HOPE. I've lived on it for 6 months now. If you are going through this with your dog, there will be ALOT of days when you feel like there is no hope for recovery. The amazing thing is, just when you are having a few of those days in row, there will be some form of improvement out of nowhere. While I was searching for hope in the form of YouTube videos, around the 3 1/2 month mark, I found Penny. The first video of Penny was at 3 months. She was exactly in the same point in her recovery as Nathan, just starting some steps of spinal walking. After a bit more looking around, I found a second video of Penny, this one at 9 months. Low and behold, she was spinal walking like a pro. She was getting around perfectly. I thought, well, if she can do it, so can Nathan. Penny became my poster child of Hope. Below are the 2 video links for those who have a day (or ten) where they need Hope.
Time to retire the sling. Nathan is walking unassisted 50% further than he was just 2 weeks ago. We've stopped using the sling now. Nathan has enough strength and coordination now in his back legs to be able to walk without falling over every 10 feet. He also seems to have learned how to compensate for his weaker right leg. His biggest struggle with walking was falling over to the side of this weaker leg. But, now it doesn't stop him. I also hardly ever have to lift up his butt to get him walking. He's now able to stand up on his own, even if he falls over. I think part of the improvement also comes from his gaining confidence in his abilities. Walking without the sling is good for his confidence and is also forcing him to improve his balance.
Can't wait to see where we are a month from now!! It's a competition to get as well as Penny....I'll tell you about the Penny competition tomorrow.
I'm so amazed by Nathan's progress in the 5 days we were away. On our walk this morning, Nathan walked further unassisted than ever before. Did he need a break from us? Were we pushing him too hard? Maybe. Perhaps a few days of taking it a bit easy gave his body time to rest and rebuild. This is something to keep in mind as we continue to work towards recovery. Not much progress on the potty front though. He does squeak out little pee pees, but still can't empty his bladder. I'm hopeful that these signs of small pee pees are a stepping stone to normal bladder function. Another improvement is the amount of steps Nathan takes around the house. Although he walks outsite, he tends to scoot around the house on the carpet. I've noticed him making an effort to walk instead these last 2 days. And, he had a pretty darn good wrestling match with Frankie last night. They haven't done much wrestling since the injury. It's good to hear Nathan making his Chewbacca sounds. Yes, he sounds like Chewbacca from Star Wars when he wrestles.
Vacation is awesome, but there's no place like home! The best thing of all was seeing that Nathan is actually walking BETTER now than just 5 days ago when we left! So, if there was any doubt that he was getting the proper amount of exercise while we were gone, that doubt is gone! We went for a walk as soon as we got unpacked and Nathan walked much steadier, fell over less and needed hardly any assistance getting back on his feet. I can't even put into words what a relief and joy that is. Looks like we have a pet sitter to stick with!
So, after my day of panicking yesterday, I decided to go ahead and call the tech last night and see what was going on. I know, I am overprotective. She told me they had spent the day at the park and then went to visit the vet's office to say hi to everyone. She emailed me some pics of the boys. They were supposed to go to the park again today. It was a huge relief to know they weren't spending every day in their room. After all, they aren't dogs, they are short hairy humans!! Can't wait to see them tomorrow night!
So, we are on day-3 of our out-of-town trip. We have a doggie-cam in the room where we put the dogs when we go out. The vet tech staying at our house was supposed to walk the dogs 3 times a day, plus spend time with them and stay there overnight. This was so the dogs wouldn't be stuck in their room too many hours at a time. Every time I view the camera, the dogs are in their room...no matter how late, no matter how early. I guess no one will care for your babies the way you would. If only Nathan would get his potty control back, we'd have so much more flexibility for doggie care.
That's the song Nathan and Frankie will be singing for the next 5 days. Tomorrow morning, we leave to go out of town for 5 days. A vet tech, who is also the daughter of Dr. Brown (the vet who did Nathan's water therapy) will be staying at our home caring for Nathan and Frankie. We've never had anyone stay at our home with the boys because we used to put them in their favorite doggie day care facility. But, Nathan can't go there now.
I felt like a crazy neurotic woman making this list of all the things I wanted the tech to know. I have a full typed page of all kinds of instructions. I even pre-cut strips of bandages to wrap around his toes that get scraped up when he walks. I'm sure I've forgotten something. It will be interesting to get her email updates each day! Stay tuned!
Nathan is a fire dog, at least that is how the acupuncturist describes him. When he enters a room, you know it. He commands attention. Nathan has learned that the vet gives him lots of treats during his acupuncture. At today's acupuncture appointment, Nathan would not stop barking at the vet until he got his treats. It fact, he kept making such a fuss, the vet had to give him a B-12 shot in his head to calm him down.
This past week had been a tough one because Nathan has begun pooping 3 times a day now (which is actually how often he used to go before all this happened). Over the last few months, he had only been pooping 1-2 times per day, which we got by using the ice cube trick. This 3rd poop has been coming at all different times during the day, sometimes when we aren't home, and causing a mess. Looks like we will have to do a mid-day ice cube. I conveyed all this to the vet today and he felt it could be that Nathan was actually improving his motility and therefore getting back to his "normal" poop count! So, maybe good, maybe bad, depending on which way you look at it. In any case, I cleaned up a fair amount of poop this week!!!
Since Nathan was a pup, he insisted on the "family" walk (mommy, daddy, Nathan, & Frankie). Although, he would still enjoy a walk with whomever took him, he clearly had his preference. If my husband went to put on Nathan's leash and I was in the other room, Nathan would run to find me and start poking me hard behind the legs with his nose, herding me into the other room. While he can't herd us right now, he still makes his feelings known. When I walk him alone, he acts like he can barely walk. And each time he does this, of course, I panic. Is there something wrong?
Tonight's family walk renewed my confidence that he still has lots of improvement ahead of him. He was full of energy and set a new record for walking unassisted, going about 1 minute further, and then completing the balance of the long walk with his sling. Since he began walking unassisted about 2 wks ago, he hasn't been able to complete the long walk. So, tonight was a great accomplishment!
I am counting the days to Nathan's next acupuncture treatment. I was a skeptic, but I have to say, I'm convinced that the electro-stimulation acupuncture has alot of merit. The key is finding someone who is an expert (this vet, as I have previously mentioned, is also an instructor). Nathan has had 4 treatments, each 1 week apart. Each time, post-treatment, he had increased endurance and strength. After our last appointment, the vet wanted to skip a week to see what would happen. The first week, Nathan maintained his steady improvement. But, clearly in this last few days, there has been no marked improvement. We are now 12 days out from the last treatment. Yes, it could be my imagination, but I really don't think so. The test will be how Nathan does after this Thursday's treatment.
I hate mornings like this. In the back of my mind, I hear the doctors saying "one day Nathan will plateau". When I have one of these mornings where he seems to barely be able to walk, I have to remind myself that like anyone recovering from an injury, there will be bad mornings. But, it doesn't make it any easier to push back the feeling of frustration and know this morning is just a blip on the radar. But, the last 2 days have not shown any progress. At this point in his recovery, it's important to look at progress based on a week at a time, not a day or 2. You'd think by now, I'd be an expert at doing that, but not so much!
In the back of my mind is always the guideline that a dog will be at about 80% of where they are going to be at the 6-month mark. At this point, we are at 5 1/2 months and Nathan is not recovered to the point that I would want to consider 80%. So, we continue to work hard with him each day to ensure that he makes progress each week. In fact, he does make progress each week. Some weeks, the progress is small, some weeks, it's amazing. It's Sept 10, and Nathan can now do 3 5-minutes unassisted walks each day. He is now steadier, he falls over significantly less as he walks unassisted. Today, on our morning and afternoon walks, he walked 1-2 minutes further unassisted. I worry each day about him plateau'ing. I know that day is inevitable. We have exactly one week until our trip to Cancun. We want to have Nathan as healthy as possible for the vet tech who will be staying at our house taking care of the boys.
It was time to start testing Nathan's walking abilities outsite without his sling. To our surprise, he was able to walk about 4 minutes completely on his own. Then, we continued the walk with his sling. So, this became our new walking procedure. 4 minutes unassisted, then the balance using the sling. He was not able to walk as far even with the sling after the 4 minutes on his own. Having to work so hard to keep his balance appeared to be wearing him out faster. It seemed worthwhile to do a shorter overall walk in order to have those first few minutes of unassisted walking. Nathan was also doing quite a few little squeaks of pee pee on these walks. At our Sept 1 acupuncture visit, the vet was very positive about our progress. So much so, he felt it was time to move to every other week of treatments instead of every week. He felt that Nathan now had a good chance of making even further improvements. Woo hoo!
It had become our normal Saturday morning ritual to take Nathan and Frankie to the dog park since they were puppies. Hard to believe, but its been nearly 5 years of our Saturday ritual. Since Nathan's injury, we were no longer able to go to the park. Once Nathan was able to take some steps with his sling, we began taking the boys to the dog park again. Although Nathan preferred to scoot on the grass rather than walk, he did like to mark his territory, so the park was the only place that he made any attempts to empty his bladder. This was the main reason we began going to the park again despite the fact Nathan could not walk or run around. It was August 27th, and now, Nathan could walk steadily with the help of his sling. So, the park was fun again! Nathan made laps around the park and marked everything in site. It was awesome to see him peeing! Our old Saturday ritual was back in place.
Nathan had his normal Thursday 2pm acupuncture treatment. Later, after dinner, we all embarked on our normal long family walk. Just like the after the prior week's acupuncture treatment, Nathan was fired up! He walked the entire distance of the long walk, assisted, of course. Here we go again, we thought. We'll have 3 days of super-Nathan, then the crash. Next day, long walk. Day after that, long walk....except... it kept going. No day-4 crash! We officially retired our life-saving pet stroller!!! We no longer needed it. Nathan could walk, with the sling, the entire length of the long afternoon walk. It felt like a miracle. We could feel the muscle tone building in his back legs. Not only that, he was squeaking out pee-pees during these walks. While he could not empty his bladder, he was showing signs of being able to pee on his own again.
The vet acupuncturist was booked 3 weeks in advance. So, after this initial consultation, we had to wait another 3 weeks for our first treatment. Nathan continued to walk with his sling and slowly was increasing the distance he could go. At the time of the first treatment, he could walk 1/2 of the distance of our long walk, using his sling. So, Nathan would walk his 1/2 walk, and ride in his pet stroller on the way home. Finally, it was time for the first treatment. We didn't have any high expectations, so we were not disappointed when we did not see any changes. The 2nd treatment, 7 days later, was exciting. For the 3 days following that treatment, Nathan experience frenzied behavior. He had significant energy and wanted to walk and run, of course, using his sling. We were elated. The day following that treatment, Nathan walked the full distance of our long walk. Same the next day. After the 3rd day, he crashed. It was heartbreaking. We were right back where we were the week before, 1/2 walks. When his 3rd visit rolled around a few days later, I described the week's events to the doctor. As I cried in his office, he explained that this was normal. That did not make it any less heartbreaking for me. After that day's 3rd treatment, everything would change....
We became well-known in our neighbor for having the dog who rode in the stroller! People would all stop and ask how Nathan was and ask if he was getting any better. By mid-July, Nathan could walk, with the sling, about 25% of the distance of our long walk. He did not appear to be regaining potty control. We were getting desperate to try anything. The vet who did our water therapy had mentioned a vet who did acupuncture in our area who was actually also a teacher at the Chi Institute in Florida. He was supposed to be an expert, so I emailed him and asked about acupuncture, specifically for potty control. He responded that he'd had good results and we should bring Nathan in for an exam. He was booked up 3 weeks in advance. When we finally got in to see him, after examining Nathan and hearing his story, he gave us only a 50-50 chance. He recommended that we give him 5 visits to treat Nathan and see what happens. So, we did...
Our other dachshund, Frankie, had never been without Nathan. We got Frankie 6 months after Nathan, so Frankie was by Nathan's side from when he was a pup. He followed Nathan everywhere. When we brought Nathan home from the hospital, Frankie was afraid of him. He wouldn't go near him. Even sadder, Frankie had no desire to go for walks or play without his very best friend. Until Nathan was actually able to move around, Frankie would not interact with him. Finally, Frankie started licking on Nathan again once Nathan was starting to move around. The side effect of Frankie refusing to go for walks with Nathan was he began gaining weight. His 13 lbs shot up to 16 lbs, at which point, he got put on a strict diet. We needed to come up with a way to get Nathan back involved with our walks. We found an inexpensive but sturdy pet stroller at Walmart.com. It was a lfe-saver! Nathan was terrified to be in it at first. He was shaking like a leaf. But after a few times, he began to love it! He was a true prince riding around in his carriage. And, Frankie was happy again! The pet stroller gave Nathan and Frankie back their beloved walkies.
As July came and went, we realized our hopes for a quick recovery were slipping away. With the help of the water therapy, Nathan had regained the ability to walk several steps unassisted. This was significant because it now allowed us to effectively use a sling to allow him to walk distances assisted. The problem was, Nathan, being, well, Nathan, he wanted nothing to do with anything under his body. As soon as we put a sling on, he froze up and refused to move. I puzzled over how to make a sling that he would not really notice. One day it came to me, His normal harness runs across the bottom of his stomach. If I could hook something around that and run it back between his legs, one piece on each side of his tail, that might work. But, it would have to be very thin, yet strong. I found a long thin scarf of mine that fit the bill. SUCCESS! Something he didn't mine having on him. Soon, we were going on short walks using the sling and after he got tired, the pet stroller. Oh, I guess I didn't tell the pet stroller story....
One thing we learned was part of our new routine was dealing with the lack of potty control. I became an expert in emptying Nathan's bladder which I did about 5 times a day. We were going through about 150 pee pee pads a month as I found it was much easier to do inside with him laying on his side. I also learning a life-saving ice cube trick from a women on the handicap pet website who had a dog in a similar condition. If you rub an ice cube on the dog's butt, it causes contractions and makes a poop come out, if there is one. This significantly reduced indoor accidents by allowing us to control when Nathan pooped. It did not eliminate the issue, but at least reduce it to none or one times a day. Unfortunately, as we learned, regular doggie day places will not take a dog who cannot go potty. So, when our 10th wedding anniversary long weekend came around, we were left scrambling to find a way to not have to cancel that trip. We found someone who would take the dogs into their home and empty Nathan's bladder. But, as it turned out, Nathan was just too high maintenance at this point, and his feet got badly scrapped up scooting around on is own.