Cali ♥ Sid

 Golden retriever Cali gazes up at Sid, a seated man in a blue shirt and tan hatIn last week’s blog post, I shared a problem that Cali was having with her legs. She was slipping a lot, and when she walked, her back legs swung way out to the sides.

Cali goes regularly to a chiropractor here in Missoula, and I had asked the chiropractor if she had any ideas. We’d discussed the ACL tear possibility, but we were both skeptical.

The chiropractor uses laser therapy and manual adjustments to help Cali walk better, but … over several months, the problem persisted.

One evening, I was meeting with my Jewish community group planning committee, and we were selecting dates for our next events. A date was suggested and I said that I couldn’t do it that day because I was “taking Cali to Pullman.” All animal-friendly Missoulians know that that means going to the vet school clinic.

“What’s wrong with Cali?!!!” the other committee members asked, in unison.

I explained briefly, and a fellow committee member and friend, a skilled horsewoman and dog person, spoke up. She described a vet / chiropractor who “works miracles” with dogs and horses who have neurological issues, and said that I “must take Cali to see Sid.”

Sid has a colleague who makes his appointments on his visits to Missoula, about once a month. My friend gave me this “fixer’s” phone number. I called the next day. Got a call back a day later. Spoke to one of the nicest people I have yet to meet.

But, she said, I had just missed Sid and he wouldn’t be back in Missoula for a while. “I’ll just give you his number. Maybe you can take Cali to him.”

I called on a Friday afternoon. Sid suggested that I bring Cali by “now.” In Helena, a couple hours’ drive away. I said I couldn’t that day, but did he have time in the next week or so. We settled on Monday.

Golden retriever Cali sits in front of Sid, in a blue shirt and tan hatLong story short, Deni, Cali, and I journeyed to Helena to meet the magical Sid. Sid adjusted Cali’s back, talked to us about nerves firing and communicating — or not firing. Explained that there was a block in her spine preventing proper nerve signals from reaching her legs.

He doesn’t use any tools, just his hands. Though she startled once or twice, Cali sat patiently for her exam, gazing adoringly at Sid.

He showed me how to massage Cali’s thigh muscles and said that she’d start to develop her atrophied leg muscles over time. He then had me walk Cali around a bit, then looked at her gait and examined her again. He thought things were working properly.

The best part was, he did not think there was a tumor or other serious problem, and he thought he’d gotten things working again. We should come back in a few weeks or next time he was in Missoula.

Golden Retriever Cali twists her head to watch Sid, a man in a blue shirt and tan hatA few weeks later, I got a call from the “fixer.” I had an appointment. I was to meet Sid in the empty lot north of the Town Pump convenience store on North Reserve at 1 pm.

Feeling a little like a character in a spy novel, I did. I wandered around the dusty lot a bit, feeling silly. Soon, though, I saw a Forester pull in with Sid at the wheel, followed by a truck pulling a large horse van.

I was in the right place.

Cali was delighted to see Sid, bouncing and squealing.

Sid said that Cali seemed a little better; he made some more adjustments, and watched her walk a bit. He was satisfied. Cali was love-struck.

He explained that I would see very slow progress, as some of her leg muscles were severely atrophied and needed to develop strength. He added that I should come back to see him in a few months.

I rescheduled the Pullman visit so that I could see if there was any progress, and I waited. And walked Cali. A lot. I took her swimming several times, too.

We’ve been back to see Sid once more, in the same dusty lot. We do both see improvement. She’s still slipping on the floor, but less often. Her gait is a lot better; I only see the legs arcing out when Cali is tired. She’s also more playful and eager to walk, hike, or dance around the house.

I’ve still got that Pullman visit coming up, though. I still want the neurologist to examine Cali. I guess I am hoping for confirmation that there’s nothing wrong with Cali.

The Price of Being a Hero

Cali had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

It all started in the evening, when, as Cali sees it, her mom attacked her with a machete, leaving her paw a bloody stump. It’s true that, for the first time in her life, I nicked a nail, clipping a bit too short. I saw a total of three drops of blood. Cali ran outside and sulked, then came back in and put herself to bed. She soon fell asleep, holding paws with her now disarmed, and very sorry, mom.

Then, in the morning, I faced down the stares of two disbelieving goldens as I failed to serve breakfast on time. Unable to take the pressure, I fled to the relative safety of the gym. On the way home, I got confirmation that Cali’s annual appointment for the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study would take place as scheduled.

Cali’s day was going downhill, fast.

Cali was initially delighted by the impromptu ball game when I got home … until she realized that she was being played (with). While big-sis Jana was getting breakfast.

Then, in Cali’s mind, her mom truly went nuts. She started chasing poor, hungry Cali around the yard wielding a paper plate. Every time Cali squatted, Mom shoved that darn plate in places that really shouldn’t be mentioned in a family-friendly blog. No way was Cali going to pee on that thing! They then walked up and down the street, with Mom still carrying the plate, and Cali thoroughly sniffed everything. She even faked Mom out a few times. Cali sure showed Mom, though: No pee.

Finally, things started looking up. Cali was excited that she got to go in the car with me, and Jana had to stay home with her super-duper treat toy. Hey, wait a minute …

At the vet’s office, Cali danced in, eager to see all those nice people who would ply her with cookies and tell her what a good girl she is. She got her wish: lots of attention, but … no cookies. Instead, they stuck her with needles and drained some of her blood. They cut some of her hair. And they tried to suck out some pee with a syringe, but she fixed them, too. No pee. Then she got some cookies. Finally!

Next, we got to go out for lunch. At last; something fun for Cali! Cali finally got her breakfast and a big bowl of water, and she got to say HI! to about 20 people on that patio. They all told Cali that she was a good girl. Except the one lady who said she was a good boy. A boy? With those long blonde eyelashes?

Then … oh, no! Back to the vet! Poor Cali got poked and prodded some more; the vet techs scraped off the edges of her toenails (no blood this time), gave her a shot, and finally got some pee, and the vet looked into her eyes with a very uncomfortable bright light, examined her teeth and her ears, took her temperature (she didn’t like that part at all), filled out an endless questionnaire … and pronounced her perfect. And they all gave her cookies, of course. Lots of cookies. She didn’t plan to tell Jana that part.

When we left, we took two huge packages — which smelled very much like Cali — and raced to the FedEx dropoff. Just in time. Off the samples went, to join those of 2,999 other golden retrievers who go through this exhaustive exam every year as part of the study.

Cali, along with two of her brothers, is one of the Morris Foundation’s golden retriever “heroes,” hero #608, to be exact. They’ll each give up a day every year, throughout their entire lives, as well as copious amounts of samples, so that the study researchers can try to figure out what causes cancer in golden retrievers. And other dogs. And what can be done to prevent it. From there, who knows who else Cali and the other heroes will help.

Best of all, we got home in time for dinner (and a trip to the park)!