At the age of 3, my Sylvie, a long-haired miniature dachshund, seemed to think she was some kind of flying mammal. She would regularly come galloping along the hallway of my apartment and in one leap bound onto the sitting part of the sofa. With the built-up momentum of the first leap, she'd hurl herself onto the top of it, another fifteen inches higher. She'd sit there for a moment, survey her kingdom from this throne, then dash down again and fly into some other room. Wolf, the Akita with whom she shared this domain, never could keep up with her.
One day, nearly ten years ago to the day -- the eve of Thanksgiving, 1993, I came home from work and opened the door to the terrifying sight of Sylvie, hauling herself across the floor in the seated position in order to greet me. Her back legs, it seemed, were totally paralyzed. In addition, she had apparently lost control of her sphincters and she looked very, very ill indeed. A friend and I rushed her to the nearest vet. From there she was hospitalized for nearly three weeks and every day the news was the same: she was faring no better. A visit to another vet at a different hospital for a second opinion proved more devastating. After examining my dog, he said, "Ms. Fisher, if you have any humanity you will put your dog to sleep today. You are only prolonging a miserable death. She will never walk again."
"Not even with surgery?" I asked. "No, not even with surgery," he replied emphatically.
For some reason, I could not accept this, even from a specialist. I took Sylvie to Dr. Frank DeFeis at Central Veterinary Association in Valley Stream, Long Island. He thought her condition was "worth a myelogram", a kind of x-ray that would help determine if surgery were feasible. The results of the procedure, he believed, showed that it was.
"And do you think my dog wants to live?" I asked.
"Absolutely! Sylvie is fighting for her life!"
"What if she still can't walk after the surgery?" I asked.
"We'll put her on wheels!" was his reply.
And so Sylvie underwent surgery three weeks after her initial paralysis. She came through the operation, but days after her return home she still couldn't walk and for the first time during her long ordeal, she seemed depressed.
Dr. DeFeis put me in touch with the K-9 Cart Company and immediately upon her return, Sylvie was measured for her "Ferrari". It arrived the day before Christmas and that year it was the best gift of all. Once hitched to it, Sylvie was transformed. Newly empowered, her old racing enthusiasm returned and she gave Wolfie a good run for his money. Outdoors, the vehicle was a great boon; indoors Sylvie was a road maniac and dangerous. And, of course, one can't leave a dog alone in the cart and I was gone for much of the day. So I turned my attentions to finding a way to speed up the recovery of my dog's legs.
Dr. DeFeis was a great fan of hydrotherapy. He urged me to "swim" Sylvie in the bathtub, but this proved to be traumatic for both of us. Sylvie, I am convinced, now believed I was trying to drown her, and she fought the idea of going into the tub with all her might. So we quickly gave up on the swimming lessons and I took her for visits to Dr. DeFeis who administered sessions of electronic acupuncture. He also insisted that I give her two tablets of something called DISMUTASE, a plant enzyme of 100% wheat sprouts which can be ordered directly from BioVet at 1-800-788-1084. They are wonderful people. It can also be ordered online from Vitaminshoppe.com and VNFNutrition.com.
Dr. DeFeis checked her regularly for deep pain sensation. This was difficult to discern, but something intangible told this vet that my dog would walk again. As the weeks and months passed, however, and there was no progress whatsoever, even I began to have serious doubts. Still I massaged Sylvie's paralyzed back legs regularly and "marched" her, by which I would hold her back legs in my hands and force them to go up and down, marching her in place for a period of time each day. We never stopped the Dismutase regimen (twice a day, half an hour before breakfast). Many more months went by and there was still no discernible improvement in those legs. Outdoors, Sylvie flew in her Ferrari; indoors she hauled herself around in the same way she did on that first terrible day, dragging her bottom across the floor while in the seated position. I knew now that she would never walk, but she had regained her dachsie "joie de vivre" and Wolfie was spoiling her rotten by bringing her toys and rawhides so she wouldn't have to haul herself around so much. The three of us had adjusted to her condition.
One day, thirteen months after her operation, I watched in silent astonishment as Sylvie nonchalantly and without any fanfare got up and took a walk halfway across the room. For a moment I thought I'd been hallucinating. But in the hours ahead she repeated the act, getting stronger and more sure of herself with each attempt. It seemed a miracle, and now, ten years later, Sylvie is for me a daily miracle. She no longer flies, but she does walk (on her own four legs) and she loves to run, though her running style has changed. It now resembles the movements of a jackrabbit more than that of a dog, but no matter. At 13, Sylvie is happy and healthy.
No one can say how or why a miracle takes place. I feel blessed in having in Dr. DeFeis, a vet who believed in my dog's spirit, who saw a potential in her for being healed where others didn't, and who gave me such good strategies for helping her during her long period of recovery. Blessed, too, is Dismutase, which I continue to give because I think it has been vital to Sylvie's recovery and to the continued health of her joints. I wish it came in a human formula. And finally, there is the dog herself, who has taught me more about fortitude and perseverance than I could ever have imagined possible.
If any readers would like to contact Maxine with questions or comments, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- submitted by Maxine Fisher