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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fitness for Blind and Deaf Dogs

Treasure is embarking on a new and improved fitness program.  It's hard to keep her fit and trim because she is not as active as the other dogs.  They want to go, go, go (and quickly!) on their walks and they enjoy running together in the nearby field.  Treasure's pace is one of leisure, carefully smelling her way through a walk.  She prefers to walk slightly behind me so she can follow my scent.  I would not be able to walk her with my other dogs and give them each what they need and want from a walk.  This means that I need to make it a priority to take them out separately.  

When Shelby was alive, she and Treasure both walked slower and we would take a separate walk around the yard - just us three girls.  As Shelby slowed down even more, those walks became shorter and eventually all but stopped except for her really good days.  I didn't make it a priority to take Treasure out again for a walk by herself.  So, she spent a lot of this winter in the house.  

She started to put on a couple extra pounds, so I cut back on her food amount to help with that.  And although she is now a good weight, she is out of shape.  I want her to live for a long time, so I want her muscles, heart and lungs to stay strong and for her joints to remain flexible for as long as possible.  This means - exercise!  

Now that the weather is getting nicer, I will be focusing on building up Treasure's endurance for walking with me, and then experimenting to see if we can quicken the pace just a bit.  It is unlikely that Treasure will go any faster than a slow trot, because she can't see what is in front of her, so she's learned to go at a more conservative pace to avoid smacking into something hard or falling into a hole in the ground.  But I would like for her to be able to go on longer walks with me.  

Treasure does enjoy her time with me learning tricks and doing nosework.  She does get some exercise doing various tricks that allow her body to stretch and move in different ways and improve her balance and proprioception skills.  I have balance discs, and a balance ball and peanut and each of these challenge her to use her muscles and help keep her toned.  

I know all too well that starting up a new exercise program can leave muscles sore and tired.  I also learned recently that if there is pain during a workout, the muscles protect themselves and don't work as hard, so they are not really building any strength.  So, my goal is to go slowly enough that Treasure is always having fun and ready for more when we stop, and that she never gets sore.  That's no fun for anyone, and I want her to build strength, so it's important to keep her under that pain threshold.  

Walks are such good exercise physically, but walks also allow Treasure to experience different surfaces, smells, textures, and sensations.  She loves to feel the warmth of the sunshine on her coat, and to smell all the amazing farm smells on the breeze.  Each new surface - grass, gravel, black top, wood - is a new experience for her and requires her to adjust her balance and pace somewhat.  

I'll try to keep the readers updated on our new fitness adventure.

Enjoying our longer walks together ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March happenings

It's March already.  The time has certainly flown by.  We've all had a couple months of changes and adjustments and being cooped up inside way too much because of the winter weather.  

Our dear Shelby (Jack Russell/Dachshund mix) passed away in late January.  She had been with me for nearly 18 years, from the time she was a puppy.  She was the oldest here, and all the dogs had learned to respect her and to watch out for her.  It's interesting while going through my own grieving process to see how each of them looked for her and reacted to her being gone.  But slowly our lives have returned to some sense of normalcy.  

As many times as I have sat down to write about Shelby, there just don't seem to be adequate words to express how integral she has been in my life for the past 18 years.  So I haven't written anything yet.  But she is so very missed ... 

While we were stuck inside this winter, the dogs and I have been working on their trick dog titles.  Vegas and Treasure both earned their Intermediate Trick Dog Titles!  Owen earned his Expert Trick Dog Title, and Brinks earned his Advanced Trick Dog Title.  We've been very busy.