Walk Like a Doberman – Successful Surgery and Ken’s First Steps

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Chapter 9

By Leslie Gallagher

The weeks after Maverick’s first steps were absolutely exhausting. As if we weren’t tired enough already! Maverick REALLY wanted to get up and greet people, get up and meet dogs and “help” with their therapy, especially when therapy meant lamb-flavored treats being handed out for jobs well done. He figured he’d done a darn good job just getting up and waddling over to them and that, of course, must mean a treat! Hilariously, he started to become a bit of a pain as he was constantly trying to get to his feet and help with someone’s therapy. It truly was easier when he wasn’t able to move! I didn’t have to worry about him getting in the way, getting bit, or walking on his upside down feet.

Kenny’s surgery went great. Dr. Berry removed a large amount of disc material that had been sitting on his spinal cord. Phew! He felt that Kenny should have a slow, but steady recovery. He even thought Kenny might start walking within a week or two. Wow! Normally they keep these dogs in the hospital for several days as they are very fragile and (especially the large dogs) hard to manage. They need constant pain medication, constant monitoring, icing the incision area every hour or so and assistance in making sure that they both eat and urinate and defecate. It’s challenging when you are dealing with 90 pounds of dead weight, trying to get them up to at least urinate in the standing position. Usually they just keep a urinary catheter in and clean up the poop as it happens.

Because we do this for a living, Dr. Berry released Kenny the next day as he felt confident we could take care of him. We raced up to Irvine as fast as our little car could pedal to pick up a very groggy Ken. Once again we had crammed Monty and India into the middle seat so Ken could lie down in the back. He didn’t look very comfortable but he was so out of it he slept the whole way. My heart was in my throat. Were we finally going to get Ken up again??? Oh, how I hoped so!!!

The next few days were hard work. Ken was very painful and not at all interested in helping us help him. He didn’t want to put any weight on his legs and was quite happy to let us do all the work. His bladder was certainly easier to express and by about day 3 he started doing it on his own. WOOHOO!!!! We had fit him for front and back Walkabout Harnesses which I liken to a pair of shorts with a handle on them. They allowed us to “walk” Kenny in a normal position where we supported all of his weight, but giving him the opportunity SHOULD HE CHOOSE TO, to start using his legs on his own. On day 4 he started to “stand” meaning that we were holding up 80-90% of his weight but he was doing the rest himself. On day 5, ahead of schedule, Kenny took his first steps. We were nothing short of hysterical! It wasn’t pretty but he was so happy and so determined it was enough to make you cry. In fact if you watch the video we shot, we were all crying! Even our vet! Our little Ken was a miracle. Kenny WAS going to walk again!!!

Each day that went by after that he would stand, with support a little bit longer. Initially, it was just seconds. By about day 10 he could stand with support for almost a minute and he was letting us know when he needed to urinate and defecate. He still wasn’t close to walking on his own but it didn’t matter to us. We were ecstatic.  We spent a good portion of each day giving him gentle massages, and doing tons of passive range of motion of all four legs. We iced, we lasered his incision site and we did acupuncture both for pain and for mobility. We couldn’t do any active rehab yet as he was still in the post-operative stage but we did everything else we could think of to keep his limbs supple and to keep him comfortable.

We were making progress.  We were looking forward to smooth sailing.  We were wrong.