She looks very muscular here (and she is) but really in this photo she is hyper alert and tense

It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything about Lucy’s recovery from surgery. That’s because her physical recovery has gone well. She is not 100% as is evident when she runs with a weird gait (especially when tired). But she is also missing the top of her femur so might always have a bit of a weird gait. We are thankful that she is getting stronger all the time.

There is something else that we didn’t anticipate… Lucy’s coming away from the whole experience traumatized. Looking back, it makes sense.

Way back in the beginning, when her skipping/limping while running, she had a doctor’s visit…then another, and another, and another… all pre-surgery. Then I left her at the vet for the surgery. The next day when we brought her home, I rode in the back seat with her and she whimpered/cried and tried to stay as close to me as she could. This was a Thursday

The next day all the medicine that she was on made her very sick. On Friday morning she began vomiting and having diarrhea (which progressed to bloody). I thought she was going to die…so I was traumatized as well. Our surgeon’s office had no doctors on staff that day. Thankfully her regular vet fit her in, and she had to have an infusion of fluids as well as something to settle her stomach… another vet visit! She felt a bit better when she came home, but it all started again on Saturday so back to the vet for more fluids. Poor baby!  Thankfully, with the cessation of some of the post-surgery medication she began to feel better.

One last visit was her post-operation visit with the surgeon for removal of stitches and to evaluate her overall. This was visit number 8!

With Covid-19 protocols I was never able to go into the vet’s office with her. That meant 8 visits where a stranger came out into the parking lot, put her on a different leash, and took her away. Where always scary and often painful things happened. Our dog trainer told me, “Lucy is a smart dog, and she has concluded that encountering strangers while on a leash is a bad thing.”

Our once very friendly dog is no longer so friendly when encountering strangers while she is on a leash or when they come to our house. Thankfully she has her happy places. If you were to encounter her at Arroyo Verde you would encounter a very different dog than if you came to our house. If she already knows you, she is also fine. Sometimes after her initial bad reaction to someone, she decides they are ok she will want to be their friend and will even bring them a toy. But often she comes across as a snarling, barking aggressive, scary looking dog. Thankfully we’ve been going to dog training since she was a baby, and I was able to schedule some private time with the trainer/behaviorist (dog psychologist?).

Our trainer diagnosed the problem and assured us that we can help our precious pup. This stage of her recovery includes medication for anxiety (trainer wisely said you can’t teach someone to swim while they are drowning) accompanied by slow and steady work to teach her that strangers are not to be feared. If you encounter us, I might be asking you to toss treats her way…as this will help her to associate people with treats instead of potentially taking her away from me.

This short video shows how nervous she has been sitting in front of the window and looking at people outside. Lucy’s learning to look outside

A lot of our training as us sitting in front of the window. This will progress to sitting on the porch, then the steps and then the yard. She has already had some success in the yard while playing with her toys so we are slowly making progress. We also go to public places for lots of walks, as well a sitting and watching all the activity around us. This also includes lots and lots of treats. While we’ve made progress, I suspect that this healing/recovery might take a bit longer than the physical recovery. When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or even embarrassed when she acts out, I remember that Lucy is a smart, funny, and lovable dog… and is worth the effort.

Here’s Lucy looking outside after a few weeks of “therapy/training” at the window. Progress! Hallelujah Lucy!

This challenge with Lucy reminds me of our need to be gentle with one another. We are not always at our best behavior and sometimes the reason for the “bad” behavior is something completely unrelated. We are all living through great stress. We are experiencing trauma, even if we don’t recognize it as such. We can also get through this together. I don’t think we can toss treats at one another but we can sure share understanding and patience. You know what my friends? You(we) all are worth the effort too.