Gemma: Hi Sam. We know you’re very busy with rehab at the moment, so thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Before we talk about your rehab, let’s find out more about you. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Sam: I’m a pretty down to earth kind of fella. I’ve been told that I’m quiet, patient and cunning. Can you believe the last one?!
Gemma: Unbelievable! *rolls eyes* I’m sure they meant cute.
Ollie: I have a question! Squeaky, bouncy or cuddly — what do you look for in a toy?
Sam: If I had to pick one, it would be cuddly. Nothing beats the soft furry chewy feels in my mouth!
Ollie: So true! But we love the squeaky ones too.
Gemma: Yep. So much fun to squeak when Mum’s on the phone. Heehee. Car ride or long walk?
Sam: Why pick one? I love both especially a long walk after a short car ride.
Gemma: Ask Ollie about car rides… *giggles* sometimes he does a chucky up…
Ollie: Anyway! Let’s move on…Sam, what made you decide to start rehab? How long have you been going for?
Sam: Well my Mum and Dad first noticed a few changes in my behaviour. All the things I used to love to do, I wasn’t doing as much or at all: I wasn’t playing as much, I didn’t seem too enthused about going for walks, I couldn’t jump into the car for rides or when exploring a place, previously no amount of stairs or ledges would stop me. I also wasn’t too excited about getting up to eat my meals. I was 8 years old but wasn’t that old for all that to be happening to me.
Gemma: Woah…. not excited about meals??!! Did your pawrents take you to see the vet? That’s a serious problem.
Sam: Yes they did. After a visit to the vet (there’s always too many of these for my liking) we all found out that I had a bunch of problems with my spine and joints. They said words like severe intervertebral disc disease (SIDD), osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.
The decision to go for rehab wasn’t something I decided. They made me go as they are concerned about my well-being and wanted a good quality life for me.
Ollie: Pawrents are good like that. They want to help us when we aren’t well.
Sam: Yep. They talked about all sorts of strategies to help me lose weight, manage the pain, and gain more physical strength and mobility. There was mention of surgery but that was as a last resort.
They decided (my pawrents and the vet) that the most important steps were for me to lose weight (I was 24kg – which is pretty heavy for a little fella like me) and manage my pain. I was put on some pills to help with the pain, a strict diet (argh) and started going to hydrotherapy.
Gemma: Ollie knows all about diets.. don’t you? *nudge, nudge*
Ollie: Sshhh….stop interupting Sam.
Sam: Errr… anyway, I started my first hydrotherapy early December 2018, and have been going ever since.
Gemma: Wow. Where do you go for rehab and how often?
Sam: My Dad and Mum take me to the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) at North Ryde, Sydney twice a week for my work out.
Ollie: Is it hard to stay motivated?
Sam: Sometimes. I am always a little nervous before the session. My pawrents always try to get to hydrotherapy (or hydro as they have started to call it) 10-15 minutes early so I can have a good walk around. There are some interesting walks around SASH.
This helps me burn off a little nervous energy. Of course, I always try to push this walk out a little but they always remember to turn me back in time.
As you may have guessed from the answer to the first question, I like to find ways out of doing hard work. Hydrotherapy makes me work hard, especially when they keep saying I’m improving, and they change up the workout to ensure I’m being appropriately challenged and working on all my different muscles around my back and legs.
After warm up, they might get me to do some interval training on the flat or on the incline. Sometimes they get me to walk backwards or sideways. Sometimes they get me running. They have even gotten me walking uphill backwards.
Ollie: Uphill backwards??! Oh my dog!
Sam: Yes, and all those are done when I am up to my shoulders in water!
Now don’t get me wrong, the water is warm and supports my body so I don’t feel as much strain but it also makes it harder to walk or run. I overheard the physios talking about “resistance” and now they often put a water jet in the tank to add some extra resistance. My Dad says that with the jet it looks like I am getting a spa – but I notice he is never in the tank when he says this!
Once they could see I was stronger and ready, the physios filled the tank and got me swimming.
The physios are in the tank with me so it is easy for them to keep an eye on me. Of course, this also makes it a bit harder for me to “cheat” – they are pretty smart and seem to wise up to most of my tricks and shortcuts.
The therapists at SASH work hard to keep things interesting to keep me challenged, curious and interested which really helps me with staying motivated. They are always encouraging me and praising me. I’ve also trained them to help motivate me further with treats (this didn’t take too long as they always have a small bucket nearby).
Gemma: Treats? Now you’re talking! Do you have a favourite therapist? Maybe one that likes reaching into that treat bucket? *wink*
Sam: All the therapists I’ve met at SASH are kind, smart, gentle but firm, and I like all of them. I always start my sessions by telling them about everything I have done since the last session, and they are very attentive and amused.
But if I have to pick a favourite, I guess it would be Allana. She goes the extra mile with treats so that probably puts her on top of my list. I am working on the other therapists to give me more treats but they are resisting my training!
Ollie: Do you feel better since you started rehab?
Sam: I do! I feel stronger and feel like I’ve got more stamina. I am running around more and chasing my toys and now I go on 2 to 3 walks a day and love going out. My Dad and Mum try to stop me from going on really long walks as they think I need to rest in between.
The physios at SASH are very happy with my progress too – although instead of giving me more treats – they give me less, and they have increased my exercise and speed, added new ones and recently I have been swimming more.
Nowadays, even after a really full on session at hydro, after a good few hours of rest I’m ready to go again. They’re now calling me the Energizer bunny. Somehow, that seems so wrong.I do feel a lot better and have been told I am now the fittest in the household!
Gemma: Haha. That’s fantastic you’re doing so well and feeling better. We heard that you’re on a very strict diet… *whisper*…tell us, do you keep a secret stash of treats somewhere?
Sam: Unfortunately, you heard right. I am on a strict diet and ALL my food is measured. My Dad even created a spreadsheet so he could work out all the ratio of food I’m allowed to have. However it seems to be working, thanks to the diet and the exercise I am down to just over 20kg. I overhead Mum and Dad say the target is to get me to 18-19kg – sheesh! Apparently there is a rumour of some kangaroo jerky when I get under 20kg.
I don’t have secret stashes of food but find that I’m now into “street food” which is causing some headaches for my pawrents.
Ollie: Hmm…street food sounds interesting!
Gemma: No Ollie, that’s when Mum yells at us to keep walking, no touching. Thanks so much for your time today Sam. I’m sure you’ve inspired other pups who may benefit from hydrotherapy too. All the best with your rehab and diet!
Sam: Thanks Gemma and Ollie and your Mum for taking an interest in me. You’re welcome to come visit anytime and feel free to bring a bag of goodies.*wink*