Friday, December 30, 2005

There's Air Under Those Feet!

Hi everyone. Hope you are all enjoying the holidays and we hope you have a very happy and healthy New Year!

We recently found a movie hosting site - so now you can see a short clip (we'll get a clearer one up there) of Tinker running across the living room and jumping up on the futon. Who would have thought that he would be a) running and b) jumping and c) both together. We love that little feller! :)

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Little Bit of Bragging

Beagle World is a popular Beagle internet message board. Its' webmaster, Joe (who owns Murphy of "Murphy's World" - another Beagle who has recovered from a disk rupture), put together a calendar this year and our Beags were lucky enough to be included. Calendars can be purchased at

and here are our pups :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The Little Engine That Could

Photo courtesy of

4 months have gone by since our last update and we apologize for the long delay. We recently experienced the death of a very close family member- another unhappy milestone in a very challenging year. We know that many people have an interest in Tinker's recovery, and your support has been wonderful.

The last 4 months have been amazing as Tinker continues to progress. He has pretty much been given free rein in the house. He's not allowed to do steps, but he walks around at will when he is on the middle or upper floors. We have a metal gate in the living room to keep him from using the stairs to the first floor. We also have a wooden gate that we use to prevent him from going upstairs during the day or downstairs at night. We quickly learned that we have to keep him crated when we go out (which he doesn't mind), because Virginia's separation anxiety leads her to knock the gates down if we leave them up. I got a shocking surprise one day when I came home and opened the front door and not one, but two dogs, were there to greet me! "Hmmm", I thought, "What's wrong with this picture?!" (Tinker also managed to go up the stairs one day - which prompted us to immediately block the stairs at all times).

Tinker not only walks in the house, he jumps and runs as well. Yes, you read that right. We would rather he did neither, especially jumping (this usually occurs while he does his happy dance as his food is being prepared), but it is quite an amazing sight to see. He's back to trying to rile Virginia up by dancing around and bumping her, and sometimes he will jump on the futon to follow her (we cringe every time he does it). Recently he has even been doing some mini zoomies. He kind of looks like a miniature horse galloping around, looking like he's going 90 mph- but sideways!

We have also started to take Tinker on walks outside without additional support for his legs, in order to work on his balance and coordination. No rear harness, no cart, just the good old fashioned way - and he's doing remarkably well. His right leg is still noticeably weaker than his left, but he has begun to raise it off the floor, while in a seated position, in an attempt to scratch his right ear. We know one day he will accomplish this. He can already use his left leg to scratch his left ear. We have also noticed in the past month that his tail position is slightly higher- it had basically been at "half mast" since his injury. It is gratifying to see that subtle improvements still occur- maybe not as dramatically as in the first 6 months, but nevertheless he's still improving. We've eased up on the frequency of his physical therapy, but he still goes to hydrotherapy once a week and acupuncture once a month. And Virginia still accompanies him to his sessions and cheers him on (and appreciates the treats at the end of each session).

Most importantly, Tinker just keeps on smiling....our sweet, funny, goofy little boy who has enriched our lives. There's never a dull moment when he's around - and we are all so glad he's around - even Virginia :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Improvements and New Digs

It's hard to believe, but today marks 19 weeks since Tinker's surgery, and he continues to improve every day. Our initial fears for his well being have been soothed by watching his progress. In addition to weekly acupuncture, he is still going 3 times a week for underwater hydrotherapy, and he is up to a speed of .8 miles per minute for 20 minutes. He doesn't love the water- most Beagles aren't big swimmers like Labs- but he is a trouper, and he tries very hard. It is very rewarding to see how far he has come. After surgery, the muscle mass in his hind end had noticeably atrophied. But, over the past 4 months he has really rebuilt the muscle in his hind end and legs, plus all the hair on his back has grown back in- so he looks really healthy! Despite the fact that his walk is still spastic, we are thrilled that he is walking at all. In the past month he has definitely been "up" more, and we are very, very proud of our little boy.

Since his initial recovery time spent in the porta-crib, he has graduated to an "ex pen" in the living room. He loves his new freedom, and sometimes Virginia will join him for a marathon bone chewing session or to just curl up and keep him company.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Surgeon Follow-Up

On Tuesday, June 21, we took Tinker to his follow-up appointment with Dr. Hunt, his surgeon. This was the first time that Dr. Hunt had seen Tinker in nearly 2 months. When we were there last, Tinker was in his cart for the entire exam. This time we brought him in wearing his sling and took it off in the exam room so he could walk freely. What a difference time and hard work make. We could see the smile creep across Dr. Hunt's face as he entered the exam room. He and his assistant, (Meaghan, Tinker's favorite person at the AERA), were ecstatic to see Tinker's progress.

As you can see in the picture above, over the last month -and especially the past 2 weeks- Tinker has been up on his feet much more. (Also notice how the fur on his back has now completely grown back in.) We have not put gates up yet, but we block off the stairs and allow Tinker to walk around our downstairs while we watch. He's still somewhat awkward in his walk, and his left leg is stronger and more coordinated that the right, but he remains on his feet. His bulked-up front and back legs and hind quarters have really made a difference. We will need to start working on his coordination.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Neurology Check

Today we took Tinker to see Dr. Christiane Massicotte, the new Neurologist/Neurosurgeon at the AERA. We've been seeking answers for such things as, "Is there more we can do to help Tink's progress?", "Should we allow Tinker to move freely about the house (not near the stairs of course)?", "What should we do when his 12 weeks of hydrotherapy are over?” etc... We also wanted to know if there was a reason why Tinker has been urinating less on his own, and why it had been becoming harder for us to express him.

Dr. Massicotte was absolutely wonderful. She patiently answered all of our questions, gave suggestions, and was very accommodating. She feels that Tinker is making good progress and she said that the most significant neurological recovery occurs during the first 6 months after surgery. After that, it is much more gradual and changes are more subtle. We are going to start letting Tinker slowly have the run of the downstairs part of the house (we will be purchasing gates to block off the stairs) so that he gets more of an opportunity to be on his feet. Dr. Massicotte said we may want to consider continuing with the hydrotherapy after the initial 12 week period (maybe it's time to fill up the tub, or maybe they'll let us register for a pass for him at our complex's pool ). She also recommended that we get boots for Tinker's back legs so that when walking outside, we don't have to hold up his back feet up when we are on the sidewalk. This will allow him to walk or drag his feet without getting cut up and enable him to feel the sensation of the ground.

She tested Tinker's reflexes and deep pain sensation and had us take him outside so that she could watch him try to walk in a straight path with no assistance. Tinker was kind of up and down and swayed a bit, but she was quite encouraged by what she saw. Up until today we had thought that dogs did one of two things in recovery, regular walking or 'spinal walking'. (Spinal walking looks like a dog is a little drunk -- it comes from trying to process the thought of walking. It basically bypasses the brain and relies on muscle memory.) As it turns out, Tinker actually is doing a combination of both. There have been studies that suggested that if there is no deep pain sensation, it was spinal walking, and if there is deep pain sensation, then it was regular walking. However, Dr. Massicotte did extensive studies at Penn, and she found that there are many cases, and Tinker is one of them, where the dog does a combination of spinal walking and regular walking.

As for his sudden change in the bladder functions- having difficulty going on his own, Dr. Massicotte put Tinker on a low dose of Valium. It is used to relax the tone of the bladder a little and to try to encourage him to go more on his own. Usually it is not prescribed for more than a few weeks. If it takes longer, maybe we'll start taking it.

All in all, it was a very rewarding day. We got good answers and were reassured that we are going about things the right way for our Little Dude.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Halfway There

We are now about 7 weeks into the 12 week rehabilitation process. Tinker is now walking 14 minutes at .4 MPH on the underwater treadmill. He had been up to 20 minutes at .2 MPH, when they decided to increase the speed and start back at 10 minutes.

Tink's been having a blast in his cart; he absolutely loves the freedom it gives him. We still keep a harness and leash on him, but he can move much more freely than with the sling. The sling has also become a bit of a problem. It's been rubbing the insides of his legs to the point where they have gotten quite pink. We've been using Gold Bond powder to help keep the area dry and it has improved. C spoke with a rep from Doggon' Wheels, the sling manufacturer. They had us take pictures of Tinker in the sling to determine if it was the right fit--they felt it was. Back to the drawing board- we may need to find a sling with a different design.

Tinker's also been doing some climbing. It's good and it's bad. It's good that he's on his back feet, climbing up the crib and it's bad that he's climbing up the crib! He also goes absolutely nuts waiting for his food. Crying, barking, squealing, and JUMPING. Yes, jumping and pushing off all four feet. He throws himself around the crib as if it was a professional wrestling ring. We're really worried he's going to hurt himself.

Since he has been doing all this activity in a short amount of time, we have set up an appointment for tomorrow with Dr. Christiane Massicotte, the new neurologist at the AERA. We have concerns about the next steps, pun intended. We know he can't be in the crib forever. We also want to know what she thinks of his progress towards regaining the ability to walk. Additionally, we would like to know if she feels he will eventually regain the ability to completely empty his bladder on his own. For some reason Tinker has been urinating on his own less often. We've been expressing him every 3 or 4 hours, and it seems to be getting more difficult. This could be because his bladder has become more toned.

We're looking forward to speaking with her since we have not consulted with a neurologist other than the initial second opinion on the MRI from Dr. Glass of Red Bank Hospital. One thing is for sure, Tinker will be glad to go there, and Virginia will whine until we leave. :)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Happy Gotcha Day Tinker!!!!!!!

One year ago today, April 29, our "Little Dude", Tinker, came into our lives. We knew we had to get a buddy for Virginia to try to help her with her separation anxiety. We needed to find a dog who was the same age as Virginia or a little younger. We wanted to get a male since the people we spoke to with multiple Beagles felt that mixed sex got along better than same sex (um, the Beagles not the people). We also wanted to find a dog who was a little higher in energy and could get Virginia to play.

We found all that waiting in Wayne, PA in the dogpersonna of one Tinker the Beagle/JRT.

We were just about out of time. C was working and I was starting a new job on Monday, May 3. It was already Thursday, April 29 when we started our trek down the back roads of PA to meet Tink at the home of a BREW volunteer. We arrived to find a bunch of crazed Beagles (wait, that's redundant). There was another foster in addition to Tinker, plus the 3 who lived there. With Virginia, that made 6 beagles running and romping in and out of the house and in and out of the doggie door. Okay, 5 1/2...Virginia mainly stood there a little overwhelmed. She did scare herself and us when she zoomied off the deck and onto the pool cover. She looked like she was walking on Jell-O with roller skates as she made her way back to the side.

Tinker was having a great time, licking the other foster's ears and romping around the yard. As we sat there watching him, we thought "this dog is the one". Oddly, BREW was concerned that Tinker might have trouble finding an adopter because he didn't look like the average beagle (he's a mix, duh!) and because of his parrot mouth (curvature of his mouth - basically the bottom part of the mouth is smaller than the top). BREW felt his personality would win people over. Well, it certainly did and on top of that, our boy is a looker :)

We brought him home that evening, and he moved quickly into our hearts.

I never thought I could love a dog as much as Virginia, but he's right there. It sounds funny to say you are proud of a dog, but we've told him that. We know it was in the cards for him to find us and us to find him, and to get each other through his injury and rehab. If only most people could be as friendly, warm, and courageous as Tinker the Wonder Dog. :)

Happy Gotcha Day, Tinker!

Mom, Dad, and Virginia

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Run, Don't Walk

Yesterday we took Tinker to see his surgeon, Dr. Hunt, for his 9-week post-surgical checkup. His assistant, Meaghan (who wrote a very sweet note in our guestbook for this blog) came out to the waiting area to get us. As soon as Meaghan called, "Tinker", our little boy revved up his cart and tore like a bat out of hell over to her. They were both so happy to see each other. Tinker loves everyone, but he definitely makes a special connection to certain people; the people he knows have been there for him. Having worked with Tinker before and after (and possibly during) the surgery, Meaghan could see firsthand just how much progress he had made. It brought a huge smile to her face. Tinker's appearance also brought a smile to several of the other vet techs who peeked through the exam room window to see Tinker- his own little fan club. One said his name and he immediately looked up at the glass and started doing "tippy head", his RCA dog imitation.

Dr. Hunt's expression upon seeing Tinker told us more than his words did. While he is quite succinct in what he says, we could see on his face just how truly happy he was that his patient was up on all fours. We have another follow-up in 2 months. Dr. Hunt said (in his Aussie accent), "I expect him to walk in here then".

We have had to temper our own expectations a little. Tinker has progressed so quickly that we tend to forget sometimes that he will not be able to use the stairs again and he shouldn't be climbing down or jumping off of things, like the couch. He also won't go for very long walks like he used to...but all of that is all right :) He won't walk completely normally again, but then his walk was a little funky when we adopted him. All we want is for him to be able to stand on all fours, unassisted, harness and leash on, out taking a stroll with us and his big sister.

And, who knows, maybe one day he'll run too. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

A new driver is on the road and his name is Tinker. Tinker's cart arrived from Eddie's Wheels last week and the little guy is zipping around like Mario Andretti. Dr. DeLucia, his rehab vet, needed to make some adjustments to the cart so we had to wait a few days. He once again commented that "this dog is going to walk". Tinker adapted to the cart in about 2 seconds. It's well constructed and very lightweight aluminum that weighs all of maybe 5 lbs. His legs go through the openings in the firm seat, which is a figure 8 covered with spongey neoprene. A "door" swings over the top of him and locks into place; kind of like the safety feature on amusement park rides. There is also a webbed strap that locks in place across his chest in front to help keep him in place and to keep the cart steady while he walks.

Some dogs will let the cart do the walking for them, but not Tinker. As he speedily walks along with his front feet, most of the time he puts both of his back feet down to walk. The only problem is that sometimes his front legs are moving so fast that he makes the back wheels go fast, and then he can barely get his back feet down. He'll have to work on the mechanics.

He's having an absolute blast. We went to a nearby park this past Sunday and took him on a newly-created path that surrounds the lake. Everyone from bikers to joggers to parents with their kids in strollers were "wowed" by our Little Dude. Most had never seen a dog cart before. Except for the occasional wheel getting stuck on something and pulling up a ton of leaves, Tinker moved along smoothly.

Having him in the cart also takes some of the burden off of us, because walking him with the sling is very tiring and a little painful to the back and elbow of the beleaguered human. Of course our boy is well worth it.

Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath...

It's been nearly 2 weeks since our last entry, and things are going very well. It's 7 weeks to the day since his surgery and we're happy to see continuing progress. After a slow start in hydrotherapy, Tinker has taken to it like- well- a fish to water. His time has increased every week and he is now up to 16 minutes at .2 mph, 3 times a week.

Tinker is also still getting the 10 minutes of laser treatment prior to the hydrotherapy. It's really doing a great job of helping to heal his incision. You can hardly even see the scar.

At first Tinker would actually try to move his back feet, but wouldn't move his front feet. I guess he figured he could keep his balance that way. Gradually, encouraged by C or I holding a treat at the front of the tank, Tinker began walking with his front feet and slowly, but surely, picking up and putting down his back feet. It's wonderful to see. Tracy stands in the tank with him and "plays goalie"- she makes sure he stays in a straight line and doesn't stop walking.

Tinker has also been getting exercise and walking practice with the help of a sling. It goes up his back legs and connects slightly above the base of his tail. We hold his back legs up while he does the work with his front. A slip leash goes around his neck to help steer him. He walks incredibly fast, practically running at times.

At times he can be difficult to steer because we don't want to put any strain on his neck, but as any beagle owner knows, they can be extremely stubborn/strong willed. Tinker is no different. There are times we walk in small circles as we battle each other for which way to go. You can't help but laugh.

Tinker's strong front legs have really been an asset.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

That's One Small Step...

Tinker continued his hydrotherapy today and he did quite well. Hopefully his hesitation in the water is a thing of the past. He also received another laser treatment. Tracy is happy with his progress. She has seen him walk a few steps and she says that the front legs are just going so fast and the back legs are lagging behind. She thinks that once he can reconcile the two speeds we will have "liftoff" and he will be able to walk more than just a few steps. Once we get his cart, that will help his progress, too.

The best part of the day, however, was this morning. He's done it a couple of times before, but this time we captured it on film. Tinker goes absolutely nuts at meal times. When one of us brings him in from his morning walk, he starts to lose it- snorting, whining, name it. We try to have his bowl of food placed in the crib ahead of time. He was still wearing his walking sling when I put him in the crib for breakfast this morning. I placed him down on all 4 feet -- and he stayed that way! For the entire time he ate he remained standing, barely swaying as he did so. It's this type of improvement that gives us hope for a full recovery.

Still Standing!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Photos of our Journey to Health

Tinker went for his second acupuncture/aquapuncture treatment earlier today. I got the chance to take some pictures and am going to post them here. The little guy kind of looked like a porcupine or Oliver Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers.

The needle that is in the top of his head is in a pressure point that is supposed to helps relax him. Tinker doesn't look too relaxed at the moment, does he?!

Tinker the porcupine

Virginia looks for the escape route

Tinker receives aquapuncture (Vitamin B-12 injected into acupuncture points)

The end of another trying day

The Road to Recovery

Wow! A lot has happened since my last entry. Tinker has had 3 hydrotherapy sessions as well as 1 acupuncture/aquapuncture session. The first two hydrotherapy sessions weren't too productive. Tracy starts out by using laser therapy to promote circulation and healing. Then it's into the hydrotherapy tank. Beagles are not generally water dogs and Tinker is no exception. He didn't seem too thrilled to be in the tank, which fills as he stands there (I'll post pictures after next Saturday's session). Then he is supposed to walk on the underwater treadmill. Tracy, the rehab technician, stands behind him in the tank and helps support him and makes sure he is on the treadmill and facing the right way. C went to the first two sessions. She stood at the end of the tank, holding his neck lead, and enticing Tink with treats to walk forward. He wasn't buying it. He actually would move his back feet, but not his front. Then he kept trying to get to the non-treadmill part of the tank along the sides. So, we weren't making too much progress there.

On Friday, we went to a holistic Vet, Dr. Karin Johanson, for acupuncture and aquapuncture. Aquapuncture is the injection of a liquid (in this case Vitamin B-12) into various acupuncture points. Tinker wasn't thrilled with getting poked, but he did stay still. Virginia wasn't too thrilled watching it. Dr. Johanson told us that the B-12 gives the dog an overall good feeling and sometimes will help their neurological functions, even within the first 48 hours. She wasn't kidding.

Friday night brought quite a surprise. Prior to the injury, Tinker would always go nuts waiting for his food. Whining, barking, whistling, an uncanny imitation of Eyore (the donkey in Winnie-the-Pooh), and jumping. All this took place in the kitchen, where we could control him somewhat. Nothing doing now. He goes crazy waiting in his crib in the living room. To try to avoid this when both of us are home, one of us will walk him while the other prepares the food and leaves it waiting in the crib. This is what we did Friday night. I placed a squirming, thrashing, hungry boy into his crib...where he stood up- yes stood on all fours- while he ate...the entire meal. C and I stared at each other with our mouths open. His back end swayed a little and he wasn't standing perfectly, but he stood for the entire length of his meal (a good minute or so).

Saturday brought more progress. I attended my first hydrotherapy session with him. After a laser treatment, into the tank Tinker went. He wasn't loving it at first, but all of a sudden he got interested in the treats I was dangling over the side. This time he started walking with all 4 legs. I looked from the outside through the side of the tank under the water and could see him slowly pick up first his left back leg and then his right. He was doing it! Tracy said what we all think, "Tinker you are one awesome dog".

Tinker is getting better control of his bladder and bowel functions. We've been very lucky. He has had few accidents in the house. His housetraining prior to the injury has stayed with him. He's one remarkable little boy. :)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Some Interesting Developments

You don't want to get your hopes up too quickly in a situation like this. Nor do you want to read too much into anything. That said, there have been some interesting developments of late.

After the surgery, Tinker's tail would move to some degree. The doctors felt it was more of a reflex than anything. However, over the past week Tinker has begun wagging his tail on a regular basis. It's obvious that he's controlling it on his own- that it is a neurological response.

We attach a sling to Tinker's back legs in order to take him out for a walk. We raise his back legs while he moves around with his front. This morning he still had the sling on while eating. By holding the sling handle up, I had him standing while he ate. I relaxed the sling and realized he was standing on his own. Finally, after maybe 10 seconds, his legs began to sag and I raised him back up again. It makes us wonder how he's doing this. We know from tests the other day that his front legs are bearing the brunt of his weight.

For the first couple of weeks after the surgery, Tinker's back legs never moved during REM sleep. The rest of his body would be twitching (sometimes accompanied by sleep "barking" -- what we call "boofing" since that's the noise they make :) ), but no reaction from the back legs. Over the last few days, his back legs have begun to move during REM sleep.

All of these things are encouraging. They may be little things, but they are encouraging nonetheless. Tomorrow is Tink's 1st day of physical therapy. Go get 'em dude! :)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"There's hope for this dog"

Friday (3/18) we went to see Dr. DeLucia and his assistant Tracy at the Valley Animal Hospital in Clifton. Dr. DeLucia is a Vet and a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. We first met him when our regular Vet, Dr. Voynick, referred us to him last year to check Virginia's hips and knees.

Tinker was evaluated as to what physical therapy would help him. DeLucia has some interesting new equipment which can measure a number of things, including what percentage of body weight is being placed on the front and back legs. Normally, a dog distributes the weight 60% to the front, 40% to the back. Tinker measured 76% to the front and 24% to the back. Interestingly, though his back right leg has better neurological function and motor response, he placed more weight on his back left leg. Even Dr. DeLucia wasn't quite sure what the reason for that was.

After taking several other measurements for flexibility, etc., and checking for responsiveness (lightly touching a needle tip to Tinker's feet), Dr. DeLucia gave us even more good news. "There's hope for this dog", he said. C and I had smiles from ear to ear.

So beginning on Tuesday, Tinker will go 3 times a week (hey, can I have a raise?) for PT, which will include a lot of work on an underwater treadmill. They also measured him and ordered a cart for us from Eddie's Wheels . We know he'll love tooling around in the cart. It should arrive in about 2 weeks and I'll post pics at that time. I just know my boy will walk again and romp around with Virginia. He certainly will try.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Surgery Day to the Present

It's been an interesting 3-1/2 weeks since the injury. First we needed to figure out what to use to keep Tinker contained in during the day. We have a good-sized wire crate, but there's the problem of getting him in and out easily enough. That includes finding something easier on our backs, knees, and shoulders as well. My in-laws had an old portable crib that was going to have to do the trick. I felt kind of silly going into Babies R Us and buying a crib mattress, sheets, bumpers, and waterproof pads. Life definitely takes odd twists.

We now have our routine set each day. In the morning I either take Tinker out onto the deck to express him or take him for one lap around the complex's pool area. His urine and bowel movements are a guessing game. He's on 2 medications (Bethanechol and Phenoxybenzamine) to help tone his bladder muscles and help him go. It's worked out well. What he doesn't urinate out himself, we help him to express. Don't get the wrong idea. To palpate a dog's bladder, you put a hand on each side of him and feel for the "water balloon" inside. You press and, voila, out comes the urine. Like I said, the things you do. C repeats this with him several times during the day. As far as the bowels go, we never really know when it will happen. Hopefully it will happen on something he's meant to go on (wee wee pad, towel, or outside).

To go back to walking him: I should be more specific...we have a sling that slips over his rear legs and attaches over his hips with 4 webbed straps that lead off into a handle. He carries the weight on his front legs, we support the back, wheelbarrow style. Tinker doesn't mind at all and he really moves fast.

At night, Tinker now sleeps in his wire crate. Although he is crate trained, he minded being in there at night at first, since he had gotten used to sharing a dog bed with Virginia at night prior to his injury- but he's started to adapt. He still occasionally gets up in the middle of the night whining for company- a few hugs later he settles and goes back to sleep.:)

Tinker is one cool Lil' Dude

Surgery Day (2/23)

Wednesday, 2/23 - Tinker would be going into surgery around 9 AM. Amazingly, and quite ridiculously, the surgeon's office called 2 minutes before surgery to ask for a down payment. Great timing. Of course, we were going forward, but it was rude to say the least.

The surgery lasted about 1-1/2 hours. We held our breath as Dr. Hunt called us in the early afternoon. The surgery had gone very well and he discovered, most importantly, the effect of the ruptured disk was localized and there was NO sign of Ascending/Descending Myelomalacia. He said Tinker now had a 50% chance of walking again. We went from 0 chance to less than 5% to 50% in a matter of days.

We couldn't have been more ecstatic at that point. We went to visit Tinker on Friday (2/25) and Sunday (2/27). He was still pretty much out of it on Friday, but was fairly animated on Sunday. By the time we picked him up on Tuesday to bring him home, we felt like we had our boy back. He slept on my lap in the back seat almost the entire way home. I couldn't stop kissing those soft Beagley ears. It was so good to have my 'Lil' Dude' back. It's funny how things evolve. When we first got him, I was concerned that Virginia would be jealous of another dog getting attention and taking attention away from her. She had been Numero Uno for 4 years. Over time you make adjustments and fall into patterns without even realizing it. Virginia is our "heart dog"; the one that gets you right there. Tinker, however, isn't far behind. His spirit, happy-go-lucky attitude, and playfulness makes him a great dog and companion. We know the months ahead will be tough, but he's so worth it.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Ray of Hope (2/22)

Tuesday morning couldn't come fast enough. After going through some problems getting the MRI and report to Dr. Glass for a second opinion, he finally received both. The next several hours moved slowly as we awaited word. We tried to remain hopeful, but didn't want to get our hopes up too much either.

When the call finally came through, our spirits were given a boost. Although Dr. Glass felt there was still less than a 5% chance that Tinker could walk again, he thought the MRI left room for doubt as to the severity of the impact of the ruptured disc on the spinal cord and recommended that we go forward with surgery.

The decision now had to be made quickly as to where to have the surgery done. Time is of the essence with this type of injury. The longer you wait to operate, the less the chances are that the animal will walk again.

After going back and forth with Drs. Hunt and Glass, we realized that the best course of action was to leave Tinker at the AERA. Dr. Hunt would operate in the morning. Getting Tinker down to Dr. Glass in Tinton Falls would have been a logistical nightmare.

We went to sleep that night knowing we had given Tinker a fighting chance.

Devastating News

Monday morning, President's Day, came very quickly, and so had yet another snow storm. Tinker was to have an MRI done. Thankfully the AERA was already transporting another dog to the Veterinary MRI and Radiotherapy Center in Clifton for an MRI. Otherwise we might have had to do the transport ourselves - no easy task. We both worked from home that day while we waited to hear from Dr. Hunt on the results of the MRI. First a radiologist would read the MRI, create a report based on his findings, and then review it with Dr. Hunt.

Finally, about 3:00 that afternoon, we received a call from Dr. Hunt. It was not good news. The MRI report from the radiologist read that Tinker suffered from a rare condition called "Ascending/Descending Myelomalacia" - a condition that destroys the spinal cord. We could see the heartbreak in each other's eyes when Dr. Hunt said doing surgery was "pointless". He said that Tinker, aided by a cart and/or other devices, could still lead a viable life.

We hung up the phone, completely stunned. As long as Tinker's quality of life was going to be good, we knew there was no way we were going to put him down. The thought of it, even now, makes me ill. We spent the rest of the day in a fog, trying to figure out what to do next. Tinker would still need to spend some time recuperating at the AERC. What would come next?

We contacted some of our closest "Beagle friends" as well as the webmaster/owner of Murphy's World . Murphy, another beagle, had suffered 3 disc herniations several years ago, and his owner, Joe, had documented Murphy's injury, surgery and recovery from IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease). Murphy originally needed a cart, but now only needs to use it when he's tired after a long walk.

Harriet Digney of SOS Beagles helped talk us off the ledge that night. She insisted we go get a second opinion no matter how dire the circumstances seemed. Normally we would have gone for that 2nd opinion without thinking twice about it; but we were mentally fried and not thinking clearly. Dr. Hunt's word, "pointless" seemed to be reverberating in our ears.

Friends of ours got in touch with a veterinary neurologist they knew and had previously contacted for a problem with one of their Beagles. Dr. Eric Glass is a neurologist at the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, arguably the finest veterinary facility in the state. Dr. Glass asked us to get the MRI sent to him for his review first thing Tuesday morning.

We went to sleep Monday night hoping for the best.

Nightmare Weekend

When I got home from work on Friday, February 18, everything seemed fine. Virginia and Tinker gave me their usual enthusiastic greeting ("hi hi hi, we have to go to the bathroom, and then we wanna eat!"). After dinner I noticed that Tinker was making a very quiet whine. That was highly unusual. Tinker is the happiest dog in the world. He loves everyone, everything, and life in general. He's got a better disposition than most people I know.

I figured maybe he had to do some major business outside, so out we went. Sure enough he made a nice "gift" and we went back inside (after cleaning up of course). Tinker continued to make a low "breathy" whine though. Something was definitely not right. My wife got home from work and we tried to figure out what was up. There were times he would start to settle down and other times where he was in obvious discomfort. Finally, at 5 AM on Saturday (a word from the wise - don't wait that long), we took him to Animal Emergency and Referral Associates on Bloomfield Ave. in Fairfield.

AERA is a referral center with various veterinary specialists during the day and an emergency clinic at night. The emergency vet that checked Tinker, Dr. Sturla, felt that Tinker had a pulled muscle. He didn't seem to be in any strong pain- he was excited at being some place new, and was walking around and sniffing everything. He apparently was masking the pain when Dr. Sturla checked him out. X-rays were not taken. Nothing was mentioned about a potential back problem or what signs to look for. We were not advised to keep him on crate rest with minimal movement. We were sent home with an oral steroid for Tinker and a sedative to help him sleep.

Most of Saturday was pretty uneventful as Tinker slept most of the day. We caught some naps too after the long previous night. Saturday night would be anything but calm. Tinker was in more pain by Saturday night and was screaming in pain at times. He was walking like a drunken sailor and occasionally his back legs gave out on him. We scooped him up at 2 AM and headed back to the AERC. Again, we realized we should have acted quicker. At times he seemed to be momentarily better (sleeping, laying relaxed), but it never lasted long.

When we arrived at the hospital, Tinker was rushed to the back for bloodwork and X-rays. Our fears came to fruition. Tinker had a ruptured disk in his back and was now paralyzed in both back legs. A sickening feeling came over me. Tinker was given a pain killer and sedated. Dr. Sturla reviewed the X-rays with my wife and I. It was difficult to concentrate knowing our little guy was suffering.

We would have to wait until Monday to find out more. That's when the AERC's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Christopher Hunt, would be in. It was a very sleepless night.

In The Beginning

Tinker's Tale - I wanted to find a good place to document the injury and recovery of one of our dogs, Tinker, and figured this was as good a place as any. First, a little background. We adopted Tinker on April 29, 2004 from BREW Beagle Rescue We were looking for a high-spirited dog as a pal for our first beagle, Virginia. She was adopted from SOS Beagle Rescue on April 20, 2000. I guess we have a thing about April and beagles. Virginia suffers from separation anxiety. Being pack-oriented, it's not an uncommon malady for beagles. So we wanted a pal to inspire Virginia to play and also to keep her anxieties at bay while my wife and I were at work.

Things couldn't have worked out better. Although Virginia still had her barking moments, things were working out great. Tinker absolutely loved his big sister and she did him a favor and tolerated him. They played, they romped, they wolfed down their food.

Both dogs are also high jumpers. The day we met Virginia at the home of SOS founder/head Linda Forrest, we were amazed at how fast she ran and how high she could jump. It's not common for Beagles to jump quite like that. Tinker impressed us with his speed as well when we met him. We didn't know at that time just how high this Beagle/Jack Russell Terrier could jump.

Word to the wise: don't let your dogs jump like that. Beagles are predisposed to back problems. Once we realized the seriousness of it, we started discouraging Virginia from jumping. It was not so easy with Tinker who is more of a "wild child".

As I said, things were going swimmingly- that was until Friday night, February 18, 2005.