Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 12:30am.
So I was preparing to go to bed and was rounding up my three dogs to let them out for the final time of the night. I let two outside into the yard, and found the third laying in one of his usual spots. “C’mon,” I told him, “it’s time to go out!” He merely whimpered and tried to scramble his way up, but to no avail.
I woke up my roommate and had him help me get Simon, a German Shepherd mix breed, into my car. Simon weighed in around 115 pounds. He wasn’t happy about being lifted up, but his left hind leg was stuck completely straight, parallel to his body. It wouldn’t bend, and clearly he couldn’t move it at all either. We headed to the local 24 hour emergency vet.
Around 4:30am we were sent home. The emergency vet said that most likely Simon had slipped a disc in his spine, and might require surgery. He was partially paralyzed, on his left side neither leg was working. They gave me some medications and said that if things didn’t improve in a couple days, get an MRI to truly determine what happened, and how to proceed.
I left Simon in the living room. I messaged my coworkers via our corporate chat what was happening, and that I’d likely not be in today, and would be working from home the rest of the week to tend to my dog. I went to bed around 5:00am. Sleep wasn’t great, especially with the occasional crying Simon was doing. I think he didn’t like that he wasn’t feeling well, couldn’t move on his own, and I left him alone.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 6:00pm.
I had placed towels under Simon where he lay, in anticipation of his impending urination. He had defecated in the house, but he had, by this time, yet to urinate. Thinking back on it, I realized he hadn’t really gone since when I let him out after dinner Monday evening. I wouldn’t put it past him to be holding it, he wasn’t drinking much after all because of how he felt and whatnot, but I think 20+ hours is pushing it a bit.
I called the emergency vet back, explained what was going on. They contacted the doctor who had seen him, she said not to worry, he was probably just holding it, not used to going in the house.
I set up my living room futon with my pillow and a blanket so I could spend the night there with Simon so he wouldn’t be alone.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019, late morning.
In the morning, I cleaned up the floor and Simon. He had finally urinated at some point. The towel caught most of the mess, thankfully.
I called Simon’s regular vet. Still no urination, still no improvement. Vet is off for the day, but they assure me they’ll have him call me back the next day.
I order some dog diapers and a lifting harness from Amazon for delivery on Thursday.
Thursday, June 27, 2019, late morning.
Simon’s vet gets in touch with me. I explain what has happened. The vet is a bit upset. He explains that if it was truly a slipped disc, there is a window of opportunity for fixing it. (I may have misunderstood the emergency doctor’s instructions, but don’t think I did.) He also suggests we might want to go to one of the two specialty clinics in the area to have Simon checked out. But first, he wants to swap one of the medications, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, for a steroid.
The package arrives. The diapers are too small — though they were the largest I could find and I had measured Simon. The lift harness fits, but the attempts to lift Simon cause him to growl, snap, and scream. Simon’s belly area seems incredibly sensitive and painful.
Friday, June 28, 2019, morning.
I try to get Simon a surgical consult at one of the two clinics the vet told me to use. Neither will be able to see him before mid-July. I explain it’s more critical, they suggest calling my vet back and figure out what to do. Which I do. The vet says to just take Simon to one of the emergency rooms of these clinics and tell them it’s an emergency.
I notify work that I have to take the afternoon for more veterinary business, and again with roommate’s help (he kindly worked from home as well on Friday in case I needed the help) we got Simon into the car and drove to the emergency room of the vet clinic.
Friday, June 28, 2019, afternoon.
The vet at the specialty clinic comes in to the room and explains the situation. Since it is both limbs on his left side, it is obvious, she says, that the problem is most likely in his neck, but could be a stroke. Three possibilities are outlined:
- Slipped disc in his spine, as previously mentioned.
- A massive stroke.
- Some form of spinal cancer.
Of those, nothing to be done if it’s cancer. Being spinal, it will be aggressive and hard to treat. An X-ray was taken of his neck that was indeterminate. There were some anomalies on the bones of his neck, but nothing conclusive.
If a stroke, likely not going to recover, especially with no changes after several days. It could take weeks, of course, but chances still not great.
An MRI could be used to determine if the problem is cancer or the slipped disc. However, only the slipped disc could be dealt with. And even then…
Assuming it was a slipped disc, we could go through the MRI, figure out where to do surgery, get the surgery done to repair the disc, then after recovery spend weeks in physical therapy. But, she said, there’s no guarantee any of it would even work. And, in her opinion, the chances of Simon even partially recovering were extremely slim. He might, she explained, get 5-10% function back. Certainly not enough to walk on his own again.
The damage, regardless of the cause, was too severe. Also mentioning the window of opportunity to fix a slipped disc, she opined that even if we got Simon surgery within 24 hours of it happening, she didn’t think it would matter. Neither leg on his left side had any deep pain response. He had no control of his bowels. His bladder was not functioning — he wasn’t holding his urine in, he simply could not express it. Essentially, what happened is it had distended, pressing against other organs and tissue in the area leading to painful sensitivity in his belly, with the urine coming out forcibly when there simply wasn’t any possible way to hold more at a given time.
The vet said based on all of that, it might be best to just put Simon down. His life going forward would very likely be terrible. We could, she said, go through the effort of the MRI to determine the cause, but it would most likely be for closure purposes, to simply know what happened. But in the end would make little difference.
And so, after careful thought, deliberation, and crying on my part, I made the decision that I didn’t want to put my dog through all that suffering if it wasn’t likely to help.
I left the vet hospital without him.
It’s been a week now. I think, for the most part, I’ve gotten used to the idea that he isn’t going to be here anymore. He’s not going to greet me when I get home from being out, but my other two still are. The older dog was depressed for several days that his brother had not come home; the other is still a bit young to probably give it too much thought.
Simon was only around 8 years old. Seemed a bit young for it to happen, but he was a big dog, and German Shepherds (even though he was a mixed breed) have a life expectancy of about 10 years. Still, I was prepared for the 10 years I might get with him. Not that we would go from being his normal self to no longer here in just a few days.
He will be missed.