In 2007, I was unlucky enough to rupture an Achilles tendon; the rupture also took the rather unusual form of detaching from the bone in the heel of my foot. In most cases, these ruptures occur higher up the leg, with the tendon snapping in half. I clearly remember my surgeon at the time warning me of the risk of re-rupture, which was entirely linked to the quality and commitment to rehabilitation. Many people don’t commit to the time and consistency that rehab actually takes and they pay the price of exercising too strenuously too early, or not following the instructions for self-care.
Every rehab program can have setbacks and mine was no different. It took a year but I fully recovered. I went to physio for all the obligatory ultrasounds, etc. But more importantly, I did my exercises at home. All the toe raises, stretches, massaging and walking. I kept a journal of everything.
This personal experience has helped me greatly in my dog massage and rehab practice; it’s given me great insight into the frustrations and joys of rehab. And the main lesson I learned was that the substantive part of my rehab program was my responsibility.
The same is true of a dog’s rehab program – well, sort of. The dog doesn’t know what it has to do, it’s the owner’s responsibility.
And that’s one reason why I practice on an in-home basis. I see many dogs in need of strengthening, stretching and/or toning exercises. I always aim to make these exercises simple, and using items that are easily found around the home or sourced for a reasonable price. (I also have a hire pool of equipment, to also ease the burden of rehab care.)
Adjustments are often needed to match the dog’s abilities. And that comes with practice and feedback from the owner. And we work together through any setbacks.
I tell my clients: “To a large extent, you get out what you put in.”
Cavaletti rail practice at Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue (Charlene with Caesar)
Many clients have goals – it could be that the family is going on vacation and wants the dog in better shape (or fully recovered) when the dog goes to kennel or to another family member. It could be that the dog is in the care of a re-homing agency and the dog needs to be better before adoption. Or, the goal may simply to have the dog better before summer so that the family can enjoy the beach or the park again, together.
Like personal training, goals are great.
To achieve them, we get out what we put in. I enjoy being part of the owner’s team to achieve those goals.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand