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Story of the Month - July 2005    



 This is our baby, Gretel. When I get home from work, I go directly to the bedroom where the TV is on. Gretel, who is 7 1/2 now, likes the TV to keep her company while she spends her day in her kennel. I open the door and she gingerly steps out, then tears for the front door in a kind of slip-slide, drunken way but normally, she makes it, then squats like a frog, sometimes swaying a little. This is big stuff for us. A year and 3 months ago, I thought we would be putting our little Gretel to sleep because it was the only thing we knew to do for a Dachshund that had become paralyzed.

It was March 31, 2004, one of the worst days of my life. For 2 days, Gretel had been limping but didn't seem to be in pain. I thought she'd sprained a leg. Although Gretel took flying leaps off things, we kept her skinny and I didn't think she would get back problems as a result. (One Dachshund had already been "put down" by family members very recently so I was aware of what could happen.) Looking back, there were signs before the limp. Sometimes she'd yip if you picked her up the wrong way, that sort of thing. She was limping in the morning and by the time I got home, I had no idea how long she had been dragging her back legs. I got on the internet immediately. Dodger's List was one of many sites I found but the big thing I read was IV prednisone within 24 hours. I called Doctors Urgent Care and took her that night (an hour away). She had no deep pain whatsoever in her back legs. (He stuck pins in her paws--nothing. It was horrible.) The vet on call gave me a couple options for surgery and told me it needed to be done within 24-48 hours to be successful. I tried calling some places the next day but wasn't able to line anything up that was close enough or within the time limit. I thought it was too late for anything. (I was wrong. I learned later surgery could have still been tried.) It was a good thing I didn't have to work that day, I cried and cried. Only those of you who have gone through this can understand, wondering what's going to happen to your baby.

My husband told me we couldn't have her in pain. I told him I didn't think she WAS in pain but either way, I needed the weekend to think about it. I took her to the local vet the very next day and with the IV prednisone, she had regained some feeling. This vet was positive. Although she didn't give me the specific instructions I needed and she didn't tell me Gretel could still have surgery, she did tell me to let her rest and heal and they gave me more prednisone. She said some dogs do get their mobility back. (Another vet who worked with her told me what Gretel had at 2 months was what she would have. He was, of course, very wrong.) I tried talking to various "animal" people, but no one could tell me exactly what I should be doing with Gretel. Most everyone I talked to had put their animals to sleep and by this time, I knew that would not be an option.

I should have gotten on the Dodgers e-mail list immediately but I wasn't internet-savvy at the time. I just read. I did crate her but probably not long enough. I tried water therapy but probably not enough of it. I exercised her legs, did some towel walking, but not enough of that. I just did a low dose, every other day, of prednisone (no other supplements) hoping to keep the inflammation down so she would heal. The vet agreed to this as long as it was low dose. After two months, she could stand. After four months, she was trying to walk. She still soiled her kennel things but they were easy to wash. And I could still hug and love on her. Crating her during the day was hard, she was lonely enough as it was when we worked, but we got her toys and chews and left the TV on. She had up and down spells, she would try to walk but it was so much easier and faster for her to scoot. She was a whizz scooting (looked just like a black seal). I tried to let her scoot and would have been happy with a scooting dog; but she rubbed nasty raw spots on her ankles. I wanted to give her a year to do what she could on her own.

When close to a year was up, early 2005, I decided she either had to start walking consistently or I was buying a cart. I wondered why she was just walking every so often, not trying to build her muscles. She was weak in the back section and so thin, no meat on her at all--I knew she was probably starting to atrophy. She needed to keep at it!! But she just seemed to prefer to scoot. So I joined the Dodger's e-mail List (I get it in digest form), asked questions and got all my answers. I crated her for 2 months 24/7, started over basically, did water therapy every day, bicycled her legs, started her on glucosamine/chondroitin, Vitamin C, Fish Oil, and started weaning her off the prednisone slowly (was told long term pred was very bad) and put her on yucca (a natural anti-inflammatory). I get them all at the health food store or Wal-Mart. And we got her a Dr. Laurie's Dogs-to-Go cart that she took to immediately (even though it needed adjusted, she still liked it). Gretel's cart is a walking cart, she can still try to walk her legs as she uses it, something I had known nothing about. May I add that this was all very affordable for us. We are not wealthy people. I may have tried to swing the surgery if we had gotten an appointment but all we have done so far is surgery-free. If I get some bills paid off, acupuncture is our next step. There is a holistic vet about 2 hours away.

Gretel was never officially diagnosed with IVDD by an expert but obviously, she WAS paralyzed and what we have been doing with Gretel is basically advice from Dodgerslist. She still has up and down times but the "up" times are more and more frequent. (She's been walking great now for 5 days in a row, for example.) She still tires and drops to scoot. We put her in the cart or kennel then. Apparently, after a rest period of some days, she's ready to go again. She still messes her kennel some but not at all like she used to and she's trying to hold it. We try to express her before we leave for work and at bedtime and try the Q-tip with Vaseline "up the rear" (not as icky as it sounds) to help her out. But mainly, Gretel has no idea she is disabled. She dislikes being kenneled but otherwise, she is a happy dog, certainly happy to be alive and we are as well. I have Dodgerslist to thank for that. I just wish I'd gotten on the email list sooner. I think we'd have her "good as new" by now and that may not be "perfect" but its good enough for us and because of that, we consider Gretel a SUCCESS STORY! Gretel doesn't walk like she used to, she walks like a drunken sailor, she has accidents (and incidentally, she had accidents before IVDD) but she's still the same dog. Cleaning up after her isn't any more difficult than cleaning up after your child. Please give your baby a chance. And thanks Dodgerslist!

Kay and Gretel

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