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Cash's Story - Complete Paralysis
“Cash” – Our Wonder Weenie Dachshund
In Cash's Family's Own Words

Everyone thinks their dog is special.  We were no different when we brought our sweet, funny, wonder weenie dachshund, Cash, into our home.  We became his owners when my husband’s parents could no longer properly care for him.  He had an infectious wiggle and tail wag that expressed his happy, fun loving personality.  Even while being poked and prodded during exams on the table in the ASAH, he was generous with kisses and love for everyone.  So, it was with a mix of fear and hope that we elected to have him undergo spinal surgery when he “went down” with what appeared to be a classic disc injury.  He seemed to be as baffled as we were as to what had happened to him.  He was in great physical shape otherwise, and his only curse was this long spine that is characteristic of dachshunds, and prone to injuries.  Even though he was not a young dog (he was 11 years old), we felt like he still had plenty of zest for life and the energy to withstand the surgery.  We wanted to give him every chance to continue his life with us in whatever way he comfortably could.  Pain and suffering was not expected in the long run and he deserved his opportunity to get well.  It was our obligation as responsible pet owners to provide that for him if we could.  We decided to make the commitment of time, money and caring for Cash.  He was a special dog.

Now, we know that this kind of decision does not come lightly and each case needs to be weighed on its own merits.  We were very lucky to be in a position to deal with the financial responsibility of our decision.  But really, it was more of a decision of the heartfor us.  We truly loved Cash.  He was part of our family.  We could not deny him the chance to survive.  We listened to all the instructions about care giving and the restrictions that would need to be followed for several weeks after the surgery very carefully.  It would be pretty much a full time job, at least for a while, to help him recover safely, but certainly not impossible.  We chose to go forward with it.

He came through the surgery and we began caring for him at home.  This was probably the most difficult time for us.  If you can get through the initial recovery, the rest pretty much falls into place as you go.  He was on medication and a pain patch and we had to endure some of the side effects of that, which included some low moaning and howling called “vocalizing”.  We were told that Cash was probably hallucinating from the strong pain meds and he was not actually suffering.  He was totally immobile and he slept most of the time.  We took turns fitfully sleeping downstairs on the couch, with him set up in his recuperation bed on the floor.  We got a used “Pack n Play” child’s playpen/portable crib for him so that he could not move around too much as he recovered, which was important for the time being.  We gave him water with a medicine syringe and hand fed him what little he ate.  Keeping him hydrated seemed to be the key factor, not so much food at that point, just like a person in the hospital following serious surgery.  One of the doctors gave us advice on how much liquid he should be getting and we measured it in the syringe, adding some low sodium chicken broth to tempt him.  We hand fed him small bits of whatever he would eat – his favorite people food included.  He was pretty much “out of it” for several days, but slowly became more conscious and alert.  We could tell he was starting to feel better, but he still was not able to move himself below his neck. 

With a little practice we became pros at manually emptying his bladder for him by pressing on his abdomen in just the right spot.  It’s not hard, and everyone at the animal hospital is so helpful in teaching you how to do it.  He would lie on disposable absorbent pads.  We didn’t take Cash outside to move his bowels; we changed the pad underneath when the time came (although some dogs might be able to do it outside after some recovery if you can help hold them up, especially if they have some strength in front or back legs).  The same holds true for eating and drinking.  At some point the dog might be able to do it on his own if you can help to hold him up over the bowl.  It’s almost like caring for a baby during this recuperation period.  You feed them by hand if necessary, keep them clean and dry, and give them the TLC they need to get better.

Unfortunately for Cash, while his surgery was technically a success, (the disc was repaired), something else was causing him be unable to recover movement in his front or back legs, or even wag his tail.  He was totally paralyzed.  Everyone was worried and disappointed.  This was not expected.  But, by this time we were pretty good at providing his care and he seemed happy just to be with us.  We carried him around, put him in his favorite spot in the sun for short periods (turning him often!) and he slept on our bed (on top of the absorbent pads), partly under a light blanket, just the way he liked it.  We could leave him home alone for short periods of time safely set up on his pads and blanket on the floor or in the playpen.  Sometimes he would use his snout and neck to pull himself around just a little to get his head into the sun close to where he was set up on the floor.  That always amazed us!  He also was pretty good at pulling a blanket up over himself if it was close enough to his mouth.  He really was trying to move. We hoped that at some point he might gain some leg strength and be able to use a cart with wheels, a common apparatus for disabled dogs.

When it became apparent that Cash was not recovering as everyone had expected, we began therapy at the clinic.   A spinal fluid sample that was taken during the surgery showed that he most likely had had an underlying spinal abnormality that remains sort of a mystery.  But he was trying to move around the floor and some reflex tests were encouraging, showing that the signals were there, only his body was just not able to utilize them properly.  We proceeded with acupuncture and on occasion, some therapy with a big ball.  We also used our Jacuzzi bathtub at home almost daily for water therapy.  Our biggest hope was, of course, that some strength or movement might be initiated, but at the very least, it was still a great way to stimulate his muscles, nerves, and circulation and keep him from wasting.  Dr. Stein and Stephanie did such a great job and the art of animal pain management and therapy is just beginning to take hold for our beloved pets.  It can do wonders if given a chance.  I also massaged Cash’s body at home and did leg exercise movements that Stephanie showed me to keep his joints as flexible as possible. 

Cash did progress to the point of an occasional awkward kind of tail wag after having several acupuncture sessions.  His neck became very strong, but he never regained the use of his legs, front or back.  We learned to live with his paralysis and cared for him with a regular routine for quite a while.  We took day trips to central New York with him to watch our son play college baseball, and he accompanied my husband to work if I needed to be out of the house for most of the day (again, we were lucky to be able to do this as my husband is a business owner).  Cash seemed content, so we were, too.  The care and compassion of the staff at ASAH was our lifeline.  They were always ready to answer questions, no matter how simple or serious, and they responded with support and encouragement every step of the way.  Cash had a lot of people rooting for him.

After some time, Cash began developing minor infections.  Most were mild and treatable.  They didn’t cause much alarm and we dealt with them as we went along.  But then one day he started vomiting and having problems breathing.  His nose became totally stuffed up.  He was about 13 years old at this point.  As much as we wanted to believe that this was just another obstacle to jump over, we could sense that this infection/illness was different.  Cash told us with his eyes.  His demeanor changed to one of gentle resignation.  His breathing was difficult and labored.  He was uncomfortable and he felt sick.  He was not eating.  He had done his best and so had we.  As difficult as it was to face, it was time to let go.  We gathered at the clinic and the staff all came in to say their goodbyes.

We were very grateful to have had that extra time, those couple of more years with him.  He had so much to give and we were so lucky to be the recipients of the gift of Cash, the wonder weenie.   He was a very special dog, indeed.

Cash's Mom & Dad

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