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.

Slipping and Sliding

Golden retriever Cali with a tennis ballCali’s has an ongoing issue with her back legs slipping out from under her. I’ve seen some posts on the Facebook group (ick, I know) for her Morris Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study mentioning the same thing … but not always with the same results. So I decided to share Cali’s story in hopes that it might help another dog.

She’s had an odd gait for a while, especially running. Her back legs seemed kind of floppy. One friend said it looked like her whole back end was going to just fly off of her body.

She never seemed to be in any pain, though, and loved to run, hike, and jump off the deck to chase tennis balls.

When I noticed that she was swinging her back legs out to the sides while walking, though, I decided to try to figure out what was happening. It was more noticeable on her right side, but both legs were arcing outward when she walked or ran — more noticeably when she was tired. She was also slipping a lot on our hardwood floors and sometimes on the sidewalk.

We went to her Morris study vet, who took some X-rays and decided that Cali had a partial ACL tear. She prescribed Adequan.

I did the Adequan injections for a while, but I did not think it was helping. And I did not think that Cali had a problem with her knee or ACL. She did not seem to be in any pain and still loved running and jumping.

I took her to see another vet in town, whom I have known for years and who is an excellent diagnostician. He examined Cali and watched her walk inside (slippery floor) and outside, and run. He agreed with me that her knees look fine and she did not seem to be in pain. He thought there might be a spinal or neurological issue, and he recommended consulting with a neurologist.

It turns out that veterinary neurologists are few and far between. None are in Montana, but there is one in Pullman, Washington, at the vet school hospital. With a months-long wait for an appointment.

We made an appointment, and waited. In the next couple of blog posts, I will continue Cali’s story.