In 2009, my husband, Tom, and I had four dogs, all rescues. In the seven months between December of 2009 and July of 2010, we lost three of them to cancer. It was devastating each time. Cumulatively it was unimaginable. We were left with one dog, Lucky, a beautiful off white chow and Akita / Shiba Inu mix. A few months later we adopted a mixed breed rescue puppy named Lexi. As the sole survivor of that awful time, you can imagine how special Lucky is to us.
In early 2015, Lucky was 14 and started to act very strangely. We thought he might be having some kind of a seizure. We rushed him to the Emergency Vet and discovered that he was having a stroke. All we felt was relief when the vets sent him home after a few days with medication and instructions to keep him away from stairs. We also had to watch him 24/7 for signs of another stroke – like the aftershock of an earthquake.
Our bedroom is on the second floor so Tom and I took turns sleeping on a surprisingly comfortable air mattress in the family room. We have a doggie door so we assumed we could sleep undisturbed unless Lucky had a serious problem during the night. Wrong.
The stroke left Lucky wobbly, agitated, restless and insomniac. He paced around the family room all night, barking and/or nudging us every hour or so throughout the night. Needless to say we became seriously sleep deprived very quickly. It was like having a colicky infant. We were greatly relieved when the doctors said it was safe for him to use the stairs again.
We went back to sleeping in our own bed and were just about caught up on sleep, when he started howling one night and holding his right back paw up. He couldn’t put any weight on it so we carried him to the car and rushed him to the Emergency Vet, again. He had pulled his hip out and had to be put under an anesthesia to pop it back in again.
During the healing process of several weeks, he had to have hobbles put on his back legs (they had to be tied together so the movement of the hip would be very limited). This time he could not go up or down a single step, which ruled out his use of the doggie door. We had to MacGyver a rudimentary ramp down the back steps to get him in and out of the house which he could only do if we took him on a short leash.
We were again sleeping in the family room on alternate nights, being woken up every few hours. This time we also had to put on overcoats and boots several times a night to take Lucky outside. (Older dogs have bladder frequency issues, just like people.) Did I mention this was in the middle of a bitterly cold, snowy New England winter?
We survived several weeks of this torture and finally reached the point when Lucky could at least use the doggie door on his own. Tom and I got to sleep together again, in a real bed.! For about a week. Until Lucky blew the other hip out. (I’m not making this up.) We got to know the entire staff at the Emergency Vet’s really well.
Back to square one on the air mattress on the family room floor. But this time, the story has a better ending. Lucky’s second hip recovered as well as his first and along the way, we learned that both Lucky’s stroke and hip dislocations were caused by Cushing’s Disease. With the diagnoses, we could successfully treat the Cushing’s with medication. The siege was over.
A year later, Lucky is back. A bit wobbly on his feet with an endearing (slight) head bobble, Lucky is happy and healthy. At 15-½ years old, he’s going strong. The proof? He can (again) get his front paws up on the kitchen counters to steal food.
We are “gone to the dogs,” the embodiment of crazed, devoted canine lovers. And we’d we do it again in a heartbeat for any of our dogs!