By Leslie Gallagher
When you work in the field of canine physical therapy there is an endless line of people who want to give you their paralyzed animal so that you can take care of it because “It’s too much for me,” “you are so good at this,” or “I work all day and don’t have time to take care of my old/sick/disabled dog”. You live in fear of coming to work in the morning and finding an injured/disabled/paralyzed dog tied to the front door. Or even more fun, coming home to find a disabled animal left on your front porch. Or my all-time favorite: the clients that drove matching Rolls Royces who told me just to kill their paralyzed dog as they needed something that was perfect and this dog was not perfect. I fought the urge to say, “And YOU’RE perfect????” (Yes, I kept him. Yes, I got him walking again and yes he was thrilled to be away from them and their staff of 30 who kept him outside as he was a German Shepherd and only their poodle was allowed to live INSIDE). The dog may have had debilitating hip dysplasia but he was sweet, loyal and “an easy guy to get along with” (his words!).
If I had a dime for every person who wanted me to take their disabled animal I would be rich. And even sadder, as I do so much rescue work, is the constant flow of emails that get sent to me. “Old dog, can’t walk, dumped at shelter – Leslie can you help?” It breaks my heart as frankly I wish I had the money and the staff and the room to be able to help them all. And this of course fuels the “what if I won the lottery and could build an even bigger rehab facility to help them all” thoughts that occasionally keep me up at night.
So when one of my vet techs “Linda” who also works at a hospital in the Inland Empire mentioned to me that they had a baby Golden Retriever who was paralyzed and whose owners wanted to euthanize, my heart sank. How can anyone euthanize a puppy? He was 10 weeks old for Pete’s sake!!! Against all my better judgment I said to her, “Please don’t let them euthanize him. Just tell them that I’ll take him.” And then I had a heart attack for fear that my husband was going to kill me. Again. All we need in our house is ONE MORE DOG. I need that like a need a tumor. Linda wasn’t too comfortable with my suggestion and said that she couldn’t tell them what to do. It was their dog and their decision, after all. She said she would suggest physical therapy and that they at least make an appointment to see me.
I went about my week hoping that they would make the appointment and bring him in but when that didn’t happen I finally cracked and called the hospital to ask about his status. “The owners are still deciding whether or not to euthanize him.” Great. In the meantime Linda was doing her level best, with very limited resources, to do some PT on this pup. The hospital administrator had repeatedly suggested that the owners should bring him to me and perhaps board him for a week for some intensive therapy, or at least try one session to let me teach them how to help this dog. When that failed they had told the owners that I was willing to adopt him. What was a bit galling was that the puppy had been paralyzed because of a vaccine and the vaccine manufacturer had given them a nice chunk of change as an apology. That money would have gone a loooong way towards boarding him here and doing intensive PT. But no……
Weeks went by. Part of me was a little bit glad he hadn’t shown up for the whole adoption thing as we were boarding a huge paralyzed Goldendoodle who had just
had a stroke and our backs were killing us from carrying him everywhere, and a crazy German Shepherd who had hip surgery and totally, absolutely and completely refused to put her foot down. But I worried. And worried. And worried.
At week six post-vaccine-incident I called the hospital again. The administrator couldn’t have been any nicer. She was so grateful for my offer to adopt this dog and told me she’d get back to me. I was sweating, knowing how long it had been since he went down and was terrified that if he ever did show up there’d be nothing I could do. They may have waited too long. I knew Linda was doing her best but without a well-trained team and all of the fancy equipment it’s really hard to get any good results. As you all might recall if you’ve read the Kenny blog, every hour that goes by when an animal becomes paralyzed is crucial. When a dog goes down you have between 6-8 hours to get them in for surgery/MRI, etc. to try to reverse the damage. Often times waiting even 24 hours is too long. If surgery is not an option (and even when it is) you also want to start therapy immediately. The big concern when a dog has been down for an extended period is that the muscles lose their flexibility, they atrophy and the muscles and tendons start contracting. Frequently that situation is not reversible. (Years ago a woman brought her puppy in who had broken his leg and the vet at the shelter had cast the leg in extension, without keeping a nice bend in the knee. When the cast was removed two months later the fracture had healed beautifully but the leg had healed in the shape of a baseball bat. Perfectly straight. Zero flexibility. There was absolutely nothing we could do therapy-wise and the dog had to have the leg amputated. Heartbreaking.
Week seven Samantha, the hospital manager called and said that the owners finally decided not to euthanize and that Linda was bringing the puppy, ”Maverick” to me in two days. Oh my god. And, by the way, he was still paralyzed in all four legs. Maverick the paralyzed puppy had entered my life. Bryan was going to kill me!!!!
If you’d like to contribute towards Maverick’s recovery please call the front desk at Two Hands Four Paws. Thanks!