The call came out of nowhere. At 9 am on October 10, my Missy, a rescue blonde cocker spaniel, lost the use of her back legs. Overnight she went from Michael Jordan athleticism to a paraplegic. We had 24 hours to decide if surgery was a viable option.
Missy is the kind of soul who bounds steps three at a time. She ran where others walked. She jumped where others hopped. She lived for a ride in the car where she sat shotgun on the front console. Her will and determination could raise a sleeping adult to go downstairs in the middle of the night when she deigned a treat necessary.
Now we had 24 hours to match a medical miracle with our girl Missy. We hoped an MRI would show a slipped disc, easier to fix with better odds that she would walk again. Results showed damage over a period of time, she just had been compensating in silence.
A team of doctors said surgery may or may not bring back her ability to walk. She is a fighter and we had to give her the chance to fight. On October 11, she was prepped for surgery. She came through surgery well, but there was still no promise of normalcy. Just the promise that there will be a new reality of normalcy.
From Missy and this convalescence period we have learned so much about facing our challenges. Perhaps you can learn about facing your challenges too:
Four months later we all have learned. We have learned to be thankful for a doggy neurosurgeon, physical therapist, oncologist, laser acupuncture and the water treadmill. What I am most thankful for is this dog with a heart and a will and an attitude made of steel.
1. Face problems quickly
We had to decide quickly if surgery was to be a viable option. We gathered expert opinion as quickly as possible and moved forward. In some ways we were fortunate that the medical reality dictated a quick decision. The take-away lesson is that regardless of the challenge or the situation, moving forward is always positive.
2. Assume the best
If I could speak for Missy, I think she always assumed the best. The day after surgery she tried to walk. Even when she couldn’t walk unassisted, she just kept assuming she could. Surgery has been followed by physical therapy including laser acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Every additional two minutes she spends on the water treadmill I embrace like the first landing on the moon. When people roll their eyes at this tale, I roll my eyes at their lack of faith. From the beginning I assumed that if I gave her every advantage, the best would happen.
3. Listen to your inner voice
My voice and her inner voice did not always speak in unison. My voice said, you can’t use your back legs, wait until I get a towel to put under your belly. Her voice said, I will crawl where I need to go. My voice said, you need to be confined until you get the use of your legs back. Her voice said, I can drag my back legs to get where I want to go. Finally, I listened to OUR inner voice: a combination of my caution and her optimism.
4. Live your life by your standards . . . mostly
We had three ramps made for her to use because she was not allowed to use steps early in her convalescence. As she has gotten better in “leaps and bounds” she chooses the steps over the ramp. She insists she can do a staircase by herself, and if left unattended she would be jumping into the car. My job in life is to consistently alter her expectations.
5. Adapt begrudgingly
As she progressed, she was allowed to negotiate steps by herself, on a leash, doing them one by one. A big upgrade from having to be carried up and down the steps everyday. After a few weeks, she seems to have begrudgingly agreed to the terms. Even in her world, not all mountains are worth dying on.
6. Fight continuously
My girl is a survivor. From her first post surgery day she has fought for every success. We were first told by the neurosurgeon that she might not walk again; she may not have control over her bodily functions. She fought to not be confined, she fought to walk, she fought to navigate steps by herself, and she fights with me daily to have as normal a life as possible.
7. Accept realities
This is a challenge for both of us. We see different realities. She sees where she was for most of her life and asks, why not? I think of where she was on October 10, and think never again. So my reality gives her a little more freedom each day, and her reality gives her less freedom than pre 10/10, and more freedom that I ever dreamt she would have.
After her surgery I was amazed at people’s amazement that I would give a 12 year old dog, this surgery, this therapy, the best medicine’s minds and hands hand to offer. I knew I had to give her every opportunity I could identify and afford. And she has given me back my old Missy, almost, and a renewed belief that all things are possible.
With special thanks to my Moshe, Metropolitan Vet Hospital, Dr. Axlund, and Dancing Paws Animal Wellness.
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