Yesterday was what I would call a terrifying day for someone such as myself who loves their dogs, in this case Stevie Ray, as much as they love any person in their life. And this does not mean that I think of my dogs like they are people. Just to be clear; I know they are not people nor children and when I call them my kids, I am not confused by what and who they are. They are dogs and that is why I love them so much. That is why I can love them more than I do most people. They see things differently than people and they act differently and look at life differently. They don’t lie and they don’t have hidden agendas. They love life in any way they can and through anything that happens to them if they can.
But even as dogs, they are my family. I am with them every day, as much as I can be. No person in my life is closer to me. I love how they want to be next to me at night and how they wake me in the morning. And I love how they want to be with me, go out with me and play with me any and every chance they get. I love how they seek my attention and how they act so happy when they get it. Everything about my dogs is loving. And since they communicate with behaviour as their primary form, unlike most people, there is constant communication and a very loving bond between us.
So when something happens to them; it is no different than if they were actually my child. The other dog owners in my life understand this. And I am very fortunate that all of the other people I know who don’t have dogs; those that I work with and hang out with and my friends from outside my canine world, also understand the importance of my dogs in my life. I know of many people who don’t get this same level of empathy from the non dog people in their lives.
Around me there is no confusion surrounding my dogs and what they mean to me and I don’t permit people to treat my dogs, even verbally, as valueless pets! They aren’t people, but every animal deserves to be treated with respect and kindness by all people. And the fact that my dogs are my family and that I put them above all else, deserves respect as well. I don’t tolerate anyone belittling this fact. And I am very much like my Staffies, full of love and kindness, but don’t push me! My ability to fight for what I believe in is as strong as it is in my bullies!
So when something serious occurs to them; a sudden change in behaviour and disposition or maybe an accident of some kind, I feel and act as I would for any family or friend. Their health and life are extremely high on my list of important issues. When there is a sudden change in the status of their health, I treat it as the only priority and everyone else has to wait. And the level of respect I do get from the people in my life when it comes to how I care for my dogs is very much appreciated. The past four years fighting for Dylan’s life and fighting for her protection have made this aspect of my life with my dogs and my friends and family very clear.
Our Veterinarian(s) and their staff must also appreciate this view and also be compatible this approach. They must show it in how they treat my dogs and I as we work “together” to resolve the health issues they face. I am very fortunate to have close to us, what I consider the very best veterinary care from every person at the Mosquito Creek Veterinary Hospital in North Vancouver. Dr. Janice Crook, our primary vet, her backup Sue, technical support Jen and the entire crew treat us all exactly how I would want. Their work with me gave me four years of extra time, over 1400 days, with Dylan after being diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) that I am certain I would not have had without them.
I recently read a negative comment in a review online about Dr. Crook and Mosquito Creek and I can clearly see the shallow nature of the expectations in the review and I want to be clear that after facing the death of multiple dogs with them and a host of critical, serious and casual situations over almost 15 years, their comments and view is wrong and dangerous for their pet!
This person has no clue and following their advice and opinion might one day directly lead to the death of their pet or someone else’s. And I won’t say their “beloved” pet! I sense a total disregard for the value of their dog and the kind of care required these days as part of our responsibility to them. In that case, it was an ear infection taken lightly. And the care Dr. Crook provided to learn what was needed in that case to prevent re occurring issues and permanent damage and their disgust at spending money to do so. Infections are not to be taken lightly. Using the right antibiotic is critical and often requires a culture to be done. Not doing this and taking a chance can and will lead to permanent loss of balance, hearing or life potentially! Ear infections can and often do carry significant long term deficits and often mean the death of the pet, directly or indirectly, especially in the hands of someone such as the reviewer in this case.
I’m pretty sure they won’t deal with a dog who can’t walk straight and falls over often when they try. There solution will be euthanasia instead and that is not ethical to make that choice, but I know they do and will! I have seen that often. And I know the effort involved as Dylan’s last year involved constant monitoring of this exact situation. And I have faced the choice of culturing to choose an antibiotic and the costs associated with it on many occasions with Janice and at no time did she “force” me to culture. I do now yes, but I haven’t always. But the use of just any antibiotic is no longer a sufficient ethical approach and is causing irreparable damage to the ability to use antibiotics effectively now and in the future. This is in addition to putting a pet’s life at risk in many cases.
But I was given a choice by her and I chose to also spend the money necessary even when I didn’t have much to spare. And I have chosen differently under different circumstances. The reviewer’s husband chose correctly, in my opinion, but the reviewer does not understand anything to do with the choice and of course “blames” someone else. And I consider it very likely that their shallow view is a cause of many major problems we face as a culture and society today!
Once again the value of great veterinary care was demonstrated to me under extreme duress and with extreme consequences for every moment and every decision I made for Stevie Ray.
Thursday night and the following day were one of those times for me once again; when suddenly while playing Stevie Ray stopped tugging, she didn’t want to play, she just stood there, her head held low and not wanting to move. Then off she goes straight in the house to lie down, in the middle of the evening with me left holding her ball. Something like this is way beyond normal! And it demands immediate attention to determine what has happened and what is happening. My history with Dylan has shown that any change in behaviour away from their normal, demands immediate attention. Even something that does not appear serious, can be and I need to determine what is wrong and whether it is serious or not.
Stevie Ray has issues with arthritis/spondylosis in her spine and arthritis in her toes coupled with progressively worsening hip dysplasia, all of which I attribute at least in part to her last rabies vaccine, which is another story. She no longer runs, we play tug. And we play tug carefully. I hold her mostly upright as she clings to the ball and I support her on my legs. She pulls vertically down her body and pushes with her feat against my legs. I have always felt that this helps keep her neck and spine in a better position with less transverse pressure on her spine and less pressure on her toes. Her pulling is generally in line with her spine and I can control how she uses her back legs to stand and support herself, which I do specifically to protect her hips.
Yesterday a piece of dirt, something I didn’t actually see, but I suspect fell off the ball and down her throat which resulted in a small cough while tugging. In that instant, the game was over! No more play and no more happy Stevie Ray. She just stood their with her head down. Then after I tried to help find out if something was caught in her throat, I could see she was breathing, but she wasn’t focused on me or the toy anymore and I could see her concern and change in disposition immediately. Then off into the house to lie down. More than once I checked on her because so far I could not tell for sure what happened, circumstances initially led me to believe it was an issue with her cervical spine. She still seemed alert but I couldn’t rule out stroke immediately so I was looking for cognitive and physical changes.
Her eyes remained attentive, but she would not raise her head or get up. She seemed listless and concerned. She did get up when I insisted and she seemed okay to some degree; she could still move, she could walk although she definitely wasn’t normal. She wouldn’t raise her head although she didn’t show pain when I helped her lift it a little. Of course I was being careful as another concern was a spinal disc issue. A dog is so dependent on the normal function in their spine, I had to be careful not to further aggravate what was causing her problem.
I tested her reflexes in her feet to make sure she wasn’t experiencing sensory loss and to determine that she still had motor function. She had reflexes, but I wouldn’t say that they were strong and normal, but given what else I was seeing this lack of strength in the response was consistent. As I kept an eye on her I decided to feed them, which is when she decided she wasn’t up for eating. When I offered her water, she wasn’t into that either. For a dog who absolutely loves all food and is a voracious eater, this is of great concern when it occurs and was one of those key symptoms that repeatedly helped me save Dylan’s life.
I kept talking to her and I kept seeing her focus on me. Of course it was after normal Vet hours so my only choice was the 24 hour Animal Emergency clinic in Vancouver. My experience their with Jagger years ago has left me with a very strong resistance to taking my dogs there for treatment. Back in March 2011, the Friday evening before Dylan was diagnosed with IMHA, I made the choice to wait, despite how serious I thought her symptoms were. I chose to stay up and watch and only take her when I deemed it necessary. And even though Dylan barely survived and suffered brain damage from deep anemia three days later, I still feel it was the right choice.
I feel that if Dylan had been treated with the standard course of treatment, that she would have died like so many others I know who have been treated with the standard drug cocktail without consideration for the cost of giving such dangerous drugs and the physical impact of those drugs on the body as it also fights to survive. I feel that Janice chose a treatment plan that yes still included serious risks, truly unavoidable in this case, but with much greater potential benefit; minimal additional stress put on Dylan and which also included learning something about what was going on. I am fairly certain that these were both critical factors in Dylan having another four years that followed.
So there I was again facing that same choice, to go to ER, or not? Stroke, or even a critical spinal injury do benefit from immediate care so I had to make these decisions quickly and they were not easy decisions to make, especially given my resistance to going to the ER clinic. I most certainly did not want my resistance to lead to an amplified problem with serious or critical consequences. However, I decided that I wasn’t really seeing clear symptoms of stroke and although I did consider Stevie Ray’s problem serious, I didn’t see it yet as critical. I did see it as something that needed constant monitoring so there I was as before with Dylan, terrified and anxious, staying in constant contact with Stevie Ray as she rested next to me and as I had with Dylan on many occasions. I never really slept and I was aware of every move. When she did lift her head it was always with abnormal panting, but she was rolling over and moving about on the couch and sleeping. She didn’t appear to be in pain and touching her and petting her seemed to relax her. She never did drink water when I offered, which I did find concerning.
At some point in the middle of the night, she did get up and walk to the door to go for a pee but I never did know if she did since by the time I got my slippers on and got out to where she had gone, which was only moments, I found her sitting in the dark. So I picked her up and brought her back into the house to lie on the couch with me once again.
By morning I could see that when she did walk, that she wasn’t stable and that she couldn’t coordinate and move her legs well enough to walk normally without wobbling. Her instability brought visions of Dylan’s final days and the spinal condition and paralysis that led to my choice to end her suffering. I also started to wonder about stroke again as a possibility, although spinal disc injury was still at the top of my mind. The deterioration definitely added to my anxiety and given the recent past with Dylan, it was actually terrifying to me. Thoughts of losing her to this problem continued and even worsened. It was just too damn similar to what I had seen in Dylan in her last week.
Although I had been in communication with our Canine Chiropractor (Dr. Petra Rutz), who was prepared to see her on Saturday if necessary and who also thought her cervical spine was the most likely cause of her trouble; as soon as the Vet office was open at 9:00 AM, I was on the phone and had squeezed an appointment in with Janice for 10:30.
Stevie Ray did drink water later that morning and on the way to our appointment I let her walk a little toward the car and she stopped for a pee. Such little things, but in this state they were very important positive signs. I no longer feared stroke and I felt the severity of her injury had not worsened since my early morning observations.
I can’t state enough how much I appreciate Dr. Crook and her approach. We work so well as a team. She is very calm and rational in her approach. And I find she brings me to a calm and rational state immediately. And I find this critical in making the best possible decisions for the care of all of my dogs. Fear and anxiety never help and often hurt. She is not shallow in her approach and much like me finds great importance in details. She listens to every word I say and acknowledges the importance of my observations, she always asks more questions, unlike many Vets who dismiss the importance of those observations. She is also very clear in what she is thinking and why.
This was not the first time she has seen this type of problem. And my concerns were accurate; spinal disc injury versus pinched nerves and tight muscles and how to treat them. But it was not at all the worst case she had seen and she was obviously optimistic about Stevie Ray fully recovering. Yes it seemed to be cervical in nature, C3-C5, which was also noted in Stevie Ray’s file from a visit in 2010 as we tried to figure out the extent of Stevie Ray’s arthritis problem, which was and still is mostly a problem in her mid and lower thoracic and lumbar spine.
We discussed homeopathic remedies which would be useful, more so in the immediate post injury period, so I will once again pursue stocking some of these compounds for the future. She went through muscle relaxants and what she preferred and why. Prescription methocarbamol and not the over-the-counter variety, which contain aspirin or Tylenol. As a minimalist, Janice and I are fully compatible with why one would make this specific choice.
We also discussed the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, gabapentin and of course one I know all too well, prednisone. But once again, neither of us wanted to treat the problem by throwing the kitchen sink at it and masking any helpful information that would help us customize treatment, maximizing both our knowledge of the problem and the effectiveness of treatment.
The first course of action we agreed on was a cold laser treatment. We considered acupuncture, her specialty, but decided that there would be greater benefit from the laser. Being that she is an acupuncturist, she also uses the laser on the neural ganglia she would normally use her pins on in addition to the spine and muscles controlling it. Thus Stevie Ray gets the benefits of both. And we saw immediate benefit! Stevie Ray was more willing to lift her head and take treats almost immediately.
Although I did get a prescription for the muscle relaxant, Janice figured I didn’t need to fill it immediately and I haven’t. Stevie Ray has shown steady improvement over the last 24 hours and even wanted to play tug that evening when I brought out Joey’s toy. Dogs are so expressive in their behaviour. Yes, she was obviously feeling much better. I gave her food and she gobbled it down. Treatment was so effective and we know for sure it is not specifically a disc issue, no drugs required. No masking the problem and wondering when it is actually better. The use of drugs would have shown recovery, but we wouldn’t have known the severity nor when her body was recovered. Minimal stress on Stevie Ray’s body, no chemicals, maximum knowledge and no masking the problem. I love our Vet! She is my kind of person for sure!
And what would I get with average veterinary care? Quick examination, most likely X ray’s, put her on muscle relaxant, give her prednisone! What do I learn? Absolutely nothing! No idea what the actual problem is, even if the Vet makes me think that they have done their job. And no idea when her body is ready and the problem is truly resolved. Chemical stress and the side effects of prednisone, which I know are never to be taken lightly. I have far too much experience with the use of prednisone and what it can do to ever take it lightly. Most veterinarians and their patients think nothing of it. Most patients are never told about the dangers of what they are doing and most would never even concern themselves with unnecessary aspirin or Tylenol, masking pain rather than treating the cause of the problem. Maybe there are also a bunch of tests to be done, X ray at the very least and maybe a lot more, but I already knew I wouldn’t be making those choices with them although I probably would have agreed to an X Ray and was expecting to, but it wasn’t required by Janice. Under stress at ER, I likely would have agreed and never known it wasn’t needed.
And the entire financial cost of this great care to us yesterday? $88! Given what I had seen with Stevie Ray and Dylan before her, I was prepared for the possibility of serious spinal disc injury and the immense costs that can be associated with it. Relief on every level! If I had gone to the emergency care, it is at least that just to walk in the door, over and above any other cost to view and treat her. The cost of drugs plus X Ray’s I am certain, probably $500 or more? And of course add that to the non financial costs of side effects and chemical stress plus the complete lack of knowledge, which is a component they can provide and which I consider invaluable!
Yesterday afternoon I was able to relax and all of the stress dissipated thanks to Janice and my choice of who should treat my dogs and how they need to be treated. Today I am extremely happy as Stevie Ray has returned to her normal self once again. I am still insisting on continued rest, but she has already clearly messaged me regarding her desire to play ball. Now that will be a difficult choice. I have already been trying to figure out if there is a better way for me to tug or if I shouldn’t tug with her at all. Tough decisions, yes, but so much nicer than what I was thinking about yesterday.
And as always, I am very, very grateful for the support of my friends who I was in contact with and most certainly for the staff at Mosquito Creek Veterinary Hospital and Dr. Janice Crook specifically. Together my dogs are in very good hands and I can’t even express how important that is and how valuable they are in our lives. The trust and teamwork and love they show for my dogs is immensely valuable to us.