The road to healing is never direct.
So it is with Max. He’s been with us for one week now and in that time it’s been very clear that his case is far more complicated than anyone could have imagined.
He has good days.
And he has bad days…days when he can’t move much and is unmotivated to get outside or even get up in the morning.
He has good parts of the day followed by painful parts of the day.
And through it all, he’s a trooper.
His path to healing has not been clear though. Exactly what’s going on with Max has been a puzzle we’ve all been trying to piece together — his vet (Dr. Barbara Gomez), his long-term foster mom (Suzanne), Sheila (Wellsprings K9) as well as those of us taking care of him for this short while.
Today we took Max to Dr. Gomez because we wanted to explore some different paths of possible diagnoses. But before we could get ready to go, it started to snow!
This wasn’t a bad thing — nope in fact it seemed to motivate Max who is, after all, a mountain dog. He asked to go out today and though his tender, unaccustomed paws were chilled, he was very happy to see the snow.
Then it was off to the vet who greeted Max with the utmost kindness, gentleness, and deep concern for his well-being.
She had two thoughts: First, it could be a muscle-wasting disease, which of all paths would actually be the best because it can be treated by very effective drugs.
Cervical vertebral instability (or Wobbler Syndrome) is caused by compression of the cervical spinal cord as a result of cervical vertebral malformation-malarticulation or instability. Spinal cord compression injures the portion of the spinal cord necessary for an animal to stand or move normally. It occurs predominately in large breeds and unfortunately, there is no known cause.
I have to admit, I was hoping for the first diagnosis (muscle wasting disease), but Dr. Gomez decided to do X-rays to rule out the cervical issues first.
This is where the path gets a little fuzzy. Yes, there appeared, according to Dr. Gomez, to be some areas of concern, but she decided to send the radiographs to the state certified radiologist for consultation. Since there were some abnormalities, she decided not to pursue the other option — to treat Max for muscle wasting disease.
He has been prescribed Rimadyl to help with the inflammation and pain as well as a course of antibiotics for the nasty infection he(we) continues to battle on his neck (which he’s had since he arrived in Seattle way back in October).
And so we wait, but we are not idle in our waiting. Max continues to eat well (he gained 4 pounds, which despite Gretchen’s aching back is a very good thing!). Suzanne, his long-term foster mom is calling a renowned neurologist to see if he can see Max and review the X-rays as well as inform us of next options.
Has the degeneration gone on too long? Are the nerves completely dead and damaged? Will surgery help? Through surgery, intensive therapy, and recovery can Max regain significant mobility?
These are all questions (and many more) we have for the neurologist.
On Wednesday, Max goes to see Dr. Geisler of Mercy Vet to get a holistic perspective. Will diet have an impact? Will acupuncture help? Will osteopathy help? Chinese herbs? These and more are questions we have for her.
He has another swim and massage session Wednesday afternoon as well with Sheila to help maintain any muscle tone he has and offer him the weightless and warmth of the water and a chance to move his body in a way he can’t on land. Oh, and have I told you how much this big guy LOVES massage? He lives for it!
So while we’ve left behind other paths as possibilities for Max’s condition, we are narrowing down the diagnoses.
And still we hope. We hold in our mind the vision of Max walking tall and straight, of Max moving free of pain and for longer distances — rebuilding the muscles and neural pathways to achieve the best health and mobility he can possibly achieve.
And we hold the vision of Max living with his committed forever family with whom he can share all the love and happiness he has to offer…and I must say, he has more love and happiness than I could ever measure. I am happy to say that Max has become a dear friend with whom I’d gladly share a meal, a bed, and a friend.
Nope, the path to healing is never direct, but it is often filled with miracles. We’re holding out for a miracle!
Rubin and Max