Thursday, December 28, 2006

update, day 6

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

Hello, everyone, I apologize for not giving you news of Simba sooner. We returned from our family visit the day after Christmas, and then yesterday morning I made a followup appointment with the vet for the afternoon, so I wanted to wait till I heard what he had to say before giving you an update. Here it is.

Yesterday marked five days after the accident. Every day, we've seen some small improvement in his ability to get around. At first his left leg was strongest; his right seemed totally dead, then he was putting weight on it but was dragging it, and then he began planting his right foot a little bit with each step. At first he only dragged his hind end, then he stood up, then he took a few steps, and now he can walk a fair distance before sitting down (although there's a fair bit of listing to one side, and if he doesn't keep moving, his hind end will eventually pull itself over onto the ground). When he stands still, for instance to sniff the wind, he braces himself with his left leg and after a while doesn't seem to notice that his hips are leaning, until they drag him into a sitting position. At first his sweet puffy tail was totally being dragged, then he was able to lift it out of the way a little bit when he needed to, and then we saw it go above half mast. Today I left him with the Huz for the first time since the accident to do some much-needed grocery shopping. When I returned, I saw a few honest-to-goodness tail wags, and for the first time saw it curve over his back a little bit. It did my heart such good!

He totally wants to do stairs and jump down from things, and he mustn't. Two nights ago in the middle of the night he jumped off our bed, which is pretty tall, and CLUNKed down onto the wood floor. Scared me spitless, but he picked himself up and was ready to go outside. Sometimes he gets up on his hind legs as if he wants to jump up onto the couch but hasn't the strength. Often he makes to jump off the couch; I have to watch him closely if he's sitting up there with me and I absolutely do not put him up there by himself any more. Yesterday when we returned from the vet, he got ahead of me and started up the carpeted stairs from the basement to the ground floor. He was halfway up the stairs before I could stop him. He's game, this little dog!

The vet believes he's going to have some permanent impairment but can't say how much. The fact that he's still impaired 5 days later indicates that some of the nerve cells have died so the messages aren't getting from his brain to his legs. Nerve cells can regrow, but there's no guarantee that they will. Their growth rate is usually about 1 millimeter per day, or about an inch per month. Based on where he shows sensitivity to touch on his spine, he has six to eight inches of damaged nerves, so in truth we won't know his final state for six months to a year.

But you know what? If he never gets any better than the way he is now, he's still my sweet little dog. He still loves me with all his heart, as I do him, and he is still happiest when I'm with him. He still enjoys getting his little dog bone treats, and trots them crookedly down the hallway to eat them on the one rug he's allowed to leave crumbs on. He's excited to see me, excited to see his dog dish filled, pleased to go outside, and content to sleep his days away when I'm busy. He's eating and drinking now, and he doesn't need surgery, and he doesn't have to be put to sleep, and I know I don't have to tell you how very relieved and grateful I am for every bit of him that's come back from the brink, but most especially for that last bit of good news.

So, we'll continue to care for him as best we can, tapering him off the steroids and pain meds and watching to see if that causes any problems. We'll barricade him from the stairs for another couple of weeks, and then cautiously let him start to try them. We'll love him and encourage him with excited exclamations and pick him up to carry him to the parts of the yard he can manage, standing out in the cold all bundled up because we want him to have a much time as he wants outside the house. In a few days, I'm going to try taking him on short walks; the vet says dogs are naturals at giving themselves physical therapy and walking is a good thing as long as we pay attention when he says he's done. And we'll continue to pray, and if you are so inclined, we would be grateful for you to do the same as he comes to mind. Please drop us a line if you do so. Your prayers and caring are so precious to us these days.

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Faith-in-Capitalism said...

We have a child gate for the stairs that my sis sent up with my parents. If you wanna borrow that for your barricade, you are welcome to it till next April or so!

I am much relieved that you are getting this extra time to share with this very extra special friend.


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Go Simba! He's come a long way in the past 5 days! I know with the love and support you guys give him that he'll continue to recover.

Sophie sends her best healing thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Good ole Simba. And you can put me on the list of pray-ers.

Love you guys!

Ed Tep said...

Pat - I hope that the worst is behind you. Remember that dogs can be real super troopers, and I think Simba is showing that he deserves to wear a super trooper medal. He's very lucky to have parents who uncontionally love him as much as you and your husband do. We'll keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

Lynne said...

I've always felt that within the heart of dogs lies the ability to work miracles. And really there's no medicine quite like the love that he knows that you have for him. Together you guys will do this!