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Marlo… The little dog who started it all.

“My fashion philosophy is, if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty.”  – Elayne Boosler

I’ll be honest, I have no idea who Elayne Boosler is, but I agree with her.  To me, being covered in dog hair is a way of life, whether it is through my work as a canine therapist and veterinary nurse or in my personal life with my own dogs (and those I meet out and about!).

Over the years I have had many dogs and my two current lap warmers are Marlo and Chisel. Each and every dog has taught me something about myself.  Jak taught me about freedom and independence.  Mickey showed me that every tough dog needs a wing man.  Larry was the master at teaching me patience and persistence, while Fate shared a loyalty like no other.

Rupert had a very tough act to follow, but filled my heart when I didn’t think that was possible.

 

And then Marlo came along…..

For such a little dog, she packs a punch! As you come along with me on this journey that is Canine Remedial Therapy, you’ll get to know how much she is in my heart and soul, so I thought the story about how she started it all was in order:

I decided after losing Rupert and being on the treadmill that was IVF, I needed something to focus on.  Having a house that was dog empty was never on my agenda regardless of how our IVF efforts panned out.  Having always having adopted adult dogs, I decided it was time for a puppy.  Eventually I came across this little creature in my travels for work in Marburg.

 

 

Of course I wanted to take her home straight away, but we had a big trip across the Simpson Desert coming up.  I thought that would be the end of the possibility of adopting her, but no….her breeder (I use this term as a handle only – Marlo was actually a result of a mis-mating) was happy to keep her for a couple of extra weeks.  Quite literally on our way home from our holiday we picked her up and took her home.

 

 

Marlo was very quiet on the way home.  A little black dog in a big black Landcruiser heading to her new home and family.  The quiet didn’t last long, she quickly became the confident little dog who is a little more brindle these days (her Jack Russell is showing).

Knowing what a terror an unsocialised, yet intelligent and energetic dog can be, we worked hard at socialising her as a puppy.  She was always the smallest in the class, but she didn’t know it!  It didn’t take long that she needed a high energy and brain stimulating activity. 

And so we started agility.  She very quickly proved to be an enthusiastic and talented participant, only held back by her handler – me!  We both really love training. We get to run around and be silly, challenged and most of all together one-on-one.

 

And this is where I say that she started me on my path to remedial therapy. 

For a couple of years she was unstoppable in her enthusiasm for the agility course and competing.

 

 

Slowly though, I noticed that she was knocking the jumping bars, misplacing her launch or landing and eventually displaying avoidance behaviours by running off the field during competitions.

It was such a slow progression that at first I dismissed the bar dropping and she had only had a couple of awkward landings that she quickly recovered from.  I initially put the avoidance behaviours down to picking up on my nervous energy at competitions (because she didn’t do it at training).  But when this proved to be persistent I decided that something was amiss.

I had her checked out by her regular vet to rule out undetected medical issues.  Aside from a pre-existing luxating patella (knee cap) and possibly a muscle strain, she was healthy.  With peace of mind, I took her to see an animal physiotherapist.  With some treatment and a recommendation of extended rest, I decided to have Marlo’s patella surgery performed while she was on rest.

Although much better after her knee surgery, as she was slowly reintroduced to agility, she was still tripping and dropping bars during training.  I decided to take Marlo for a second opinion to Lindsey Connell of Animal Physiotherapy Solutions at the veterinary specialists.

After a few more visits with some improvement, we decided to explore further.  We knew she had the bendy terrier legs, but after consultation with the orthopaedic specialist, we discovered that Marlo’s conformation challenges extended beyond the expected dodgy limbs….

A dog normally has 7 lumbar vertebrae.  In Marlo’s case, she only has six!  The seventh appears to be sacralised or fused to the sacrum.  So this may well explain her movement issues.  There was much more we could realistically do to fix this, but we now know what was contributing to her problems.

So back we went to Lindsey to establish a new plan.  Marlo was temporarily retired from agility while we worked to improve her musculoskeletal health.  Through regular vet and physio treatments we were able to get Marlo back and ready to safely train in February this year – this was a period of nearly two years. 

It was during this time that I realised how much more I could be doing for Marlo and her wellbeing, particularly given her lifestyle and approach to everything in life – full speed!  I decided to explore this further and enrolled into a Certificate in Canine Remedial Massage through the Canine Health & Wellbeing Academy.

Canine remedial therapy massage for dogs

Lindsey is an amazing mentor, she allowed me to join her in-clinic to learn more. The range of conditions I was able to observe and learn from was phenomenal!  It showed me the potential of helping so many animals in addition to my own. 

Today Marlo is having knee surgery – her other knee. This time we have spent many weeks strengthening her muscles, relieving tension and tenderness from postural changes, all to help make her recovery smoother and to improve her long term musculature.  Not only is she the dog that started it all, but thanks to her she has helped me towards my goal to promote the health and wellbeing of all dogs and made me a better owner.