Some people thought that we were fools to hold on to a paralyzed dog for so long. I was advised to put her down because they said she was drastically bringing down the quality of my life. Some asked me if I was going to bring a new dog home because “this one stopped walking.” Some also told me that this is exactly why they hated pets. And there were some people whom I considered very close to me who did not even respond back when I told them about her paralysis. I was met by cold silence. She did not matter to them; I did not matter.
Simultaneously, there existed another group of people in my life who checked on me and her every single day while we went through this ordeal. These extremely passionate people stood by my side hand in hand and shared my burden. Hugs, encouragement, prayers, toys, texts, and success stories were showered on us by these friends. Some friends drove all the way from other cities to meet her while some even volunteered to be with her if needed, while we were not at home. And some of these were complete strangers who got to know about her through my friends.
April 9th 2015 was the last day I saw my 6 year old dog Maahi walk. Maahi had been limping slightly for a day before that. We thought it was just her usual limp from too much playing in the yard and it would get better with some rest. On the morning of April 10th I was overcome with fatigue and I decided not to go to work. I wanted to sleep all day. I sent an email to my supervisor and told him that I would not show up that day. I planned to rest all day and do nothing. My final semester of MBA and the new internship had been more demanding than I had imagined.
As I got ready to go back to bed, I heard Maahi’s blood curdling howl from the living room. I rushed towards her and saw her howling in pain. I had never heard a dog scream like that before. What made things even worse was not understanding what was bothering her. I thought it was her toe but she seemed fine when I touched it. It was something else. Maahi would not stop howling. My eyes welled up with tears because I did not know how to comfort my baby. She was too big for me to carry to my car and drive to the vet. I desperately called my husband at work and asked him to come home right away.
He came home and we carried her to the car and started driving to the vet’s office. Maahi was on my lap in the car but still howling in great pain. I held on to her to comfort her but it probably hurt her. She snapped at me and bit me on my left shoulder only to realize that she had hurt the person that she loved the most. But that was the only way she could tell me I was hurting her. I still couldn’t tell which part of her body was in pain.
Everything happened within a few seconds but I noticed a very deep emotion in her eyes. As soon as she bit me and released her hold on my shoulder, I saw a different kind of pain in her eyes. The pain of biting her mom. The guilt of hurting her favorite human. I am never going to forget that face as long as I live. It was a testimony of the highest canine emotion…probably even higher than any human emotion.
Maahi’s vets did not waste any time in telling us that she had rapidly progressed to the final stage of paralysis in the hind legs. They sent us straight to the surgeon’s office. Maahi was diagnosed with a herniated disc between her 5th and 6th vertebrae. She went through a major spinal cord surgery for IVDD on the same night. The surgery was successful but Maahi was still paralyzed in her hind legs.
I did not know what to make of the whole situation. Everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t think straight. Her vets said that she had progressed to the final stage of paralysis and needed surgery. I kept asking them, “But when did the initial stage of paralysis begin? How does a dog go directly to a final stage of paralysis with a minor limp? How did she have a herniated disc without a going through a severe trauma?” Some questions did not have an answer.
We repeatedly asked Maahi’s surgeon if she would walk again. The surgeon said she couldn’t tell us anything right then or make false promises to us. She prescribed some exercises and asked to pray for patience and not to give up on our pup. Maahi would have to stay in the ICU for next five days and then go home with us. We were asked to visit her on all five days and learn how to express her urinary bladder manually because she had lost all the motor control to the hind side of her body.
Next five days were challenging for us. On the first day both my husband and I failed miserably to express her bladder. We just couldn’t master it. I thought I was a bad mom who couldn’t even help her own pup to pee. On the second day we made slight progress. We kept getting better each day. I was more worried because the vet technicians told us that Maahi will not be discharged until one of us mastered how to express her bladder. If we did not express it properly, she would end up with an urinary tract infection (UTI) which was extremely common in paralyzed dogs.
Finally, we had both mastered it but my hands and shoulders had started hurting only within two weeks of expressing her bladder 3-4 times per day.
For almost three months we went through an experience that is difficult to explain in mere human words. I used to wake up every morning and see my child paralyzed. She had also lost her bladder control so she used to be soaked in her own urine and feces every morning. Maahi had an UTI as soon as she came home from the ICU after her surgery. Having an UTI meant she would pee every 10 minutes in her bed. It only meant more work for us till the UTI got treated. We had to constantly change her beddings and get them cleaned. We washed her quilts, blankets, and harnesses so often in three months that I feared breaking my washing machine and dryer. We found ourselves disinfecting our home all the time because on some days it smelled like a public restroom.
It was also the week of finals for my last semester of MBA. I studied in the ICU and went to school directly from the ICU and answered my exams and again went back to see Maahi. Maahi’s hospital, my home, school, and work were at four different corners of the city. My manager was unhappy with my performance because my job needed immense creativity which had completely left me during this crisis. Simultaneously serious visa issues crept into the scene and lowered my morale even more.
Moving my body from point A to point B had become difficult. Motivation had left me. I lost my appetite for 2 long months; I lost 15 lbs and it didn’t even matter. I had not slept in ages. My other dog Neo had grown into a mature man all of a sudden. When his sister came home from the hospital he knew she was not the same. She did not play with him anymore. They did not chase squirrels in the backyard together. He saw that my husband and I were expressing Maahi’s urinary bladder with our hands to make her pee. His confusion soon changed into maturity and he became a responsible younger brother. We knew he was being slightly neglected but I did my best to distribute my time and energy to everyone and everything that needed my attention.
The worst part of having a paralyzed dog is actually accepting the fact that your fur kid is really paralyzed; and seeing her drag herself around on her butt. When her surgeon and physiotherapists referred to her as a paraplegic dog, I used to look around to see if there was a paraplegic dog nearby and then suddenly it used to hit me that we were all discussing my baby who I had raised since she was only two months old. How dare they call her a paraplegic dog?? In my eyes she was a perfect golden chow-lab mix mini-lion.
It has now been a little over 3 months and we are still working with her and doing everything we can to make her walk again. Maahi now goes to a rehabilitation center twice a week to get her aquapaws therapy. At the rehabilitation center, Maahi is placed on an underwater treadmill. I was told that water helps build resistance in the muscles. Dropping her off to a rehab that was located very far from home and then going straight to work had become a tiring routine but I wasn’t willing to give up on her. On some days I carried extra pair of clothes and shoes in case she lost her bladder control.
People often asked me how I was holding up and what kept me going. My only answer to them was Love. Nothing but Love for my Lover kept me going. Maahi means Lover in an Indian language. 🙂
I agree that we had been through an experience that is beyond explanation. We were put through a test that needed extreme endurance. I shed silent tears in my car on many mornings when I left home. I did not want Maahi or Neo to see me crying because they always knew when I was sad. I did not want my sadness to come in the way of her healing process in any way. I was scared for her and I was scared for us having to go through with this situation forever if she never walked at all. But I never showed my weaker side to my loved ones. I learned to share only my strength.
We stumbled upon numerous obstacles in our way but we stumbled upon our strength more than anything else. The strength that we did not know we had in the first place but had only hoped to have in us. We came out as better human beings on the other side of this situation – ones with never-ending love and empathy. Maahi has endured the most and there is not one day that passes without me looking at her proudly. With time my fears began to change. I told myself that I would take care of Maahi even if she was paralyzed as long as she lives. I had found my new normal. The situation had stopped looking like a problem anymore. I had made peace with it. I had surrendered to the Universe in true sense.
And that is when things started changing. By the end of the third month, Maahi stood up for the first time on her own. She was able to hold her own weight on her hind legs. A week later she decided that dragging her butt on the ground was not cool anymore so she tried to walk. Her little brother Neo motivated her. He encouraged her. He threw toys at her and called her to play. He often did their “squirrel-chase dance” to get her to chase squirrels in the backyard with him. And finally one day Maahi walked!! She got up and walked straight to her rope toy; picked it and went to her usual corner to chew on it. Her left leg is still weak but she manages to walk for a minute or two at a stretch. She is like a child that has discovered walking again. She cannot wait to explore every corner of the house. I know deep in my heart that she will make it and we will only encourage her and ourselves to fight this battle.
Maahi did not endure in vain. She taught me the biggest lesson of my life. She made me actually live my biggest belief. I always say that “there is always hope” and today I have my own miracle story to back it up. I also realized that the Universe began working for me the minute I learned to respect its plans for me. When I trusted Nature, Nature trusted me. Surrendering to it calmly was the most beautiful feeling I have ever experienced. I will always be thankful to Maahi for taking me through this journey of love, hope, empathy, and patience. I also made peace in my heart about the people who completely refused to understand our situation and showed us absolutely no empathy. After one goes through such a huge life-changing journey other issues start looking very small and insignificant. I pray for Love to grow in their hearts.
I write this blog in honor of Maahi and her fighting spirit. I write this blog in honor of the Love that each one of us carries in our hearts. Finally, I write this blog for the pets and their parents who have gone through similar journeys and never given up. We would have never been able to make it so far without watching videos and reading articles of your success stories. If you are another dog parent going through a similar situation, I want to tell you one thing – giving up is not even an option for you. The day you bring your pup home, you make a promise to it for lifetime. If you decide to fight for hope, then doors Will open and help Will arrive! All you need to do is have faith and patience!
P.S.:-I will be posting Maahi’s updates and latest pics in months to come. 🙂
Maahi’s update – 1/25/2016
Maahi slowly continues to improve. Her right leg is completely functional now. We are still working on the left one. She manages to walk around the house and the yard slowly along with her brother Neo. They have begun exploring the backyard again as a team. There are times when she tries to run but her vet has advised her not to go crazy yet. She gets mad at me when only Neo goes out for long walks and she is stuck in the backyard. I try telling her that its for her own good and soon we will all go out on long walks together. And just to prove me wrong, few weeks ago she climbed the stairs and showed me how strong she had become. I was shocked and happy at the same time to see her climb the stairs again but we try to limit her activity for her own safety. Here are some of her latest pics.