Stew’s Legs: A Weekend Rollercoaster of Emotions

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Over the last three days there have been several different version of this post I’ve written in my head, but things with Stewie kept changing so much that I didn’t feel comfortable posting a really sad post if things looked up or a really happy post and then have things go south. But after four days now, I think we’ve settled in to a new normal and I’m ready to work through what’s going on.

It started Thursday morning when I was in the bathroom and heard a huge crash and scrambling sound from the room where Stewie and the cat sleep. Just as I was headed into the hallway to see what was going on, Stewie came wobbling into the bathroom unable to move his right leg. Regular readers will remember that the last time this happened, I freaked out and let my mind go to some pretty dark places. So this time I probably under-worried and figured we’d ride it out and have another story to tell.

Well, it got worse. By the time I got home he had lost movement in both of his back legs and was no longer wagging his tail. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t drinking, and things looked grim. Becky and I talked with the vet and talked with each other about how to handle what we figured were final preparations because we didn’t have $5 – $8k for surgery and we certainly didn’t want his quality of life to be crappy.

Friday morning I had an appointment with our regular vet to look at him, but they sent me to the emergency vet. At that point, and with how the vet tech I talked to framed things, I thought I was waiting for the vet to explain steps for putting him to sleep and I bawled and bawled and bawled. I took him out of his crate, lobby rules be damned, and held him close.  After a half hour or so, they took us into a room and the emergency vet came to see us. And she was in a good mood.

She talked to Stew and felt around his back and his legs and talked about how smelly his farts were and how that was to be expected. She casually tossed off the question of whether surgery was something we’d be interested in and when I said no she just moved right ahead with other options. She said this was common with older dogs of this breed (Stew is 10 1/2  but the kids have aged him even more I think) and many paralyzed dogs go on to live long happy lives. She talked about slings and wheelchairs and ways to protect his belly and feet from getting raw as he drags himself around the house. I was suddenly smiling. And Stew even wagged his tail when she picked him up.

We left with three bottles of drugs, a very reasonable bill, and even a sliver of hope he might be able to walk again some day. I’d gone, in the space of two hours, from wondering if I would have to take the kids out of school to be there for his final moments, to laughing at Stew being like one of the dogs in the kids’ new favorite movie The Secret Life of Pets.

It was exhilarating; it was also exhausting.

But he did fine that night and took all of his meds well and ate and drank his water and did all of his dirty dog business.  The next morning though seemed grim again. He was sad looking and wasn’t eating and wasn’t drinking and kept looking longingly outside and I could tell he wanted to be outside running around. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t get his sad face out of my mind and wondered if I was being selfish and if I was doing the right thing. But as the morning wore on and the kids came out to play with him and he started scooting around to follow us all around and he felt part of the family again, I was happy.  We were even able to take him out into the back yard and play fetch with his favorite ball for a bit. His eyes absolutely lit up when we did that.

We’re now looking at ways to make his new life easier for him and keep as much of it the same as before. We’ll be getting him a little wheelie cart for longer walks and fetch games as well as building him a little ramp from our kitchen down into our family room. We also need to get something for him to wear around the house to prevent the raw spots on his belly and legs from dragging them around. But all of this pales in comparison to not having him around and he seems happy with his life as it is so I’m not going to take that from him.