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The Battle for Max's Leg

Three-legged agility

Until October 2002, Annie Redding and her dog Max trained once a week and practised over a few pieces of agility equipment at home nearly every evening. Then Max had a very bad accident and lost part of his hind leg. Amazingly that hasn't stop them doing agility. Now you should see the speed at which Max weaves! This is the story of a very brave dog!

Max, a Border Collie, was chosen by my mum as she liked his looks and thought that, as they were easily trainable, he’d be the perfect pet around the horses. Yes, they are energetic, but we have four acres of paddocks for him to play in. Besides his mother was the local Vicar's dog and walked beautifully past the house most days.

A difficult start
By the time he was one, playing ball in the paddocks in the evenings and herding the horses all day wasn’t enough to keep him amused. So before he started to herd us and the postman about, my mum took him to a local training centre that a few people had recommended. The trainer was Barbara Cooper and, we were told, she works miracles with ‘difficult’ doggies.

A few weeks later, he was behaving much better. Barbara suggested to further his training and to give him the confidence he’d never really had, he should try agility. My mum is no great runner so I decided to have a go. I signed up for as 6-week course to see what I thought.

Max discovers agility
Nearly 18 months later and we’d only missed one training session with him. I loved it and so did he. Although it took nearly a year and numerous running off to the car incidents for him to get his confidence on all the equipment, he was doing Novice level courses like he’d done them all his life. He’d gone completely clear for the first time a few weeks before and I’d registered him on the working register as ‘Count Duckula’ after my favourite TV programme when I was little. Now all we needed was a competition.

I was taking a long bath one sunny autumn Sunday morning when my dad shouted up that he was taking Max down to the side paddock. I was pleased, because he loved to be with people and to herd the birds, I felt guilty taking a bath while he sat outside the door waiting for me to play ball.

The accident
The next few hours were a blur, starting with my dad saying ‘oh no’ in a higher than usual pitch. I thought he was playing with Max, who had a habit of getting his toys stuck in awkward places, but there was something not quite right.

Max was usually an angel. He never went too close to machinery so he couldn‘t have got hurt, could he? The next thing I remember is the sight of Max, lying in a pool of blood with his back right hand side paw hanging from a flap of skin. Then there was a panicked drive to the vets, standing in the vets while they prepared the operating theatre, trying to block out the words of the vet. She was detailing how they would remove his leg. The leg of my agility doggie. My Max. My little starlet. Then there was holding a drip above him, holding his paw while they carried him through, telling him how wonderful he was before having to leave him, knowing that the next time I saw him, if I saw him again (what about the anaesthetic? Would he make it through? Had he lost too much blood?), he would be missing the lower half of his leg. He’d just rip the stitches out if they just took off the paw, apparently. It seemed like days in that place.

When we got home, the whole house was silent. We’d lost our Poodle six months earlier so there was no dog in the house at all. We were all crying, even the neighbours came round in tears.

A couple of hours later we got a call to say he’s made it through the anaesthetic. I was to call at 10am the next day to see if he was ready to come home.

At 10am on the Monday morning I’m told he’s still on a drip and to try again at 4pm. They were the longest six hours of my life. I tried to keep busy, doing things that would have to be done, taking down his jumps, packing away his tunnel, but I just couldn’t bring myself to dismantle the weave frame. I’d bought it for him a couple of months before and it was the first full size piece of equipment we’d owned.

I called my trainer, Barbara Cooper to tell her what has happened and ask about Tellington touch. When I put the phone down, I sat on the floor for half an hour and sob uncontrollably. I decided to look on the web for information about amputee dogs and agility. I’ve found so much information about agility on there, a manufacturer of equipment only 25 miles away, shows and all the registration forms for him. There must be something to help? All I could find was a few American sites and all the pictures are of dogs missing front legs, none of them have lost their back leg like Max had.

I was finally able to collect him at 4 pm. When I walked in, the veterinary Nurse I had been talking on the phone to ten minutes earlier called for Max to be brought out. My legs went to jelly. I wanted to sit down, but I was too scared to move. I don’t think I could have moved if I wanted to. When he hopped out I sat on the floor of the waiting room and hugged him tightly and howled my head off. I felt a mix of absolute devastation and complete relief and gratefulness that he’s still alive. Max was sitting on my knee, a very upset and confused little dog. I picked him up and carried him out and drove him home - minus a leg.

When I carried him into the lounge, his ears perked up at the sight of his toy box. I sat him on the sofa and wrapped him in one of his blankets. He laid there with his head on my knee and a ball next to him. For what must be the first time in his life, he didn’t want to play.

Half an hour later, he heard my mum say ‘I’m going the check the horses’ and leapt off the sofa. He stumbled a bit but the thought of running round the yard was too appealing for it to bother him. He seemed relatively happy but as soon as he’s back in the house he went straight onto the sofa and wouldn’t move. He didn’t want eat or drink anything but I’d taught him to drink on command so that he always had a drink after agility training so at least I was able to get him to drink enough.

TTouch therapy
That evening I went to see my trainer who showed me some TTouch moves. I practiced the ear work on her own collie and also the ‘clouded leopard’ movement. These two movements are particularly good at helping with stress and recovery from major trauma. I went home and repeated the moves on Max who was still curled up on the sofa. He hadn’t moved since I’d left two hours earlier.

I did the ear work and the clouded leopard on him three times a day for the next five days, and he started to regain his confidence and move about a bit more.

On the Saturday afternoon, I took him to see Barbara again. He was ever so pleased to be back at his training ground and went racing over to Barbara with his tail wagging like mad. It was the happiest I’d seen him since he lost his leg. With Barbara was a more experienced TTouch practitioner called Jeanette Atkinson. Max said hello to her too while I got his blankets and a toy out of the car.

In the training room he laid on his blanket while Jeanette started to do some moves on him. There was the ear work and the clouded leopard again and also some tail movements and Jeanette had a better effect on him with it than me as she’s so much better at it than me. She also worked the ’phantom leg’ and told me about how he’d still feel the leg for a while so the TTouch on it would have a positive effect for him. She also has a big powder brush with her. I did wonder why he’d need a powder brush but TTouch is all about stimulating the skin. She started to brush him ever so lightly over his back and the remaining leg and also on his phantom leg. I had a go too and begin to feel that I can really help him though this. He really enjoyed it and by the time we’re ready to go, he was getting really ticklish and was watching my hands. I was brushing him gently but soon he was wriggling around and loving every minute of it!



We also talked about his future. He’ll never be able to jump again at full height but may be able to go over small obstacles in the spring. Jeanette also suggested that he may make a good PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog as he’s so tactile. We talk about a suitable companion for him. I’d been considering another dog since our Poodle died but now he didn’t have agility training I felt a doggie companion was even more important.

When I took him home, we all noticed that he was visibly happier and moving about much more after his TTouch session.

Max returns to training
He was beginning to show signs of loneliness (being an only dog) and a walk in the woods wasn't enough any more to bring a smile back to his face. The only agility he was doing at home was the weaves and his tunnel, he'd raced towards them on a number of occasions and three weeks after his accident I'd allowed him to have a go at them; he was slower initially but extremely proud of himself for completing them!

My trainer suggested he join in with the Gold Award Group for three training sessions. On the first session he seemed happy enough to be at his training ground and talked to a couple of other dogs. He excelled at the 'down, stay' and his instant stop was every good indeed after all that agility training, however he was not so impressed at being expected to run up to me and not go past!

The next week, however, I got him out of the car as usual and rather than trying to race off to the training field, he panicked and got back in the car. He didn't even want to go to doggie training. I took him anyway, hoping that he would cheer up once he saw the field and his trainer.

Besides, he'd made friends with a Rottweiler, and I was hoping having a friend would give him some more confidence. The Rottweiler didn't turn up that week, but for the last 20 minutes we got to practice commands using some of the agility equipment. He jumped three fences in a row on mini height, flew through the weaves then trotted very confidently over a lowered A-frame. He went home grinning from ear to ear!

LemmyThe three training sessions made me realise that, because he could never return to agility training completely, he had to have a doggie companion. However, Max has always been a shy dog so anything assertive was out of the question and a very young puppy wouldn’t be suitable because it might send him flying.

Max now has a new friend, a Border Collie cross Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Lemmy who came from Wiccaweys Border Collie rescue. I started looking for a full Collie as a companion but when Sarah and Paul came to do the home inspection they brought 5 month old Lemmy along for the ride. He came and met Max in the paddock and they got on really well. Lemmy's got no common sense at all and is smaller than Max so was just what we were looking for!





To the max
It’s now nearly nine months on and Max is now regularly going over mini sized fences albeit only three of them, through tube tunnels and flying his weaves at home. He can move as fast as he ever did on four legs and has almost complete balance back.

The seesaw is not so great for him. We only have a small practice seesaw at home and although he will do it on command, he prefers to lie down and shuffle over it on his tummy as he can’t spread his front legs wide enough to gain proper balance standing up. We’ve not tried a dogwalk and unless I get a 3-foot high version for training Lemmy over he’ll probably never do one again. He’s only been over the A-frame once but was very confident on it. Once Lemmy is old enough to share it, I’ll buy one for the both of them to keep his life as interesting as possible.

I hadn't intended him to jump tyres any more because I didn't want him to hit it, fall and get upset but, as you can see from the photo (left), he LOVED jumping the tyre.

It’s been extremely difficult for everyone who knows Max, watching him go from an incredibly confident dog back to a nervous wreck who was scared to walk too far in case he lost his balance, but he’s probably back to close to normal. He enjoys doing the two fences he has a home and combining them with the weaves and a game of ball. He and Lemmy run round the paddocks herding the birds together very happily and enjoy nothing better than to clamber about on the horses muck heap. They really smell after that!

Unless you’re looking, most people don’t notice his missing leg. His other leg sits more centrally than previously and his tail hangs more to the side of the missing leg now to help with his balance. He’s also got a much improved right hand turn, lean over, stump on floor and spin!

Thank you to Edna Bird and Andrea Powis for the loan of the agility equipment in the pictures and to Jeanette Atkinson who took the TTouch photos specifically for this article.

About the author...
Annie Redding
is a life long Poodle fan who now also adores Border collies. Max is her first BC. She also owns Lemmy, the collie X Cavalier King Charles.

Annie comes from Lincolnshire and works in Financial Planning.

For more information about TTouch, contact Jeanette Atkinson on jeanette@HealthGen.co.uk