Dog Days (Updated: Good News)

On Saturday morning I went for a bicycle ride with friends. When I came home the dogs were fine and up to their usual mischief. I sat down at the computer to do some work, both of them on the floor at my feet. At some point they scampered off. When I came out of the office an hour or so later, I found Schatzi half in and half out the doggie door to the back yard, facing into the house, as if she couldn’t decide whether to come in or stay outside. After a few seconds she dragged herself through the door and into the kitchen, using just her front legs. I was shocked to see that one of her back legs was dragging uselessly behind her. I gently picked her up and checked for injuries but couldn’t see any, and she didn’t complain when I probed her bad leg.

I thought maybe her leg had failen asleep, as mine sometimes does when I sit on it wrong. I watched her to see if she’d get better, but she didn’t. She hobbled back to the bedroom on three legs and curled up under the bed. When she emerged an hour later she was only able to pull herself along with her front legs. Neither back leg was working. She was getting worse, not better.

I put some blankets on the floor to make a cushion and made her as comfortable as I could. Donna was away at a sewing workshop when all this happened, but once she came home we both watched Schatzi, who seemed alert and not in pain … but definitely not getting better. We carried her to the back yard a couple of times to see if she could pee, but she either didn’t have to or couldn’t. If only she could have told us what was wrong!

Around dinnertime we called our friend Mary Anne, who, with Donna, once worked at an animal hospital and who knows more than we do about local veterinarians and animal hospitals. She called around to Tucson’s 24/7 animal emergency treatment centers, looking for one where Schatzi could not only get an MRI on a Saturday night but also have it read. We found one on the other side of Tucson, with a doctor on hand and a neuro specialist on call, so we bundled Schatzi up and drove over.

We suspected a spinal injury and the doctor agreed that was the most likely problem. We had to leave Schatzi in their care. Around 11 that night they anesthetized her and put her through the MRI machine, then called us with the diagnosis. She needed surgery and they wanted to do it right away so she didn’t have to be put under twice. We gave the go-ahead. They called again in the wee hours to tell us she’d come out of surgery okay and was in recovery.

That’s where she is now, Monday morning, still in recovery at the animal hospital and under close observation. As of yesterday evening she hadn’t yet started using her back legs and was still unable to pee on her own, but she was alert, scooting around in her cage, and able to poop. The doctor and the techs tell us this is normal, that it takes dogs a couple of days to start to recover from spinal surgery. We’re waiting this morning for another update from the doctor, and I hope to pay Schatzi a visit today. I really hope she’ll get her legs back and can come home tomorrow, but we’ll see. One has to have faith they’re telling it like it is and that one’s beloved pet will recover. One is trying hard. Meanwhile, one is a basket case.

Like most dog owners, we’d thought about what we’d do in the event of an expensive medical emergency. When the time came we didn’t hesitate, not even for a second. How much money do you want to fix my dog? Here’s the credit card. There’s more where that came from.

But not much more … Schatzi’s bill is shockingly high. Realistically, we can’t afford to do this again, so we’re going to have to change some things around the hacienda. When Schatzi was new I tacked leftover carpet to a plank and made a ramp for her to get on and off the sofa (tell me you don’t have a dog sofa!). She refused to use it, preferring to jump. I don’t know how she ruptured a disc on Saturday, but it was probably a bad landing from a jump, the one too many. I fetched the ramp from the garage where we’d been keeping it, and Donna already has Maxie trained to use it. We’ll train Schatzi as soon as she’s home. I also ordered a set of folding pet stairs from Amazon and they should be here in a day or two. We’ll see which they like better, ramps or stairs. But no more jumping … that’s right out!

We love our dog. And who needs a new kitchen anyway?

Update (one hour later): the doctor who operated on Schatzi just called. She’s back on her feet and able to pee, recovered enough that I can bring her home. I’ll have a meeting with the veterinarian at the animal hospital around noon, then bring our girl home. Just time time, too … there’a a ground squirrel in our back yard, strutting around like it owns the place.

© 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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