I love sharing stories about disabled animals who overcome the challenges they face. We even have a section at Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog dedicated to Amazing Pets. But after reading an email from pet parent Cindy McBryan, I realized the real heroes are the people who flip their lives upside down so they can take care of an animal who is sick or paralyzed.
Cindy’s adult son, Matthew, is doing this for the McBryan family dog, Nike. The 100 lb. Labrador retriever suddenly became paralyzed at the worst time possible while Cindy’s husband was in the hospital being treated for cancer. Now caring for their paralyzed Labrador is a family affair.
Here is Cindy, Matt and Nike’s story.
A year ago, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We opted for surgery at a medical center that was 2.5 hours from our home. It was supposed to be a 3-day ordeal. Unfortunately, it became a 10-day ordeal and while we were away our 12-year old Labrador retriever (Nike) stayed with my elderly parents. They didn’t have the heart to tell me during my husband’s hospitalization that Nike lost the use of his hind legs. It broke my heart when we returned to find him so compromise
Our local vet could only tell us it was nerve related so I searched for a veterinary neurologist and located one 2 hours away that could see him 4 days later. An MRI ($2500) determined he herniated a disc. While he was sedated I needed to make the difficult decision to opt for a laminectomy (another $7500) or euthanasia. I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to Nike so I opted for the surgery. Since we lived 2 hours away, I left him at the hospital to recover until I realized he was so depressed it was hampering his recovery. He developed a UTI and pneumonia so I brought him home 6 days post-surgery.
I now was dealing with both a disabled dog and a husband who was recovering from his surgery and couldn’t lift anything for the next 8 weeks. My son, who lived 3,000 miles away in California, flew home to help me. Since he was accustomed to West Coast time, he did the night shift with Nike so I could finally get some sleep.
We drove Nike 90 miles to a rehab facility twice a week so he could use a water treadmill and get laser treatments with a physical therapist. Fortunately, my son was between jobs at the time so I was able to keep him for nearly a month to help me. After 8 weeks of therapy, Nike was finally able to stand and walk on his own! What a relief for all of us!
Then sadly, a few days after Christmas, Nike slipped and fell on our cement patio. He couldn’t move. I could tell by the look in his eyes he was badly injured again. In the blink of an eye we lost all the progress we made since his surgery. Selfishly, I couldn’t bear to put Nike through another surgery, not emotionally nor financially. My husband and I thought the time had come to have him “put out of his misery.”
My son, who had once again flown home for Christmas, thought otherwise. With our vet’s blessing, our son removed the front seat from his old pick-up truck, made a comfortable bed for Nike, and drove him from Pennsylvania to California. It took them 10 days, sleeping in Walmart parking lots and eating at McDonald’s while they crisscrossed the country avoiding snow and ice storms.
My son has become my hero. He is devoting his life to taking care of Nike. Rather than find a job in his field (electrician and carpenter) he has found alternative ways to survive so that he can continue to care for Nike.
Through the Gurney Institute of Animal Communication, I have hired a wonderful person to communicate with Nike. It was very important to me to know whether Nike is happy. I have had guilt feelings about not being able to care for Nike myself. I was very relieved to learn from the Communicator how happy Nike is living with my son, how he feels he’s on “a great adventure.” It’s amazing because those are the same words I used with Nike when I said goodbye to him the day my son began their journey.
Nike is now 13.5 years old. Matt takes him swimming in the bay once a week and gets him into his cart as often as Nike is able. He’s having difficulty with an arthritic wrist on his front leg so braces were just ordered to give Nike more support.
Sorry this is so long.
Nike’s story is on Instagram. You can follow him at: berkeleylabrador.