Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hitting Rock Bottom and Digging:
Paralysis in Andy's Back Legs

Air mattress in living room

(If you ever have to ask yourself "Can I possibly get fatter" or "Can things get worse"; the answer is almost always "YES!")

The next night, very late, I heard my phone ring. Anyone who knows me knows that they better have a damn good reason for calling late. I don’t remember hearing the phone ring. What woke me up was the long message and my mom’s voice. This wasn’t good, I thought. My first impression was that my dad was in trouble. I distinctly remember my mom saying “Andy can’t walk.” I picked up the phone while my mom was still leaving her message.

Andy was walking down the hall, had trouble and collapsed. He tried to get up but couldn’t. Somehow, my mom was able to help him into bed. It was 4am. I could have taken him to the after hours clinic. They close at 8am. I decided to wait until daylight and take him to our regular vet. In the meantime, I went over to my mom’s to see Andy.

He was lying on his side on my mom’s bed. He wagged his tail and tried to move his legs. They moved slowly and weakly. He made a pitiful attempt to get up but could not. I laid down beside him and hugged him. This was bad, even Abby knew it. In her attempt to make Andy move, she grabbed one of his toys and put it by his mouth. That always got him going in the past, so Abby tried in her own way to make things right. It was a sweet and tender moment in one that otherwise felt like a kick in the teeth.

My mom let my stay with Andy and went to the couch to lie down. This could be it for Andy. A dog that can’t walk is normally put down. I wasn’t ready for this. Andy had been so strong and healthy up ‘til then. Abby was the one who had been gradually going downhill. I had been bracing myself for her death in the previous 2 years. But Andy’s death was one I couldn’t deal with. It hurt a whole bunch.

At 7:30, I drove my car to the front where it would be easier to bring Andy to the car. I picked Andy up and took him to my car. At the vet, I had a vet tech help me bring him in. I hated how the vet brought animals in. Instead of a stretcher, they used an office cart. Abby had been on it and did not look comfortable on it. I didn’t like seeing her being carted around like she was a piece of office equipment. It wasn’t dignified.

The vet was blunt and honest with us about Andy’s prognosis. Andy had a bad back and he may not walk again. He did leave off the putting him down part, but it was understood. The vet put Andy through a regimen of ultrasound treatments on his back and gave him steroids. A patch of hair was shaved off his back to administer the ultrasound treatments.

I dropped my mom off and went home. I didn’t go to the lab. I was about to be laid off and couldn’t have gived a shit about work. I emailed my boss who responded that I didn’t have to declare a vacation day giving me a free pass. I stayed home all day waiting for news. At the end of the day, Andy was able to stand on his feet. The next day, he was able to walk. This was the first time Andy stayed overnight at the vet. After his second night there, I picked him up the next day.

The vet gave Andy steroids to take over the next two weeks. Andy had to pee frequently and he needed even closer care than when he had the bug bite. He would not stay at my place again for a month. When he did come home, I slept in the living room on the first floor from then on until I moved from my condo. No longer would I sleep in my bed upstairs. I didn’t want Andy climbing stairs anymore and risking aggravating his back. I would sleep on the couch and he would sleep on the couch, love seat or rug. I didn’t sleep in a bed on a regular basis until over two years later.

Andy had a close call. I was happy he survived but he would not be able to move with me wherever I went. He was getting old and needed more care. Losing my job wasn’t the sad part for me. Having to let go of my Baby Boy was the sad part.

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