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Story of the Month - May 2004    

"Chillie"   

                     

I adopted Chillie a little over 12 years ago. She spends much of her time snoozing on the sofa or the bed, and over the years, has always simply hopped on and off at her leisure. We live in a two story house, and she frequently ran up and down the stairs. Knowing the risks to her back, I did carry her up and down the stairs whenever I could, and I tried to put her up and take her off the sofas and bed, but alas, she has her own mind, and she often did so by herself.

A few times over the years, she has had some minor back pain, which was easily corrected by giving her baby aspirin for 5 days. I only knew about the pain because she was reluctant to jump on or off furniture or up and down stairs during that time. At all times, she was fully able to walk and run. Somewhere around the weekend of October 18, 2003 she starting limping on her right leg. I figured she had sprained her leg or something. I started carrying her in and out, and limiting her mobility. Over two weeks, it got much, much better, and seemed to completely go away. She was once again running around without a problem, and jumping on and off furniture whenever I couldn’t get to her first.

...Until the morning of November 4, 2003. That morning, when she woke up, she was hunched over, clearly in severe discomfort and some pain. She had great difficulty walking (though I subsequently learned that the fact that she had mobility in all four legs was a good sign, indicating that the spinal cord was intact). I took her to an emergency vet, who quickly diagnosed a disc herniation in her neck (based on her symptoms, breed, and age), and indicated that we had two major options: steroids or surgery. I opted for the steroid treatment at first, and left her at the vet overnight. They gave her three injected steroidal treatments over the course of the day, and I picked her up the next morning. She was a little better, though still far from perfect. They sent me home with Prednisone tablets and Pepcid AC, which I was to give her according to a schedule. I started on the Prednisone that night, and minimized her mobility, carrying her in and out. Over the next couple of days, she did not get any worse but also she did not seem to improve. The night of November 6 was awful – she had a severe case of diarrhea, and was asking to go out every half hour throughout the night. Now, not only was she uncomfortable due to the herniated disc, but the diarrhea was unbelievable, and I feared it would dehydrate her if it continued. I attributed it to the Prednisone; the fact that they had her take Pepcid with it was an indication to me that they knew it could cause some type of gastrointestinal problem, and Chillie has long had a sensitive stomach.

The next morning I decided to do the surgery, provided the vet thought there was a good chance of recovery, and that the risks were minimized. I called her, and after asking a lot of questions about the procedure, recovery period, anesthesia, risks, etc., I decided to go through with it. Due to the diarrhea, they put her on IV to get fluids and nutrition into her body in preparation for the MRI, surgery, and anesthesia the next day.

Late the next morning, I received a call from the vet who indicated that they had just completed the MRI. She indicated that it was an acute rupture (meaning that some “event” suddenly caused it), and that she would benefit from the surgery, with an excellent chance of a full recovery. Again, I started asking questions (this was my last chance to make sure I didn’t miss any important ones), and was soon convinced that surgery was likely to be a good option for Chillie.

Later that evening, I received a call from the vet who indicated that everything went well. The day after that, I went to see her again, and she was starting to stand up again and her appetite was back – all good signs! The next day, I went to pick her up from the hospital, and she was walking (slowly and deliberately, but walking without pain nonetheless). A week after the surgery she was about 90% recovered, and two weeks afterward, she was bopping around the house pretty much like she used to. I am now careful, though, to prevent her from jumping up on furniture, or going up and down stairs.

I am convinced that the primary cause of the disc herniation was her constant jumping down off of furniture – the sudden jolt on her front paws when she landed needed to be absorbed by the discs (like shock absorbers), and over time, they weakened and one ruptured. I now have a ramp that I am trying to “convince” her to use, and I would recommend one to everybody who has a Dachshund or any other breed susceptible to disc problems. When I walk her, I use a harness, rather than a collar, to reduce the chance of any sudden pressure on her neck. But basically, I am happy to report that she has recovered quite nicely from this painful and trying ordeal.

Since this writing, Chillie has unfortunately passed away from an unrelated heart condition. The following is a tribute that was written for Chillie by her owner, Steven:

A Letter to My Best Friend

My dearest Chillie. When I first adopted you, I didn't know very much about dogs. About all I knew is that I wanted one my entire life, but could never have one as a child. I remember the day I brought you home, I felt so overwhelmed I didn't know where to start. But it didn't take long for me to learn how to care for you; even less time to learn to love you. Since that day, whether you knew it or not, you have taught me so much more than I ever could imagine: about love, life, loyalty, and compassion. You taught me about living for the moment; about forgiveness; about empathy; about the virtue of just being with someone you care for, regardless of what you are doing with them; and most importantly, about unconditional love.

Although I got you when I was in my twenties, in my mind you were the childhood dog I had always wanted, and so much more. You were my buddy; you were a source of pride and joy; you were the first thing I took care of in the morning, and the last thing I took care of at night. And while I was probably not perfect, I hope the things I did right outweighed the mistakes I made, and I know you have forgiven me for anything I did wrong. Your sweet, friendly temperament was all I ever wanted. I hope I gave you a happy, comfortable life; I believe I did.

I believe all creatures live on by how they've impacted the world; about how they influenced people, the environment, and world events; about the example they've served. And Chillie, our time together has, I believe, made me a better person, and I believe, in some small way, that has made the world a better place. You have inspired me to things beyond what I would have done alone. You were a great travel companion, taking three long trips to Florida, and many, many shorter trips locally and around the east coast. Everybody who knew you knew you were a friendly and very special dog.

Chillie, you made me smile; you made me worry; you made me proud; you made me care; you made me laugh; and now, as you enter heaven, you make me cry. You will live on in my heart forever.

I love you Chillie Dog.

Chillie Dog Michelson
March 9, 1991 - March 29, 2004

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