Crappy picture but you can still see the joy. A few weeks ago I decided to take Riley to see our vet chiro/accupuncture that specializes in dog lameness and for whose opinion I have a ton of respect. We figured with all the surgery it would probably be a good idea to have him looked over and adjusted to help the healing. The vet evaluated him and did some minor adjustments and then told me I wasn't challenging him enough. He said that he was fully healed with regards to the surgery and now we need to challenge his muscles and neuro pathways to improve.
The veterinary teaching hospital gave very generic instructions for return to activity that honestly I was already pushing because they didn't make a lot of sense to me. They wanted confinement and very minimal activity (potty breaks) for the first six weeks and then a gradual on leash return to regular activity levels over the next two months. I was supposed to avoid stairs and jumping for six months minimum and preferably for his lifetime. Riley's hemilaminectomy did not involve any surgery to the discs so we were told that I could give him a bit more freedom compared to most dogs but still I needed to be very, very careful. I had started using the extendable leash after the original six week period as I thought that pace changes and ability to move differently were important. We were both getting very bored with those short on leash walks!
The vet here gave us permission to let Riley run off leash (Woohoo!!!!!). Obviously we still need to exercise common sense but he wants us to hike trails that have lots of rocks, stumps and uneven ground. Walking just on the streets means Riley can be lazy with his hind end but the varied terrain will force him to have to pick up his limbs and be aware of how to place them. We are also doing other rehab exercises such as rear end pivots on a perch and walking over poles. We are keeping things to about 30-45 minutes and so far things are going very well. I did an outdoor obedience drop in class last weekend that involved a lot of sits and hind end work which he started to show some sorenesss. He was fine the next day and it was a good reminder that his muscles are still recovering. He has a much tighter sit compared to before the surgery so different muscles are being used. I also continue to swim him for now one day a week which is good to stretch out and relax all those back and neck muscles.
Watching my dogs run and play on hikes is one my top ten list of things I love to do. The first day I got to see them run together after all these months it felt like a bit of my world finally came right side up again. There are a lot of unknowns about how his recovery will continue. He still has some ataxia especially in the right rear and his gait is a little unusual but he is a happy dog to be running the trails again. He may or may not ever be able to handle long hikes or some other activities but he is way more comfortable than he was prior to surgery. Neuro improvements can take many months so I am hopeful that things will only get better!