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Story of the Month - July 2006    

"Peanut's and Sabrett (in the hat) "   


Hi! My name is Cindy McWilliams, and I'm a member of Dodger's List. One year ago, my sweet little boy, Peanut (two years old at the time), woke up one morning (by my side, in my bed) and yelped just once before I discovered he was paralyzed. Peanut had no history of IVDD prior to this episode.

I had seen this dreadful disease once before so I knew right away what was wrong. Eleven years ago, my much beloved Sabrett became totally paralyzed from the neck down at the age of five. She experienced disk problems from the time she was a puppy. I learned my lesson the hard way.she came from a puppy mill in Idaho, and I purchased her from a store. Sabrett was my first pet (though I had lots of family pets as a child) and I loved her deeply, maybe more so than the "average" person because I had become disabled at the age of twenty-four and felt very isolated and lonely. Wherever I went, Sabrett was with me, on planes, in cars, in stores, in clubs. She was the most adorable, loving, sweet, and playful little girl, she was loved by everyone. She had a beautiful black and grey dapple coat.and a few breeders had their eye out on her.

I was able to work as a teacher until the age of thirty-one so I was able to afford the best of care for Sabrett. For four years, she experienced symptoms of IVDD. Since this happened quite a while ago, I do not recall the meds she was given, but meds were the only treatment. Sabrett, on her own, did not attempt stairs and rested most of the time during these episodes. I had never even heard of crate rest back then. As a matter of fact, I never heard of crate rest as a treatment until I came across Dodger's List!

One morning in 1995, following a family gathering and Sabrett's obsession with jumping up to try to snag the balloons, Sabrett followed me to go outside for her potty time. She walked fine but would not go down the two steps outside the door. I carried her to the lawn. She did her business, then wouldn't walk back in. She never walked again.

Immediately, I put her in the car and rushed over to the vet. The vet said she was paralyzed. This was the start for me of many tears. He told me to take her immediately to Oradell Animal Hospital in New Jersey where they specialized in treating this disease. I rushed home to tell my parents and we drove to Oradell. Sabrett was seen immediately. I never saw the surgeon, but the assistant told me Sabrett would be fine and that she had an 85% chance of walking again. They whisked her away, and I waited.

Sabrett was to stay in the hospital for 3-4 days. Every one of those days, the doctor called me and told me Sabrett was progressing fine. On the 4th or 5th day, I was to pick her up, but the doctor called me to tell me he'd like her to stay an additional day. On the 5th/6th day, he told me he'd like her to stay an additional day. On the 7th day, he told me he'd like her to stay an additional day. Each day he told me she was fine. On the 8th day, he said the same, and I started to panic. I told him I was coming in to see her. He told me not to. I insisted. He said it wasn't necessary. I felt she might be lonely and missing me (and I surely was missing her). I said I was coming in. He then told me not to bother.she wasn't going to live and would die within three days. Oh, my God! This hit me like a ton of bricks. I never saw this coming, and the doctor never once even insinuated there was a problem. I broke down, hysterical crying. My father witnessed these calls each and every day and

We went to Oradell immediately, I paid another payment toward the bill ($5,000) and took my baby home. I never paid the $1,000 balance I owed to the vet. I felt he should have told me she was going to die earlier or indicated there was a problem before he did. I sent him a letter that included "I'm not going to pay the balance of $1,000 for a dead dog." I was very angry and felt very deceived.

I had Sabrett for three days before she passed away. She was able to eat and drink, but it went right through her. For three days, I slept with her, held her, talked to her. On the third day, I stood outside in the sun holding her in her blankie for hours. At one point, I said, "Give Mommy a kiss," and she lifted her head, kissed me, then took her last breath, and she died. For hours, I held her inside the house. I didn't want to let go. My family went through the house collecting her toys, her treats, everything. They convinced me to put her into her bed and she remained there for a few more hours until I knew I had to let her go. My nephew, two years old at the time, came by to visit. He had a little bag of M&Ms and wanted to give one to Sabrett. We let him put one by her mouth (he didn't know anything was wrong). I never saw my Dad and brother bury her, but my mother made sure Sabrett had her bed and toys and the blanket I had made for her. She was buried in the backyard. My Dad m

This moves me to tears even now. It was a heartbreaking loss. The vet never told me what was wrong with Sabrett, just that the disease had "spread up her spine making it difficult for her to breath." Years later this still haunted me and my vet would never answer me when I asked what happened to Sabrett. With the $1,000 I hadn't paid to the surgeon, I purchased another dog (a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.I couldn't bear to see a Dachsie for many years). Finally, one day my vet said, "Cindy, she died from the anesthesia." I'm still not really sure just why she died.

Some years later I purchased "from a reputable breeder" another dachsie of "champion lines" and gave him to my mother because she had so dearly loved Sabrett. Thankfully, Buddy is living a long life, but he too has suffered terribly with IVDD, though he has never become paralyzed.

Once again, eleven years later, I stood with my parents in Oradell Animal Hospital. They whisked Peanut away and returned with the dx of paralysis, IVDD, and the need for immediate surgery ($5,000 for the surgery alone). This time, I was not financially able to afford any sort of vet care, never mind the cost of surgery. I rescued Peanut from a family who was going to put him down because they didn't want the dog their uncle, who had a litter, gave them as a gift. My parents were now retired and living on a fixed income, my boyfriend applied for Care Credit but was denied. The decision presented to me was between euthanasia or making a feeble attempt, according to everyone, at treating Peanut with steroids. Peanut had no deep pain sensation and no muscle tone. He had no bowel or bladder control. For two hours, I was urged to put him down, to consider the quality of his life. For two hours, I cried. I could not let him go. "He's only two years old, and he doesn't want to die," I said.

For two weeks, Peanut howled, screeched, and barked at the top of his lungs, twenty-four hours a day. I thought surely I would go mad and definitely be evicted. Thankfully, my neighbors were heartbroken over what had happened to Peanut and no one complained. I did not know to crate Peanut, but since he was paralyzed, he remained resting in his bed. I expressed Peanut's bladder regularly but there didn't seem to be any point. His bladder was emptying and soaking his bedding, towels, and wee wee pads every half hour. One morning, he was crying and I found that he was covered with was about this time I discovered Dodger's list (I had been making a fervent search on the internet in an attempt to find a way to fund Peanut's surgery) and learned these burns were actually urine scalds. I kept the wounds clean and covered them with an ointment, and I cleaned Peanut's entire body every half hour. He lost his hair from all of the burns, but the wounds healed and eventually his hair gr

In addition, Peanut did not want to eat so I could not give him medications in pill form. The vets taught me how to give his meds. via injections. When I finally found the foods that Peanut was willing to eat (with the help of my friend, who purchased and prepared the foods), Peanut began bleeding from the rectum. He was bleeding internally as a result of the steroids and had to be taken off of these immediately. Even though Peanut was now eating, he still would not take his meds in pill form. I got two very serious bites from my tough little guy.I never knew how badly a bite from a little dog could hurt! The vets explained that even a dog who does not ordinarily bite WILL bite when he is in pain. Eventually, I couldn't give the injections to Peanut.he was snapping and biting fiercely. The vets couldn't do it either. Finally I figured out a way to do it with two people, but still, it was not easy.

With the advice I received from Dodger's list, I learned what to ask the vets. Peanut's pain was not under control and he was truly suffering. I asked the vet to increase his pain meds. and they doubled the dosage. Finally, Peanut began to feel better, despite his inability to take steroids, and soon he began to pull himself out of his bed with his front legs. I didn't know if this was okay or not.

I also learned through Dodger's List of an agency that offered some funds for those with pets in need, AAHA Helping Pets Fund. I was able to gain access to $500. per year (which could also be accessed by other patients once the fund was opened) which was hardly a drop in the bucket but enough so that Peanut could be seen for office visits and given prescriptions for medications.

I called every vet in my county and finally found one who would accept this financial assistance program. This vet also reduced all of his fees so that the assistance would last longer. He really did not have any hope for Peanut with the severity of his condition but he said I could visit with him if I wanted to. The vet Peanut had been seeing previously who was both traditional and holistic and had more knowledge of this disease (but wouldn't accept the assistance and thus would not see Peanut) continued to advise this "new" vet and the new vet would report to them his findings and prescribe treatment based on the prior vet's recommendations.

I took Peanut outside every day so he could enjoy the smells and sights and sounds (he demanded a change of scenery). Eventually, Peanut sat, then stood, then took steps. Toward the end of his 8-week crate confinement, I began to let him walk on the grass, and soon he was running around as he used to. He was considered to be a miracle by every resident in my complex and by all of my friends and family.

About one week later, Peanut woke up paralyzed again. My heart was broken. This time no one had a smidgen of hope. I was told to consider Peanut's quality of life and put him down. Again he had no deep pain response, no muscle tone, no bowel or bladder control. Again, Peanut was given steroids, but he bled internally after only one day. I felt the situation might be hopeless. He was back on injections, I was cleaning him up continuously, not even the holistic vet could recommend a holistic steroid, and I was at a loss as to what to do. I began crate rest immediately, called the vet several times in an effort to find SOMETHING to help Peanut. Finally, I went up there with Peanut (no appt.) and they said he could try NSAIDS but they had no hope for his recovery. I was determined to do whatever I could do to help Peanut.

For eight more weeks (and I did not give in -ever- when Peanut wanted out), I carried Peanut around in a laundry basket, changed his bedding (and washed all of his toys) continuously, talked with him, even had him sleep with me (the laundry basket on top of my bed, next to me). We spent a lot of time outside because he seemed happier there. By the way, he came to love his crate. When he gained bowel/bladder control, he'd go potty outside, then anxiously return to his "home."

One day, his left rear foot moved. It was so slight, no one was sure it had really moved at all. Then nothing. One week later, he sat up. The next week, he stood up. Another week, and he took a few steps, then sat back down. Every little movement from the time I thought I saw his foot move was like an unbelievable miracle to me. When he stood and balanced on all four legs, I cried with happiness. He progressed from there and now, just over one year later, he is a happy little guy, walking, running, his ears blowing back in the wind, whining when he wants something (as usual), and I couldn't be happier. To look at him, one would never know that he was once so sick and paralyzed.

I am disabled and have an extremely difficult time functioning, even to complete daily living tasks. Taking care of Peanut was overwhelming and stressful, to say the least, but the outcome was worth every minute of it. I am forever grateful for the help I received from Dodger's List and the very generous financial assistance I received from Dr. Weiner, my new vet.

Medications (while paralyzed/sick):
Deramaxx Buprene
Tramadol Sulcralfate
Metronidazole Rimadyl
Torbutrol and Ketroprofen Injections Dexamethasone
Pepcid AC
Supplements, Current:
As of May 2006, I have started giving Peanut Glucosamine Chondroitin, 500 mgs.


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