Su Lum: Nibbling the bullet
The veterinary neurologist in Denver read my old dachshund Trudy’s MRI and diagnosed a herniated disc in her neck as the cause of the paralysis of her right side. Possible remediation with decompression surgery, a major operation requiring four days in the Denver hospital and a 12-week recovery period.
In other words, as Scott and Kristen, my vets at Aspen Animal Hospital, had warned me, the MRI would probably show something I might not want to put Trudy through to fix it.
Still, it’s better to know what it is – to know, for instance, that it isn’t a fast-growing, cancerous tumor. I have a couple of herniated discs myself, as does most of the adult population, so it’s familiar territory.
After a lot of soul-searching plus veterinary, filial and friendly advice, I decided not to put her through the surgical ordeal. She’s too old
(14), it’s too dangerous, she’s not in pain now but would be afterwards, and she’d be traumatized by four days in the hospital. And at best, it would get her back to where she was which, not to put too fine a point on it, wasn’t that hot.
The main deciding factor is that she is getting better, which
gives us both a window of time. It didn’t have to be either/or: either send her to the surgical chopping block OR have her “put down” (or as Scott says, “let her go” because her condition would never improve. She is improving.
Trudy will never SCAMPER again, but maybe she’ll be able to walk a little. She’s regained some strength and control of her right front leg, she still has feeling in both right feet and she’s BETTER.
The first couple of weeks were unadulterated hell. I was coming down from a bout with pneumonia, Trudy was totally helpless, frightened and confused. She’d cry, I’d lug her outside and kneel beside her, holding her up begging, “Pee Trudy, please PEE!” and she’d look wistful and lurch out of my arms to try to get into the pee position but would fall over. She did better on the grass, but then we had all that snow.
My back was killing me and I thought that if this was going to continue I’d have to hire an au pair, but now we have our routine down to a little science. Trudy peeps and I leap for my slippers and jacket, crank up my oxygen, open the door, carry her outside, prop her feet as if setting up a tripod, she knows what she’s there to do and does it, and I carry her back inside.
In a way it’s like having a handicapped child, and I know I’m probably in denial, but Trudy slept 90 percent of the day before this happened, either on the bed or on her sleeping bag under my desk, so, except for the 4 a.m. trips outside, it’s not a lot different. And she’s getting better, she IS.
So that’s my Scarlett O’Hara solution for now: to do nothing, and think about it tomorrow.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who needs a little stroller. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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