By Leslie Gallagher
Maverick the Paralyzed Puppy was about to enter our lives. The day arrived all too quickly. In one small way the stars were slightly in alignment for us as both the paralyzed Goldendoodle AND the German Shepherd who refused to use her back leg that we had been boarding for several weeks were picked up right before the puppy arrived. Nothing like having a little breathing room in between house guests. Not. Bryan and I always try to celebrate and take ourselves out for a well -deserved dinner that someone else cooks after a house guest has left. Our house guests tend to be really challenging as they are usually disabled, often incontinent, often completely paralyzed, on multiple medications, needing wheelchairs, bladders expressed, diapers changed, etc. and/or are recovering from a big orthopedic surgery and need round the clock tending to. We are often up several times throughout the night checking on them, changing their position if they cannot move, offering water, carrying them outside to go potty, etc. It’s just exhausting. So when a dog leaves we usually have a few days or even weeks in between guests to get some rest. NOT THIS TIME!
Linda arrived, carrying into our office the freaking cutest little Golden Retriever I’d ever seen. First impressions? He was absolutely adorable. Second impressions? He was absolutely paralyzed in all four legs. What the hell!!! I reminded myself that Golden Retrievers aren’t “my” breed, as I always worry about getting too attached to our rescues and fosters. Lucky for me this was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, RIGHT?!! Kenny, the paralyzed Doberman that we had rescued, rehabbed and placed absolutely was my breed and placing him in another home was truly one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I congratulated myself that I was certainly not going to get too attached to this puppy so no worries there.
I went over the report from the neurologist who had done an incredibly thorough job. She had conducted every test she could possibly think of to rule out any diseases that we might be able to treat. The conclusion she came to was that he had been paralyzed by his second set of puppy vaccines. He went from being lethargic to tetraparetic 10 days after his vaccine which was the classic timetable for the disease polyradiculoneuropathy. She surmised in her report that he should get better within 3-4 weeks but noted at the time that both his knees and his wrists were already contracted and that this was a concern so early in the game. She recommended (now this is on January 10, mind you) that he immediately start physical therapy. Now here’s where it gets scary for me. Seven weeks had passed since she’d seen him. Not only had he not gotten any better, he was dramatically worse. If I were the kind of person prone to nervous breakdowns this would be an excellent time to have one. This puppy could not bend a single joint. He couldn’t even move. He might has well have been a potted plant. Holy sh*t. What the hell did I get myself into????
I tried to be calm and decided that the best thing to do would be to immediately go for a jog to relax my brain. Since that wasn’t exactly feasible in the middle of the workday, with a pile of dogs just waiting for their therapy, I decided to jump in the pool with Lacy, a crazy Golden Retriever and spend the next hour racing her for tennis balls. Thank god for Lacy. She is always game for water sports.
The puppy was fitted for a diaper and put on a bed in the reception area where the girls spent every minute of their day fooling around with him, hugging him, kissing him, putting him on their laps and carrying him around the building. You just cannot believe how cute this puppy was. And my mind raced. What on earth was I going to do with this dog? He couldn’t move a muscle. The ONLY thing that worked was his tail and his smile. He was a bit quiet and clearly nervous and unsure of what was happening to him but his sweet little tail swished and swished when someone petted him or spoke softly to him. It was just heartbreaking; beautiful to see but this puppy was a mess.
When the day ended I sat down with the puppy and tried to figure out what I could do for him. Linda had gone home a few hours earlier with tears in her eyes. She was both grateful that I had offered to save his life and extremely sad. He had essentially been living at her hospital for all those seven weeks while she tried in vain to help him. I knew how bonded she was to him and how hard it was for her to leave him. But she also knew that the only way he was ever going to walk again would be if I took him on. The hilarious side note to all of this is that I am so NOT a puppy person. I just don’t do puppies. My work, nine times out of ten is with senior dogs. I love, love, love the old grey-muzzled dogs with their achy joints and their cataracts, their stiff muscles and worn out backs. Puppies drive me insane. They bite, bark, pee on everything, ruin your favorite pair of running shoes, chew the legs off the antique table your grandmother brought back from India in the 1920s, destroy your carpeting, don’t know how to walk politely on a leash, can’t be left alone for a second, try to electrocute themselves by chomping through the cord on the stereo, etc. etc. etc. Give me five senior dogs over a puppy any day! Give me ten disabled old dogs over a puppy!
I put my head in my hands and tried not to cry. Other than his mouth and his tail not a single joint, tendon, ligament, muscle or body part worked on this dog. What on earth was I going to do with him? Even his eyelids were paralyzed!
If you’d like to contribute towards Maverick’s recovery please call the front desk at Two Hands Four Paws. Thanks!