This is a completely whiny, non-positive, woe-is-me post, so you might want to skip it. Plus, there’s probably some doggie-TMI. I’m having a down in the dumps moment and decided to write about it rather than call a friend at 11:45 pm on a Sunday. Plus, it's probably melodramatic - a quality I can't stand in myself.
Before I write any further, I need to stop and recognize the things that I am grateful for right now:
- · Though my vet slightly bungled Martha’s required care (no fault to him – he’s not a specialist), the group at the neurology center was amazing and showed wonderful care to Martha (and me). They were attentive, understanding, informative, non-judging, and super kind to me even though every time I appeared at their office, I looked like a homeless bag lady.
- · My friends are amazing. In the past week, people have sat with me, waited with me, brought me food (and wine), sent well-wishes, played with Martha, etc. I’ve got a good crew here folks.
- · While Martha refused to eat on her first few days home, she miraculously gained an appetite on Friday.
- · Martha’s “personality” is about 80% returned.
- · My dog is home, and right now, the time I have with her is pretty precious.
And now the not-so-great news…
I’ve been reading a lot on Martha’s disorder lately. This disease affects less than 1% of the pet population. Interestingly, 50-75% of the cases are Dachshunds, followed by Pekinese, Beagles, Corgis, and Basset Hounds, or any other breed of dog who, like Martha, has legs that are proportionately short in relation to their body length. Of that less than 1%, 90% live without surgery and lead happy lives with a slightly restricted lifestyle. (No stairs, jumping, etc.) Of the ten percent that require surgery, somewhere between 50-70% have a full recovery. Most of those exhibit early symptoms of the disease and have a few repeated episodes with minor paralysis before the surgery is done. A year ago, Martha had some pain, and I took her to the vet. He said it might be this disease or it might be a bruise. She rested for a few days before returning to normal, and everything was hunky-dory until a year later, WHAMMO, paralyzed dog. According to my calculations based on the blogs and websites I’ve read over the past week, of the 10% that go into surgery, Martha was one of the worst cases – or the top 10% of the 10%. And beyond that, of the dogs who deteriorated into the condition that Martha did after the surgery, Martha’s the only example I can find on the internet of a dog who survived a week past the surgery, ie, she's already a miracle dog.
I find that on the days I focus on her recovery, I am slightly despondent, because neurologically, she hasn’t made any progress. On the days I view this as a hospice situation, I am much better, because I’m just so happy to have this time with her.
I’m surprised at how much instinct and pack mentality has taken me over in the past few days. I thought that the indiscriminate pooping and peeing would make me fall over in faint. As of today, I am more familiar with her rear-end than I am with my own, and my gag reflex is non-existent. It’s almost like having a newborn. You look down at your clothes at some point in the day to find they’re covered in poo. The first time, it grosses you out. After the fifth time or so, you shrug and tell yourself that you’ll save yourself a load of laundry by changing clothes later in the day.
If this were purely recuperation, I could handle it. If this is how it will be for the next 7-8 years, we have a problem. Her needs are constant. Today I took her outside for an hour, and when I brought her in, I put her in her bed and went to wash my dishes. It took no more than seven minutes. When I came back into the living room, Martha had poo’d on her blanket, and disgusted by it, dragged herself across the room, leaving a streak of poo. Seven minutes, people.
As for Martha, she waffles on this whole thing. The other night, she poo’d and I went to grab a doggie bag to clean it up. In less than ten seconds, she’d dragged herself to the top of my stairs and was all excited.
“I’m SO ready to go on my walk, Mom!” she said with her eyes, because I never grab a doggie bag unless that’s what we’re about to do.
This morning I set her out on my front lawn, something she’s enjoyed for the past few days – but today she whimpered the whole time, frustrated that she couldn’t chase the cat or the mailman.
And here’s the worst part…
Statistically speaking, recovery goes like this:
A large percentage of dogs who recover will show some sign of recovery within the first 15 days. After that, there’s a precipitous drop-off. The next marker is 45 days. After six months without recovery, the dog is a total outlier. (Think about 80/16/4.)
When I brought Martha home, I told myself that we’d give her until the 45-day mark, but today I sobbed hysterically for the first time since this whole thing happened. And the reason I cried was because I realized that I don’t want to wait 45 days. I want this to be over. I want to put her down now. And the reason I felt so hideous was because, after all this dog’s done for me, I’m ready to give up after less than two weeks. And at the same time, I sit here looking at her, her looking at me, and I can’t stand the thought of telling her goodbye before she's had her chance.