As I type this, my dog Phoebe is silent and sad-faced in her crate, where she's been for most of the past two days on vet-ordered "cage rest". When she moves, it's gingerly; the worry, as always, is a back injury, but we're resting her and hoping she improves. If I thought she could understand it, to boost her mood I'd tell her the story of her fellow Dachshund, Theo.
I heard about Theo from blog reader Melissa. Back in March, when Melissa and her partner were housesitting for her in-laws, she woke to find their dog, Theo, dragging his back left leg and walking faultily.
They took him to the vet, who diagnosed a pinched nerve in his spine and recommended confinement for three weeks and anti-inflammatory medication. The vet said Massey vets could operate on Theo if it was needed but at the cost of about $4000.
Confinement for an inquisitive and active Dachshund is difficult so Melissa and her partner took time off work and school to watch over him and keep him company.
"During his first week he lost the use of both back legs and his bowels and bladder - but was, most importantly, in no pain at all," she says. "We kept him confined, changing towels and blankets whenever necessary. My partner and I spent this whole week wondering if he would have to be put down and looking for other options."
After a week, Melissa's in-laws returned home to their beloved dog.
"We did some research into dog wheelchairs and whether it would be better to have one imported or for my father-in-law to create one (he's an engineer).
"After much thought he decided he could make a custom one. So the work began."
Theo hated confinement and at any opportunity would try to escape; the couple of times he managed to slip out resulted in some carpet burn.
Making the wheelchair suit Theo's likes was a matter of trial and error, but in time, dog and wheels were matched. "As Theo always had to be the lead dog, we used walks with the other dogs to teach him to walk in the wheelchair," says Melissa.
|Theo walks with a wobble - for now.|
Three weeks after he was first found walking oddly, Theo went back to the vet, who was amazed at the progress he had made. "He still didn't have the use of the back legs but regaining the use of his bladder and bowels was a good sign; he had also started to wag his tail again. He was still the happy, loyal, loving dog we all knew and still showed no signs of pain."
The hydrotherapy and walks in the wheelchair continued every night and the vet also recommended another week of anti-inflammatories. "We soon started to notice that there was movement in his back right leg again. From there it has only been getting better."
Theo is now only confined to the house during the day and has outside time when someone can watch him. "He is slowly learning to walk again and at the moment has a bunny-hop walk or what we call the 'drunk bum' walk as his bum goes from side to side."
Melissa's point is to show others who have disabled pets that there are options as long as the dog isn't in pain. Theo, she says, has always been a happy-go-lucky dog that just wants to be cuddled and loved.
I think Melissa and her partner deserve congratulations, too, for their readiness to commit time to making sure their family's loved pet had the best chance of recovery. And a special nod to Melissa's father-in-law, who helped make Theo mobile.
Once again, a spirited dog combined with some love and effort from humans has produced a wonderful result.
P.S. How about Meshik the magnificent Malamute - whose hind legs gave out but who now, at 11 years of age, gets around with the help of a fast-looking cart. Thanks for the picture, Usha.
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