and then our lives changed
Shitty things happen. That’s life. The idea that you don’t know how good things are until they’re bad… that is unfathomable until it happens.
On March 25th, 2015, my 29th birthday, Rob and I came home from dinner to our sweet, perfect, little girl happily greeting us at the door. But something was wrong. She was dragging her back legs.
We immediately scooped her up and got a cab the few blocks up to the 24 hour animal hospital. When we arrived, the nurses saw Sophie’s state and took her downstairs right away. I sobbed. Looking back at it now, two weeks later, I have no idea why I was so hysterical at that point (apart from the fact that I love my dog and was scared), but I thought she had pulled a muscle. Stupid me.
After about 30 minutes, a vet resident (whom I hate, but really it’s myself I blame… more on that in a minute) came up to tell us that Sophie was presenting with what looked to be Intervertabral Disc Disease (aka she had herniated discs resulting from a disease we had no way of knowing she had), but that she was only a stage 3. Meaning, she had a 90% chance, with surgery, of making a full recovery and walking again. I sobbed a lot more. So did Rob (I’ve now seen him cry three times in our eight years together). She told me that they wouldn’t know for sure until the neurologist came in the next day, and that it would be in Sophie’s best interest to (for a mere $1,200) to leave her for the night. Of course we left her in the doctor’s care. As we were leaving, I thought to myself, why don’t they just call the neurologist, I know it’s not standard procedure to call at night when the dog is a stage 3 (because the vet resident moron just told me that), but maybe we should call anyway. Can’t hurt.
I should have said something. I should have made them call the neurologist.
At 6:00AM, I got a call from the vet resident moron saying Sophie had progressed to stage 5 and now only had a 50/50 shot of ever walking again.
At 9:30AM, in the middle of a staff plan review, the neurologist called me to say that yes, it was most likely IVDD, and he’d like to do an MRI to confirm and operate immediately, pending my approval of the $6,800 cost. I gave them my credit card information and proceeded to break down in the middle of a conference room with my boss across the table from me.
At 3:30PM, the neurologist called again to say that surgery had gone extremely well and now only time would tell. I breathed again. He said I couldn’t see her that day, but was welcome to come the next. He also told me that had I called him the night before he would have come in. It was standard procedure to do what the vet on call had done, and not call him, but that, in all honesty, he would have come (I actually really love Sophie’s doctor and believe he gave Soph the best chance he could.. and Sophie loves him, which is the best indicator). My heart literally broke at that point. How could I not have advocated for my dog? How could I be such a terrible mother? Why, in a life filled with pushing authority and limits and constantly demanding better, did I not fucking insist they call him?
I will never, ever forgive myself.
And, I can’t forgive myself because Sophie is not on the right side of that 50%. After two weeks, she has not regained any pain sensation in her back legs, as they had hoped she would. At four weeks they will confirm what I already know, this is permanent. I have a beautiful, loving, perfect, paralyzed five year old dog.
In some ways Sophie has gone back to normal. She’s a sweet, happy, ball-obsessed little girl. She gets frustrated that she can’t jump onto the bed or couch, and she hates the new crate we now have to leave her in for her own protection, just like she hated her old one when we potty trained her. But the similarities stop there. She cannot walk and go to the bathroom on her own. Which, I won’t detail here, but is awful.
Since I’ve mentioned the small fortune this has cost us… I’ll note that she is insured and now we’re waiting to hear how much of the costs we’ve just incurred will be recouped. We’ll be lucky to get half (Manhattan is a lot pricer than the state average). If you have a dog, insure them… half is a whole lot better than none. So, we’re skipping our vacation in June. We’re very lucky that the price of this to us is just the vacation we were saving for and some new furniture we were hoping to get. That fact is not, in any way, lost on me.
We will get her a wheelchair. If, at any point, she regains pain sensation, we will send her to physical therapy to help her learn how to walk again (until then PT is pointless). We will do everything we can. But, at the end of the day, her life just got a whole lot worse, and there’s only so much we can do… we both still have to work all day.
It sucks. And I know that this post is exceptionally negative and makes me sound like I’ve given up hope. But I love my dog and I’m being realistic and tackling what I can tackle… and if this is her new normal, I will do everything I can to make it as enjoyable as possible. But nothing is going to change the fact that this will be hard and it’s not what we planned on. We are so fortunate that Sophie is still alive, that we were able to get her excellent medical care, that we have pulled together during all of this and proven to ourselves that we’re a good team and love each other, and our dog, very much. But this does suck.
Oh, and for anyone reading this and thinking that I should put her down. I talked to the neurologist about it, he’s obligated to bring it up. She’s happy. Putting her down would be to spare myself the difficult and expensive road ahead. So with all due respect, get the fuck off my blog.
On a nicer note, the outpour of love from our family and friends has been incredible. We are so very fortunate to have such wonderful people in our lives– people who love us, who love our dog, people who don’t love our dog and don’t understand why we feel the way we do, but who are still incredibly supportive. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart… for the texts, calls, flowers, dogsitting… for even caring enough to read this long ass blog post. It means a whole heck of a lot more to me than I can articulate here.
Hopefully this summer there will be lots of adorable wheelchair shots of little miss SLSD out and about.