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The Great Gabby, Part 1: “Gabby’s Day Spa”

June 27, 2010

gabby the doxi-chi mixWe have a lovely little doxi-chi mix named Gabriella who has been going to physical therapy following her IVDD surgery this past May. She was doing SO well that we wanted to give our other downed doxies a chance at the therapy she received to see what a difference it would make. This is a daily commitment to doing exercises and making office visits to see the best results. One of our dogs, Max, had the perfect opportunity to start therapy since his foster family was going on vacation. As of July 1, Max will start the PT process!  This means little Gabby needed to go to a new home to continue her exercises so that her foster mom could work her magic with Max.  As is the case with most of these dogs, there are plenty of “Godfosters” and plenty of love to go around for all our pups. 

Lucky for me, this meant little Gabby was going to come stay for a month.  I had to be trained on her at-home exercises which include massages, stretches, movements, and even water work.  It also means that I learned how to “express a dog’s bladder” and stimulate her bowels. Trust me, this sounds a lot more horrible in theory than in practice and I really think that they need to come up with a new name for the process. Expressing Gabby’s bladder is more of a tummy massage with gently squeeze when you feel a balloon-like resistance. She lets me know that I found the right spot by immedietely dropping into her potty squat and lifting her tail. For the bowels, there are different methods that I read about and her foster family explained, but after her bladder is “expressed” we were able to use a damp, cool cotton swab to tickle her toosh. After a few little tickles, she goes on her own.

When we first brought her home, she got her paws on the carpet and was able to stand up on her own and even take steps around before falling. I tried taking a video of how great she was doing and settling in, but in true doxie fashion she gave me the “What are you thinking you’re going to do with that camera?” look and sat down. Luis and I kept constantly touching her, petting her, and trying to follow the same routine she had at her previous foster home with food and toys. They were nice enough to send her bed, blankie, favorite toy, special vitamins they got for her, and the food she has been eating. The transition has been very smooth for her, and she seems relaxed.

Today we worked on building trust with us handling her. Anytime we would sit and watch TV, we would just work with her body: petting her sides and her tummy, tapping her paws and sides, stretching and moving her legs, and doing the “passive movement” exercises on her list. She is getting more and more comfortable with us handling her. To see her first two “mini sessions” of therapy, check out the videos on Ustream:

Gabby standing and eatingHer foster mom said that she was able to stand on all four paws when eating so before we feed her we did the mini-sessions to get those muscles and nerves stimulated. Sure enough, this little girl stood and ate her entire meal for TWO MINUTES only falling over twice. We just picked her back up, grounded her paws, and she went right on eating. Once she has her balance, she has no problem holding herself up until she is fatigued. Since she seems to be getting a better grip on our carpet than tile, we are going to stop by Walmart and pick up a runner to add more area for her to practice on.

Videos of her eating while standing:

Gabby sitting next to foot bathWe also tried an odd idea that I read about on a forum for downed dogs. After a day filled with yummy food, massage, and tickles, we put her in her very own “doggie jacuzzi” (ahem…my bubbling foot bath).  The great thing I really didn’t think of until I tried it was that there is a seperation between the two bays for your feet, and she is able to rest her tummy there while holding herself up with her legs. Who knew?! I turned on the bubbles and at first she looked at me as if to say “What now crazy lady?!”. As the warm water bubbled away, she settled in and seemed to enjoy it. She started to pick her paws up a little bit to get more comfortable and eventually was holding herself up with just a little support from the edge of the bath. You can tell she was partially supporting herself because she would topple if you lifted up her paw, and you can feel the tension in her leg.

Gabby supporting herself using the middle bath divider

Gabby sitting on the edge of the bath

For more of Gabby’s story, check out her page on our web site:

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