he placed his right foot just once and Juli said that was a “milestone?” Well, that was one week earlier. This time he took three consecutive steps in a row several times during the session. Progress! After I was able to take him swimming three times over Labor Day weekend, I had a feeling I saw some improvement. Juli confirmed it when she saw him on the treadmill. It could just be the normal course of his recovery, but I have a feeling the swimming could be accelerating things. It’s certainly not hurting! Same thing with acupuncture and everything else we are doing. I want to give him every chance. He continues to amaze me.

Yesterday, Ali took steps with his right leg in the cart for the first time without knuckling. He did it a few times at the park by Kevin’s house. I couldn’t believe it! We had taken him swimming the previous evening in the American River. Then last night, after we drove home from Sacramento, we met friends at the Russian River for another swim session. After swimming, while Ali was standing up on the blanket, he took 2-3 steps independently with his right foot! Everyone saw it. We all whooped! It’s amazing. First a couple steps in the cart and then while standing on his own…all of this happened in one day. His right leg is waking up! I really think he is going to walk again. I have never said that out loud before, but I said it this morning when I saw him take a few more baby steps on his own, while placing his right foot. I have always been afraid to say anything like that because on some level I must admit I am superstitious about doing or saying anything to “jinx” it…whatever the hell that means. It doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t stop these irrational beliefs from taking root in my psyche. But you know what? It felt good to say it. It has been exactly seven months since his surgery. I remember because it was the day before Valentine’s Day.

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Filed under Milestones/Progress, River Swimming, Underwater Treadmill

Underwater Treadmill Redux.

Ready to go!

Note the rubber ducky in the corner. It squeaks; Ali likes!

Those who have been following along will remember that after Ali’s first successful session in the underwater treadmill a few months ago, he balked the second time and refused to walk, so we decided to give it a rest for awhile. In the mean time we continued with swimming therapy in the river and our standing exercises at home. Well, as I mentioned in my last post, we decided to try the underwater treadmill again and I am happy to report that Ali has decided he loves it now! Last week, he was so excited he tried to climb into the tank while still in his wheelchair, which is great. It’s cute how enthusiastic he is now about going to the Animal Care Center for these weekly appointments. I think we have done a good job of making it fun for him. And it doesn’t hurt that he has such a good attitude about everything! He is such a sweet, happy boy. People remark on it when they see us on the street or in the park. First they notice and ask about his wheelchair, then they say, “He looks so happy!” And he is. We both are. I’m happy because I know how lucky we are; he’s happy just because. And isn’t that one of the cool things about sharing your life with a nonhuman animal: this zen-like just because? Not to digress into turgid sentimentality, but sometimes when I look at this dog, as am doing now over my laptop screen, in addition to the usual feelings of fierce love and quiet admiration, every now and then my heart melts, turns to liquid, and I feel it rush to my feet. This isn’t as unpleasant as it sounds, but it can be an overwhelming feeling at times. It makes me feel helpless. What do you do with such a strong feeling? You recognize it and honor it as best you can with your actions, I guess. What else is there?

Alright, leaving crazy I-love-my-dog-so-much-it-makes-my-head-hurt land, during the last couple treadmill sessions, Juli has noticed some further improvement in his back right leg. Between two sessions she said his right leg had more movement than the week before, which is pretty exciting. The last two weeks he has been able to move his right leg on his own, whereas the week before she had to bend over the whole time and complete each step for him. He is still “knuckling” on his right foot when he steps, but last time he placed his foot once on his own, which Juli said is a milestone. She also said the muscles in his back legs were less tight and more supple this week, which is cool because during the last week I have been massaging his legs during standing exercises at home (per her recommendation to relieve some of the tightness), so it seems the massage is helping. After a week of not being able to swim (nobody to help), Ali has gone twice this weekend and we are going out to the Russian River again later today to meet Steve. So he has gotten some great exercise this long holiday weekend. I just hope the Labor Day revelers do not make the river too crowded today! It is always more difficult with lots of people and dogs around. Swimming Ali regularly is an ongoing challenge, but a necessary one to tackle because it is so incredibly therapeutic and the benefits for him are invaluable. Okay, now go forth and hug your companion animal and appreciate the unsettling yet not unpleasant feeling of your own heart melting.


Filed under At-Home PT Exercises, LOVE, Milestones/Progress, Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation, River Swimming, Underwater Treadmill