Sometimes Life’s A Grind

It’s been eight months since the grooming mishap when I cut Kali’s dew claw too close and she ended up needing minor surgery to repair it; actually to remove it because it was cracked and kept bleeding.  I spent days kicking myself at the time for hurting her and since then I’ve been very reluctant to have another go at it trimming nails.  Surely Kali would pick up on my reluctance and anxiety if i was to try again so I’ve put it off.

When Kali had a professional teeth cleaning a few months ago the vet trimmed her dew claws since she was out for the count during the cleaning.  Recently I’ve noticed that they have been growing very fast and I knew I would need to do something soon.  This morning she spent about 20 minutes nibbling on her paws; specifically her dew claws.  They were obviously bothering her and I had put off doing anything too long.  They were pretty long and beginning to curl.   My bad…

At the time of her surgery to correct my blunder my vet suggested I look into getting a nail grinder and begin to slowly get Kali accustomed to the sound of the grinder while working my way up to actually using it on her nails. I never got around to doing this -until this morning.  Before heading to the pet store I did some reading on line to get a basic idea of what was available.  The clerks at the pet store I go to are very educated on the products they sell and I trust them.  A simple “starter” model was suggested, I paid the clerk, and was on my way home to begin what I thought would be a days-long process to get Kali used to the sound of the grinder.  I figured that I would have to slowly graduate up to holding her paw in my hand while the grinder was turning, and then finally actually using it.

I purposely didn’t take Kali with me to the pet store this morning because she gets a little antsy if I stand around talking to the clerks too long and I had a lot of questions about the grinders and proper technique.  When I arrived home Kali was immediately interested in the bag I had in my hand.  She came up to me, nudged the bag, smelled it, and decided that it might be food, or have something to do with food because her nose told her it was from the pet store.  I seized the opportunity to reward her for her interest and gave her a couple of biscuits while making a big deal out of the bag.   Kali stayed by my side as I took the grinder out of the packaging.  The grinder was seated in that very annoying rigid plastic clam shell packaging that has absolutely no effective method to open without using a chain saw unless you have grizzly bear paws for hands.  If I ever meet the person who came up with that packaging idea I will punch him or her straight in the face.  But I digress…

As I struggle and complain about the packaging Kali remains fixed on the grinder, now even more sure that it will lead to food.  I continued to reward her with a couple of more biscuits while I inserted the batteries.

I went to the refrigerator and pulled out the high value treats I keep in a jar; small pieces of beef and chicken rolls that I cut into bite-size pieces.  If I didn’t have Kali’s full attention before I certainly did now!  I sat down with the open jar on the table, the grinder in my hand, and Kali in front of me.  OK, I thought – let’s see how she does with the sound…  I turn on the grinder keeping it a fair distance from Kali as I hand her a treat. She  doesn’t flinch other than to flick her eyes back at the jar on the table.  Smokey on the other hand is a bit skittish with anything that sounds even remotely like the vacuum cleaner (at only 11 pounds you can’t blame him!) and he goes running under the table seeking quick shelter from the noise.  The difference in focus  for Kali and Smokey at this juncture was not surprising.   Kali’s only interest is the jar of treats and how she can get more.  Smokey was interested in not getting vacuumed up….

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“How can you hand me a treat if one hand is on my paw and your other hand is on the device that you think frightens me?

I continued to turn on and off the grinder while rewarding Kali for her calm demeanor and focus.  I wasn’t planning on putting the grinder anywhere near her paws, let alone dew claws, for the first few sessions but things were going very well.  So after a quick trim of the hairs around her dew claws I had Kali take a full down position with me also sitting on the ground.  I held her dew claw in my left hand and gave her a treat.  With her paw still in my hand I turned on the grinder and while it whirred I gave her a treat.  She was loving life at this point.  “What paw?”, she seemed to say.  I positioned her claw next to the grinder and gently pushed it towards the spinning grinder pad.  With a puff of smoke the dew claw was reduced by about an eight of an inch.  After more treats and more grinding the claw was back to an acceptable length. I moved on to the other paw and after only a matter of minutes we were done.

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“Keep that treat jar nearby and you can do whatever you want with my paws…”

Kali was an absolute angel. I was very proud of her and proud of myself for knowing her tendencies, when to push a bit and when to back off.  Today worked out great for both of us and although the dew claws are not quite as short as I’d like I didn’t want to push my luck.  I wanted to end on a positive note and so we did.  We’ll have have another session in the next day or so to finish up.

Do any of you use nail grinders on your pups?  I’d love to hear about how it works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Kicking Myself: Epilogue

I’m no longer kicking myself and I managed to correct the mistake; the mistake of cutting Kali’s dew claw in a manner that it split and exposed the quick. So me with a sore butt from kicking myself and Kali with a slightly sore foot are finally doing better and are back to our routine. This is a good thing since we are both such creatures of habit.

As suspected the entire nail had to come off. So after the vet examined the nail on Monday afternoon I left Kali with her. I was very proud of Kali who let the vet examine her nail without flinching or making a fuss. The biscuit I held in front of her nose didn’t hurt the effort… Brenda, Kali’s new vet, said she’d be ready to pick up at 5:00 (Kali not Brenda  🙂 So I left Kali, went home, and watched the final innings of the San Francisco Giants home opener on TV.  I was surprised that I wasn’t stressed or worried. I don’t like anesthesia. Even with the modern technology to monitor blood oxygen levels mistakes can happen and if there isn’t enough oxygen flowing through the blood to the brain there can be irreversible damage. But I wasn’t worried and the only stress I had in my body was from watching my Giants losing the game.

When Holly and I arrived to pick up Kali the med tech told us what a great patient she was. I was like a proud dad talking to the doctors after a child’s tonsillectomy. The med tech brought Kali out and she had a major wrap job on her foot. She was happy to see us and was released with some antibiotics, pain meds to be used only if she needed them (she didn’t), and no restrictions for activity beyond the first night of “taking it easy”.

When we got home it was evident that Kali was still a little loopy from the anesthesia. She had a blank stare about her and when she lied down and fell asleep she had major dreams and was growling off and on in her sleep.

Although it was little hard for her to walk up the stairs that night she slept soundly through the night and by morning all was well. We took a couple of short walks with the bandage on the next day.   It probably felt a little strange to her to walk along the path with a artificially padded foot but she did fine and was glad to be back on the trail.

Last night I took off the bandages. It was really cool to watch Kali as I unwrapped all the bandages, tape,and padding the medical staff had compressed around the wound area. Although she was never in any pain Kali was not real pleased about her foot being wrapped. As I unraveled and removed the bandages she looked up at me and seemed to say thank you for getting all the “stuff” off her foot.

So today for the first time in almost two weeks we walked without a cracked nail, blood, or a bandage. Kali walked, I walked.  And for the first time in almost two weeks I didn’t kick myself.

Golden Kali (and Dad) is back!

Wrapped (looks a little like those socks the race horses wear - kinda cool!)

Wrapped (looks a little like those socks the race horses wear – kinda cool!)

Unwrapped (looks like we got our money's worth)

Unwrapped (looks like we got our money’s worth)

After the procedure and bandages off

After the procedure and bandages off

I’m still kicking myself

I’m still kicking myself.  Holly told me to let it go but my nature is to continue kicking myself until I correct the mistake I made.  Sometimes it takes longer than I’d like but I usually find a way to fix “it” whatever it happens to be…  And I will this time too!

Kali’s nails never need clipping because our daily walks seem to keep them short.  They pretty much always look the same.  Neatly manicured by mother nature.  Except for her dew claws.  These tend to get long and I know when they begin to bother Kali because she’ll start to chew on them.  So last week when I saw her chewing on them I took a look and sure enough they looked like little hooks and in need of a trim.  I’ve trimmed them a few times and although it’s not a favorite grooming activity of Kali’s (to say the least) she usually reluctantly complies and I’m able to get off a quick snip without any problems.

But not last week.  Last week Kali squirmed away just as I was pressing down on the handle of the clippers and I immediately knew that I had hurt her.  I caught the nail too close to the quick.  There was a bit of blood and probably a bit of pain for Kali.  Holly helped and as I held Kali still Holly quickly cauterized the nail with styptic powder and wrapped the area with a sterile bandage and gauze.

Kali was fine but I wasn’t.  I walked around the kitchen saying, “#%&!!…”.  Holly:  “Stop it, she’l be fine.  It happens”.  Me:  “&*%$#!!”.

I went over to Kali who was now laying down and settled.   “I’m so sorry Kali.  I’m so sorry I hurt you”.  Kali didn’t seem to be in any pain and other than being a little confused about the bandage on her paw everything was fine.  But not for me.  I wasn’t fine and I’m still kicking myself.

The next morning I was surprised to find the paw quite swollen but during the course of the morning the swelling resolved and everything seemed fine.   Kali let me hold her paw and squeeze it gently.  There was no apparent pain.  The nail was black but there was no bleeding so I didn’t re-bandage it.   Then a couple of days later Kali was running in the yard and I saw her pull up and come hobbling back towards the house.  The nail was bleeding again.  We bandaged it and again the next day it was fine.  Yesterday on our walk I noticed it bleeding.  When we got home I did a closer inspection and could see that the nail was split – much like a hangnail – and the quick was exposed.  Great – more kicking myself and some silent #%$^@!!”s.  Kali walked on it fine but when I touched the “hangnail” she didn’t like that at all.  When I moved the small piece it clearly hurt her.

Kali tried her best to be a good soldier; she knew what I wanted.  I wanted her to hold still while I washed and bandaged her paw.  But she was too scared and her instincts overrode the desire to obey.  It was an interesting dynamic seeing in her eyes both acknowledgement of what I wanted and also the fear of being hurt.

It took about 15 biscuits and some magician-like maneuvers to get it cleaned and re-bandaged.   I soaked it for a few minutes in a pan of warm water, dried it off, and put on a new sterile bandage wrapped with gauze.  Kali gave the bandage a cursory lick but for the most part ignored it and went off to sleep in the sun while I scoured “source of all truth” (the internet)  to gather more information about cracked dew claws.

Like most things you read about on the internet, and in life,  there are many versions of the truth.  But I did gather enough reasonable information to feel as though I had done the right thing by wrapping Kali’s dew claw up and keeping it clean.   It was quite interesting to read comments in forums from many dog owners that suggest the dew claw should be removed completely in order to avoid the problem in the first place. Many owners advocate amputation when the dog is spayed or put out for some other reason.   I’m no expert but that seems rather excessive and not something I would ever consider unless it became medically necessity.  There were many countering opinions that suggested that dog’s need this appendage to help them maneuver when running and turning quickly as well as helping to hold things still such as a bone or Kong toy.  That seemed much more reasonable to me.

Kali’s is no pain and walks just fine but clearly something needs to be done.  So to be sure I’ll take her to the vet to get a professional assessment and to see if the nail needs to be clipped completely off in order to grow back properly or what the best treatment may be.  I’m hoping the prognosis is that it will resolve itself without medical intervention but I’m not very optimistic. I’ll know later today after we see the vet.

One thing I do know for sure is that it will be difficult for me to trim Kali’s dew claws in the future.   We’ll get past this and then I will begin a regimen of touching her toes and nails without involving clippers in order to get Kali used to it and to regain her confidence in me.  It’s really something I should have done in the first place. I should have been regluarly touching her toes and nails and lavishing her with treats to reinforce her allowing me to do so before I ever attempted to clip the first time. Had I done so she wouldn’t have pulled away last week.  There would be no cracked dew claw and no drama for my Golden Kali girl.

Like the old saying goes “should’ve, would’ve could’ve”.  I knew better and ignored it.   And for that, I’m still kicking myself.

Give me more biscuits or I'll pull off the bandage  :)

Give me more biscuits or I’ll pull off the bandage 🙂