Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Miracle of 2012

Summer 2011 Oregon Coast- The fastest dog on the beach
Summer 2010 Elk Lake- My favorite picture of Wiley

November 29, 2011

Our beautiful, brilliant, blue heeler/border collie boy Wiley was preliminarily diagnosed with Degenerative Myelpathy today, a terminal disease that affects his spinal cord and the nerve/muscular system of his hind quarters. The nerve connections are dying. Eventually he will become completely paralyzed. It is most equivalent to MS in humans.

My heart and soul has only felt this devastatingly heartbroken and battered once, the day my brother had to make that dreaded phone call across the country to tell me that our wonderful, loving father had suffered a heart attack and died. I don’t wish this feeling on anyone.

It all began a few weeks ago at the start of November.  We started to notice that Wiley seemed to be jumping up into our trucks and our bed awkwardly on occasion. I had a vacation to Maine planned to see family and left though for two weeks without any worry or second thought. About half way through my vacation on Monday, November 14th,  I received a frantic call from my husband. Wiley had pooped all over the backseat/floor of my truck. This was not like him at all. The very next day he called me again, this time it was in the house. Very unusual, but he is a mama's boy so we thought he was having separation anxiety. He also was acting very strange not wanting to perform his tricks, his ears were always down; he didn’t want to play or chase the cats. Separation anxiety seemed reasonable. But it also seemed like he was maybe having trouble sitting and jumping as well. That seemed odd and not really related.

Nov. 17-

Upon my return on November 21st he seemed happy to see me but I could tell that something wasn't right. His back legs, particularly the right one seemed to be acting odd and was always in funny positions. While running outside it was like the front half of him was his usual speeding bullet Wiley self, but his back half couldn't keep up. He still was having trouble sitting and jumping. We did some initial research and thought it might be arthritis as a result of hip dysplasia, which can happen in border collies.

We decided it was definitely time to call Dr. Steve. Of course, it was Thanksgiving week and he was booked until the following Tuesday, November 29th. Wiley did seem a lot better attitude wise so we decided to wait to see our holistic vet instead of trying squeeze him in to somewhere else. The vet could not replicate any pain and therefore ruled out spinal injury. He recognized the flip flopping foot signs, performed some easy tests and kindly told us about DM. He asked us to do our research, gave some suggestions and asked that we regroup in a few days. It is due to DM that Wiley is losing control of his leg functions therefore making it hard for him to get into poop stance, so he was getting all full-up and it was literally falling out in the house and car. I bring him outside regularly now and encourage him to go, and well so far we haven’t had any other accidents. Poor thing has to do this walking poop thing though and he now pees more like a girl, rather than lift his leg.

I still have so much more research to do from compared to what I actually did that initial night, and I need to make a list of questions for the doc. I had to stop after a while on that first night and I just haven't gone back to that black and white reality yet.  It is and was just so incredibly raw to realize how awful this really is. Incurable. One of these days his tail is going to stop wagging. Simply crushing news.

The vet gave us two supplements to start boosting his immune system.
Cataplex B and Jia Wei Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang (Bupleurum and Kudzu Clearing Formula). We will also start using Fish Oil again.

Nov. 30- We really noticed his paw flipping over on this right leg and his not being able to correct it. His paw also really drags on the driveway. We now lift him onto the bed and into the trucks. Found some poop in the hallway.

Dec. 1-  John noticed that things seemed worse already too. Wiley lay on the hall floor and whimpered for an extended time.
Have been doing lots of research, DM is horrible and we are so heartbroken.

Dec. 2- We noticed his left leg was now acting more like the right and flipping etc. In the morning Wiley seemed very depressed, he came to the office with me like usual and just lied in the corner. He didn’t follow me around, he just wasn't himself. Very sad. His legs are now kinda bouncing off each other when he walks and when he comes up the step they usually whack off it. We went out just before dark however and he became very playful. He wanted to fetch the tennis ball and was hunting chipmunks around the woodpile for quite some time. His tail was wagging high!!

We came inside and he ate the handful of kibbles that were in his bowl and I gave him a half a piece of the cheese slice I was eating. 5 minutes later he puked it up. Later when I fed him dinner, which was later than usual around 8ish- He again puked it up shortly after. This time he likely puked up his nightly dose of supplements too since they were in his food.

Dec. 3- Good temperament today. He had to be alone for several hours but I saw his head poke in the window when he heard me pull in and open the garage. That was a good sign that he was himself. We skipped the supplements this morning since we were leaving and didn’t want puke lying around. We will give him some with dinner and see how it goes. I sat down with him and gave him a very thorough brushing, something that he loves but I admit we had been neglecting on a regular basis. Not anymore. He loved it and layer there just soaking up the pleasure. If I paused for an instant that front paw reminded me to get back to work. First he stood standing but then I had him lay down on his side and he just closed his eyes and enjoyed. I had to help roll him over to do the other side. Tonight he was playing with his toys, chasing the cats and following me around the house again. This makes me smile.

I noticed that he no longer rolls over onto his back for his belly to be scratched. He also no longer jumps up on the futon couch (he is not allowed on the other couches) to pretend he is a lapdog and smother me with kisses. As a matter of fact the last time that happened was the night before I left for Maine. My theory is that the separation anxiety lowered his immune system and accelerated the beginning stages of the DM. It is hard not to hold some guilt for that, but at the same time I can also believe that it actually helped us diagnose very early so now we can do some things about it to hold it off and make sure he is comfortable. There is some peace that this is not a painful disease.

The one thing I could always be thankful for in regards to my Dad's death was that he died quickly and didn’t suffer, he didn't need to be attached to machines. We didn’t have to face any difficult decisions. However, we were all aware of his wishes; No plugs, no vegetable attached to a machine, no suffering. We also knew that he wanted his organs donated. We were surprised and unprepared for such a tragic thing but I was relieved to not have had a drawn out situation. Once again I find myself very surprised, but I must prepare myself for what is to come and face it with courage and strength. We will never let Wiley suffer.

Dec. 4 - I have only had one crying spell so far today; I made it until about 3:30 and through three quarters of Joni Mitchell's Blue album before I lost it. Wiley and I danced and hugged and cried together. It has been a rough few days. I had some busy stuff for work that kept me very busy and immediately distracted for those first couple days and nights, but when that ended Thursday night, I awoke at 5:45 am Friday to be completely reminded of my sorrow and my animal child's disability. My husband and I, who also have not been able to see each other during this busy time due to opposite schedules, sat down with Wiley and cried and hugged each other. We both agreed you could see in Wiley's eyes that he knows what is going on. We agreed that we will give him so much love, beyond what we already shower him with daily. He will stay happy and live his life the best he can.

We are going to work with our holistic vet and use an eastern medicine regimen to slow progression for as much and as long as we can. I realized that I should keep a log of progress and success etc. and that is what has brought me here now to tell Wiley's story. I forget how healing writing really can be.

A good friend came over last night with a couple bottles of wine, an ear and a shoulder. It was very cathartic. We followed it up today with a morning yoga class and then an inversion with brain synchronization followed by an hour floating in an isolation tank.  Ahhh.

I am not done grieving for my 3 1/2 yr. olds certain fate, by any means, but I must pull it together and start getting that positive energy out there and into Wiley's cells. I must visualize stopping those free radicals from destroying his ability to run with us. I most focus on releasing the negative thoughts associated with his condition and meditate on his nerve ends healing. Anger and despair is not going to help Wiley. There is much research to be done including proper exercise, diet and herbs. I owe this to him.

And so, with a heavy heart our journey begins.

Dec. 5- My research has led me to believe that Wiley's condition could not be DM, he is just too young and the onset was just too quick. I found a DNA test through the Univ. of Missouri and ordered it.
It could be so many things though. Discospondylitis, Neoplasia, Thrombosis, Fibrocartilaginous, Polyarthropathies, Lumbo Sachral Disease......

Dec. 10- We do the mouth swab DNA test and send it back to the University for the results.

Dec. 13-
John’s father, Jacques, passes away.
We take a trip to Florida and my friend Melanie stays at our home with our boy.

I spend every spare moment manifesting Wiley’s healing, imagining his synapses connecting the nerves speaking to each other, flowing from his feet to his brain. Firing and snapping and working.

His friend Inde gave him a stuffed animal present upon our return. He tore it up quickly.

Dec. 25- There is no Christmas at the Brousseau ranch this year.  We are both anxious for 2011 to be over.

Jan. 1, 2012- Happy New Year! Welcome 2012! We ask for health this new-year.

Wiley begins to have some random yelping when you touch around his ears or other random areas.

Jan. 13-  Wiley is definitely getting worse. You can't even go near him or even slightly touch him today without him yelping in pain.  He is stiff yet shaking, lots of heavy breathing. I immediately called to get him back in to see the vet and got an appt. for Monday the 16th. He continues to be very rigid and shake incessantly, lots of heavy panting and he can't move his neck. He isn't interested in eating his kibbles or bones or anything.  These are the only pictures we have from when he was at his worst. We didn't really want to remember him like that, and only took these to share with the doc.

Jan. 14- DNA results arrive- NEGATIVE- that is a great relief of course but we still have a very sick pup and no answers. We also just wasted almost 2 months believing our dog had a terminal disease when we could have been trouble shooting other options. Grrr.  He is still not interested in eating.

Jan. 16 -Vet apt again, Wiles appears to be in so much pain. He can’t lie down, he is shaking and panting. He cries if you touch him. Wiley was very wound up at the doctors office, and very stiff and shaky. He received a shot in the leg, and lots of pain meds and prednisone, as well as an anti-biotic in case of a neck infection. Wiley essentially walked in to the office but was unable to walk out. This seemed a little too coincidental to us after the leg shot but we were assured it truly was just a coincidence. Doc now thinks the issue is a neck injury because he wouldn't turn his head or bend over for a treat.  He wants us to see his specialist friend for a neck X-ray.  

Jan. 18-  We take him in for the X-ray. The techs tell us he is dehydrated. I realize that he hasn’t moved in the past couple days and therefore hasn’t drank any water either.

Jan. 20- Still haven’t heard anything regarding xray. It has been a day and half so I finally called and learned the X-ray didn't show anything. We are told that our alternative is to go to Portland for a very expensive MRI and other tests, or to put him down.

Jan. 24- These past days have just been horrible. Wiley is now essentially completely paralyzed. He is even unable to use his front legs to lift himself up and drag himself around. We have to physically move him from his spot in the living room back to the bedroom each morning and night. Although he has become dehydrated, the prednisone and other drugs are now making him pee everywhere and he also has been constipated and didn’t poop for 4 days either. 
I have been working very hard at getting him re-hydrated but I literally have to put the water to his mouth and make him drink, same with food, he just can't move to get to it. No kibbles at all, only soft food, burger and boiled chicken etc.
We have put tarps down in our bedroom and living room, and got some puppy training pads to help. Going to borrow a friends carpet cleaner too. We have demoted  many of our towels and are doing laundry everyday.

He isn't sleeping either the poor thing, with the constant shaking and heavy panting, and pain L
We begin to think that this really is no quality of life. How much longer can we let him go on like this?

Jan. 27-  I went to kiss him and he yelped. What kind of quality of life is this if I cannot love my dog? We realize we may have a tough decision to make but it is not fair to him to live like this. We decide to give it the weekend and on Monday we will talk about what the right thing to do is.

Jan. 28- Wiley laid down! For the first time in weeks. He stopped shaking and layed down!!!

I still have to bring him his food and water but he doesn’t appear to be in such pain! This is awesome stuff!

Feb. 1- Wiley came to me in a dream last night. He was running back up the driveway toward me. He was running.  I know he is telling me not to give up on him. Don’t worry bud, not in a million years. I believe in you. We can beat this.

Feb. 3. I am preparing Wiley’s morning food and I hear him shuffle. He got himself up and brings himself right over to the kitchen for the first time in weeks!  He is using his front legs again and dragging the back ones. He is not staying on his tarps and towels anymore either.

Feb. 5- He is back to eating on his own again and coming for food the second he hears you getting it ready.  We gave him a box to put his dish on so he doesn’t have to bend over so far. He can even stand to eat if I help place his feet under him.

Feb. 14- He went outside today AND he peed and pooped outside! Happy Valentines Day!

I am happy to say that in the past couple weeks he has progressed marvelously. He can now use his front legs again and has shown us his independence by dragging himself around the house and not staying on his tarp beds. Last weekend he even brought me his ball. Now he is able to stand and has begun walking again, although a bit like a drunken sailor and after about 4 steps his legs collapse and get twisted. It really appears to be his right leg that is causing all the problems. He is now going to the door to be let out again which is wonderful but his poor paws are taking a bloody beating getting dragged around. 

We are beginning to wind down the prednisone and he is taking DiscusCompositum and Benefit Hip and Knees Formula. 
I do believe he is improving every day, and I am leaning towards some sort of spinal infection that the anti-biotic (Clavamox) helped to rid but we still don't really know what is going on. The vet says he is boggled but isn't attempting to really help us solve the problem.

We would love for him to be seen in our home in his natural state, rather than getting him all worked up to take him some place. So I research and find a mobile vet and send him Wiley’s story thus far. I ask for an appointment for someone to come and see him in his habitat. The mobile doc only read my plea and suggested a different disease. Lame.

Feb. 17-  We have been hanging outside lots more, it is so nice to get fresh air with him again.

Feb. 25-  We walked down the road a bit, first walk since Jan. 10ish

Feb. 27- We walked the Circle!!!! He finished his Prednisone.

Feb. 29- Snowstorm! Played out in the snow, it’s a leap year blizzard, and Wiley is psyched!

March 1-  Relapse. 
Wiley is back to being stiff, frozen, shaky and paralyzed. WTF!!!
Are you serious, we were just playing in the snow.
I am not going back to old vet. He hasn’t even called to check on Wiley. Our cat vet is awesome, she makes lots of personal check up calls and I know she would be doing extra homework to help us figure out what is wrong with Wiley.  I ask some friends on Facebook for new vet recommendations. 

March 9 -We see our new Vet- Dr. Moles. He takes a full set of x-rays since only the neck had been done previously. Nothing. He reiterates that the only definitive way to find out is to take him to Portland for an MRI. We just cant make this happen right now though.
We ask to put him back on prednisone and clavamox to try and replicate exactly what we did before. We think maybe it is an infection in his spine.
Dr. Moles recommends seeing an animal physical therapist and possibly acupuncture too.

Mar 14- He is so sad again. Minou is sad too and decided to hang out with him on his bed.

After the first few weeks of being back on the meds there is not a lot of change, like we experienced at the beginning of Feb.  We do another round of meds though to not give up.

April 2- Hanging in the garage.

Wily has become the incredible hulk in his front end from all the dragging he has done. We let him outside a lot and he just lies in front of the house on guard. He can get around on his own but needs help getting back up the stairs, we have to lift his rear end up for him.

I am duct taping and shoe-gooing all his booties for extra endurance and lasting power. We have 10 pairs of destroyed shoes that I can stretch longer this way. Thanks to the Walk About Harness lady for sharing the tip!

John started doing research and found a blueprint for a wheelchair cart via the Univeristy of Louisville, a woman did her doctorate on canine biomechanics and developed a blue print for making a good chair. We applied to the University for the rights to use the blueprint.

John began finding folks/companies to donate the needed parts.  Lots of people came together to make it happen and 90% of the parts were donated or discounted.
Thanks to Ruffwear, Walk About Harness, United Pipe, Flex PVC,  and our landlord Ed for helping.

I begin a daily ritual with Wiley where we say thank you for his healing and spend a few moments being grateful for how he is doing.

April 17- We have the first part of the chair complete.

May 6- Wiley's wheel chair complete. Drilling all the holes was the hardest part but John did a great job. Thanks to my friend Mary for helping to sew the straps on to the harnesses. Now for test runs and tweaks. I also make an appointment to see an animal physical therapist.

May 8- We went around the circle in his chair for the first time. He gets excited for our neighbors and Taylor helped to encourage him around. Gosh, we haven’t been up "there" in months.

May 14- Huge bout of diarrhea, I have never seen anything like it. Where does it all come from, how is this much possible and WHY? Ugh. 

May 16
Kristen Wolter of Pawsitive Strides, Animal PT ROCKS! I took Wiley to see an awesome animal physical therapist today.
She told me more about what is going on with Wiley than either vet  or x-ray has over the past 6 months.
She concludes that it is likely a disc injury somewhere between T7-T10.
She provided a dozen home exercises for us to do to provide stimulation etc. and also recommends acupuncture. She assured me that he is not in pain. This is a huge relief.

We are not aware of any accidents that Wiley has had and can't imagine how he got hurt. The only thing we can think of is a pretty crazy full speed collision he had last summer with a bull dog at the dog park. They were both running for balls at full speed and totally had a loud impact that turned everyone's heads. They got back up and resumed playing so we didn't think much more about it.

May 17- Happy 4th Birthday Wiley! We love you so much!
I remember my dream. I wonder if he will ever wag his tail again.
We continue with his home exercises.

June- We have been trying out the chair a couple times per week for 10-20 mins at a time. Sometimes he likes it, other times not so much. I often have to use treats as a lure.

We begin to swim at North Twin and Little Cultus Lakes a couple times, short bursts but he has leg movement in the water. He is definitely scared to go in very deep and doesn't trust his legs.

July 3 - Wily is getting around lots better these days. He has begun kicking his back legs out of the back straps on his wheel chair.

July 12- Wiley is on the hunt! He is fixated on the chipmunk in the back stump, like old times.
Wiley is walking drunken sailor style again! It is great to have him back! His attitude continues to improve everyday too. He is more and more like himself.

Sadly, he falls down every poop as soon as he tries to get into “position”. Lots and lots of baths. He still has accidents in the house but they are fewer and fewer apart. He does not have any sort of schedule though so I often hear him fidget in the night and we get up so he can go out. I have not slept through the night since this all began. It is good prep for a baby I suppose.

July 23-  I found this sign at a thrift store when I was in Maine back in November and John decided it was time to hang it up. Wiley is back on duty!

August 8- He still hunting for that chipmunk. No more booties and no more chair!

Continued improvement everyday, he does not want to go in his chair anymore. His walking is so awesome, very deliberate and sorta stompy but we will take it!  No more booties!! We are not sad to put the chair away, the goal was for him to improve enough not to need it anyway. I begin to bring him to work with me again when I can.  We try to get to the lake when we can for him to swim.

I also realize I can’t just let him out anymore. He has found a new freedom and lets his nose lead the way. I found him laying on our neighbors back porch looking into his house the other day. Also if he hears Ed next door or his mini poodle Reggie, he is gone around his fence in an instant. Ho hum. It is hard to be mad at him, but his listening skills have definitely been turned off.

Aug. 20- We walk the circle, without his chair,  for the first time since February!

Sept. 3- Kayaking! We take Wiley out to Hosmer Lake and he does awesome as John's copilot!

Sept. 6- He has rediscovered his egg and balls again. He wants to play!

Sept. 9- Camping! Our first and only camping trip of the season.
We hike around the lake, he is tired, it is the farthest he has gone since this all began.

Oct. 5-
I take Wiley for his first Acupuncture treatment. He behaves really well.
John sees improvement in his attitude/usual self.
We are now walking the circle on a daily basis :)

Nov. 4 I return from a week away in Portland and notice Wiley’s tail is wagging a lot more and a lot higher  J

We begin to walk several times down to the mailbox and back around on the trail for the first time in a whole year.

Nov. 16
Second Acupuncture treatment.

Nov. 21
He is so freakin awesome! 

December- December brought us more improvements and more wagging. He is playing lots, loving on pine cones, playing in the snow and with his beloved egg.

He is making it through the night a lot more often. I even made it a whole week in a row without having to get up.  He is less deliberate in his steps and not falling down when pooping nearly as much. He has developed a pretty good walk-n-poop system.
He has also adapted to running quite well. He is quick. There was a point during all this where we didn’t have to worry about him getting away from us in regards to traffic etc. Not anymore, when he is off, he is off.

He hardly has a flipped paw anymore, although he may still stand with his back legs in a seemingly awkward position, and will have a slight drag every few steps. He can get up the steps on his own again. We still have to lift him in and out of our trucks though. Further, he may have to stay on prednisone forever. I am scared to take him off and have another relapse. I have some research to do and we will reconvene with our vet soon to discuss the future.

He has a very healthy appetite, and is back to all his old ways and he even brought some new ones with him too! He is very lovey-dovey, gives lots of kisses again and follows me around everywhere. It was so sad when he didn’t follow me to the next room.
Now, I can not even tell John it is dinner time without Wiley going crazy, same thing if we get excited or celebrate anything with a “yay”, or hands clapping. Wiley gets excited too!

Our dog is back and he is doing great! With love and patience and persistence we made it through even though we were told we should give up and put him down.  A clear indicator of why we need to be our own health advocates, do our own research and not listen to those first opinions, whether dealing with our own health, our children, our aging parents, or our beloved pets.

Wiley and I still say thank you every morning and spend a moment being grateful for his healing. 

Happy New Year!
Here is to an awesome 2013 and to Wiley’s continuing recovery!