IVDD is NOT a Death Sentence (Part 1 in a series)
Part I: The story of Charlie K
Chapter 1; Anticipation
We have fostered before, but never a dog with IVDD. The perspective was plain scary; the responsibility of caring for a paralyzed dog seemed overwhelming. We had agreed to take him out of desperation; the rescue was full, the owner had set a deadline and Jenell was concerned the dog would get euthanized.
We took a crash course in IVDD; we read, we watched the videos, we talked to Jenell.
Chapter 2; Charlie K
Charlie cried all the way from the pickup location to Portland. He continued crying when he arrived in our house. He would briefly quit howling when we took him out of his crate. It was very obvious he did not like the crate and shortly it became obvious he was homesick. He did not interact with us or our other two dogs. When we put him on our laps, he was not happy. He was very thin, with ribs showing. He had very long, overlapping nails. And he was infested with fleas.
Charlie was not in any physical pain. He would scoot around using his overdeveloped front paws. His hind legs were tucked under his belly, he had bilateral foot drop and when he tried to stand he would collapse.
There was another issue. Charlie was unneutered. The only time Charlie showed any sign of excitement was around Regina. He was courting her relentlessly. Regina was not impressed and started snapping at Charlie. Charlie was undeterred and doubled and tripled his effort to win her heart. It aggravated her to the point we had to keep them separate. We learned his tail worked. It was moving in circular motion, but it was moving.
The first night Charlie demanded constant petting and attention. He would nip at Gary unless he got the continuous petting.
Chapter 3; Emotional Rollercoaster
Charlie was not in a good shape. It was heartbreaking to see him miss his home. It was even harder to watch him drag himself around. His delicate rear paws were getting scratched and bled repeatedly. We would wrap his feet in gauze and Band-Aids. We got him socks from Petco and reinforced them with Velcro to keep them in place. We ordered him booties and a drag bag to protect his hind legs from rough surfaces.
We took Charlie to our vet. Our gentle and loving vet cried over him with us. The prognosis was grim. We were told he would never walk again. He was not a candidate for surgery, and there was no sense in rehab attempts since months had passed from his original injury. She agreed with getting him a wheelchair and training him how to use it. She recommended weaning him off the steroids and keeping him on Gabapentin and a muscle relaxant to control any discomfort.
The secondhand wheelchair arrived on day 3. Charlie did not need any training. He instinctively knew what to do and literally started running around. That made our day! We were so very happy for the little doggie. We ordered him a custom K9 wheelchair. We were grateful for Jenell’s willingness to cover the cost. We were pleasantly surprised when K9 offered a discount for a rescue dog. But we were near tears when a complete stranger offered to pay for his wheelchair after reading his bio on ODR, Inc. Facebook page.
Charlie could not get enough of his new wheels. All of the sudden he had his mobility back and was chasing squirrels to his heart content. We were happy for him and no longer questioned whether a handicapped dog was able to live a happy and care free life.
And then the pain hit. Charlie was visibly uncomfortable, crying in pain when picked up. We were mortified. We immediately contacted Jenell and put him on bed rest and pain medications. He was not allowed to use his wheelchair. Charlie could smell the pain meds and would spit out every single dose. We had to get creative in hiding the medication in his favorite food, ham. He started getting better again.
Chapter 4; Life with Charlie
Charlie did not understand he was paralyzed. When his hind legs were getting caught on an obstacle he would look over his shoulder in disbelief. He did not accept any limitations. His overdeveloped chest muscles would allow him to pull himself up the stairs. We had to watch him constantly, never leave him on the couch, and restrict access to all staircases.
Charlie never allowed his disability to limit him in any way. He remained curious and inquisitive. He returned to using the wheelchair. He went everywhere; car and bike rides, food carts, shopping malls. He was delighted with new places and people.
Chapter 5: Miracle
One day Charlie got up and walked. We independently witnessed him take couple of steps. We both thought we were hallucinating. It had been 9 weeks since we took him in. We had already accepted the grim reality of Charlie never walking again. And now, against all odds, he was taking steps. We could not believe it.
Dr. Samantha Stuart offered to treat Charlie with cold laser three times a week for free. We are forever grateful for her generosity. Charlie has also started acupuncture by Dr. Jester; and once again, we were offered a significant discount.
Charlie is now awaiting a formal evaluation by the rehab vet. It takes three to five weeks to get the appointment. We are patient. In the meantime, with the approval of our vet, Charlie has been weaned off all his pain meds and doing great. He has gained some weight. He is playful and charming. He is enjoying every day of his life. To our disbelief he walks on a leash now. Charlie walks only short distances. Mostly he gets carried in a pouch. Occasionally he runs after a squirrel, hence the leash.
Check back soon for Part II!