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Friday, March 23, 2012

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They shoot horses when they become lame, don't they? Yes, yes they do, but I just can't pull the trigger on my dog.

My world was rocked this morning when I brought my corgi, Max, to the vet to find out what was wrong with his front left leg. I thought he sprained it or something, and was not prepared to hear the vet's diagnosis...most likely due to a ruptured disc, he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. As he was almost 11 years old and overweight, surgery would not be recommended, and the only option was to put him down. The poor baby was shaking like a toddler at the pediatrician's office waiting to be pricked with a needle. I'm sure my hysterical tears didn't alleviate his anxiety.

There was no way I could do that right then, right there. My children had no clue what was going on, and I couldn't bear to tell them when they returned from school, Max was "sent to a farm." The vet understood and said he wasn't in pain so we could wait until the end of the day. She also said he probably wouldn't walk again, and if we thought we could take care of him in his present state that would entail flipping him from side to side so he wouldn't get sores, carrying him around and outside to do his business, but in all likelihood, he would do that just lying down.

I couldn't believe it. Yesterday he was fine. As he was everyday, he was my shadow. He was walking fine, and even came down the basement stairs to lay next to me as I rode my bike. So naturally I Googled his condition and found out that corgis do indeed suffer from it. Usually it strikes both of their back legs, and some dogs have been successfully fitted in a wheelie device. Since Max's front and rear leg was affected, this wouldn't be an option.

The kids came home from school and I broke the news to them. Stunned, they couldn't accept Max's fate. All the loving caresses and tears certainly alerted Max that something was not right. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes, most likely due to allergies, but today it didn't feel like that. I felt like he was mind-probing me telling me he didn't want to leave yet. Lying on his side he looked so pathetic, but when the telephone rang he sprung up and ran to it. He got a couple of feet before he stumbled. We all looked at each other perplexed. He wasn't supposed to be able to walk.

The floors in my house are either tiled or hardwood, so even when all four legs were functioning Max would sometimes slip and slide. My son carried him to the backyard. Max walked around the yard, yes walked, and then did his business. He struggled walking for a bit. He kept looking at me as if to say, "Look Mom, I can walk, even if I look drunk." As the hours passed and we got closer to the death clock, Max began to adapt to his condition. He would walk a couple of steps and when his paw buckled under, he'd stop, not fall, and flip up his leg so that the paw would land flat on the ground. "Look what I can do Mom!"

I must have asked the kids a million times, "What should we do?" None of us wanted to pull the trigger. When my husband pulled up I thought to myself, "Ah, the voice of reason" so I was taken aback when he took one look at Max and said, "It's not his time yet. Call the vet, tell her what he's doing and make sure he's not in pain." When he saw my surprised look he said, "You thought I was here to bring him. Look at him. He's not in pain. He's eating. He's going to the bathroom. So, he's got numb legs. Marie's leg is numb. My hand is numb. Are you going to pull the plug on us? He's like a senior citizen that had a mini stroke. Would you just send me to the farm, if I did?"

So I called the vet and waited for a callback. All afternoon, our stomachs turned as we watched for progress. We gave him his favorite, pizza. We let him on the couch. We got excited as we watched him go to the bathroom on his own. We gave him twigs from the trees which he chewed on without the usual left paw help. We watched him plead with us, "Not yet." The vet called at 6:00 and when she heard he was walking and going to the bathroom on his own, she understood our desire not to rush him to the grave. She assured us he wasn't in pain, but said the end was near and inevitable. We agreed that if his quality of life suffered too much and he got to the point where he couldn't walk at all, or began doing his business while laying down we would put him down. But today is not that day. Hopefully tomorrow won't be either, but it may very well be. I just don't know. Right now he's sleeping under my feet with his baby Booda snuggled under his chin. Damn, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.


  1. I know a really good physical therapist you should try—Ruth Mitchell-Gollady. She's helped me and my horses (and a couple of cats). Let me know if you want her contact info.

  2. The hardest thing I ever had to do, besides being by my Mom's side as she died, was actually pulling the trigger on Murphy. Murphy was a blue-tick hound mix that my family and I rescued from the pound in Buchanan County. Our asshole neighbor poisoned him with anti-freeze. (Unprovable, but I know it to be true.) It happened on a weekend, and the closest vet was an hour away.

    When the seizures became unbearable, (for him and us), I had to do the actual trigger pulling. At least it was in his favorite hollow, where he ran carefree and unfettered on his happiest days.

    My heart is with you Elena, and all your family.

  3. Oh Alton, that's horrible. I'm so sorry for you. I had to put down my last dog, Alex down when he was about 15. He was losing it and then went into seizures too. I knew what had to be done. This is different -- it's too sudden and unexpected, and other than his lameness, he's healthy.

  4. I am in tears. I'm glad that Max may still have a chance. Keep us posted.

  5. I know how much you love Max too Connie. You always say he's the sweetest dog. Thank you.

  6. I am crying again after reading this, but its mixed with joy at the love you have for Max. Definitely keep him close to your hearts as you always do. Love to you all. Mandy

  7. Mandy, Max loves you too. He's doing okay this morning. He slept well, ate and did his business. Frank is going to build him a little ramp from the screen room door to his yard. We'll see if that helps him. The problem is if I'm home alone with him with my RA, I can't pick him up to bring him out and in, so maybe the ramp will help both of us. Fingers crossed.