1-16-04  Swimming

Life vestI found a doggy life jacket in x-small so today I was out trying to find a way for her to swim. The spa store had spas starting at $3999 installed w/o electrical work. I asked about just a pool, and the guy said heaters start at $2500--might as well get the spa. He cautioned about dog hair (small concern in our case). Then I went out to the equine hospital behind the racetrack and learned they don't have a therapy pool, so we can't do that. Then I came home and tried her in the tub with the jacket and her little back legs did not kick when she paddled and she only wanted out.

I'm not going to give up, but it is mainly determination and stubborn persistence that's keeping me going right now. I want to be able to say I did everything and tried everything the very best we could, so I can look her in the eye for the next 10 or more years if she never does walk again. Oh dear.

1-16-04  Our lives changed forever

Rajah's Mom on the HandicappedPets message board wrote that her paralyzed dog "hasn't made any progress but we have decided to put her in PT anyway. What can it hurt? She goes once a week and the therapist exercises her underwater." Something spoke to me when I read that, and gave me the inspiration to go ask at the physical therapy clinic again. I would use the reasoning with them, "What could it hurt?"

1-20-04±  Expensive chew toys

I special ordered (from Ireland) a pair of custom-made booties with double leather toes to protect my paralyzed dog's back feet from dragging. We used them about twice and I was storing them in the top of the closet between walks. One fell on the floor somehow--I've never been sure who found it and chewed it up...

Anyway, we went back to vet wrap!

1-21-04  Playing

We haven't done any rough-housing at all until tonight. I'm still handling her like eggs.

1-24-04±  Email to Pro-Active Paws

The boots arrived on the 17th and I kept thinking I needed to let you know, then I didn't do it. I'm sorry. They fit her feet and legs nicely. We got them on with little trouble. Your instructions were quite helpful, especially the part about fastening them. We went for a nice long walk and they stayed on! She did not want to do her standing exercise with the booties on so I slipped them off, which posed no problem even on the street with her in my arm. (It's OK because she doesn't like to stand with vet wrap on her feet either.)

[NOTE: They had emailed to ask how the boots were working out. I reported that I liked them, which was true. I was too discouraged about what happened to tell them they were already chewed up, especially when they were so very prompt about writing back at Christmastime, then stitching up the booties while the check was still in transit, then sending them before the check had even cleared.]

2-1-04  Walking out of her scarf

We've been using a 7 foot long hand crocheted winter neck scarf for a sling. Lately she's been walking out of it in her eagerness if I don't tie it around her waist. It tends to settle as far back on her waist as it can, stopping at the hips. She has bone cement to stabilize her back, and I was told her spine would also fuse on its own with time, but I don't know how long. She strains forward with the scarf tied around her hips (like pulling on a leash), which is probably acting like traction on her back, and maybe she can't hurt herself but I don't want to take a chance. The Hartman style looks good because it has a strap across the chest she could pull against instead of putting all the strain on her fused vertebrae. I just realized I need to stop tying the scarf around her waist and just let her walk out of it if she's going to pull that hard. It's safer that way.

2-19-04  Physical therapy evaluation

Using Rajah's Mom's reasoning ("I don't see what it could hurt") we were granted a physical therapy evaluation. The physical therapist says my little friend can feel her toes. She has been accepted for PT twice a week. This was 149 days following her injury.

2-19-04 Appointment slip

Appointment slipThis faded little note is the appointment slip we were given the day of her PT evaluation. I kept it in the car console for months to look at it, clinging to the hope it represented. Finally I spilled iced tea on it, but couldn't bear to part with it, so I took it in and saved it.

2-20-04  She is feeling it when I express her bladder

In the past couple of weeks, my little dog has definitely reacted when I expressed her, if I got too ham-handed and interfered with those ligaments or whatever they are that are in there so close to the bladder. If I squeeze them, it hurts. It hurts ME to think I am now giving her pain if I'm not careful enough, so I'm being more careful.  It was a mixed blessing when she actually *tucked her tail* a couple of times when I was expressing her--I was glad to see her capable of such an expression, but somewhat mortified to think I had caused it.

2-24-04  First PT appointment

My dog had her first appointment for professional physical therapy at 9:00 a.m. She began going every Tuesday and Thursday.

2-24-04  Time spent in the underwater treadmill

With my dog, her first session in the treadmill was 5 minutes, the second session 10, the third 15, and so on. My dog didn't happen to like being in the water at first, but she came to love it.

3-19-04  She started moving her legs in the treadmill

Imagine a glass hydrotherapy tank. Inside on the treadmill, in only 6 inches of water, is a perfect little white and fawn reindeer chihuahua, all legs and ears. And behind her is a sweet physical therapist with her pants legs rolled up, standing on the sideboards. She's bending over, holding the little dog by the tail while the track goes 4 mph. Now get down on your elbows and look at the little dog's feet underwater. They're moving, all four of them! Her back feet go half a dozen steps, then they get tangled up, and the therapist straightens them out and she keeps going. They tangle a few more times and the therapist reaches down and walks one foot keeping it straight and in time, and now she has a perfect gait. We're both cheering. That's my girl! :))))

[Note: this was her eighth physical therapy session]

3-19-04  Hydrotherapy water level

When my dog is in the tank, the water is *n* *o* *t* high enough to give her any kind of support whatsoever that I can see. It's like, not even mid-chest?? When I look at it, all I can think is, "Well, maybe the warmth is doing some good." If anything, I would think that the water sort of slows down her legs, like when you walk in knee-high water in the ocean? I mean, I guess it provides some resistance, maybe? We started with a low water level doing 5 minutes more each day. On the day she was supposed to do 25 minutes, the therapist had the water a little higher, which I commented on thinking it looked like a good idea, because now she would have more support. Well, it frightened her too much, and even though it was only a smidge above mid-chest she began panting because she was so scared. So we had to stop, and the therapist let some of the water out of the tank and I held her and helped her calm down, and that day she only did about 20 minutes, and the water has been kept low ever since.

In the beginning when the therapist was helping her take steps, she would hold my dog's ankles and, using her wrists, she would press each foot onto the moving belt in a rolling motion, so every step gave her pads a definite feeling of contact with the belt.

3-22-04  How she stands in the underwater treadmill

The only thing that keeps my dog on her feet is that the therapist is *always* holding her, either by the root of the tail (doesn't sound very kindly but it seems to be standard) or else by the legs, or by the tail and one leg. If she holds her only by the tail, then my dog is able to walk her little back feet on the treadmill until they get tangled, which I am so pleased about. Then the therapist, still holding her tail with one hand, takes her free hand and untangles her legs and my dog keeps going. If she holds her by one leg plus the tail, or by both legs, and manually does the walking motions for her with her back legs while my little dog walks with her front legs, then she does not get tangled. The other very interesting and important thing is that her hydrotherapy began with the therapist doing only two-handed manual walking of her back legs throughout every session. This means the therapist was standing astraddle her with her feet on the non-moving sides of the treadmill, and bending from the waist for 20 minutes, holding her back legs and making her step in rhythmic fashion. She was *not* necessarily keeping the back legs stepping in time with the front legs. It was not necessarily a proper gait. I'm sure that might be more natural for the dog, but it would be hard to do for 20 minutes with a small dog taking many rapid steps at 4 mph. In spite of the off-rhythm, it seems to be working so far.

3-23-04  Expressing the bowel  

I printed out BOWEL AND BLADDER FUNCTION IN THE D.M. DOG after being given the link by Anita Chavez on HandicappedPets. It turned out to be important to walking later.

3-24-04  She stood up

The therapist is trying to get my dog to learn to "push up" to a standing position. On March 24, the day after our 6-month mark, my little girl pushed up and stood in the living room for the count of 9 before she sat. Then for an encore, a few seconds later she did it again. This beat her previous record of approximately a second and a half by a long shot!

3-25-04  Wagging her tail

I remember how surprised I was when my dog first wagged her tail. It was adorable! It was at least four months after her injury. The strange thing was, the week I brought her home from the hospital she was capable of moving her tail up and down like a pump handle so I was hopeful about that. But months passed before she became able to wag from side to side. She still doesn't do it too often. About a month and a half ago she tucked her tail between her legs, something else she'd never done. I think it was some time after she wagged from side to side that I was absolutely thrilled to see her hackles worked from head to tail. It was all I could do not to post a message in capital letters: HER HACKLES WORK!!!!! One time about two weeks ago she wagged really hard, whop-whop-whop-whop, like to knock a coffee cup off the table. But she hasn't done it again. The physical therapist has asked me to watch and see if she wags her tail in coming weeks. She says she is looking for "multi-tasking".

3-31-04  Medic Alert tags for dogs

I am looking at the possibility that my dog may need one. She is making encouraging progress toward walking, but I may be expressing her for the rest of her life. I would like to engrave a tag or tags with the words SPINAL WALKER, EXPRESS BLADDER, IF FOUND TAKE TO VET ASAP, or something like that. I'm considering doing it with a human Medic Alert pendant. They also have different styles of tags at an auto-serve machine in PetsMart, though no medical tags. It will be a big day if I ever get to buy her a collar. :)

4-3-04  Veterinary chart  

4-3-04  has superficial & deep pain, withdrawal reflexes good
-not able to walk

4-7-04  She stood and walked 4 steps

Dog exercising in underwater treadmill

A couple of weeks ago my dog had gotten to where she could walk with all four feet on the water treadmill if the therapist held her tail to keep her up and guided one leg to keep her feet from tangling. Since then the therapist managed to raise the water level without my dog getting too scared, and was able to let her walk on the treadmill with all four feet with no help at all. The next time the therapist helped her start, then climbed out of the tank and let her solo. Since then, she's been putting my dog in, filling the tank to the proper level, starting the treadmill, and letting her solo without any help at all. She can walk pretty well but her legs cross at the hocks and get stuck, and the therapist is trying to let her learn how to uncross them herself. She is getting better at uncrossing them.

Today was not one of our best days because I started her on Heartgard (the flavor chews) Tuesday night and she's had GI trouble from it. But last week an amazing thing happened. She soloed in the tank for over 30 minutes. Then the therapist dried her and let her work at placing her feet using the therapy ball (I call this her Pilates). Then the therapist was having her scoot around on the floor (mat exercise) to see if she would initiate standing (sometimes she does briefly) and another dog came in for therapy. He was a cute Dachsund-Yorkie cross with a herniated disc, wearing a premie pampers with a hole for the tail. He'd been walking for a week. My dog unconsciously rose to all four feet to touch noses with him, and walked 4 good steps doing the kind of jockeying dogs do when smelling each other. It was great!

It is interesting that the main definite improvement I'm seeing from this hydrotherapy when we're at home is not walking, but that she has become easier to express. That's a mercy, because up till now it always took a good bit of time and involved expressing some, then trying to express some more, then some more, so that it took at least half a dozen productive squeezes (not counting all the non-productive digging and pinching and squeezing) to get her expressed to a degree we could live with. She'd produce a only small stream when expressed with enough pressure to make me uneasy about what I was doing. Now she is urinating a strong stream, and I'm having to do it less times. We actually got her completely expressed with one squeeze yesterday, and today after therapy we managed it with only two squeezes. I keep thinking if she's accumulated any sediment, she may be expelling it now. I hope so. The therapist said something about how they had observed an improvement in smooth muscle function they can't explain in conjuction with improvement of muscle tone in the abdominal wall. All I know is, therapy would be worth it just for this.

4-16-04  She ran yesterday

My little dog does not really walk yet, except on the treadmill in hydrotherapy. At home she will get up and go maybe a couple of steps before her rear swings too far to one side or the other and she sits. She is getting better at standing, though. At her last two hydrotherapy appointments, when the therapist put her into the tank, before the water was filled and before the treadmill was moving, she just *stood* there waiting. :)Yesterday we were in the livingroom and she was going around on her bottom eating rabbit droppings off the carpet and she was doing quite a few brief stands. Then she got to her feet and sort of darted forward really fast for maybe 5 steps, hesitated ever so slightly, and darted ahead at least two or three more. In other words, she ran about 3 feet, which is a ways for a chihuahua. It seems like when a child is learning to ride a bicycle. If they go slow there is a tendency to wobble and fall over sideways, but if they go faster they can sail along. She was going so fast her rear end didn't sway as much and she stayed up. Maybe she'll learn to run before she walks!

4-20-04  Another description of running on 4-15

We were in the livingroom and she was kind of scooting/bouncing around on her bottom going after the rabbit droppings on the carpet. She was doing a lot of brief stands, where she got up on all four to eat a dropping and stood for a moment till her rear swayed too far to one side and then she sat. Her longest stand during all of this was the count of 6, which is less than 6 seconds. Anyway, she came nosing over by the kitty castle and did another one of her stands, and somehow (I don't know what started it) all of a sudden took half a dozen really quick steps forward, then had the slightest hesitation, then continued and darted forward maybe 3 more steps. Unfortunately, she was headed into the corner formed by the kitty castle and the wall and she ran out of room to keep going. It seemed to me that the speed was what kept her up, like if a child is learning to ride a bicycle they do better if they go faster, because if they go slower they tip over. She had definitely never walked 3 feet before, but she did run 3 feet. I had to clap my hand over my mouth because I was afraid I would say something and distract her. It was definitely amazing.

4-20-04  Scratch all over

Her physical therapist described an exercise I could do with her. I call it Scratch All Over. You just get down with the dog and begin scratching her briskly all over her back, neck, etc., till you hopefully find an itchy spot and she starts pumping her leg in response. This is good exercise for the leg, and even when she doesn't begin kicking, it's still our funnest therapy!

4-20-04  Expectations  

If someone had told me back on September 23rd that I would not see my dog walk 4 steps until 6 months, and not have the thrill of seeing her run 3 feet till 6 1/2 months, I would have said, "OK, I can go with that." Instead, I was hoping she'd be standing at 2 months and got worried when she didn't. I expected her to begin walking at 4 months, and got stressed when she didn't. I'd heard if they aren't walking by 6 months you might as well throw in the towel. Fortunately, before 6 months rolled around I had readjusted my expectations to the pace I was seeing in her. I am still having to be patient, but we're gettin' there!

4-20-04  Sped up the treadmill  

Therapy is going fine. She had an off day today--we couldn't figure out why. Her feet were crossing, so the therapist raised the water level and they quit crossing, so then she was taking her steps but not putting much weight on her pads. She's up to 40 minutes. The last part of it we tried with the treadmill at 8 mph instead of 4mph, because of her running earlier in the week, and she kept up with the speed nicley but still didn't put much weight on her feet. But afterward when she was out of the tank on the carpet, she stood and walked 2 or 3 steps. The therapist and I were kind of laughing like, "OK--maybe she'd rather walk on the carpet!"

4-21-04  Definition of spinal walking

There is a paragraph in the website below (link) that I am hanging onto. The surgeon mentioned spinal walking, and this is one of the few explanations of it I could find in print. The thing I focus on is the word "extensive".

EverythingDachshund Link w/discussion of Spinal Walking

"Occasionally a dog that has transverse malacia of its thoracolumbar spinal cord (no deep pain sensation) can learn to "walk" again using the crossed extensor reflex that may still exist in the hindlimbs. Without motor connections to the brain, this reflex is "released" and causes the involuntary motor movements that are frequently observed in the limbs. Through extensive physiotherapy, many of these dogs learn to swing their bodies to get their hindlimbs under them and allow the reflex walking movements to be effectual. This form of walking is called spinal walking and looks a bit "motorized" but serves the function well. Unfortunately many of these dogs are also permanently incontinent. Many owners lifestyles do not allow the time necessary to properly care for incontinent dogs. As a result many of these dogs are euthanized rather than allowed the time to see if they can develop spinal walking abilities."

[Note: the article appears with credits here: http://dachshund-dca.org/discbook.html.]

4-21-04  How the therapist got my dog to begin taking steps

I just wanted to explain how the therapist worked to get my dog to begin moving her feet. The first few times she was in the tank, my dog stood on the treadmill and the therapist stood astraddle her with her feet on the non-moving sideboards of the treadmill. The therapist held my dog's back legs and as my dog walked on the treadmill with her front feet the therapist moved her back legs so my dog was taking steps with her back feet. I don't think she necessarily had my dog's back feet going at the correct pace or gait to match her front feet. That would be hard to do with a small dog taking many quick steps for half an hour. But it didn't seem to matter. Moving her back legs was kind of like winding her up, or giving her a jumpstart, or priming a pump if you know what I mean. After a few sessions the therapist was able to just hold one back leg and make steps and my dog walked with her other back foot by herself. Then she tried letting her walk without any help, but she would tend to cross her ankles and get tangled up, so the therapist put a hand between her knees (hocks) to keep her feet from crossing. After a few sessions of this, she let her solo. Now if her legs crossed, the therapist did not intervene but let her figure out/learn how to uncross them on her own. My dog's therapist says that hydrotherapy has only been in existence about 4 years, so I think they are still learning what works.

Dog exercising in underwater treadmill

4-21-04  Did not initiate walking right away 

My dog can take really good steps on the treadmill, but last appointment and today, when she was first put in the tank and the treadmill was started, she just let her feet drag behind as if she could not walk. It took her 3 minutes and 38 seconds today to begin to initiate walking.

4-21-04  Practicing

The day she met Spike, she rose to her feet and took 4 solid steps and was standing for a number of seconds. That's the only time she's done so well. The rest of the time she stands for a couple of seconds, or maybe 5 if it's a really good stand, then sways over and sits. About the running--well, it proves she can do it, because she did. But by this time I know better than to expect her to do it again anytime soon. I just don't know why she seems to have the **ability** to do these things, and yet doesn't do them more consistently. Anyway, there is no doubt that to some degree, my dog can stand, can take steps, can even run, and can express herself. She just doesn't. I expect it is a matter of the great effort involved. So I hope if we keep practicing, it'll get easier with time.

4-22-04  Long legs

My dog is a reindeer chihuahua. She has extra long legs and extra big ears. She is white with reddish brown markings. She's adorable, but I do think that if she had shorter legs they wouldn't get tangled up so much while she's learning to walk!   I wanted to tell you an important part of our therapy program is that my dog gets McDonald's Chicken McNuggets after her Thursday session every week. ;)