Carolina and Rudy’s Story
Something that many pet owners face, but are not always completely prepared for, is a sudden veterinary emergency. Our own Earth Rated® team member Carolina dealt with this type of unexpected situation just two years ago.
On a late Saturday night in May 2012 my dog Rudy was behaving strangely; anxious and panting. Finally my instinct that something was wrong was confirmed when she tried to get on the couch and let out a loud yelp and couldn’t make it. My boyfriend and I knew we needed help and as our vet was closed, we drove to the emergency vet where they looked her over. We explained to the vet what was happening as he felt around on her spine and found a spot on her lower back where she seemed most uncomfortable. He gave us some options, with the first (and simplest) being to go home with some pain meds as perhaps she just strained something. She was still walking, eating and still otherwise her friendly self so it was worth a try.
At one point she was able to settle down in her bed but it wasn’t long after dozing off that we woke up and could not find her. I walked in to our closet where she was sitting upright with her back legs splayed out underneath her. We tried to prop her up to stand and her back legs just slid back under. My dog was paralyzed.
In a panic we drove back to the emergency vet, my boyfriend carrying her in his arms. We rushed into the emergency room while a group of vet techs attended Rudy trying to stand her up, squeezing her back paws for a reaction. Nothing. Their faces as they looked at each other said it all to me. Our hearts sank as reality started to settle in and we actually wondered if this was going to be our final moment with her.
The diagnosis was that Rudy had ruptured two discs in her lower spine and was now paralyzed in her back legs – a common injury that can happen to breeds such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds, but possible for any dog. It was unclear what had caused it as the initial damage could have happened at an earlier time but had finally became worse from activity. Surgery was the only option to get her out of the pain she was in. The vet explained that if all went well there was a good chance she could regain her mobility, of course the other possibility was she would be paralyzed for the rest of her life, but with no pain.
We knew that whatever the outcome, the surgery had to be done. I had already heard of some amazing dogs living life in wheelchairs, so we would just have to accommodate her new physical form. We would even move to a first floor apartment! But the surgery came with an upfront price of $6,000 and the truth was we didn’t have $6,000 and no pet insurance either. We had always kept money aside for emergencies but this was still beyond us at that time (they couldn’t accept half upfront, which is what we had). We had rent and bills, as is the reality for most people. The vet clinic did offer a payment plan set up with a financial institution, but with the high amount this too, would have put a huge strain on us monthly.
This was actually the most painful part of the whole ordeal – that money was causing us to wait on getting the surgery for our girl. I could not let her down. Thanks to the help of family we had the money to pay upfront and she went into surgery right away. While she made it through the surgery there were many questions as to what the outcome would be. On May 30th we were advised that she had started to slightly move her back paws again. It was rehabilitation time and best of all we could take her home!
Rudy had to be kept mostly on bed rest for 6 weeks. Her being crate trained made this process much easier, especially in a multi-dog home. We had to physically carry her down two sets of stairs for potty breaks a few times a day, and she required a support sling for her hips when trying to walk around. We followed the instructions given to us to gently work on her back legs to regain mobility. Regular follow up visits with the surgeon were needed but the truth was Rudy was improving at an incredibly fast rate and everyone was blown away by it.
Through out the rehabilitation process we came up with fundraising efforts including printing special t-shirts to make sure we not only gave back to the friends and family that helped us, but to also pay any extras forward.
It has been almost two years since Rudy’s surgery and we are still amazed at her progress. Though her gate as she runs has changed, her back legs will never be as strong as they once were and she has a permanent surgical scar on her back, her spirit is as strong as the day we brought her home, and most likely the reason she recovered so quickly.
Rudy wanted to move forward and greet each day with the same enthusiasm as the one before it. A great lesson for life, taught to me by my favourite girl.
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