Twelve days ago, my dog, Amica, and I had a very bad day. I found her in the morning, collapsed, having lost control of her bowels. I had to help her stand, but she couldn’t walk on her own, so I helped her do that. The day became a tag team of friends and family helping me load my 82-pound bestie in and out of my car, to and from the vet for an emergency appointment.
The vet gave us bad news. The problem is her spine. Her x-rays showed degenerating discs, several herniated discs, arthritis, calcium growths that are fusing her spine, curvature. He sent us home with steroids and a “guarded prognosis.”
I couldn’t start her on my steroids right away, because Mom had given her some aspirin. It was on her own (plus she was getting plenty of prayers) that she was able to walk again without my help.
I only gave her steroids for three days, instead of the three weeks, because of the vomiting and diarrhea they caused.
What I did do was access our connection. I swear that dog and I can even read each other’s minds. I call her my “E.T. flower,” because her whole life, she seems to have gotten sick every time I’m sick, same as the flower in the movie E.T. wilted when E.T. looked to be dying.
So we’ve both got terrible spines. After I got over my emotions, which began with worry about her future and inevitably progressed to the worry about my own future that I try my best to ignore, I began to think practically. What helps? What do I do for me?
Mattresses matter! I went out and bought her two brand new beds. I pulled them off the shelves at the store and lay on them on the floor to test them out myself.
Of the two I picked out, she loves them both. Yes, two, because staying in one place all day is bad, I know. And just movement helps. I know that, too. So we walk.
Another thing know is a big lesson from my recent past: defying the x-rays (or MRI in my case). Two years ago, I could barely walk myself, and the MRI showed a disc bulge of over a centimeter. A no-brainer for surgery. Yet I got myself walking and moving without having that thing sliced out. We don’t have to be as doomed as that screen shows.
Finally, I decided Amica should have her own Splat Impact Map. This is what I made that I want to share with you. Click on this image, and you can get to a printable PDF (that big wide column is meant to be divided into as many columns as you need … see example below):
Here’s my example. Click to see a bigger, PDF version:
Now, as I manage her condition using the ways I manage my own, I also cope with it the same way I cope with my own … knowing that joy is still possible in a life with constant pain, especially when we won’t get emotional about the pain. And dogs don’t get emotional about pain. Dogs don’t worry about the future. That’s what *she* is teaching *me* how to do.
Amica and I will just continue doing all our favorite things, as well as we can, like we did by the river yesterday ….
I cried reading this. I love my dogs so much and do everything for them i would do for myself to making sure they have lots of blankets and home made cookies. What ever they want or need they get. OMG. People always say to me you treat them like they were people their DOGS!!!! Yes their dogs and way more compationate than people. I would take a dog over a persons company any day. Thank you for your column. DOGS RULE!! THEY ARE THERE FOR YOU UNCONDITIONALLY TILL THEY DIE AND EVEN THEN THEIR MEMORIES GET US THROUGH EVERY DAY.
Awww you’re such an amazing dog parent!! Yes, they totally deserve the very best!