I can remember it like it was yesterday; both my adult sons came home for the holidays. That Christmas night we went out for a family dinner at our favorite local restaurant, we reminisced and laughed at all the good times. We came home, exchanged some gifts, and greeted “Rio”, our rescue dog from Puerto Rico, to give him a T-Bone special. We went about our normal routine of getting ready for sleep and all was well…
At 5AM our world got turned upside down.
Rio limped into our bedroom shaking and crying. We had no idea what was wrong, he was able to stand on one leg and next thing you know both legs gave out and he could no longer support himself. In total shock and fear, we tried to get him to stand up but to no avail. “What’s wrong with our dog?” I screamed. After visiting 2 local veterinary clinics we were told we needed an emergency critical care hospital to diagnose Rio’s condition.
A bit of backstory, Rio is the first dog our family has ever owned and it was a total surprise when my son came home with a puppy. He’s not only our family dog now but has become my youngest son.
So, after hours of multiple tests and nervously waiting, the neurologist came in with the MRI results. I never realized what impact a pet can have on you until this moment. Immediately my fatherly instincts kicked in as soon as the neurologist said that our options were to put him down or take him home for long-term care. The doctor even said, “his chances of walking again are slim and most people come back in 2 weeks to put their dog down.”
Watching my family try to make an agonizing decision with our dog in the room, seeing all the tears shed, and looking into the eyes of Rio, there was only one decision to be made. We took him home and started this incredible journey.
The first two months were by far the hardest challenge we faced as a family. At only 1.5 yrs old, how can this happen and what was the cause? We had so many questions and so few answers. We tried Holistic healing, laser therapy, chirotherapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy. There were no big gains but only little signs of hope.
The hardest thing to see was Rio being totally confused and not understanding why he couldn’t move his back legs. Just like having a newborn at home, my wife slept by his side and provided him comfort and security every night.
TRIAL AND ERROR:
There are no YouTube videos or online publications that tell you what you need to do if your dog becomes suddenly paralyzed. Every specialist wants you to buy a package deal with a 3-month commitment without any guarantees. It felt like we were helpless prey and they were ready to pounce.
Three months into rehabilitation, I realized what we were doing for Rio is the same thing any doctor would do for babies and adults trying to walk again. When Rio first came home, he lost all muscle in the rear quarters and had no sensation of pain. We had no idea what we were doing but we listened to our heart and followed basic instincts. First was getting blood flow into the hind quarters, growing his muscles, and regaining feeling. After trial and error, we settled on three main tools; our purple peanut, camo handicap walker, and black knobby balance disc.
HOPE AND PROGRESS:
Now six months into rehabilitation, we don’t see huge gains but we see small growth every day. We kept a constant schedule of feeding, exercising, and sleeping.
Just like people, sleep was extremely important to repairing and healing his damaged nerves. We added probiotics to his diet and took him on 2 walks a day.
Rio can now stand up and support his own weight, he enjoys walking around the neighborhood and meeting old and new friends. He is happy, eats regularly, and has full sensation in both rear legs.
The best part is how it makes other people feel when they see him walk down the street. The compassion, sympathy, and admiration people express are remarkable. We have made so many new friends and that is all thanks to Rio.
What this experience has taught me is that we are advocates for our pets. We protect and defend them. We Love them as if they are our children.
And of course, a father’s love goes a long way when paired with the love of a mother. I want to give a special thank you to my lovely wife who spends countless hours keeping Rio clean, healthy, and loved… because after all, Rio is our furry child.