You've got a friend in me - Part II

posted Sep 23, 2011, 9:03 PM by Stephen Zenter   [ updated Jul 10, 2012, 7:46 PM ]

Four weeks ago on Friday night, Astro was showing signs that his back was hurting.  He had problems with his back in the past.  We had a few conversations with our vet over the years about disk disease and its commonality with dachshunds.  While attempting to give him some prescribed medicine for inflammation, he jumped up and immediately fell down to the floor and began yelping.  We gave him his medicine and put him in his kennel to relax, thinking he was simply in pain and needed to calm down.  Unfortunately, while in the process, he lost control of his bowels and expressed his anal glands all over me – not the highlight of my Friday night!  We took him to the tub for a quick bath, and it was then we realized Astro had no use of his back legs.  I grabbed him out the tub quickly and almost found myself in the same condition as the dog I love so much.  Sara somehow managed to compose herself (Remember, she’s the determined one!) and call the emergency vet.  Ten minutes later my brother Eric was at our house to watch Christopher, and Sara and I were taking our little buddy to the vet.  After some X-rays and consultation, we decided the best course of action was to get Astro into surgery as soon as possible.  It was after midnight at this point.  Sara and I were tired, and emotions had the tears flowing. 

Options for emergency veterinary surgeons in the early Saturday morning hours are pretty slim.  But little did we know that only two hours away in College Station there is a place that would offer us a bit of hope.  A month ago, I did not know that the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University existed.  I also had no idea they had a 24-hour emergency clinic at the veterinary medical teaching hospital, which is staffed with both students and veterinarians.   

Eric and I arrived with Astro at 3:00AM to find three members of the A&M staff waiting for us.  They immediately took Astro back for a look while Eric and I waited for some news.  The surgeon on duty let us know it would be a few more hours to get him into imagery for an MRI.  So we headed out of the clinic in search of a place to hang out.  We essentially had three choices: Denny’s, The Kettle, or Waffle House.  Given that Denny’s is clearly the best greasy establishment of the three, we headed for some coffee and free Wi-Fi.  We spent a couple hours with our lovely waitress, Carol, college kids headed out after bar hopping, and who we believe was Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore.  At this point, we decided we had spent enough time sitting at a Denny’s (which really doesn’t take that long, does it?).  We headed back to the clinic lot and got some rest in the truck until the Sun came up.

When morning came, the diagnosis was in.  Astro had a serious case of burst and compressed discs in his spine.  We opted for surgery, given a 50/50 prognosis that Astro will walk again.  The surgery also provided him with relief of his pain and better prevention of future problems.  I requested they bring Astro out to see us before his surgery.  Two student technicians brought him out on a rolling cart wrapped in a towel.  It was very obvious Astro was being well-cared for.  He rode out the door like the spoiled dog that he is, taking in all of the attention (I even found myself a little jealous of the attention from the young ladies).   He even turned himself around to be sure Eric paid him some attention before he left, as if to say, “Don’t worry; these people are taking good care of me.”  Eric and I headed back to Houston, as Astro was prepped for surgery.  I called Sara on the phone and let her know that there was no doubt we made the right choice in making the trek to A&M.
Over the next two weeks, Astro would begin his recovery from surgery while the A&M staff waited on him hand and foot and the rehabilitation specialists worked with him on some exercises.  We received two statuses each day from Leslie, Astro’s student doc, who looked after him and gave him all the attention he ever wanted. She was awesome with Astro (whom she referred to as “handsome”) and made us feel as comfortable as possible given the situation.  For about a week, he progressed well and gave us all optimism that he would regain some capabilities.  One neurological screening performed each day was for deep pain sensation.  Astro was a “deep pain negative” patient, meaning he cannot feel pain sensation in his rear legs.  This is significant since his disk disease is progressive, meaning regaining deep pain sensation would mean he could further regain motor function and muscle control.  Unfortunately, Astro is still deep pain negative at this time.  That, of course, brings its own challenges. 

The A&M staff trained us to do a few things when we picked up Astro a couple of weeks ago.  The first - expressing his bladder.  Yeah, not the most pleasant thing in the world to do (the things we do for this dog).  But I have gotten fairly proficient in the art, so it only takes me about to minute to do.  After all, ya gotta go sometime.  And for all you morbidly curious, he can take care of going #2 on his own...  He just may not be aware that he’s doing it.  They also taught us how to perform his rehab exercises and walk him using a sling to hold up his rear end.

Look, I am not naive.  There are people that don’t understand our decision for surgery.  We understand some people look at other options, but this was a no-brainer for us.  It was a completely unexpected expense (and unexpectedly large).  We have to sacrifice more of our time at home to help Astro do things that would make some people question having a pet.  But having him in our house feels like it always has.  The only convincing I can do is contained in Part I of this blog.

Being confined to his kennel is not Astro’s favorite thing.  He has another two weeks of it to go, but the true test will be if Sara and I will make it that long.  Each day, he is clearly getting more accustom to moving around without use of his rear legs.  He honestly has no idea there is anything wrong with him.  Sara and I are learning to not turn our backs when we have Astro out of his kennel.  One moment he is sitting on his towel.  Five seconds later, he is across the living room!  He eats and drinks normally.  He plays with his bones normally.  He gets his head pet normally.  We can honestly say Astro’s personality has not changed.  He is still our little buddy at heart.  We are so happy to have him back at home with us. 

In true flight controller fashion, I will sum up our experience with some lessons learned:

·         Astro is more than our dog; he very well may be our first child.

·         Perfect strangers can make you feel comfortable in the worst situations.  Family can make you feel incredible.

·         Denny’s at 3:00AM always provides entertainment.

·         Internet research has shown that dogs in carts are just as awesome as those with four functional legs.  Those with four functional legs have nothing to pimp out.