A Career-Ending Injury


Third in a series

When Jeff and Cathy Robb brought their first collie puppy to me for vaccinations, back in the early 80s, I remember proselytizing on the benefits of training class from my exam room pulpit. They picked up the dog obedience ball and ran with it. When they added Jamie several years later it was clear, early in the game, that they had a stand-out.

Jamie was more than a great working dog; she was a cherished pet. In the competition ring she watched Jeff constantly, never missing a cue. At age 11 she was still scoring in the high 190s but she’d lost her edge in the game of dodging horse kicks. She was lucky. I’ve known head injuries to end much worse.

As the post operative weeks progressed I could palpate a hard, healing callus bridging the fracture site of Jamie’s lower jaw. I also kept an eye on her damaged maxilla – her upper jaw.

A dog’s maxillary bones are thinner and more prone to shatter with blunt force trauma. Jamie was lucky again. The surrounding structures, with their generous blood supply, did a good job of holding the fragments close enough to fuse back together without my help.  Mother Nature is often kind.

There was collateral damage that could not be repaired. A couple of Jamie’s non-essential upper teeth had been lost during her short bout, sparring with that easily annoyed young stud. She would eat fine and look completely normal and beautiful but an obedience judge always checks for missing teeth. Without a full set of pearly whites Jamie would be disqualified every time.

This special girl had already achieved her Utility Dog title, the highest level in obedience work. Now her career was over. It was a sad day for Jeff and Cathy when I shared the bad news but their love for Jamie would never fade. Our final x-rays showed complete healing. We removed the now sticky, stinky tape muzzle and handed our patient a celebratory treat to chew.

Next week: A great performer finds the next stage.


For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (drjeffnichol.com). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.