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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Emotional Rollercoaster - The Izzy Ride

It's been a while since our last Blog back in April & so much has happened in that time, but we're now finally starting to catch up on things! We've got a host of Blogs coming, which will hopefully make up for the 3 month gap - of course the day we spent recently with the NYPD Transit Bureau K9 team while we were in New York will feature!

NYPD Transit Bureau K9 Team

Those of you who follow us on Twitter (@WMP_Dog) will know that we've been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster over the past few weeks with Izzy.

We said in our last Blog that the plan was for Izzy to compete at this year's BPSCA Trials, so since getting back off our honeymoon we'd worked really hard getting Izzy up to scratch & prepared for the trials.

There's a few little exercises that form part of the trials that we wouldn't really train for standard Police dog preparation, so we had a couple of things we had to train for that we'd never really done before. I was a little bit worried that we may have left it a little too late to start her - especially on things like the weave poles. 

However, with the clicker re-loaded we set about teaching her a few new 'tricks' for the trials. Regular readers of our Blogs will know that I'm heavily into marker training - (Check out our Clicker Training Blog) Had it not been for the power of marker training, I think we'd have struggled to get the exercises trained in time & to such a good standard.

After doing a bit of research on the internet & speaking to a few of my good training contacts, we set about teaching & polishing up on the exercises needed for the trials.

What's really great amongst the people we work with is that everyone is happy to help & support one another. We had some great support in getting Izzy polished up & we're really grateful to the guys who took a little bit of time out of their own days/evenings to help us.

I'm a big believer in sharing knowledge & the more people work together, the better our training methods become and ultimately the better our dogs become. So it's a huge thanks to WMP Breed Scheme (@wmppup) Managers Dave & Tez, and also to Carl & Gaz who took the time to help us train in the evenings. It's impossible to train for certain exercises on your own, so without these guys we'd have been unable to work towards the trials.

Izzy bite development

So after many hours of working with Izzy, we headed up to Cosford Dog Training for the weekend before the trials just to give her a quick blast of the agility course & to polish up a little bit of her bite work exercises. 

Even though Fitz was competing with his super dog Jimmy, he was still there giving us advice on how to get Izzy performing to the highest level. It's a great testament to Fitz, that despite Izzy being in competition with his own dog, he was still happy & willing to do whatever he could to help us get Izzy upto a really high standard.

Super Jimmy in action at BPSCA trials

So the weekend before the trials, I was pretty confident that Izzy would have made a really good account of herself at the trials. That's all I wanted from her, to perform well enough at 18 months old to be up there or thereabouts against experienced operational dogs. 

We were on top of the world. In just a week of training, she'd gone from never seeing a weave pole to flying around them like an agility level Border Collie! 

The plan was to just tick over during the week & be ready for the trials on Saturday, knowing that we'd done everything we could to get her ready to perform well.

What we weren't prepared for was the events that took place on the Tuesday before the trials.

Disaster struck . . . . .

Izzy's had ear troubles since we had her at around 6 months old, what we initially thought was an ear infection on the day we had her, actually turned out to be a perforated ear drum. But she keeps developing these recurring yest infections in her ears.

Sadly, having had Izzy at 6 months old, she hadn't been through the same extensive habituation programme we place on our pups from 6 weeks old & as such we discovered that she had a real phobia of the vet & especially people examining her ears. 

Over the course of the time we've had Izzy she's got better with her ears & will now let me look inside them & clean them etc, however if we get any drops out to put in her ear it's a different story. Similarly she won't let the vet anywhere near her ears! I can't tell you the reason she's so phobic about her ears nor how she ended up with a perforated ear drum, however suffice to say the vet has no chance of looking inside her ears.

Izzy's first day at Puppy Towers

She'd been scratching her ear again heavily over the week/weekend, so we decided that a trip to the vets was in order to make sure there was no infection in there again. Due to the way she is at the vets they had to keep in her & put her under to examine her ears.

Sadly, whilst she was under, she had a severe reaction to one of the drugs they used, which caused a few complications. When I had the call from the vet, I didn't quite grasp just how poorly she was. Obviously they told me she was pretty poorly, but it wasn't until they took her to the veterinary hospital that I realised she was in such a bad way.

She was kept in overnight on Tuesday and on Wednesday we went up to see her. It wasn't until I saw her in the vet hospital that I realised just how bad she was.

Izzy on a drip at the vet hospital

Immediately, as soon as I saw her, I knew that the trials were definitely out of the question. She'd suffered a really bad reaction & was in a really bad way. There was no way I'd even consider putting her in for the trials on Saturday. No matter how much we wanted to do them, the dogs always come first for us.

She was as flat as a pancake in the hospital, extremely lethargic & pretty 'out of it' - but even more worrying was the fact she'd lost her sight.

Naturally, the vets assured us that it's usual for dogs to make a full recovery & they weren't overly concerned about her not regaining her sight - but nevertheless there's still always a chance that she wouldn't recover her sight.

So, after hours, days, weeks & months of hard work, not only developing her as a Police Dog but the additional work we'd done to get her ready for the trials, we were now worried about her future..

I was absolutely gutted & to see her in such a bad way was heartbreaking. I can assure you there were plenty of tears! It still brings a lump to my throat thinking about it.

Although, I was gutted to be missing the trials with her, in the big scheme of things the trials were never the main goal. Developing her into an operational Police Dog was & will always be the ultimate goal for our pups. However, we were driving home from the vet hospital wondering what we'd do with her if she never regained her sight fully. 

I can't stress just how important it is for puppies to be de-sensitised to the vet & people examining them. The fact that Izzy had such a phobia about people messing with her ears had potentially destroyed her working career. There's another Blog topic coming!!!

We'd gone from such a high, to probably the lowest of the lows we've ever had with a pup at Puppy Towers.

It was devastating news, not least because Izzy was due to depart for pastures new following the trials. The plan was for her to do the trials on the Saturday & head back to the WMP kennels on the Sunday, ready for her new venture to go to work for Surrey Police.

Over the course of Wednesday & Thursday, Izzy started to progress well in the hospital & on Thursday we were allowed to bring her home (after helping the vet remove her cannula after she'd decided to try & remove it herself!!)

She was still extremely nervous & had not fully regained her sight, but as she could now see a little, she was very anxious around the vet & vet nurses. She was also now more reluctant to let them treat her. We all felt it would be more comfortable & less stressful for Izzy to come home.

She was much brighter by the time we picked her up and with strict instructions from the vet to keep her calm, with no excitement, we brought her home. Upon reaching home the very first thing she did when she got in the garden was to scale our garden wall!!!!!! Something she's NEVER tried to do before in her life. She cleared the wall onto our grassed area & thought she was the bees knees! Yes, sorry Mr Vet we failed the "keeping her calm" bit.

After bringing her down onto the dog area of the garden (where the dogs are allowed), she managed to find her favorite toy & was ready to play. Just an hour after being discharged from the hospital.

Izzy & her toy

Thankfully, by Saturday she was as right as rain. I'd given her a few little lead walks over Thursday & Friday, but on Saturday I gave her a little trot around the park off her lead - but with no ball chasing. 

Any doubts about her eyesight were soon relieved after she clocked a pigeon hopping around at the other end of the football pitch. Before I could second guess her she'd left at 100 miles an hour after the pigeon!! I let her run a little bit before calling her back & in true style, her emergency stop was on a sixpence & she was back with me.

We took her up to watch the BPSCA trials, as I was a little concerned that she was going to be nervous around people & dogs, however she took it all in her stride & was a dream. She was more than happy lying around taking fuss & cuddles from members of the public including a couple of the families who follow her on Twitter, which is always nice!

She was pretty much back to her normal self - even barking when the guns were firing.

Thankfully, we'd got the real Izzy back!

BPSCA Service Dog of the Year PC Simon Hill & PD Jura

So over the past couple of weeks, we've given Izzy time to fully recover & to make sure that she's absolutely 100% back to full fitness.

The vet has now given her the all clear and we've got some special Royal Canin food to try & make sure her ears don't flare up again. Paws crossed it works!


She's been put through her paces again & she's performing as well as she ever has - if only the BPSCA trials were this weekend!

So what now for Izzy? 

Sadly we've been on the two week countdown to D Day & she's now getting ready for pastures new. She'll be heading off to Surrey Police on Wednesday, ready to start the new chapter in her life.

She's more than ready & eager to get to work. For us, it's another few days of tears!

Izzy enjoying this week's sun