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March 13, 2012

GOOD news, fans and friends. Our veterinary neurologist is quite pleased with Lilly’s progress — totebag eating and dog conflict aside. We’ll know blood test results later in the week, but we don’t have to go back for a recheck for 2-3 months. Can I have a whoohoo?

Certainly, Lilly remains neurologically compromised:

  • Her balance isn’t great.
  • She is still weak here and there.
  • She can’t quite sit 100% right, and her front feet still slide when she does.
  • She remains a touch dull on the cognitive side.

BUT, if her blood work comes back showing therapeutic levels of the anti-seizure solution called potassium bromide, then we’ll get to drop the faster-acting, more powerful anti-seizure medication called keppra.

Lilly will remain on the immune mediator drug called cyclosporine (likely for months, if not years), but we get to continue weaning her down on the steroids (dexamethasone) … to 1/4 of a pill every 3 days. She had been getting one WHOLE pill every 3 days. Our goal is to get her completely off steroids in the coming months, which should help with the various, not-so-fun side-effects.

All the other meds for her tummy and blood pressure and other things will remain the same for now.

Perhaps the best news is that I’ve been cleared to ramp up Lilly’s physical therapy, including:

  • Longer walks
  • Some simple agility tasks
  • Strength and balance work

I’ve been cautious with Lilly’s body for fear of making things worse or triggering a seizure.

Dr. Lane put those fears to rest. In fact, he said the more I challenge Lilly with tasks using her body the better able her brain will be to compensate for what’s happened. It’s a lovely thing the brain does called neuroplasticity. [We wrote about some cognitive work in neuroplasticity before.]

The other good news (for me) was that we got to wait in a big, private neurology exam room this time (instead of the lobby), and we only had to wait about 30 minutes because we had a real appointment.

So, we left the house at 6:45 am, and we would have gotten home by about 9:30 am, if we hadn’t stopped for a long walk along the creek in town and then met a friend for coffee.

Blame the caffeine (not an everyday thing for me) or maybe relief, but despite the happy news, I felt like bawling all day long. Go figure.

This has been wildly stressful and emotionally difficult in so many ways, but together … this amazing puppy-girl and I will keep at it.

She is doing an awesome job recovering, and it’s my job to help her keep the momentum.

Dr. Lane says it’s a lot like having a child with a closed head injury. To other people, Lilly may look normal (eventually), but I’ll always know, and I’ll always see her remaining deficits and compensations.

As I’ve mentioned before, I can tell when he is trying to buck me up and when he is trying mitigate my enthusiasm. The only time Monday I felt like Lilly’s future activities might be limited came when I asked Dr. Lane about Lilly returning to herding lessons.

His answer? “Let’s see where we are in a few months.”

The concern is Lilly getting herself into trouble with livestock and not having the speed — mentally or physically — to handle it.

I won’t worry about that now. Instead, I’ll focus on working with Lilly EVERY DAY to get stronger and stronger.

And, even through the  tears, I’ll be grateful she survived.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Have you thought about using any of the FitPaws products? they might really help her strength and coordination!

    (I’m not a rep, I just love their stuff and its done wonders for Clem and keeping her back and hips strong)

    1. Thanks for the idea, @Aly. We do have one of the balls (no base), and I’ll start working more with that. We’re also going to do some ladder walking (like we did when Lilly first learned agility) so that she has to concentrate more on foot placement. I was already thinking about the ladder, but I chatted with KB the other day, and she knows some researchers doing good work with neuroplasticity, and she also recommended the ladder. Tom will get one out of the shed for us this weekend.

  2. So glad to hear the good news that she has improved so much.

    This may be a silly question, but when she’s ready to try herding, could she work with ducks or geese, instead of sheep? Would that be safer?

    1. Not a silly question, at all, @Sheryl. Lilly actually has NEVER herded sheep. We began with goats for this very reason. It’s safer for dogs and green handlers (like me). Our instructor does have geese and ducks on her ranch/farm, but I’ve never seen her let dogs work them.

  3. Whoo and hoo!!! Go, team Lilly! It is a real bright spot in the day to know that Lilly is doing so well. It has been tough for all of you, I know…but your love and hard work are paying off and what better gift to give than for Lilly to know how much she is loved!

  4. Great, Great news!! And wonderful that you can begin doing challenging things with her again. Ain’t neuroplasticity a wonderful thing?!?

    -Bart and Ruby

  5. This is such fantastic news, but I understand the need to bawl. In my experience, relief brings that out. Can’t wait to see the soon-to-come happy videos of Lilly being more like Lilly!

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