By Kendall De Menech. I remember the first time Bob and Alicia brought their new baby chocolate labrador to the pool. He was only a few months old and full of wiggles and squiggles. He pulled on the leash and could hardly contain the enthusiasm that generated from his wagging tail. He wanted to meet and greet and then do it again. He was adorable.
Bob said: ” Remi, sit”, in a calm voice and the puppy tucked his hips under as fast as he could and looked up into his dad’s eyes as if to say: “I’m a good boy!”. His tail flashed left/right as fast as it could making it near impossible to hold the steady sit. Bob smiled and said: “Good boy.”
Remi, true to his breed, took to the water naturally and swam hard. His genetic coding seemed to speak of bird dog. We started to train him to retrieve and to respond to proper commands like fetch it up, go back, sit/stay and ready, steady, go. He moved on through the swim program to “go left, turn right” and Remi devoured every challenge. His drive was awesome and his heart was good and, constantly, he looked up and sent me the message: “I am a good boy!”. And without a doubt in my mind, he was!
The family took a break from swimming for a while and I lost touch with Remi. Now and then I would bump into Bob and Alicia in the mall parking lot as I was walking back to my car and I would be fortunate enough to get an update. If I was lucky, they would invite me over to their vehicle and bring Remi out to show my how beautifully he had grown. Still full of wiggles and tail wags, Remi would greet me as the long lost friend, or maybe as the not forgotten Lady with the Pool friend! He turned into a not so big, gorgeous, copper brown lab, well put together, energetic and sweet. I was so happy to catch up with him.
Then he met his Waterloo. An accident, unexpected and sad. Remi took off and was hit by a car. He shattered his hind leg and broke his pelvis. Bob and Alicia rushed him to a vet. He had lost 55% of his volume of blood. He was lifted up on to the stainless steel table and examined then stitched up and given intravenous fluids. He gazed at the vet and the vet techs and his owners and never complained. He was shocky and stoic. The next morning Remi was taken to a second vet. X-rays were studied and it was decided the leg could not be saved. The decision came between surgery and euthanasia and Bob and Alicia, devastated as they were, knew exactly what their decision would be.
Amputation is so very hard on the owners. The question that lurks in the mind is, will my young dog have an acceptable quality of life? How can I disfigure my dog? Will he walk again? Will he run, play, be the strong and free spirit as a three legged dog as he was as a four legged dog? The guilt and the concern are overwhelming for the owners. I believe it is easier for the dog who is facing amputation to go into the surgery room, than it is for the owners. The dog is going in confused, shocky and full of pain. Once the surgery is successful, the dog will exit surgery in less pain, medically supported and feeling healthier, even though the limb has been removed. The owners though are full of concern, perhaps questioning their decision, guilt ridden, and emotional. The unknown is a heavy weight.
The veterinarian who took off Remi’s leg said Remi would spend at least 24 if not 36 hours at the clinic in recovery. Bob was prepared for that. However he got a call just hours after Remi recovered from his anesthetic and it was the clinic receptionist saying: “Remi is ready to come home.” The dog was up on three legs, wagging his tail and his golden eyes were full of life. Alicia and Bob were at the clinic in a flash. although I personally was not present for the moment, I can imagine that they met Remi as he came out of the backroom, trying so hard to balance on his new pegs, and he looked at them and said: “I am a good boy.”
Remi’s amputation took place in late December 2012 and I got the call from Bob in early January. Bob, bless his heart, said the first person they thought to call was me as he felt swimming would not only give Remi the emotional boost he needed after the surgery, but would help him gain his new balance based on only three legs. Bob was wise! We quickly set an appointment.
The first day he came for a swim, Alicia was really concerned Remi would panic in the water. She sat on my deck, and was scared. Even though he was a water dog, Remi lacked power and balance due to the lost leg. I loaded him in a life jacket and supported him under the belly and helped him down the ramp into the pool. Then I looked at Remi and with his golden eyes, he said: ” I am a good boy.” I threw a tennis ball a short distance out and without skipping a beat, he launched himself off the ramp and swam to the ball. He took a wide turn to the right, came back to the ramp, sat down, dropped the ball and said, ” Do it again.”
He swam out again and I closely followed him with my hands placed gently over his hips. I felt muscles on each side of his pelvis pumping as he kicked. Even with his leg missing, he still worked both legs in unison to create his strong hind end kick. His lower back was getting a good even work out and this would give him a a therapeutic spinal workout. I looked up at Alisha and she was so excited and so relieved. Bob was beaming and full of pride. Their dog was back, he was going to be fine.
Remi has had four swims at the time of this writing and he is now swimming without a lifejacket, a full 30 minutes, is back to climbing stairs, playing more and certainly full of beans. He pulls his way into the pool room and I have to muscle him gently down the ramp, much to his displeasure. He would rather explode in a fury of speed and excitement as swimming is truly his passion. He is always polite and exuberant. He is a normal chocolate labrador. He is 100% normal, just one leg-less. For Remi, his amputation is really not a big deal as he is so totally capable of dealing with it. Dogs believe in the religion that says: “Live in the moment, it is what it is.”
So my swims with Remi are a pure joy. He tries his hardest to be the great dog he is. I watch him drive out and retrieve and in the background, from the deck, I hear a baritone male voice say, “Fetch it up, that’s a good boy, Remi.” And Remi and I are happy to agree.
K9 H2O:Kendall De Menech owns and operates K9 H2O which hosts an indoor canine aquatic facility with diverse and multifunctional programming.
Secluded in a casual working environment, the facility offers an 80,000 liter, warm water indoor swimming pool, retrofitted and sanitized to accommodate dogs.
All swims are by appointment only. Please call or fax to: 604-864-2284.
Originally published Feb 18, 2013