Nicholas the dachshund who was determined to walk!

Guest Blog by Ron Tuckey
This is Nicholas and we really thought he wouldn’t be with us by his 10th birthday (May of this year).  Last September he was completely paralyzed and the diagnosis was that he would likely never walk again. He had undergone surgery for a herniated disk that had resulted in rear leg paralysis in 2013. He made a full recovery. Since that time we restricted his movements and were generally strict about him jumping up etc. but we live in a 3 story house so it was difficult to entirely limit his activities. Being on the smaller end of the miniature dachshund breed (and with particularly short legs) meant that he would need to expend more effort in physical activity.  He has a lot of heart so never shied away from a challenge, especially when the alternative would be being left out of any ‘fun stuff’.
So summer 2014 was particularly busy for him and us as we had a number of visitors so he didn’t have much down-time. We had noticed that he was exhibiting some tenderness but didn’t fully realize the extent as he sometimes acted wimpy whenever he had to go out in the rain or exhibited the usual dachshund stubbornness.  We were out in Vancouver in early September, leaving Nicholas and his beagle sister Macy, with their beloved dog-sitter Loulou when we received a call from Loulou staying Nicholas couldn’t lift his left front paw.  She took him to the DMV where he received acupuncture treatment but the advice was that he would need immediate surgery – this time the culprit appeared to be an injured disk between his shoulder blades which was causing the paralysis.  Not wanting to go down the surgery route again in less than 2 years we thought we’d wait and see; however, he went down hill quickly, first his other front limb and then his hind limbs were paralyzed within a couple days.  Consequently, we had a sad, paralyzed dog for which there didn’t seem to be a chance for recovery.
We were on the brink of euthanizing him but since he was so alert (and himself) in every respect, besides the fact that he couldn’t walk, we just couldn’t take that step.  Then Loulou put us in touch with an ‘angel’ from Ontario, named Margaret Blackman, who has had previous success with dachshunds in a similar predicament as Nicholas.  At the time, she had 4 dachshunds of her own, all rescues.  We met Margaret and she explained her methods and Nicholas went to stay with her in Oshawa. The main feature of her treatment is strict bed rest, with the emphasis on strict. By doing our own internet searches we knew this in theory but it is especially difficult to put into practice.  To us it seemed inhumane to just keep a dog immobile for extended periods but, truly, this is the only chance for recovery.  Margaret made sure he was dry by having him rest on pee pads, placing a baby diaper underneath him (instead of further handling to use a belly band) and daily sponge baths using baby wipes.  Pressure sores (bed sores) are a concern during crate rest.  A memory foam dog bed and a piece of lambs wool helped to minimize the pressure points during rest.  His daily in-home therapy session included being held upright for an hour (as you would for burping a baby) to keep the lungs clear and gentle massage down the length of his body and legs to keep the joints flexible.  Nicholas enjoyed the attention, but there was never any voluntary response to being touched.

As part of his care, she took him to her vet in Coburg  where he would receive acupuncture or cold laser treatments every two weeks. Also, it must be mentioned that he was taking anti- inflammatory and pain medications. We would be in regular contact and originally thought we would give him 5-6 weeks to see if there was any improvement.  When she first saw him, the vet in Coburg thought he would not recover but did receive a response when pinching his tail – this was a good sign and gave us all some hope.

The vet commented that Nicholas was an entirely different dog at his second acupuncture treatment; however, progress was slow.  Although there were small improvements 3 or 4 days after each bi-weekly treatment, the prospects for any significant recovery were still quite unknown.  Then near the end of November, upon her return from work (the dog work is volunteer, she has a day job too), Margaret found him a little distance from his bed and this was repeated over the next several days.  He had somehow propelled himself forward along the floor with his back legs.  Then early December he stood for the first time and started to make small shaky steps thereafter.  In November we had made the decision that we would bring him home to Montreal regardless of his condition and then decide what would be the best course of action.  We truly felt that he would be home for a couple weeks and then would likely make the decision to euthanize him.  So when we drove to Oshawa the weekend before Christmas we were absolutely astounded by his progress. He was not only walking but running!!  It truly was the best Christmas present we could have asked for.
If you saw him today you would think he walks a little differently than before but not remarkably so. He will never do stairs or jump up (or down) from elevated objects.  He is transported up and down stairs in a laundry basket and even sleeps in that basket beside our bed – without complaining! So we’re preparing to celebrate his 10th birthday on May 5th and have no reason to believe that he has many more years in front of him. To thank for this we have 2 saints who really supported us in giving Nicholas a chance – our dogwalker Louise Mavkovsky (http://loulouadoptions.com/) who provided essential oils and distant healing therapy and his caregiver in Oshawa, Margaret Blackman (http://www.tpdr.ca/), who patiently tended to his needs and our questions and concerns.