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The Broken Foot

Mom turned 51 this year.  Hard to believe huh?  She's been busy all summer working with Grandma, who turned 67 in September, on the house next door.  I knew things were going weird when Mom spent so much time over at the new place.

For a while Mom trained at Grandma's house and then we trained in Mom's yard and finally at the new place.  It was nice, but still, Mom kept going over with Grandma and working over at the new place.  I could hear the saw and the drill and Max and I could see Mom wander back and forth and she was weaving and stumbling.

One day she was pretty bad.  See, her medication was a bit off and she was stumbling over her words and forgetting things a lot and even starting to sleep off and on when driving.  I had been bump-bumping her with my chin or side of my muzzle to keep her awake in the van when she drove and was walking beside her when she was weaving and forgetful.  Her leg would fold out from under her more and she was at greater risk of falling.  Max would walk on her other side and we'd make sure she didn't walk into things; sometimes we'd have to bark to stop her from walking into something if we were too far away.

Problem, that day Mom wouldn't let us be with her.  She was smelling of paint and I could hear her talking to Grandma and she sounded all wrong.  She sounded like she does when she's having problems with her balance and noticing things.  When she's like that she also is really forgetful and really needs me to pay attention to her safety for her.

Max started it.  As we heard her in the front of the new home working we could tell she was no longer able to process her world.  She was breathing heavy and we could hear the clomp clomp of her feet.  Grandma had said one part of the floor was dangerous and not to step on it and we feared for Mom.  We had to get her attention and get her to come out and get us to be with her.

Max howled.  Long and low he began like a wolf with his head thrown back and kept it up as he sat beside the fence that bordered the new property.  I looked to him and realized what he was doing.  He'd never howled before and so, like him, I sat and threw my head back and together we howled in unison as a pair of wolves.

I don't know how long we sung in unison.  We mixed our voices until Grandma came out and yelled at us.  It was, too late.  Mom had fallen through the floor.  She'd taken one too many steps and went through the floor, a warning Max and I had tried to give her, and she'd been so far gone she'd not heard us.

Our summer would continue that way.  Warning!  Oooops.  Sorry Mom.  It would end in late Fall with Mom trying to step past Max the night before her birthday and seriously injuring herself.

She had been struggling with a huge set of changes and I had been listening to her talking to Jack, her therapist, about them.  One was the change in location and focusing her energy on building her training center.  It took all of her energy away from focused training and her client base just fell away.  It bothers Mom, but she has only so much mental and physical energy to dedicate to a single project - training, building the training center or rebuilding her life.  She can't do it all at once.

Matter of fact, she can't engage in personal life activities, train dogs and do a third major thing in her life.  It's one major thing at a time.  Period and she needs time to make choices and changes.

So, when she changed from working at Diamonds in the Ruff to working at her own location and needing to building up her center, a lot of her focus got changed.  Then she got a personal home care giver.  A lot of adjusting to having a person help with small things around the house had to happen.  Mom isn't used to strangers coming around and helping, so that was new.

When she fell she seriously injured her shoulder.  She had to train me to work on the right side instead of the left.  She couldn't though because she could barely use her left shoulder.  Aunt Diane came out and worked me, THANK YOU, and I learned how to work on Mom's right side.

Meanwhile Mom had to be showered by her caregiver and was coming off of her medications.  This was was because of the pain center she was going to closing.  She was sent to a new pain center, but that center and her didn't get along.  The person running it was very intrusive in Mom's mental health, refused to continue Mom's current medication, even the non-narcotic, and she was coming cold turkey off of major medications which mad Mom very snarky.

She was fighting for her Food Benefits, learning how her SSDI would be dispensed, figuring out how to pay her bills with the "Every 4th Wednesday" pay period and just starting therapy.  I had to work overtime keeping Mom calm and in her skin.  I did a lot of chin rests, eye contact, getting her out of bed when she was over-sleeping and more to keep Mom going.  I was truly glad Jack was there the day she broke down when she had a blow out with the pain doctor.  She just hit her stress limit and couldn't take anymore and Jack and I worked overtime calming her.

She lost her primary doctor too.  He dropped her because the pain doctor and her didn't get along.  Jerk.  She got a new doctor who was great.  She filled all but one prescription and Mom said she wasn't worried about that one.  The doctor was cool with that. With those prescriptions filled and Mom happy with her new, very empathic doctor and a new referral to a pain clinic, she felt better.

Mom had some stuff done on her shoulder too.  Needles put into it and MRIs done and stuff.  So much pain.  No real pain killers, but Mom flew threw and did good.  She did have some stuff put into the joint to reduce the swelling.

Then the night before her birthday I bump-bumped her hip to tell her Dieter needed out.  Dieter is old and needs out and she doesn't always hear him when he asks.  She sleeps with her back to her side of the bed now, so I walk to that side and bump-bump her hip with my chin and then rest my chin on her hip to tell her to wake up.  If that doesn't work I stand on the bed with my front feet and see if she looks at me, if she doesn't I put my paw on her, if that doesn't work, then I lick her.  That always works.

That night I just needed to bump-bump her.  She got up and let Dieter and I out.  She waited until Dieter came back in and put him back in his crate.  She had been, ever since several of her doctors had sent her to physical therapy, working on walking different.  She has been with me and without me.  I have noticed it and so has Max.  We have been driving her nuts because we have both been walking right before her knee on the left side and she's been asking we not.  She forgot after all of this time, Max said.

I knew, I knew when we were doing physical therapy and she was trying to train me away from her leg.  The therapist asked her to make me stop my job.  I am a living brace.  Max told me so and I get it so much now.  I failed the night before Mom's birthday.  I failed so bad.

See, in physical therapy they wanted Mom to walk heal to toe and to not walk side to side like she had been.  Well, Mom had started that so Max would stop wrapping around her leg when walking forward.  If walking a bit wide legged like a penguin instead of forward like a human, then Max didn't have to wrap around Mom's leg.

When I started with Mom she already walked that way and I didn't begin the habit of wrapping around her leg.  Max, who walked closer to Mom's hand when he started with her would touch her hand when she was anxious or her leg was about to buckle, would also move into her leg when it would begin to buckle and stop it from giving out.

I walked more forward because I was longer and so I touched her knee and naturally caught her leg and would look back after it buckled.  I guess I never thought much about it until after I got older, because it was minor and hard for people to see most of the time.

That was, until her physical therapist started having her wear a gate belt and not use me to walk.  She wanted Mom to walk without waddling side to side and not have me in front of her.  Uh, wait!  What?  See, the first thing I did was default to being curved around her left leg.  I didn't even realize I did it, I just did it.

So, Mom took out the treats and we practiced Loose Leash Walking.  Oh, okay.  I can do that.  Normally Mom is more stable than this, but okay.  Off we went and she kept me from protecting that leg and it did what I knew it would do, even when I poked it once and told her it would.  It collapsed out and Mom had to catch herself with me and the person with the gate belt caught her.  OH!  THEY are going to keep Mom safe. Got It.

So, we did this over and over.  Mom rewarded me a lot for NOT alerting to when she was going to loose her balance and NOT alerting to when her leg was about to fold out from under her and NOT being close enough to be a living brace and NOT wrapping around her leg to protect her in the event of a fall because that was what the therapist wanted.

I grew lazy.  Mom and I should have retrained again AFTER all of that to what I should have been doing when NOT in therapy.  Silly us.  Because that night, after letting Dieter out, I just ignored Mom walking past Dieter's crate and Max, and didn't give her a guide to keep her safe in the dark like I normally did.  Mom was keeping her balance over the leg like the therapist said, not like she had been, which prevented what came in a few seconds, and without my wrapping around her leg on that one step I knew she took and I always wrapped around before, it happened.

Mom's leg gave out from under her.  It was like someone had turned it off and disconnected the power.  I wasn't there to stop it from going all the way to the floor, it didn't go sideways like normal and strike the bed because of the new position therapy put it in, and since she was stepping just past Max who always laid in the same spot, she knew exactly where she was stepping and how he was laying, she knew she couldn't just drop to the floor.  She broke her foot because she collapsed just over the top of it and over extended the bones.  She wouldn't have, had her living brace been doing his job.

It was a series of errors.  Mom, with her medications out of whack, couldn't think her way out of a paper sack and it was only after the break and thinking of it she told us WHY it happened.  She realized that she knew Max and her had worked out a way to prevent such an incident from happening back when her leg began doing just such a thing and she hadn't thought about it in years.

When doing therapy with her medications off, trying to comply and improve herself, not thinking of the mechanics of why she was walking the way she was and why she'd stopped the way they wanted, while walking, talking and working me, she couldn't, with her brain injury process all of those parts.  She really needs to pay attention to me more and listen; just stop and say, "Wait, Malcolm is trying to say we are about to mess something important up.  The last time I didn't listen to him I broke my foot.  Let's stop and let me think.  Why is he doing this, and why is it important I don't stop him."

In truth she said, she needs to remember the old saying, "Listen to your dog."  Sometimes we may just know something!!

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