Red is off-duty for now, at least for 10 days, perhaps beyond. This morning, his right rear leg was dangling as he ran out to get the sheep. It was startling, and I took him to the Cambridge Valley Vet, they took him in, sedated him and did a series of X-rays on his hips, legs and elbows.
Dr. Suzanne Fariello said she saw signs of arthritis in his hips and legs, but nothing out of the ordinary for a nine-year-old border collie who has worked all of his life.
She found signs of a serious injury at the base of his spine, two segments of the tail bone almost crushed together. Once I saw the X-rays, it hit me right away. A week or so ago, Red had an incident with Chloe, Maria's pony. Red was in his fixed crouch, staring at the sheep, Chloe, excited about hay coming out, stepped backwards and onto Red, pinning him.
Red, the calmest of dogs, reacted, he couldn't get out from the weight and nipped Chloe on her rear leg. She turned and stomped him with her right hoof, he moved away and went on to move towards the sheep. Maria and I saw it, but Red seemed fine and we cleaned off the dirt from the hoof.
Chloe had her ears back and moved towards Red after that, but then seemed to forget it. It was precisely where the X-ray showed the injury, I had completely forgotten about it.
This makes sense, we finally figured it out. Dr. Fariello, Maria and I all agree this is by far the most likely explanation for his limping.
Side note: I could see Maria was anxious about the incident, she was concerned that I would be furious with Chloe and want to send her away. This, I told her, was an old fear, not a current one. When you live on a farm with sheep, horses, donkeys, things will happen. These are animals, not domestic pets.
No working border collie has a safe or protected life, things can and will and do happen. My border collies have run into barbed wire, been butted by rams and ewes, run over by donkeys and kicked by them, torn their paws on rocks. It wasn't Chloe's fault, it wasn't Red's fault. We will just have to be vigilant.
So no working for Red for awhile, we hope rest will do the trick. Red is back on anti-inflammatory medicine, and next week, he's going back to the vet for a massage, Cassandra has been certified to do that work. Dr. Fariello wants to resume the laser treatment for a few weeks. Red is home now, and sedated.
It's a serious injury, real and in a bad place, but there is no reason it won't heal. I'm just sorry I didn't connect all of this sooner, Dr. Fariello has been great, she has smart and focused plan for healing Red.
The affected area has major nerves running through it, it doesn't hurt much when Red is standing still, but it does when he runs.
He can come out to the pasture, but not run, and no walks in the woods for now. We'll see if Fate gets more interested in serious herding work, I won't push it too hard, but I'll give her the chance. Life happens, and it is happening to Red.