by Anne Scott
My son calls Chester the miracle dog which is very apt as he has come through three life-threatening episodes during his seven years.
We rescued Chester in 2005 from an abusive home when he was eleven months old. We had been looking for a mini smooth dachshund puppy after our beloved Guinness had to be put to sleep due to a spinal tumor. During the course of our search we were contacted by a woman who urgently wanted to rehome her standard dachshund because (as I found out later) he was being beaten by her husband/partner. We had not really wanted a standard dachshund but we knew we had to get him out of that situation.
He settled in with us very well but it soon became obvious that he must have been beaten with a stick as any stick-like object reduced him to absolute terror. That was unfortunate as my husband had just had a hip replacement operation and was still on crutches. However, Chester gradually overcame the worst of his fears although he remained very wary of all men for a long time.
Fast forward to late October 2011. Late one evening I noticed that he was unwilling to walk and that his left hind leg was a bit wobbly. Off we went to the emergency vet and he was given injections of anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant and pain killer and we were told to crate-rest him. Initially he seemed to improve but nine days later he suddenly lost the use of both back legs and was rushed back to the vets. A myelogram showed a problem at L3-L4 and I told the vet to go ahead and operate. He expected to find a prolapsed disc but instead found a mass of tiny cysts (like mini bubble wrap, he said) wrapped around the spinal cord and compressing it to half its normal thickness. He told me afterwards that it was incredibly difficult to painstakingly peel off all the abnormal tissue and that Chester’s outlook was ‘guarded’.
Chester was in hospital for nine days and I visited him every day, sitting with him in his hospital pen for about an hour each day. On the day he was brought out for me to take him home he wagged his tail with joy – the first really positive sign! For the last couple of days that he was in hospital I was told that there were signs he was trying to pee while being expressed. As soon as I got him home I walked him outside using a hind end harness and as soon as he smelled his familiar grass he peed by himself and later that evening also emptied his bowels unaided! I have been very fortunate not to have needed to express him at all.
Once he was home he made quite rapid progress. He stood briefly two weeks post op and took a couple of wobbly steps the next day. By three weeks post op he was walking with just a long scarf under his hips to help him over uneven ground or when squatting to relieve himself. Gradually I lengthened the time of his walks as his co-ordination and muscle mass improved. I was soon able to dispense with any support at all and by eight weeks post op he was easily able to manage a half-hour walk.
He had four weekly sessions of electro-acupuncture, the first one at 13 days post op, before he had started walking. He also had six weekly sessions of water treadmill, starting as soon as his stitches were removed. For the first one the physiotherapist got in the tank with him and moved his legs for him but by the following week he was able to do it all himself. Every week the time was gradually extended and the water lowered a little. In addition, I did three daily sessions of physiotherapy with him at home and still continue to do one session daily.
He is now 6 months post op and continuing to do well. His hind legs are well-muscled and he has very good stamina and can easily manage 45 minute walks over all kinds of terrain, including steep slopes. The action of his right hind leg is very nearly normal but he doesn’t have quite the same fine control over his left hind leg. He still knuckles over on that one very occasionally, particularly when walking through long grass or squatting to empty his bowels, but on firm ground he walks well on it. The vet is confident that there will be further gradual improvement for anything up to 12 – 18 months but even if he doesn’t improve any further he is an active, happy dog who loves chasing squirrels in the park or running along the beach and we are thrilled with his recovery.