Teaching my dog to walk again

Life sometimes happens to you and around you in ways you aren’t expecting, and it changes you in such a deep way, it becomes a hard story to tell. Well, without sounding hokey and overwrought.

When Anya (my little French Bulldog) went down and was paralyzed in her back half, I thought it was just another flare-up. It was not. I took her to the emergency vet center on a Sunday night, and she had surgery overnight. They told me it was grave and it was a 50/50 coin flip if she would walk again.

You know, at that moment, I didn’t care. I could deal with a paralyzed dog on wheels or with a drag bag, I decided, as long as she was happy, and my knowledge of how dogs live right in the now – as long as you do with them – they don’t care one bit now many working legs they have. They have no regret, no thought that they are missing out on something. So I’d take the risk as long as we could stop her pain and get her to a place where she could be stable.

She couldn’t walk when  she got out of surgery, and I learned to diaper and express her bladder and change her and get her on a pooping schedule, and gave her time to heal, and her little back feet had nothing going on at all.  For weeks. Anything I saw there was just a reaction.

Then an Aussie told me to start using an electric toothbrush on her little feetsies, start training the nerves to form new pathways.  In a few days, there were small jolts of reaction, not sure if they were real, and that grew day by day into definite real feels in the feet! Now she will jerk her feet away from me, look at me, then lift them up and lick them.

She’s not walking yet, but she stands firmly, and lifts her legs when I prompt her to, and she sorta knuckles her feet over when she tries to move them forward in a walk and then topples to the side.  We go for her final vet post-surgery check today, and they will set up her water therapy schedule, which everyone tells me is the game changer – they just leap ahead in getting foot coordination back once they do this.

Caring for her 24/7, taking care of her every need, keeping her happy, keeping her company so she doesn’t feel isolated on pen rest, loving her, taking her for acupuncture and laser treatments, changing her diapers while she takes her one shot at licking me on the lips when I’m bent over her (I hate being licked on the mouth by a dog, she ONLY wants to lick me on the mouth), I watch her get just a little back, then a little more, and every single tiny movement she gets in her back legs makes me cheer.

And it changed me.

I’ve never had to take care of a person or animal that needed this level of care and rehab. I suspect many of you have done that and do know.  When the day comes – and I know it will – when she takes those first steps on her own, it will be everything.  Not because she is walking again – I can live happily if she never walks again – but because we did it together, and we have developed this ridiculously crazy dog/person communication in the process that I didn’t know was possible.

Despite being crazy for dogs, I really don’t anthropomorphize them.  They are dogs, they aren’t human, despite being cute as can be.  What I did learn is how they look at the world, we could all use a dose of.  They don’t concern themselves with yesterday or what they have lost or are missing.  Just give them something tasty to chew on or please just scratch me in those places I haven’t been able to because my darn back feet aren’t working.  All she wants is me, for me to pull for her and be with her and love her. Those back legs are something she doesn’t even miss, and it has been a surprise for her as they start tingling to find them again. she sorta forgot she had them.

Don’t worry, there will be pictures from her first water therapy session.

Not really much of a perfume post, except I am still drowning myself in those Maison Lancome things, they are pure comfort, and I fell in love with the Sunday thing March talked about from Arielle – that is just gorgeous. Sampling several new things I love like the new one from Puredistance, which is lovely!  But more on those.   The demand on my time, now that we are exiting the post-surgery close care phase, that, combined with my busy, busy fall/early winter work schedule has kept me crazy busy, and I”m hoping to have time to go through some of them and talk about them!

So dogs or cats?

  • Koyel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. My best wishes to you and Anya.

  • taxi says:

    I’m glad she’s doing so well and that you are really feeling it too.

  • Ann says:

    Patty, so glad your sweetie is doing so much better — I know you are so relieved. You are such a good mom! Give darling Anya a scratch for me, will you? Hugs to you and all the STC crew.

  • Dina C. says:

    Patty, beautiful, inspirational post. I pray that your dog fully recovers eventually, and that you can both celebrate that amazing achievement together! What a growth experience in compassion. Sending you hugs.

  • Dogs AND cats. I have never understood folks who thought you had to choose. I have both, always have. And the cat wrestles with the dogs, chases them, sleeps in a pile with them and generally they set a very good example of not caring one bit WHO your playmate is, or how different they might be from you.

  • Francesca B says:

    Such a lovely story. Best of luck to Anya and you. Dion is blind now, and I have to be careful on our walks that he doesn’t bump into things, but other than that, he’s still the world’s oldest puppy and seems to have no clue that he can’t see anymore. 

    • Patty White says:

      Aw, thanks, Francesca. I know the loving care you give your pupper. And it just doesn’t matter, does it? As long as they are happy and you are there for them and love them, and there is no pain and good quality of life, they are content.  Hugs, Great Dog Mom!

  • Kathleen says:

    Patty, thank you for sharing your story with your dog.  I’m sending positive energy for continued recovery!  You could be writing my story as well.  My previous Boxer boy developed Degenerative Myelopathy (Lour Gherig’s disease).  His disease was progressive and he lost the use of his rear legs.  He never pined over his loss and enjoyed each day of his life.  That time fully caring for him was precious, and although I’d rather him have not been paralyzed, I wouldn’t trade that time with for anything.  I carried all 75 pounds of him up and down the stairs for almost 2 years, took him “running” with me in his Burley stroller every day, and snuggled on the couch with him for hours.  I put my nursing skills and sense of humor to good use with expressing his bladder, bowel program,cleaning him meticulously with good skin care, physical therapy exercises, and massage therapy.  He didn’t ever take to his back-end wheels, but loved me wheel-barrowing him while his front legs were strong. His was an amazing spirit and he never lost his love for life or for me.  He taught me so much about patience and acceptable. Sending you hugs, understanding, and virtual support. xx


    • Patty White says:

      Thanks, Kathleen!  Oh my goodness!  I do not know how I would handle a bigger dog!  Right now, with the bad weather and steps, we are handling the pooping and changing inside in the bathroom, and it will stay that way until she has some better motor movement, but carrying 27 pounds up and down stairs, which I did do over the summer! is tough.  That is amazing you did that with a 75-pounder. I’ve got her little wagon. I do have a great cute Burley, but she doesnt’ seem to like having the screen in front of her, which makes me sad because that is a great stroller!  I want to rid in it.  They are amazing, and I feel so lucky that I get to do this with her. Weird, it seems like, but definitely true!  I know you know that, it just surprised me to find out how grateful I am to her for letting me be my best on her behalf.  Thank you for the support and hugs. Anya sends you a big lick right smack on the lips. Crazy girl, it makes me nuts every time she does it. I offer her a cheek, my chin, my forehead, neck, but nope. She just waits until my mouth is in range and gets it!  

  • Jennifer S says:

    How lucky Anya is to have you, all your love and dedication for her. I’m not so sure a lot of people would’ve come to what to you was an easy decision. Good luck going forward. She’s in the right hands!

    • Patty White says:

      I don’t know. I hope they would. I belong to some IVDD groups, and people come in with their dogs just out of surgery and say their dogs are depressed and sad and …. ugh.  No, they are NOT. You are depressed and sad and unhappy, and they are keying off of you.  Accept the worst, hope for the best, then give them the love and care to the best of your ability for as long as they have a good life  A good life for a dog does NOT include the ability to jump and leap and bound and run.  They love doing that, but they sub in whatever else is available to fill their days.  But they are afraid, afraid that it will be too hard, and they will fail, so it’s like they want to give up before they try.  So I encourage them to try and embrace their little crippled puppy and love them and let them teach you how it works. :)?

  • Elizabeth Watson says:

    Patty, our animal friends really remind us about what is truly important in this life, do they not? Bless you for taking such care with your lovely dog. I am, this very week, in demand as a cat-comforting human. One cat with a cone on his head, and the other is concerned about not getting enough attention. It’s a wonder the latter one has let me do this much typing, as my computer desk is “Bum Pet Central”, apparently. Warmest wishes to you and Anya!

    • Patty White says:

      They do.  Oh, that’s sweet, but that’s what you agree to do when yuou get a dog, so I’m just doing what I promised her when I gave her a home with me for all of her life.

      Oh, cat with cone!  That is tough. I do miss cats, but the Frenchies would need a really tough, confident cat to live with them. I keep my eye out for just that cat, as does my vet!

  • Musette says:

    Patty,  I have said it before – and I will say it again – if I come back as a dog, I’m coming back as YOUR dog!  Anya is a lucky, lucky pup, indeed – as are all your little psychobabbles.  Just keep the mop away from them!

    I do wish you’d post more – nobody gives a hot damb about the subject.  You have such a connection to the written word and we love hearing about your life!  Glad Anya is improving – it’s a good thing for both of you!



    • Patty White says:

      You goose, I see how you care for your dog and have cared for all the dogs you have, so I want to come back as your dog!  

      I just have to get back into the habit, so I’m going to work on that over winter break, when it is less crazy during the day, and I’ve got a reminder on my calendar to come write about something!  Anya does her first underwater treadmill therapy next Tuesday, so there will be pictures and stories!  She’s just super happy that I’ve taken her pen away, with vet permission, and she now can zip around the kitchen again.  next week I’m booting Louis and Cora out for a while and Soph and Anya are getting the living room for a while. They want me to make sure she still gerts plenty of rest and does not overdo or strain anything since she has this weird spiney kind of walk, where she goes with her front and sorta drags her legs right behind her, resting on her knees. It make sme nervous she’ll be injured, but vet saw it and said it’s fine, just check her for drag sores and get a drag bag on her to protect her knees and stuff if she is doing it a lot and develops those.

  • Portia says:

    WOW! Fingers crossed for recovery Patty. You are a saint.

    Portia xx

  • Tati says:

    What a beautiful post! Thank you. This is EXACTLy what Christmas is about — kindness and love.


  • March says:

    What a wonderful post.  Thank you, Patty.  I was all pissy about the dumpster fire that Metro was today — it broke down on my morning commute AND my evening commute — and when I finally got home I was tired and cross.  Hanging out with the puppers cheered me right up.

    • Patty White says:

      I know how much love and comfort your puppers give you. They are special in a world where unconditional love is a hard thing to find some days.   xo

  • Tara C says:

    That’s amazing about the electric toothbrush! I’m hoping your baby gets to walk again. What a sweet face. Dogs are pure love.

    • Patty White says:

      I know!  I told my vet about it. Apparently it is very common in Australia to get that advice, so they have exported it to all the paralyzed dog groups.  Dog anatomy is geared to regeneration, and their bodies will do everything they can to get them up and mobile in some way or another again, if it’s possible.  She has been a great patient, though!  She can’t sleep in the bed with everyone again yet until I an figure out how to make sure there is no way she can fall/slide off, so I set up a playpen at the side of the bed and made it super comf, and she happily sleeps right there.  It may just be the way I go long term, the other dogs sometimes annoy her at night anyway.