Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hopalong Cassidy

When we took Cassidy to the vet on that Thursday morning, she had been eating baby food and drinking water, but getting her pills into her were an absolute fight.  She refused to take them on her own, pilling her was a nightmare and putting them in food ended with her eating everything around the pills and not touching anything the pills had touched.  My mate had to hold her down while I shoved the pills to the back of her throat.  She gagged, she retched, she foamed and grimaced.  She shook her head and slobber and foam sprayed everywhere.  She wouldn't eat if we gave her the pills first, but she vomited after we gave her the pills.  We held her maw closed, we rubbed her throat, we coaxed and cajoled.  Nothing helped.  She was adamant and whenever we would pull her out at 10 when she was due, she would cower and roll over and pee on the floor, her kennel, us... It was an absolute horror. For an hour after her pills dissolved in her mouth, she would sit and lick at her mouth and grimace and shake her head and take little sips of water to try and wash it all down and give us the eyes like we were trying to murder her.  First she doesn't feel well and then we have to be mean to be able to get the pills into her.  It just didn't seem very fair to us, even if it did have to be done.
Since we were having so much trouble, we asked the vet to show us an easier way and he sat down on the floor with her, popped them in and down the hatch they went.  I can't begin to explain to you how frustrated I was that I was having a hellish time getting her to take the damned things and he just got them right down.  Despite the fact that he's a professional and does stuff like that all the time, I hated him just a little for making it look so easy.  Through his demonstration, however, we realized what we were doing wrong.  We hadn't had Cassidy sitting up since before Thursday she really hadn't been able to without pain.  Her head had always jerked down after we'd put the pills in and it let her get her tongue in to roll them out.  In our attempts to get her to swallow, we were holding her muzzle too tightly.  He also told us if we blew on the end of her nose that it sometimes shocked them into swallowing.  When she licked at her nose, it meant she'd swallowed and we didn't have to hold her mouth closed anymore, so instead of never knowing when we could let go, we had a time frame.  All good things to know.  He sent us home with orders to check in with him the next week to see how she was doing.  Using his tips, the pillings were still a hassle, but they were nowhere near as bad as they'd been before.  The doctor also cleared her for travel, so I took her with me to Columbus for the weekend while I was working so I could care for her in the evenings and give the mate a break.
On the way down, she started yipping at me like she needed a potty stop, so I pulled off the highway and into a McDonald's parking lot.  I lugged her kennel out and deposited her on the grass, reached in and scooped her out and got her back end up so she could  try and do her business.  For the first time in three days, she FINALLY pooped.  I have never before been so excited for poop. As I was finishing her up and wiping her back end up with a baby wipe, an older woman came up and asked what had happened to my "little guy".  I told her Cassidy had slipped a disc and had paralysis in her hind end.  Her head nodded in understanding and she waited while I got Cassidy settled back into her kennel and asked how long she would be paralyzed.  I told her it could clear up in a couple of weeks or it could be permanent.  We didn't know.  I told her as long as Cassidy could live a full and happy life with a little assistance, I saw no reason to put her down just because she had special needs.  The woman looked at me and said "You are a special lady.  Thank you, I didn't mean to get personal.  Good luck with your doggie."  I told her I didn't mind and thanked her for the compliment.
Then I called the mate to babble excitedly at him that Cassidy had yipped to let me know she had to go and had actually gone.  He laughed at me for being so excited, but it was a big step as far as I was concerned.  I had to share.
It was during that weekend in Columbus I discovered the joys of Greenie's Pill Pockets and, since she was finally eating solid dog food, she happily scarfed them right down.  Having to shove the pills down her throat wasn't fun for anyone involved and those things made everything quick and painless. The pill slipped inside, the top closed over them and the gummy little beef pouches took all the hassle out of doing anything the vet had showed me.  No more back of the throat, muzzle holding, throat rubbing, nose blowing pillings for us!
Having a dog on the mend who is functioning with paralysis isn't an easy task.  I was still getting up once in the middle of the night to take her out.  I took her in the mornings before work, which was more of an ordeal now that she couldn't just trot out and do her business while I ate or brushed my teeth or finished getting dressed.  I had to get up earlier, get myself ready, hope she didn't pee all over me getting her up and down out of the kennel and outside.  Her back end was still very tender and she still couldn't move her hind legs.  I had to take her out, set her down, pick up her back end, hold it while she did her own attempts at peeing, give her belly a squeeze to work out whatever remained in her bladder, hold her back legs up while she wandered around the yard to find a place to poop and hold her back end for her while she finally did poop.  Then she had to be wiped up, fed, watered, her kennel changed, and given a little playtime before she went back in for seven hours while I went to work.  All in all, my mornings took an extra hour from what they had been before.  I was exhausted by the time I got home from Columbus that week.  I had, however, discovered another joy of the weekend: Adult Diapers.
I have a feeling some of you are rather confused and others of you are going places I don't mean for you to go.  My friend enlightened me to adult incontinence pads to line Cassidy's kennel.  We kept her on pads so the pee would be wicked away from her skin since we noticed she'd been wetting when she was sleeping and that her bladder was getting full a lot more often due to the fact she was actually eating and drinking.  If she did have an accident while she was in her kennel, she wasn't just lying in it.  She wanted out of her kennel more and since she was having accidents and her piddle is not a welcome addition to the carpets, we kept her on the pee pads and roped into an area while she was out.  Clean up was a lot easier because all we had to do was gather up the pad and put down another one.  Less muss and fuss and much cleaner carpeting.  Win/win.
When I got her home, she was super excited to see everyone and spent the time trying to drag her defunct back end around so she could get to everyone and see them.  When she got excited, she would literally bounce on her front end like she was trying to jump, but her hindquarters wouldn't cooperate.  When she wanted something, she would dance back and forth on her front feet until you let her out of the kennel.  When she tried to get around the house, she would hop like a bunny, especially over the door frames, hence the nickname "Hopalong Cassidy".
We had her in her kennel with the door open on Thursday night while I was puttering about the internet.  I looked over at a noise and I saw Cassidy come barreling out of her kennel, her back legs moving in an attempt at walking to get her across the short expanse of the living room where she flopped over on her side.  Within a few moments we realized she had been sleeping and had pooped in her kennel and it was foul.  No wonder she ran!  The entire household wanted to run, too!  After getting everything cleaned up and getting Cassidy a bath, something we've been taking a lot more of recently, we got her settled into a clean crate for the night.
Last weekend I left Cassidy with the mate while I went to work.  Tag teaming helps.  While I was gone, her appetite increased and we started being able to mix in hard kibble again with the wet food I'd gotten her on the weekend before.  She was getting more and more mobile, dragging herself around the living room and actually attempting to go outside to use the potty again, at least for my grandmother.  By Saturday she was taking steps when she was moving, her legs not quite working right and her balance unsteady, but one step turned into two and two turned into five and five turned into eight.  By the time I got home Tuesday morning, she was trying to run.  It was a funny sight, watching her concentrate to put her feet down and bear weight and not knuckle her little feet.  When she ran to the door to come and see me, she wiped out on the linoleum twice and then her front end was running but her back end just couldn't keep up.  We got her down and kept her quiet for a bit, especially since we didn't want her hurting her back again.  My dog, who hadn't been able to greet me at the door like she always did before, was trying to run to meet me two and a half weeks out from treatment.
I cried.  I'm not even going to lie.  I was so excited to see her trying.
Cassidy had her followup with Doctor Rausch on Tuesday morning.  We got her out of the kennel when we came in and she made it out to the scales.  She wouldn't step up to get onto them, but she let the tech lift her up and get her weight.  We then went back to the room to wait and she sat at my feet for scritchings.  When the doctor came in, he asked how we were doing and, with a look of slight disappointment, asked if we weren't showing any improvement.
"Oh, no, we're trying to walk!"  I stood and walked over to the side door and called her over.  She got up on her feet and took conscious steps, knuckling one side, then the other side, then she got them both up and planted her left foot, then her right foot and she slowly made her way over to me.
He was stoked.  He watched everything carefully and made sure to note how she was walking and what we should be doing with her.  In addition to the stretches he told us to do on her last visit, he wants us to make her stand first on her right foot, then her left and let her stand there until she gets tired to strengthen her legs.  He kept her on the same dose of the prednisilone and the tramadol and told us to watch for excess drinking.  Otherwise he was pleased with her results.  He said he still won't give a timeline, which I didn't expect him to, and said that she was reminding him a lot of a dachshund he had treated in the past who had made a full recovery after hitting a plateau.  Her parents had given up hope and ordered a doggie walker for her and she surprised them by making a return from paralysis.
I really hope Cassidy ends up being like their pup, but I'm not counting on it.  I will take this one day at a time because I don't want to get my hopes up and end up being crushed when she can't walk without a walker.
The mate and I have been looking at plans for a walker and figuring out the options between building one and buying one.  We found a few really good resources for them and, if I do buy one, I think I found the company I want to purchase from.  Handicapped Pets seems to have a really nice cart for an affordable price.  They also have the plans to actually make one, so we have a few options, and since my dad and friends are especially handy, it might be a good option for her.  In case anyone is interested in keeping tabs on them, Handicapped Pets has both a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.
I managed to get the videos off of my phone and onto my computer that I took of Cassidy.  I have one of her chasing a frisbee two weeks before the accident.  I also took a video of her the morning before her vet visit.  I also snapped a few pics of the hole she tripped in that I'll be posting.  It's hard to believe something that looks so innocent could take her out like it did.  What's bad is, the way I found it was almost screwing up my ankle stepping in it.  At least I now know what it was she hurt herself on so we can fill it in.
This video is of Cassidy before her injury chasing the frisbee in the yard.  As you can see, she runs right over the concrete in front of the garage no problem.  She did it every day when she went potty, when she went out for walks or to play.  It was just a one time freak accident that led to her paralysis.

It makes me realize how much sooner this accident could have happened and didn't.  It also makes me ask "why now?"