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.