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For The Love Of A Dog
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For The Love Of A Dog

I have just had one of the worst weeks of my life. The dog has been seriously ill and we have been distraught for days. In fact I’m writing this article to emotionally purge myself of the upset.

Our Labrador is 9 years old and he’s had a few health problems lately. He’s been put on a diet, is on meds for arthritis, and his fatty tumors have been tested and they’re benign. We thought we had everything under control. The dog was getting back to his “old Self” and then wham! We go for a walk at the weekend and he ends up slipping a disk in his spine.

The dog did nothing out of the ordinary. He did not jump from a great height or run about in a frenzied manner, he just skipped a step as he was descending from a low bridge and that was it. I will never forget the look he gave me. I knew something bad had happened. He froze and just whimpered quietly. We could not get him to walk at first. The path we were on was not accessible to cars, bikes or anything else. Eventually he moved, but we knew he was in terrible pain. He weighs around 5 stones so carrying him was a bit of an issue. It was obvious he was trying not to put weight on his front right leg.

We took him to the vet. By this stage he was refusing to walk. The vet had to examine him in the car. He thought the dog had damaged his front right knee joint. Pain relief and rest were prescribed and we went home. Later that night things took a turn for the worse. He lay out on his side and appeared not to be able to move. He was still in great pain even though he had had a dose of pain killers. He refused to eat or drink. Then the unthinkable happened – he became incontinent.

We took him back to the vets. This time we had to carry him into the surgery on his bed. They asked us to leave him overnight and agreed to ring first thing in the morning once they had given him an examination. They sedated him and we left. The phone call was not good news. The vet suspected a spinal injury and wanted the go ahead for x-rays. None of the family had slept very well so this came as a real blow. The x-rays showed osteoarthritis at the base of his spine but just above that was a slipped disk which was leaking fluid into his spinal cord. The dog could not walk. He had lost the use of his back legs.

Conversations then began about treatment. The word surgery loomed large. MRI scans, specialist care, insurance forms all came into the frame. I rang the insurance company, who incidentally, are refusing to cover any rehab or surgical procedures because of the dog’s age, and the fact that my policy is not good enough to cover “accidents of this nature”. Basically it looks like we are going to be left with a whopping great bill. I did not have the energy to argue with them. I still don’t and I don’t care. All I can think about is getting him back home. I have not stopped crying for days now. He is hospitalized and I am making daily visits to see him. I feel my heart breaking.

Good news. The vet has done some research and they think that his recovery will be just as good using rehabilitation and therapy rather than surgery. They have him on steroids to reduce the swelling in the spine. Massage and physiotherapy are being used to remind his brain that he still has back legs. Today he went into the hydrotherapy pool for the first time. He has just started to eat and drink a little.

We are not out of the woods yet. The signs are positive. He has movement in his back legs, but they are still weak. His weight has to be supported by a sling when they take him to the hydrotherapy area. But he is trying to walk. I have just taken a phone call from the nurse and they intend to take him outside on the sling just to give him a breath of fresh air. I will be off to see him again in the morning. His treatment may go on for days yet but they think he will be ready for home in the not too distant future.

If I ever needed to know just how much this dog of mine is loved then the number of phone calls I am getting daily to check on his progress is evidence enough. I feel more positive today. I have been with him for over an hour this afternoon and I can see improvements. Not huge ones, but the signs are encouraging.

I write articles about my Labrador, but not this week. I have been unable to write or concentrate, in fact crying is what I’ve done mostly. I want him home. I know that he will need lots of care, but I am determined he will get well. The dog loves us unconditionally. He’s always happy to see us and never argues back. The least we can do is love him and support him during this traumatic time. Get better soon Digger.


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