As a mom and dog lover, I have come in contact with some incredible pet parents over the years. People with an endless capacity to love and care for their furry family members and willing to think outside the box when it comes to managing the unexpected.
I am a huge advocate for the holistic approach when it comes to helping your pets stay free of pain and inspired when people find alternative ways to nurture their pets back to health.
One story in particular, which touched me, was that of Sadie. Sadie is a mixed breed, looking a bit like a long legged Cairn terrier with a few other Terrier characteristics thrown in for good measure. After being dis-owned, Doug and Ronnie Madsen adopted their little girl and unknowingly took on a huge responsibility, due to Sadie’s sudden onset of IVDD, resulting in instant paralysis. After being told it was inoperable and given a very costly therapy regimen, Doug and Ronnie decided to improvise and get creative.
The story of Sadie hit home for me, as it brought back memories of feeling helpless when trying to ease my dachshund June’s back pain. While in her prime, June was diagnosed with IVDD (intervertebral disc disease), a string of fancy words that translate into lots of back problems for dachshunds. When June was just two years old she began to have horrendous back problems that resulted in emergency room visits, strong medication and complete crate rest. I was at a loss.
When the vet told me that June’s back was like a “ticking time bomb” and suggested spinal surgery or maybe even euthanasia, I panicked. I felt an immense sadness and frustration. Why did June have to suffer so? I took a little time to worry and commiserate, but then… I got busy. June inspired me to create WiggleLess® dog back braces.
Sadie’s story is very similar, in that, paired with that same sense of helplessness, Doug and Ronnie also had a strong desire to find a solution that would allow them to comfort and ease her pain.
It is often this passion to help, when faced with a trial, which leads some to take a more uncommon approach, when figuring out what will bring that individual pup healing or minimize their stress.
People try all sorts of things from laser treatments to acupuncture. They search for that golden orb of enlightenment that will offer the answers they need. How do I fix this? How can I make sure my baby isn’t in pain? How can I provide them a sense of peace during the recuperation or rehabilitation process?
Although sometimes we can’t ‘fix’ the problem, we can find solutions that bring ease and comfort to our beloved companions. Sadie’s story is remarkable and a perfect example of this proactive approach.
You see, Doug built Sadie an underwater treadmill and attributes her walking again to that therapy. He believes had they left her to simply ‘rest’ rather than using movement therapy, she would not have started using her rear legs again. Like me, Doug is not a therapist or medical expert, but by trial and error and staying in tune with his pup, he made a difference during a critical time of healing.
The ‘treadmill’ he first used was a chaise lounge. Doug removed the folding back portion and used only the remaining four feet of the bottom of the lounge. He pinned together a bath towel to form the treadmill belt, then tried sewing on canvas. Nope, that didn’t work… but instead of giving up, he went to Lowes and purchased a strip of outdoor carpet and pop-riveted it to form a belt. Success! It slid easily onto the plastic mesh of the lounge. He then attached PVC pipe legs to obtain the proper height for the water level of the pool. Now it was time to test his new contraption. He placed Sadie on the treadmill, worked a bit on the adjustment and flotation of her body, and found a height that gave her enough support so she could float/walk.
He stood in the pool to the rear of the treadmill and pulled the belt manually, giving her encouragement and physical assistance. Holding a leg in each hand, he moved her as if she were walking normally. The belt moved… her legs moved. It was working! They did therapy sessions of 30-45 minutes twice a day.
One evening, after weeks of therapy, they carried her with them while visiting neighbors for dinner. When they were ready to leave, everyone watched as Doug put her in a standing position before picking her up. All of a sudden Sadie took several wobbly steps on her own and walked about five feet without any assistance. She was like a little drunken sailor but she was doing it on her own!
When relaying this story, Doug got emotional, “You can’t believe the joy when she was able to stand without collapsing for a 30 second count!”
Sadie can now walk again and can even run for short distances! He believes the majority of her healing is due to physical therapy, patience, and lots of love. So for those of you that have furry kids with IVDD, don’t give up hope. Doug explained, although Sadie has not started wagging her tail just yet, she definitely has feeling in it.