Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hops in the Right Direction: Adaptation

Warning:  this post meanders.  There is a point, though, I swear.  Sort of.

Your dog isn't the only one who needs to adapt to an amputation--you do, too.  Following are some examples of what I've encountered with Prada that I didn't really expect, but probably should have.

Prada lost her left front leg just three weeks before I adopted her.  Dogs generally heel on their owner's left side.  However, that left Prada's vulnerable side facing out, which made her uncomfortable.  Once I finally figured out why she was always crowding my feet, the solution was simple:  teach her to heel on the other side.  Now her vulnerable side is protected by my body, and she is confident meeting other people and dogs on the street.

Another issue that shouldn't have surprised me was sitting. It's not a very natural position for her.  Even when she's scratching, she is half way to lying down.  Yet, it is most people's first instinct to tell a dog to sit, so I wanted her to know the command.  It took some trial and error, but I I eventually figured out how to coax her into a sit.  By sitting on the floor with one leg outstretched, knee about six inches from the floor, I could lure her under my knee with a high-value treat.  Then, I raised the treat straight up while she was still "under the bridge."  This kept her butt on the floor.  After a lot of practice, I was able to remove my leg and sit cross-legged, and step-by-step, progress to giving her the command while standing.  The whole process took several months.  (Actually, sometimes she still lays down instead of sitting.  We need more practice.)

Now, I'm going to back up a bit.  Remember I mentioned Prada almost lies down to scratch?  Well, she can't do that and reach all the way to her ears.  I have to scratch her ears for her.  It's pretty hilarious, really; she makes this little moaning sound, she likes it so much.

The point of all this rambling is this:  Pay attention to your dog.  She will let you know what she needs from you.  Just don't forget she is still a dog.  Most tripods are on their feet only hours after surgery.  She hasn't suddenly lost the desire or ability to run around like a crazy thing, smell disgusting thigs, or play/slobber all over you.  She isn't as breakable as you think she is.


  1. Prada is very lucky to have a master as patient and understanding as you!

  2. Honestly, we're good for each other. I'm not ashamed to say that I need to be needed, and her happiness is contagious.