It’s been almost six months since Risa was diagnosed with IVDD. Three months since she started physical therapy. The change has been dramatic both in her appearance, physical ability, and need for pain management. The average person wouldn’t know she had a serious injury to look at her. There are times even I forget about it as I watch her dash madly around the house.
But she is not the same dog she was prior to the injury. Mentally, maybe. But physically she still has many limitations.
She’s never going to be able to jump on and off of things or spin, twist, and twirl again. Her days of full out running are over. There was neurological damage; she still displays some ataxia in her rear legs. Sometimes she’ll stand with a paw knuckled over without bothering to right it. No amount of physical therapy and muscle-building can change the fact that her back is busted and will never be the same again. The arthritis is still there and nerve damage takes a long time to heal (if it ever does at all). Building up muscle helps relieve pain and prevent re-injury. . .but it is not a miracle. Her age plays a factor, too. Young dogs heal more quickly than old ones.
Still, she’s doing amazingly well. I’ve gotten her down to two pain management medications: Novox and gabapentin. I tried twice to wean her off of the gabapentin but each time she was painful. She would rotate her rear legs outward on a walk instead of placing them in a straight line. Her playful demeanor diminished and she started to groan when she lay down. Clearly, she still has nerve pain which the gabapentin helps relieve. I have a feeling I am not going to be able to take her off of that one. Fortunately, it has few side-effects and she does well with just 2 pills a day instead of 3. The Novox, however, does have side-effects. I’d like to get her on a lower dose but, if she needs it to be happy, so be it. It’s about quality of life and I want her to feel good.
It’s hard for me to accept this new reality. I miss our long walks together (though she can do around 2 miles in one go now). I miss being able to allow her to be bat-shit crazy, jumping up on me, playing tuggie like a wild thing; letting her run full out to her heart’s content lure coursing; and bouncing and spinning in freestyle. Things have changed and I can’t be in denial about it. Doing so would risk Risa re-injuring herself which I cannot afford to let her do. I will not put her in bubble wrap and not allow her to be a dog. That would be unfair. However, I can’t ask her to do things I know she can’t physically handle anymore. I have to be honest with myself about where she is in life even if I don’t like it.
She’s still happy and smiling. She still wants to do things and I’m happy to let her (barring things that she physically cannot do without risking her back). I’ll let her continue to compete until she tells me she doesn’t want to or I see that it’s too taxing to ask her to continue. We’ll still go on walks together even if they’re shorter. It’s okay. That’s how life goes. Dogs age and just can’t do what they used to do. It just feels like her bounce and physical vitality was stolen from us. Like she should have had more time to be the crazy thing who didn’t act her age. She was fooling everyone until IVDD took her out. Now, she’s finally starting to show her age. . .and it’s not fair. I knew it was coming but I still wasn’t ready.
I still have her, though. My bubbly, crazy thing. She’s still here and still the amazing awesome dog I love. And for that, I am forever grateful.