13: Listening to Our Hearts

13: Listening to Our Hearts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Listening to Our Hearts

Fun fact: Most experts agree that dogs dream. They may also grunt or jerk while sleeping because they relax their muscles when they’re asleep, just like people.

Daisy was stuck on her back, her legs rigid in the air, her big brown eyes filled with fear. She was a black Labrador mix, only six-and-a-half years old, and always happy and cheerful. She had trotted into the back yard and we found her five minutes later, unable to move. All she could do was move her head a little.

The veterinarians confirmed that Daisy was paralyzed from a sudden stroke and suggested that we give her the weekend to heal. If she wasn’t walking by Monday, we were told to think about her quality of life. We had a large dog cot and placed Daisy on it, keeping a soft pillow beneath her head. We put puppy pads on the bottom half of the cot, as she had no control over going to the bathroom. We hand-fed and watered Daisy — she couldn’t lift her neck to do so for herself. We bathed her daily and flipped her to lie on the opposite side every hour or two to prevent bedsores, including during the night.

Monday came and went, but we opted to wait. We didn’t want to give up on Daisy so soon. After extensive online research, we found that many dogs had suffered this type of stroke and had a nearly full recovery, although it often took at least six weeks for the improvement to become evident. We were definitely waiting. Daisy still wagged her tail as she lay on her cot. Her eyes were still vibrant. Mentally and emotionally, she was the same happy Daisy she had always been — she just couldn’t move.

We provided Daisy with daily range-of-motion therapy and massage. We carried all fifty-three pounds of her on her cot up and down the stairs to be with us wherever we were in the house. She was just as much a part of our life as she had always been, despite being paralyzed.

Three weeks went by, and there was little improvement. Then she developed a bad urinary tract infection. Her urine filled with blood, and we worried that she was shutting down internally. Thankfully, after testing and medication, Daisy’s infection healed. The nights remained sleepless, however.

After five weeks of around-the-clock care, Daisy began to run in her sleep. She still had no feeling or motion in three legs, but we thought the sleep running (most likely dreaming about running) was helpful for her muscles to regain the memory of movement. Instead of waking her up, we let her dream, hoping that the movement produced in her dreams would one day translate into reality.

Around the five-week mark, we bought a large rug for Daisy. We called it the therapy rug. In addition to daily range-of-motion therapy and massage, we thought that providing her with a large area rug would give her a location with traction — a place to pull herself around if and when she was ready.

We laid out the therapy rug and carried Daisy from her cot onto the carpet. Daisy wagged her tail in appreciation, and within a day of the rug’s arrival, she began trying to pull herself forward. We still had no idea if she would regain feeling or strength in her three legs, but we held onto hope.

At exactly six weeks from the date she became paralyzed, Daisy attempted to walk. We had a fresh snowfall — good packing snow — and we decided to carve a narrow passageway in the snow. Its sides would support Daisy’s body as she stood. Daisy stood on all four legs for the first time in six weeks with the help of our self-made snow bumper walls. This was a huge victory, and we knew at this point — although we still had a long road ahead of us — there was no turning back.

From six weeks on, Daisy began to use the bathroom outside. We bought multiple area rugs, and she could pull herself to her food and water bowls anytime she wanted to. The transformation was miraculous. We had a set of wheels made to support her back end as she re-learned how to walk. However, Daisy was determined to walk on her own. We never pushed her to try; we only encouraged her when she did. We knew this wasn’t something that could be rushed. We did our part with the ongoing care and therapy, and we took it one moment at a time.

Before we hit the seven-week mark, Daisy took off — running! It was far from graceful, but she was running and doing it totally on her own. In the days leading up to this, she had been merely pulling herself a few steps or standing for a few seconds before falling over. Now she was running!

Although the situation had looked hopeless when Daisy first became paralyzed, we listened to our gut — and our gut said to do our own research. Daisy was fully alert, mentally and emotionally, even just after becoming paralyzed. She had the will to live. And so, after researching and listening to our hearts, we moved forward, helping Daisy regain mobility and strength.

Now the snow has melted. Summer is here, and Daisy trots in the back yard. Her tail is always wagging. She searches through her pile of favorite toys and brings one to us every time she goes outside. Her spirit is contagious. Her attitude of gratitude is mesmerizing. Her journey exemplifies what hope can bring about. Patience, dedication and faith carried us through the journey as Daisy went from paralyzed to mobile. Now, when we see Daisy’s eyes dancing with happiness, her tail wagging with excitement, when we see her trotting around the house or the back yard on her own four legs, we are reminded that amazing things can occur if we simply follow our hearts and cling tightly to the belief that everything will be all right.

~Stacey Ritz

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