9-24-05  Two Year Anniversary

If you hadn't asked I would have missed the fact that it is 2 years ago today that I found a little dog I'd never seen before injured behind my workplace. She was found paralyzed with a spinal fracture on September 23, 2003. Today she can walk and right now she is in her crate up on the table by the computer where we have been sharing an apple. :)

I never know whether to tell about my dog's recovery or not. I would like to think that our slow recovery would be encouraging to others who do not see immediate recovery in their dogs, but I am also afraid that some will read our story and think, "If it's going to take that long, forget it!"

One thing you need to know is that my dog had a very severe injury, and it wouldn't be fair to compare a disk injury to it. Somehow, she got a spinal fracture, a complete break, in which the two parts of the spine separated and one was knocked up higher than the other, like it was trying to leapfrog over, and it pinched the spinal cord in between. When I first saw her at about 2:30, she had already been injured a while because she also had a big gash across her hips and there were ants in it. I don't know know long she was like that, or even how she got there. I ran her over to my vet and went back to work, and they called me at 4 and said she needed surgery right away. I transferred her to the specialty hospital for spinal surgery at 4:30 and she had it between about 5:30 and 7:00. What I'm saying is, her spine was pinched all that time, the blood supply was cut off all that time, there is a metabolic cascade that occurs causing further injury in that situation. She probably lost about as much function as she could without actually having the spinal cord cut in two. After surgery, they sent her home with pain medication but no steriods, I think because they thought there was no function left to preserve. We had a terrible time with her recovery because she wasn't my dog and had been fed table food at home apparently and for the first 3 weeks I couldn't find anything she would eat, until I ended up in tears at PetsMart because there was nothing left to try. To make matters worse, they wouldn't accept her for PT, I assume because she didn't have any deep pain. So I was left on my own. We invented our own exercises, and I searched the Internet, and found this website about 3 months later.

At 149 days they found deep pain response. That is almost 5 months. Then she was accepted for PT. She went twice a week for over a month before she started moving her feet on the treadmill. A month later she stood up for a few seconds, but then never did it again for ages. All during her recovery, she would do something new, then not repeat it again until much later. Even though she stood up on that one occasion, it didn't mean she could stand up, she still couldn't. I started noticing that she would take one to two steps after I expressed her. Then one day she amazingly ran halfway across the livingroom, but didn't do it again. She later got to where she would walk a little after getting off the treadmill. During our walks I discovered she could take steps if she was going downhill. At about the 9-month point, she first walked 4 feet outdoors on a sloping sidewalk. After that I took her to every sloping sidewalk I could find to see if she'd go down. About that time, summer of 2004, my father passed away and I had to travel back to my hometown. My dog was very motivated by the smells on the hotel carpet and did more walking on a level surface. We just gradually built up from there. At about 14 months she finally became able to walk on grass. Now she can go the length of the football field in grass if she wants. I'm not sure when it happened at the moment, but it took her longer to be able to do linoleum, and longest to walk on gravel. She still does best on low pile carpet or cement. At 15 months she drank from a water bowl standing up. On July 15 the therapist said she shook the water out of her coat standing up, that was a first. On July 17 this year she ran down 4 steps over at the school chasing another dog and nearly scared the wits out of me. That was at 21 1/2 months. The most she had ever done was 1 step, except for once she did 2.

And finally, during the two years I've had this dog, while she was making all this progress, she had a number of surgeries. I'm losing track. She cracked a tooth and had to have it extracted. Then she had to be spayed while I was still expressing her bladder, and had more dental extractions at that time. She also got a mammary tumor and had to have a bre*st removed. So she's made all this progress in spite of surgeries. Back surgery, a hysterectomy, a mastectomy, and 4 or 5 teeth extracted in 2 years...makes me wonder what *I* could possibly feel sorry for myself about! Bless her little life.

9-27-05  Ramp

It may not sound like a lot, but she went down the dachshund's ramp yesterday for the first time. She has been able to walk down slopes for a long time. The difficulty with this is that the ramp is only 13" wide and if her hindquarters veered to the left or right she could easily fall off. In addition, she had to cross a metal threshold to get onto the ramp, something she doesn't like to do.

10-6-05  Importance of the article to us

That article that explains spinal walking was my lifeline during the months after I got my dog and before she was accepted for PT (5 months in all). During the pre-surgical consult the surgeon mentioned spinal walking just in passing, then wrote that she would probably never walk again on the surgery consent form. Later I tried to look it up to see what it even meant. You can't find much on it on the Internet (at least I didn't then) but I found this article and I hung onto it.

10-12-05  Handstands and tipping

My dog did and still does do a lot of walking as you describe. She stands in an all-four-feet position but her back feet are barely touching the ground. Actually, her toes are pointed as if trying to reach the ground. She keeps her back feet slightly elevated by kind of doing a partial handstand. It creates a slight arch in her back, and normally her nose will be near the ground. One problem my dog has is tipping. From that all-fours position she will accidentally put too much weight on the front feet and her back end will simply rise up in the air nearly vertical until she loses her balance. It had improved because the therapist was using makeshift ankle weights in the treadmill, then recently she started doing it a bit again, but not nearly like before.

10-16-05  Therapy ball

Dog on peanut shaped therapy ballAs for the ball, my dog didn't like it either. One therapist couldn't get her to do it, the other one could get her to do it sometimes. It was pretty much The Battle of the Ball most times. However, if she wouldn't do that, the therapist made sure she did some other exercise instead. I used to be allowed to attend the therapy sessions (before they moved to a new larger facility) and I would hug the physio-ball before they were going to use it to warm it up. I could see that maybe my dog wouldn't want to have her tummy put on something that felt cold and hard!

10-23-05  I have to trot to keep up   

She has great fun chasing after smells with her nose to the ground when we go for walks. She also likes to run after bigger dogs so I have to catch her! She can go fast enough to make me have to trot to keep up with her (she weighs 7 lbs). She jumps off curbs like they aren't there. She cannot go up steps yet, though.

11-5-05  Walking before standing in place

My dog could walk before she could really stand in one place. In fact she could walk months before she got very good at standing in one place. I think it is partly because her legs are so long in relation to her body it was like trying to stand on stilts in one place. Also we did daily work training her reflexes.

11-22-05  Wonder if I could have done more

I did the exercises to stimulate her feet as I was supposed to--faithfully. But I wonder if I should have also stimulated her whole body? Nobody ever suggested it. I could have scratched her all over every day or something. It would have been easy and I'd have been glad to do it. I never can really tell what she feels when I begin scratching her starting at her ears and keep scratching all the way down her back. I just feel like, obviously it's important to stimulate the feet because walking is important, but wouldn't it be important to *you* to feel your whole body, too? Wouldn't you want to feel your back and tummy and sides? But I never stimulated her whole body, and maybe she would have remapped her whole body if I had? I guess it got some stimulation because I lifted and carried her, and expressed her, and flea combed her, and she changed position lying on different sides, and she exercises in moving water, but still...I just wonder if I could have done more.

11-22-05  Her own schedule

If she's like my dog you may have long periods between the time she first accomplishes something and the time when she really locks it in. My dog stood up for the count of 4 for the first time when she saw another dog she was interested in, but then it was forever before she did it again. It took months before she could stand reliably. But she did.

11-27-05  Climbed the curb

Last week she climbed a curb using all 4 feet and bringing her right back foot up onto the curb in the proper way--she's never done that before.

12-8-05  Climbed the curb (2nd description)

My dog has trouble climbing anything over 2" high. She managed to climb a 4" curb recently, and even did it the right way, lifting her back foot up to place it on the curb, but that was the first time ever.

12-8-05  Photo taken at PT

Dog in Santa hat at PT


12-15-05  Too much holiday cheer (a cautionary tale)

Tuesday my dog's urine started smelling fishy. Yesterday the color was wrong. Testing showed a UTI. I suspect it began when we shared a pint of Silk Soy Nog (only just about the best stuff ever) over the course of two days. She has also been finding a lot of squashed cookies, cupcakes and candy on the patio over at the school.

If anyone has a paralyzed dog, ya might want to go easy on the sweets this holiday season. I don't know what else would have caused it, she's been so good about not getting infections.

12-15-05  Spinal walking and real walking

My dog developed spinal walking first, and later developed real walking. She now does both kinds as she sees fit.

12-19-05  Stiff legs

She also had stiff legs at the beginning of our scarf walks because she was excited. With us it went away eventually--how long I'm not sure. Now she still uses stiff legs when reflex walking, but bends her knees when doing "real" walking.

12-22-05  Two new accomplishments for my dog

During the past month or so, several times I've noticed her taking some steps with her back legs wide apart and knees bent. She has never walked with legs wide apart the whole time I've had her. She either walked with her feet the right distance apart, or too close and crossing.

Yesterday at lunchtime she was walking with her tail above the level of her back. During the whole time I've had her and walked behind her, she's always carried her tail down or not quite up to the level of her back. I was surprised because this is the first time I've actually seen her bottom while she walked.

We are 27 months post injury.