I don’t know about you, but when I hear bad news about the health of a loved one I feel compelled to take action. The first thing I do is run to the computer to research all I can about the ailment. It gives me a sense of control when I understand, at least the basics of the disease and it makes me feel like I’ve taken a step to help the person in need. I’ve done this over and over again during the years, when my parents became ill, every time my child got sick and especially when each of my pets got old.
I guess this makes me a bit of a control freak and probably explains why I find it so frustrating to watch a movie where a person has been kidnapped. Inevitably the FBI agent tells the family to sit tight at home and wait for a call. I wouldn’t be able to wait at home for one minute. I’d forward my phone and be out on the streets combing every corner of my town, looking for my loved one.
In any case, my burning desire to learn about the diseases that strike my family members has created a pretty interesting and diverse library in my home. Books on my shelves range from understanding Parkinson’s disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis for my parents to Miracle Cures and How We Die as each of their conditions neared the end.
The Merck Veterinary Manual and The Complete Book of Dog Health have sat on my shelves for years and have served as my references for any pet related illness. It all made sense until Sophie got sick. Not having a definitive diagnosis for my dog’s worsening paralysis was maddening.
I searched for answers on the computer. We looked at support groups, but didn’t find one where we fit the criteria of the other pet owners and when we looked into stem cell therapy, which was new at the time, we were told it was only for patients with hip dysplasia.
Feeling completely at a loss to help Sophie, I turned to holistic veterinarian Nancy Brandt, DVM. I had reached out before to Dr. Brandt when I hit a crisis level with other pets. In my opinion her holistic medicine in combination with regular veterinary care kept our dog Bear alive for 4 months longer than expected when he was diagnosed with cancer and Dr. Brandt worked wonders when we first adopted Shadow and she was badly malnourished and had a heart murmur.
When Dr. Brandt met Sophie for the first time and read her records, she was less confident than she had been with the other dogs and that was disheartening. She offered us some hope with acupuncture treatment and we signed up immediately for the series. I don’t remember why she thought acupuncture would help, but the goal was to slow down the paralysis rather than cure it.
Dr. Brandt was also the first veterinarian to introduce us to the world of products that assist handicapped pets. On our first visit she ordered a pair of Neo-Paws for Sophie which is a brand of dog shoes. While Sophie wasn’t fond of the tall red and grey soft boots that wrapped around her hind legs, they kept her legs tight and stable, while the nonskid soles kept her from slipping…at least for a little while.
Twice a week for six weeks, Sophie and I travelled to the other side of town for her acupuncture treatments and sometimes chiropractic treatments. Each time we would be shown to our exam room and then Dr. Brandt would join us with her kit of needles. She would talk softly to Sophie as she placed each needle under her skin. Then the doctor would leave the room while the needles did their job, helping Sophie’s body.
Sophie never seemed to be in pain during the treatment, but she became more and more anxious with each visit. Toward the end of our sessions her body would tremble the entire time we were in the vet’s office. After the 6 weeks were over, Dr. Brandt and I decided to discontinue treatment. We didn’t see any progress and both of us didn’t want to make Sophie’s life more stressful.
It was the end of April 2009 and Sophie could barely stand. Our family began to realize there was no Calvary riding in on their horses coming to save us or our dog. There was no cure for whatever disease Sophie had and if our dog was going to survive, our family was going to have to start a new way to live a normal life. We began to spend more time making Sophie comfortable rather than running around trying to find a cure.
Then in the summer 2009 a dear friend came to us with one final glimmer of hope. She told us that her veterinarian was interested in trying a cold laser therapy on Sophie. We quickly made an appointment.
I’m always impressed when a veterinarian gets down on the floor to meet one of my dogs. To me it means the vet doesn’t mind a little fur in the face and is putting the pet as the priority, before their lab coat or clothes. When Gerald Pribyl DVM walked into the exam room to meet Sophie, the first thing he did was get down on the floor to get to know his new patient. His compassion for my dog continued when he insisted that a blanket be brought into the room so she would have something soft to sit on during the exam. Then he met her parents.
At this point, Sophie was completely “down” or paralyzed. She could hold herself up by pushing up on her two front paws, but there was no feeling or movement from her back paws up to her belly.
Dr. Pribyl explained that cold laser was used primarily for dogs with arthritis and skeletal injuries, but he had seen some pretty dramatic results from the treatments. He was willing to try a series on Sophie. A machine was brought into the room and Ken and I had to wear protective glasses while the laser was administered to Sophie’s spine. The treatment was not painful and Sophie seemed to like the attention she received from the vet techs that prepped her and the veterinarian. After the treatment we went home and waited.
We continued the treatments four more times. Dr. Pribyl also showed us some range of motion exercises to do with Sophie so we could maintain the muscles in her legs. Unfortunately, that was probably the most beneficial part of the process.
Each time we brought her home from a treatment we looked at her, willing her legs to move even a little bit, but there was nothing. After our fourth session, Dr. Pribyl talked to Ken and me about discontinuing the treatments.
We had hit rock bottom. There was no other place to turn for help. It was finally time to begin a new normal way of life and learn how to make the best of Sophie’s disability.
Next: The Lessons We Learned From A Paralyzed Dog