Sick Pup Update

It’s been almost four weeks since I posted about my dog’s new diagnosis of Intervertebral Degenerative Disc Disease so I’ll just start where I left off on March 7.


After I posted about my sick pup we left the house to attend my daughter’s concert. My daughter is a junior in high school now with a heavy load of honors and AP classes but she couldn’t go to school that day knowing that our dog’s neurological status had deteriorated. We were in a waiting game to see if the steroids they’d given him were going to reverse his paralysis. My husband and I came to an agreement with our daughter; we were to go to the concert providing we didn’t hear any more bad news about the dog before the concert. I emailed the band director to fill him in on what was going on. He was extremely understanding and excused our daughter from the concert if she couldn’t go but hoped she would because maybe playing music with her peers would help her feel better. The band director was right. Our band booster family was there to support us and it being with our friends as we watched our children play a concert was helpful to our own healing.

We visited out dog late that night after our son was finished with a lab class. Our dog’s condition hadn’t changed and I noticed they put a catheter in his bladder. The veterinarian said he indeed had bowel and bladder control and sensation in his limbs but it was stressful for an animal to wonder when they’d be able to relieve themselves. He was sleepy and his eyes were blood shot yet receptive to our presence. We tried to do little things to him to test his movement that we know used to annoy him. We noticed if we touched his tail he’d ever so slightly pull it away. He ever so slightly pulled his back foot away. It was encouraging.

The following morning I returned to the animal hospital to visit our dog. The catheter had been removed and this time they did not wheel him in on a stretcher as they previously had, they carried him in and placed him on the couch in the visiting room. The veterinarian came in shortly afterward and told me to go get things ready in our home because he would be discharged later.  I asked him if he wanted to come home and he tried to move his upper torso and kicked his back legs.  It had been less than 12 hours since we saw he and he’d already begun to regain function. We were headed in the right direction.

The discharge process was a little frustrating. We had so many questions and the vet tech that was assigned to help us with the discharge had not worked with our dog. Really? We learned about toileting, medications, feeding and activity. Imagine a cartoon character who gets hit in the head with a rock. He or she is stunned for a minute, shakes his or her head and proceeds. That’s how my husband and I felt in the beginning.

Our dog, Cooper had to be held a certain way to support his back but to allow him to stand up to urinate.  So before discharge, the vet tech called in some reinforcements and we went over it until we felt comfortable. Even after training, for days after it took two of us in the family stand him up outside and days of getting our timing right. Sometimes he’d pee outside, sometimes he’d have an accident. Three days later, after work and as my daughter suggested I took him to his favorite light pole, stood him up and he peed. Victory! My daughter who had just come home from school and was pulling into our street witnessed it as she was parking her car. Although the toileting process took longer to perfect, this was definitely an encouraging sign.

The medication process was another doozy. The animal hospital sent him home on six medications. Prednisone, a steroid to reduce the swelling of his spinal cord. Gabapentin for neurologic pain and function. Tramadol for pain. Methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant and sedative. Omeprazole to protect the lining of his stomach and  Cerenia for nausea. “Oh and by the way”, they told us. “Don’t feed him tonight because he threw up.” We were to give him two of the medications that evening. Here is where I had an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, anxiety, insecurity and fear. I asked myself if we’d be able to care for him. He wouldn’t take his medications in his usual way which is a pill placed in cream cheese and rolled up on a slice of ham. His tummy hurt. A phone call to the vet advised us to dilute the pills, put them into a syringe and gently squirt into his mouth. Public service announcement: my dog was in a shelter for six months from the age of two to two and one half when we adopted him. We have no idea why he was surrendered or what happened to him. He bites to bite.

The first night home was the most difficult. As usual we brought Cooper to bed with us. After all, he is our third baby and he really did need the attention. He cried all night. His tummy hurt, he vomited, he peed on himself. In the morning I called the animal hospital and they added a seventh medication. Pepcid to reduce stomach irritation and acid. By the end of the day he was holding water down. The next day our daughter got him to eat a few chunks of boiled hamburger.

Each day we noticed he was able to do more and more things physically. Rolling over, sitting up, standing, peeing outside. Sunday, two days after discharge was his first attempt to walk. My daughter filmed him stumbling off his pillow. I posted it on social media and got so many sad comments. That’s our reality though and I wanted people to know that. By Tuesday he was walking. He still had signs of neurologic deficit but his veterinarian was pleased with his progress and felt that surgery was not necessary at this time. His appetite increased gradually. By the time our son came home a week after Cooper was discharged from the animal hospital we had finally gotten him to take meds in his ham and cream cheese roll up again but then he abruptly stopped. My son suggested maybe Cooper was sick of ham so we bought some bologna and roast beef. That did the trick. No more diluting meds, putting them in a syringe and squirting them into his mouth. We alternate between bologna and roast beef. This dog eats well. I’ve also added a spinal vitamin to his meals. It contains, cow trachea, horse tail and several vitamins and electrolytes. I open up the capsule and mix it into his food.



He isn’t allowed to go to the groomer until he’s medically cleared and he’s getting scruffy. I’ve contacted a groomer whom I know owns a has a mobile grooming service and  does multiple special needs dogs. He’s on crate rest and is supposed to be for at least 4-6 weeks. He is not allowed to go up or down stairs or jump off of furniture. That’s the challenge. Cooper has separation anxiety. He can’t just be placed in his crate and be expected to deal with it. Ordinarily he’s crated only when we leave the house.  I made yet another phone call to the veterinarian. The day after his first follow up check up, he literally paced around in the crate all day.  I fail to see how that is promoting rest for him. She advised that I could give him his anxiety meds that we use for grooming and vet visits. I have since added a natural calming chew twice daily and removed the as needed anxiety meds because I don’t want him to develop a tolerance. We have baby gates now. We allow him to be out of the crate in restricted areas of our home under direct supervision so he doesn’t injure himself. We believe in keeping him safe first and foremost but we are also concerned about his emotion health. He needs to be nurtured as he heals.

img_6971As they say, when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade. This situation definitely blindsided my entire family. My husband, our son, our daughter and I came together as a team to care for Cooper wholeheartedly with love, devotion while sticking to his treatment guidelines.

I can only imagine what it feels like receive pages of discharge instructions and a bag full of medications to bring a sick human being family member home to care for them. On May 14, 2019 I will celebrate the 25th anniversary of my graduation from nursing school. Talk about feeling like a cartoon character who’s had the rock thrown at her head. Where did the time go? I have spent half of my life as a Registered Nurse. Not only was my dog’s illness an eye opener and a life style change for us as a family, it was an eye opener for me as a nurse. There’s always room for improvement. We should never stop learning or trying to better ourselves. When life throws you a lemon, take the lemon, embrace it, make the lemonade, learn from the experience, use what you’ve learned to help others.

My sick pup

I’ve been away from this blog a really long time. I just haven’t felt inspired to write anything. I’m confused and uncertain about the direction this blog is going in. I’m not sure if I like it. During my absence, I’ve tried to follow other people’s posts, admiring their clarity and direction  and in return have asked myself the same question, “who am in in this blog?”

Today I return though.  I return brokenhearted and devastated. The world that my husband, our son and daughter live in has been turned upside down and shattered. Our dog, a nine year old male mini poodle is in the hospital with a new diagnosis of Intervertebral Degenerative Disc Disease. The vertebrae in his neck are compressing his spinal cord and he’s paralyzed.

My daughter noticed Tuesday evening that he was acting like he was in pain. I left work three hours into my shift yesterday morning to bring him to the animal hospital. His condition has deteriorated significantly since his arrival there. While I was getting him into the car yesterday to bring him, he looked like he was doing a little better. He seemed to be moving around easier and I thought he’d get some doggie ibuprofen and he’d be good to go a few days later like he was three years ago when he appeared to have back pain.

They started steroids at 0300. The night veterinarian called at 0630 to tell us he’s paralyzed and that we should come in. Surgery would cost 11K. Would he ever be the same though? Do we want him to suffer?! The tears came, I gathered my family and off we went to the vet. It was like a death march in a parade of darkness, despair and impending doom. When we arrived they wheeled him in. He was covered up and on his side. He picked up his head when we saw us. Once again, as he has for the past 6 years and 10 months, he filled our hearts with his love. It felt so so good to see him, to pet him, to kiss him, to hold his hand, to talk to him, to bring him his favorite toys, to feed him, to touch him and to reminisce about him in our lives. We have thousands of pictures of him of simple everyday moments of life that he has shared with us. He has taught each of us to love in a way that we were unfamiliar with and he has amazed us everyday with the gifts that God has given him. He is our everything.

The morning veterinarian came in to see us after a little while. She  doesn’t want to give us false hope yet she doesn’t want to give up on him just yet though. He’s on pain meds, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxers and steroids in hopes that the steroids will take effect in 24-48 hours. We were relieved. We thought the night vet was inviting us to come put him to sleep.

The rug has been pulled out from underneath me and I’ve been hit by a train. Our happy little world with our dog is shattering and we are holding on for dear life.  I haven’t cried this much in a day in probable 10 years. I’ve seen so many people experience what I am experiencing right now with their pets. Every time I see someone go through it I always always say a prayer of thanks for my dog. This sucks. I’m a nurse. I see this all the time with humans. I hurt for patients and families when they get a shit diagnosis. I am realistic too. I know there’s no guarantee those steroids are going to work and but am I being selfish for wanting them to? The vet said IF the steroids are effective, he’ll need weeks to months of pain meds, steroids and muscle relaxers. We as a family commit to that. I just want him home. I want to nurse him. I want to love him more. We all do.

After we left the vet went for lunch, dropped my son back at school and after we got home I took a nap. I stopped by the church. It was locked so I sat in front of the statue of Mary and asked for a Divine Intervention. God has granted them to before. Now I need another one.

The paw I am holding is his right front. In September of 2016 he snagged it on the carpet, ripped it and it bled. We took him to the same animal emergency hospital where they fixed it. From then on we called it boo boo paw.

Below are the lyrics to Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”. Although sad, I like it because it’s asking for one last chance. That’s all I want.

Pray God you can cope
I’ll stand outside
This woman’s work
This woman’s world
Ooooh it’s hard on a man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the Father
I know you’ve got a little life in you left
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left
I know you’ve got a little life in you yet
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can’t let it show
I should be hoping but I can’t stop thinking
All the things we should’ve said that I never said
All the things we should have done that we never did
All the things we should have given but I didn’t
Oh darling make it go
Make it go away
Give me these moments
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your talking hands
Give me your hand baby
(I know you have a lot of strength left)
Give me your pretty hand
(I know you have a little life in you yet)
Ooh you have a lot of strength
(I know you have a lot of strength left)
My loved child
(I know you have a little life in you yet)
Whatever you need baby
(I know you have a lot of strength left)
Give me your hand
(I know you have a little life in you yet)
Give me your hand
(I know you have a lot of strength left)
Oh I should be crying but I just can’t let it go
I should be hoping but I can’t stop
Thinking and thinking and thinking
Of all the things we should’ve said that we never said
And all the things we should have done that we never did
All the things that you wanted from me
All the things that you needed from me
All the things I should have given but I didn’t
Oh darling make it go
Just make it go away
Psalm 34:17-18 The Lord hears his people when they call to him. 
                            He rescues them from all their troubles.
                            The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, he rescues those who are crushed.


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