Emergency Trip to the Vet!

I took so many things for granted with all of our Corgis.  One of those things was the fact that as show dogs, they were completely comfortable with total strangers petting and handling them.  From their earliest days, we tried to get them in front of strangers, being petted, having strangers touch paws and legs, check teeth, touch their ears, etc. Those dogs were never, ever stressed with strangers or being handled by anyone.  Never.

Rugby is the polar opposite of that.  As a very young puppy, he didn’t have owners who knew that he needed to be handled by many, many strangers to grow up feeling comfortable with them.  He didn’t get necessary socialization as a puppy to help him be able to cope as an adult.  He doesn’t handle change well, so it takes him a good long while to get used to new environments and longer yet to adapt to any new people that he sees.  If they’re going to handle him, it can take still longer, and it’s anyone’s guess how much handling he’s going to tolerate.  That makes vet visits challenging and interesting, because few vets have that sort of time and energy to give to just one dog.  Vet clinics are very busy, bustling places, and with demanding schedules, vets would love to give each patient all the time in the world, but often lack hours in the day!

026 (3)Well, all of that was put to the test this past week, as Rugby injured a front paw.  He was clearly in some distress. He would take two steps and lay down.  He wasn’t interested in going outside, which told us immediately that something was very wrong.  Rugby always wants to go outside!  I picked him out and carried him out.  He stood with no weight on his paw and looked up at me….confused as to why he was outside.

Rugby was completely relaxed with letting me gently touch and manipulate his paw and I very gently poked and prodded to see if I could find the source of the problem.  He had been licking the bottom of his paw, and all of the fur was completely soaked to the skin!  I couldn’t find any burs, sticks, rocks, thorns, etc. that would potentially cause him to limp.  I wondered if he had a hot spot that I was unable to see.

018Because he was unwilling to put weight on it, I decided that a call to the vet was in order, and made plans to take him in right away because they had an opening. Typically, anytime I take Rugby anywhere, he wears a Thundershirt, which helps him to be less reactive in general.  It has a nice calming effect on him, so we never leave home without it.  I also grab one of his beloved piggies, so that he has a friend along….just in case!

After we arrived at the vet’s office, I carried Rugby inside,  and quickly whisked him into an exam room.  That minimized anything scary that he would see, and I knew that he would be far less barky that way.  I chose to sit on the floor with him, and he crawled up in my lap and snuggled up….waiting for the scary people to come into the room.  Our regular vet was out of the office, so we were seeing her associate for the first time. She’s a really sweet, calm vet who I had met before and liked very much.  She walked into the exam room and sat right down on the floor with us.  Saying hello to Rugby, she carefully reached over to just give his head a little scratch…something we all do to our pets.  When Rugby saw her hand coming his way, he immediately flew from the right side of my lap to the left, hugged in tightly to me…..as far away from her as he could get.

013Something so simple as being petted by a complete stranger is something most owners take for granted with their dogs.  Rugby, goes right into panic mode, and every suspicious thought he can muster up comes right to the surface. For the balance of the appointment, he kept giving Dr. Stock sideways glances, which told me he didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her.

In came Ashley, Dr. Stock’s vet tech.  She also sat right down, facing Rugby.  He started to shake from the tips of his ears to the end of that floofy wagger!  Clearly he was sure that they were up to no good, and he was so scared!  No one was touching or reaching for him.  We were all just talking at this point, because he was not interested in letting them near him.

Ashley went for the dog treats, and suddenly, Rugby was much more interested in meeting her.  He stayed in my lap, but he reached as far toward her as he could, and happily ate his snacks.  After a few treats,  Rugby had relaxed enough that he was letting Ashley and Dr. Stock pet him and his shaking stopped.  He even came off my lap and laid down for Ashley….at her prompting…and rolled to his side for a quick belly rub….completely shocking me!  He rolled back and hopped up into my lap fairly quickly, but he was starting to relax and feel comfortable.

Dr. Stock snuck in her exam of his leg and paw as best she could, mostly just by stroking his leg/paw gently, and feeling around to check for swelling.  I almost think Rugby knows a white coat means they are the Uprights who poke and prod.  She wasn’t able to get a very thorough exam done, because any time she or Ashley went a bit too fast or a bit too far, Rugby quickly stopped them with a growl, firmly telling them he was very uncomfortable.

So, when all of the dust settled on the visit:

  • Rugby was able to wait calmly in his exam room before the vet came in.  Years before, he paced and chirped!
  • He took treats happily and calmly. Years before, he was so nervous at the vet, he would never eat treats at all.
  • He was able to warm up and allow two strangers to pet him after maybe 15 minutes.
  • He allowed a strange vet to stroke and feel his leg and touch his paw, looking for anything to cause his limp.
  • He followed directions nicely, from me and from the vet tech.
  • He may have growled, but he stopped quickly, and didn’t hold a grudge.  He simply wanted them to slow down.
  • He rolled to his side, twice, and let me give him a quick belly rub.
  • The outcome for the visit?  In Rugby’s mind, he went to the vet, had a few scary moments with strangers, ate some yummy treats, and got to come home. Score!!

We weren’t able to determine why Rugby wouldn’t put weight on his paw.  We could tell that the injury was to his paw, but unless Rugby would allow a very thorough exam which would likely require shaving the fur, there was really no way for Dr. Stock to make a complete determination.  We agreed to watch and see how he did.  Two days later, there was hardly a noticeable limp at all, so I suspect he either had a tiny cut or maybe just a bruise that needed time to heal up.

11.21.13 012I wish I didn’t have to think twice about bringing Rugby to the vet, but because of who he is, I have to carefully weigh out the stress he will feel with any procedure he has to endure.   If any serious handling is needed, he has to be knocked out, and that’s a huge consideration for me.  I’m absolutely blessed to have a vet’s office who understands my little speckled hot mess of a dog.  They know he needs extra time just to get comfortable, and they always give it to us.  They never make me feel like I’m a failure as a dog owner, because my dog has such a difficult time with simply being handled at all.  And they always make Rugby feel like he’s their very favorite dogger!








  1. Deb says

    My wonderful vet also sits down to greet my babies when they are in for a visit. They are all well socialized but it still makes the visit much more pleasant for them. By the time they get to the actual exam, they are happy as little clams. I wish this was a technique that more vets would start to use.

    • Sally says

      So glad to know that you have a terrific vet who understands how to put dogs at ease. My regular vet knows that Rugby will launch off of my lap and head for the door if she doesn't come in and sit down right away. Sitting down around dogs makes us appear smaller and less threatening to them. It's a great way to help them relax quickly and understand that we mean no harm. It's a technique I use all the time when I evaluate dogs. I also wish more vets and pet professional paid attention to the body language that they use with dogs. It's easy to do, and yields BIG results with dogs!

    • Sally says

      Most of Rugby's change comes in baby steps....inches at a time. It's so easy to feel like he's never getting there, and forget that he really is making forward progress. Situations like this are good reminders that he really is going in the right direction!! And his paw is doing much, much better!! <3

  2. Michelle S. says

    Great story Sally! The vet is an anxiety-provoking activity for most dogs and it's clear that your awareness of Rugby's needs made a big difference. How wonderful it must feel to recognize his growth! I sometimes feel bad when others criticize Spencer's anxiety around other dogs. They have no idea of his baseline and how far he's come. That progress is just something that I (& his dog walker) must carry in my heart.

    • Sally says

      Michelle, your comment really touched my heart, because only we know our dogs inside out, and the criticism is something I've long endured with Rugby. He really HAS made progress, as Spencer has, but often for challenging dogs, that progress just comes in baby steps, so it's hard to see and recognize. It's easy to overlook and forget! You're ALWAYS welcome to share victories with me, because I would love to celebrate with you! No forward progress is bad progress, no matter how small it might be! One of the goals I have with Rugby's Facebook page and also this blog is to help create community and support for other owners of challenging dogs! We have to stick together!! <3


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