It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write this - Wednesday April 24, 2019 was Teddy’s last day on earth; I helped him on to whatever is next. Teddy was 17 or 18, and system after system (his legs, his bladder, his stomach, his mind) started to fail. Life was becoming a misery for this once active and exuberant soul. I had promised him that I would never let him suffer - there is nothing romantic about that. Providing Death With Dignity is a horrible and beautiful choice, and the one I made.
1000 years of crying won’t heal the pain of this loss. There is now an endless emptiness in my life that will never be filled.
The space that Teddy left is so big because of what filled it before. Thus, I'm writing this to also Rejoice in Teddy’s life. What made Teddy special beyond words – was Everything; just like your dog is to you. Energetic, Enthusiastic, Exuberant (that is an understatement) Loyal, Caring, A Wild Man, A SweetHeart. Teddy was There when I needed him, and even when I didn’t. Watchful, Perseverant, Funny, Fun. A Lover of the outdoors, he would hike tirelessly for miles on end, through all kinds of conditions, and then want to hike some more. Teddy was always Willing; willing to go places and do things he hadn’t done before. There was no trail he wouldn't go on and no trail he wasn't willing to blaze. And if I ever lost the trail, he would find it. Happy, Handsome, Furry, Smart, Strong, Watchful, Aware, Alive, Intense, Boundless, Limitless. Love.
He was All Heart.
I loved being with him. As did the other dog’s in his pack. He gave them a boost as they all entered their mid and older years. He came to us as the youngest and deferred to the other’s age and wisdom, as he grew his own. Then he became the last man standing. He would welcome you to be a friend as long as you could hold your own against his high standards of Dogginess.
He was also a Legend. Years ago, within hours of almost dying from Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE, vomiting and pooping blood for no known reason) the folks at the Tufts University emergency room put a sign on his cage that said, “Will Bolt”, meaning that he would try to escape his cage if given the chance. That sign made me smile because Teddy was a true Bad Ass. You don’t get to meet one of those every day, or possibly ever. He had two more bouts with this mystery disease, it didn’t slow him down.
When Teddy was 14, his hind end suddenly failed him; he could barely walk (and a week later had his third bout of HGE). Several vets said his walking days were through, citing the evidence that he was an old dog, and that he had Arthritis, and "that is how it is." Not to Teddy. He Survived. He Recovered. He Overcame. He Excelled. Until just a few months ago he was hiking 4-6 miles a day, with over 1000 foot elevation climbs.
Yet there is something else that makes him a Legend. Teddy was the quintessential “Hard To Handle” dog. His enthusiastic pulling on a walk put all the other dogs in his pack to shame. He was the dog that I invented the harness for. And thus, that Walk Your Dog With Love the Company was born. Yes, it's because of Teddy that we know each other. It's also why I owe him for everything - from the food I eat, to the clothing I wear, to the house I live in.
He was my Muse.
Teddy’s inspiration, his harness, is also what has let us to change the life of hundreds of thousands of dogs across the world for the better. More than just "Making Walks A Pleasure", the harness has had an important impact on dog rescue. Most dogs are abandoned because they are “hard to handle”. Teddy's harness changes that. It's now used by trainers and rescues worldwide. It stops dogs from being abandoned in the first place and helps dogs that have little chance of being adopted, get adopted. That is his Legacy. A legacy that must be continued so that Teddy’s life can continue to have meaning.
Another way Teddy's life has meaning is The Teddy Rescue Project; it's an app that lets anyone (You!) do something positive in the world for a dog or animal causes of their choice.
A photo retrospective of some of the early years of Teddy’s wonderful Life follows after these words. And then below that are the online ‘Birthday Card – Year In Reviews’ from the last several years.
The first photo is the last one of him alive. I took it on top of Mount Greylock, in Massachusetts. Teddy had hiked thousands of miles on this mountain. Although the road to the top of the mountain was officially closed, they opened it up for Teddy, and we drove up to the top. There I helped him walk to the very peak, where we sat for a bit. It was a cold and windy up at the top, just like he liked it - so it was perfect. The next photo, in the mini-van, is the first photo I ever took of Teddy. That smaller pointed-eared girl is his real-life sister. Someone had abandoned them in a dog park (which is a lot better than letting them loose in the street, so much for small blessings). I had just managed to catch them (a hard task, they were both as fast as lighting) and get them into the van. My neighbors adopted his sister – because she reminded them so much (almost an identical twin!) of Pompeii, a dog that they had recently lost. They named her Katy.
Teddy, April 24, 2019. Top Of Mount Greylock.
APRIL 1, 2019
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY FUR BOY! ♥♥♥♥♥
Teddy is 17 today. Or maybe 18 (he was at least 1, though maybe 2, when I rescued him; he was abandoned in San Pedro, CA). Because he was such a happy, fun, wild man and a force of nature, I thought that April 1st would be a good Birthday for him. He was the Ultimate Court Jester. Because of his ‘exuberance’ I had to invent a better way to walk him (by the neck is not something I would ever do, and other harnesses just didn’t cut it). Thus the Walk Your Dog With Love harness was born. So, I owe him my entire life, and you’re only reading this because of him. Thank You Teddy.
This last year has had its challenges. I’ll try to be brief, because mentioning everything will be impossible, and ultimately really boring.
See his story below the video and pictures.
Teddy cruising in his new set of wheels. Bill Laston Memorial Fields, Lanesborough MA, March 31 2019
Last April, soon after his birthday, Teddy went on an eating strike. In older dogs, not eating is a sign of The End. So, I though ‘this is it, we are Here’. With a capital H. I started to feed him anything and everything he was willing to eat. ‘Medically’ this presented a problem: his vets and I were under the belief that he needed to eat a very restricted, Novel Protein diet. This was to prevent a reoccurrence of HGE
Over Time … and maybe because he started to take Prednisone for his physical issue. Prednisone, among its many magical and evil dark ways, stimulates the appetite. Around June, Teddy started to have some issues walking, a faint echo of what he had when he was 14 (read about this down the page too). His Neurologist thought that Prednisone would be the cure; and it might have. Not only was he eating, soon after, Teddy was back to walking again.
We took long walks, actually Hikes. 4-6 miles a day. It was part of his Health & Happiness regimen. Long story short on this - at 14, Teddy lost his back legs for a while. It happened suddenly one December day - his rear legs got all wonky and he couldn’t walk. It turned out he had horrible arthritis in some of his joints (mainly left hip), yet the main culprit was Neurological: 4 ruptured discs, and degenerative myelitis. I thought his walking days were over. Yet, because he is such a BadAss, and with this accurate diagnosis, regular physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc. - he got better. And thus hiking many miles, every day, became A Thing. It was part of The Mission to keep Teddy Healthy & Happy. We hiked 6 miles a day. Up & Down Mt Greylock - highest peak in MA, where he regularly lives, and just a few miles from home. Walking up rises of 1000, 1100, 1200 feet, and back down (that’s over 100 stories). He was active with this intensity until just 4 months ago.
That’s what most of the last year was like, some bumps, and tons of Awesome hikes. We found lots of new trails, with their new challenges, and saw lots of totally fantastic views. Teddy was happy, healthy, eating and walking. Last winter we went to Duck, North Carolina so he could keep up these long hikes. Long hikes in MA during the winter aren’t happening: it can be 2 degrees with 30 mph winds, the trails get covered in 6 feet of snow, and the sidewalks and roads get covered in salt, snow, ice and slush. Not a fun place to hike, even for a BadAss. Duck, on the other hand, is much warmer, and has no snow or ice. We even found a Vet there that did acupuncture.
And everything was great…until this December (2018). Suddenly his back right leg (the problem one) started to give out. His walks became shorter, and shorter, barely a mile. And not on a trail, but on a flat boardwalk that Duck has. And then no walks at all, just pee and poo outings. His leg started dragging, knuckling, not cooperating with the rest of his body. What was going on? Not walking everyday started to take its Mental Toll on Teddy. Worse, he was unable to stand up to eat, unable to even turn around a couple of times before laying down, unable to do anything on his own. It was upsetting. To both of us.
Then, in a crazy turn of events, his rear right leg ’storked’; it became stuck in the Up position - like a stork. Many calls to Teddy’s team of Vets, his Physical Therapist, his masseuse, an emergency visit to North Carolina State University (the It medical school in NC), and different drugs & herbs to relax, to un-inflame, to relieve pain … Nothing really worked. The Neurologist and Orthopedist at NCSU said there was nothing they could ‘do’, but to keep doing what we were doing. I suggested going back to Physical Therapy, and they agreed, that would be a good idea. Uggg, from Duck, the nearest PT was 2 hours away.
Gnawing at the back of my mind, was the thought that his stork leg was something that could be ‘fixed’ by massage – because it seemed like a Charlie horse. I called a local human masseuse that was rumored to work on dogs. He’d just gotten back from a vacation, yet he said “Come on in”…with the caveat “But only because Teddy’s a dog. If he was a human, you’d have to wait for a few days”. So we went. And an hour later Teddy walked out with his leg starting to ‘unstork’. We went back the next day, and his right leg relaxed even more. Teddy seemed less stressed. Me too. It felt like there was a possibility that with some more ‘work’, he could get him back on his feet.
So, in early March, we headed back to Massachusetts, where he could go to regular physical therapy (hydrotherapy underwater treadmill 3 times a week), massage (2-3 times a week) and acupuncture (1x a week), and the home he’s lived in for 12 years (more on that in a moment).
That was just about three weeks ago. It seems longer, because since then Teddy’s back right leg has stopped working. It feels like it’s beyond rehab (though we won’t give up hope, just being realistic). He now gets walked in a Help 'Em Up butt lifter harness, and wears booties on his rear feet so the tops don’t get scraped up because of knuckling.
With the advent of his right leg totally going out, his left leg has gotten much weaker; its now also knuckling and not syncing with his front legs. So Teddy got a wheelchair for his back end. He’s had it since last Wednesday. Hopefully, these wheels will give him a sense of Independence, make walks ‘easier’ for him (and certainly easier for my right arm and back!), and keep his body strong and his Psyche intact. So far, he doesn’t hate the wheels (Good News). Yes, it’s a hassle to get him to start the walk (and to leave his home), yet once he gets rolling, things seem to be OK. In fact, yesterday (Sunday) we drove to a local dog walking path where Teddy took a spin and actually seemed to enjoy himself. THAT’S Great News.
Another layer on top of all of this is Teddy has what seems like Sundowner’s Syndrome. It happens to lots of older animals and humans. It’s supposed to be part of a progressive dementia. Sundowner’s means you’re up all night. You want to walk around. If you’re a dog, you huff & puff pant a lot. Things just aren’t ‘right’. You’re thirsty. You need to pee. You need to poop. In Teddy’s case, because he can’t walk, that means if he wants to do anything, his Dad needs to accompany him. This has added another twist to these Golden Years.
OK. What's this about the house he has lived in for 12 years? Teddy doesn’t want to be in that house! His new Favorite Place is the Honda Odyssey mini van. In the driveway. WTS?! During the day when he goes out to pee or for a walk, he pulls hard to get to the van. Where he happily - and quickly - goes to sleep. In the middle of the night, the same. So this is how it is. Dad has even started to work in the van (he’s writing this from the van right now. It’s better than a corner office; it has a 360 degree view). On nights when it above 35 degrees, they even sleep in it (2 bodies plus a blankie, it’s like camping, except no marshmallows).
We’re taking it one day or one minute at a time. Yes, he’s taking a lot more Rescue Remedy & CBD oil, and sniffing lavender & listening to calming classical music…actually both of us are doing this 😉.
To add to this, Teddy’s ‘team’ of Vets, therapists, masseuses, and all his friends, are in deep discussion with Dad about ‘When’. When does Teddy get The Grace that we can’t even give to our own grandparents and parents? The questions of Quality of Life are deeply discussed. The Question of Who am I doing this for - him or me? The Question of What is being a Dog. The Question of What is Suffering? The Question of What Is Love?
The Question about the Commitment I made when I found him. The commitment to the end of life – mine or his – whichever comes first.
Questions with no right answers. Yet with definite wrong answers. At this time, The Question, when asked back to the Questioners, gets a unanimous and astounding “No, Not Now”, as The Answer.
Is Teddy in pain? It doesn’t seem like it. Dogs are unusually Stoic, and don’t show pain. Teddy gets massaged regularly and his masseuse stretches his legs out. If he had pain, that’s when he would show it. But he doesn’t. He chills out and often falls asleep. Teddy is also off all of his meds - because none of them seemed to ‘touch’ him. He seems no worse because of it. Is he uncomfortable? Yes, when he can’t do what he wants to: when he needs to pee, or drink or anything… and needs a hand. That’s what I am here for. To give him that hand, until the Answer is Now.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
For NOW, we’re hanging out together. Sleeping in the van together. Taking a spin. Barking with fervor at dogs and humans and squirrels that pass by (no more running up and down the fence line and being a total madman). Eating breakfast & dinner and snacks his dog friend Dagny sends him. Trying to stop him from eating coyote poop (WHAT is that about!). Listening to him snore quietly (and not so quietly sometimes). And singing goofy songs to him about how handsome he is, and what a BadAss he is, as I have always done. ♥
I Love You, you FurMonkey Supreme.
APRIL 1, 2018
TEDDY IS 16
Woofy Birthday To You Baby Dog. I Love you so much.
Who is The Man? Teddy is The Man! I am so in Love with him; there aren’t even words to express it. And come to think of it, without Teddy, I would have never met you and your sweet dog!
You may already know Teddy, my Golden Boy. He was so difficult to walk when he was young (and ummm…just yesterday) that I had to come up with a Better Way to walk him. And thus Walk Your Dog With Love was born.
Even though I say Teddy is 16, he very well may be 17 … or even a little older. I can’t be sure, because I found him as a stray. What I can be sure of is that he is at least 16. The full story on that, and why April 1st is his birthday (think Happy & Wild Court Jester) is down the page.
See his story below the video and pictures.
Teddy about halfway through his 6.5 mile walk in Corolla, NC, March 27, 2018
This last year
To start off with – a lot of the photos you see of Teddy here and on social media now show him with a REAR attached harness. What is with that? Well, the truth of the matter is I now WANT him to pull. Yes, you heard right, I actually want to encourage his pulling. Life is strange that way! His entire rear end is very weak, and so now, as part of his physical fitness regime (we regularly walk 6 miles a day, more on that in a moment) I encourage him to pull. This helps to work his legs. It keeps him Strong. It keeps him Healthy.
As we get older we all start talking about our medical conditions, as if THAT was all there is to life. As the pictures and videos show - Teddy is full of life. He loves sniffing & snoozing and barking & acting silly. He Rocks. “Especially for an Older Dog”.
True, as we get older, remaining active and vigorous and happy is most important, even in the face of the tides of time come to wash these things away. So Yes, in this posting there is a lot of emphasis on “Health” as a gauge of How He Is Doing and it also drives a lot of What He Is Doing.
About 2 years ago Teddy was diagnosed with several ruptured discs, which really affected his right rear leg, and severe arthritis in his left rear leg (see below). In the past year he has also torn ligaments in both rear legs, and just a few months ago his right front leg started to become lame, ostensibly from arthritis.
So now, as an older dog, my whole focus has been on his health, longevity and quality of life. The main focus of this is keeping his body and mind healthy, and his stomach in shape (he has a gastrointestinal issue which pops up its deadly head now and then; stress also seems to be part of the issue). So he gets a very limited diet – which helps narrow down the risk, and we try to keep it calm and mellow, and we walk a ton. Walking helps to keep his limbs limber and lubricated, and it also lets him burn off energy, and being outside is just fun. Where else can you smell squirrels, rabbits and deer? Better yet, where else can you smell dead squirrels, rabbit and deer? And where else can you sniff rabbit poop … and try to eat it. And sniff coyote poop … and try to eat it!
WTS (What The Snout). He loves coyote poop. SOOOO disgusting. And worse, because of his gastro issues, the doctor totally did NOT prescribe that. What is crazier, is that even when he is Meh on his food (sniffing around it, eating it slowly... ) with Coyote poop… BOOM, he snarfs it down without even a chew. So, right now I am a little concerned about him losing the will to eat, and I am totally questioning what he wants to eat! I guess he questions what I eat too.
Our walks are very long now Five, Six or Seven miles long. It depends on the challenge: on a flat – like a beach - we will walk long, on an more challenging mountain trail, a little less.
Because of the arthritis, he is Not So Much on going for a walk to start. But once we get a mile or two in, his body loosens up, and he is Good To Go. Sometimes I even have to cut it short – just to make sure that he doesn’t overextend himself. I am sure we could walk 10 miles, but I don’t want to risk it. Fact: he actually walks more vigorously on the second half of the walk than then first half.
We used to walk ‘shorter’ 3 miles walks, but in the last 4 months, since his front leg started acting up, I realized that that was ‘torturing’ him twice – putting him through the Ouch to get to the Ahhh, twice. So now we walk one nice long walk. Not bad for an old man!
Teddy lives in Lanesboro Massachusetts, where winters are pretty harsh. Most all the hiking and walking trails get covered in feet of snow and ice, and the few places to walk are heavily salted, and covered in snow, slush and ice. Add to that temperatures from 2-20 degrees... well, you get the idea; walking 6 miles at a stretch is near impossible.
So Teddy went to North Carolina for the Winter where he enjoyed temperatures in the high 30's and low 40's, and there was no snow (mostly!). And walking was easier. That’s why so many of his recent Instagram and Facebook posts show him on a beach or a trail - with no snow.
"Treatment' of all kinds
Since his back and legs first gave out, part of Teddy's fitness routine has been to go to aqua therapy 3 times a week (at least when we are in MA). He splits his time between doing underwater treadmill and swimming. This helps him to build muscle and stay supple.
Every 2-3 weeks he also gets acupuncture, chiropractic and cold laser. These treatments are more about keeping him pain free and helping his body functions
Does any of this work? Can he do without the treatments, and The Walks and be just as fine? Who knows?! And it doesn’t matter. He seems to like the walks (once we get going), and he is still vigorous as ever. Worst case is that we get to spend time together, which seems like is a pretty good deal to me. I hope he thinks so too. DM
APRIL 1, 2017
WOW, TEDDY IS 15! HAPPY HAPPY WOOF DAY! AND MANY MANY MORE!
I Love Teddy so much. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! There are not enough words to express how much I Love this baby dog. What a Great Experience it is knowing him and being with him. At 15 he is still a firecracker, and a Happy Wildman. You can see that in the videos of him below.
Yes, he has slowed down some. NO! Wait, he hasn't slowed down at all! More about Teddy under the videos. Even on the treadmill he is kicking tail!
ON THE BEACH, JANUARY 1, 2017
Taking on the Nor'Easter March 14, 2017
More from the beach, January 1, 2017
Super TreadMill Man, March 25, 2017
OK, so what has changed now that Teddy is 15? Well, last year Nature gave him a very arthritic left rear leg, torn ligaments in both legs, and some ruptured discs that affect both rear legs too. He also has the continuing saga of a belly that sometimes revolts. You can read about all of this way down on this page. Right, getting old ain't fun. Yet Teddy Keeps On Keeping On!
Teddy now goes to underwater treadmill therapy a couple of times a week (see the video) so that his rear end can stay strong enought that he can keep walking. Yet he is still ready to rock.
Nowadays we also walk with him attached from behind. How can the Poster Child and Inventor of the front-leading dog harness be walked from behind? Simple, now we WANT him to pull. YES, we want to strengthen his rear end, and having him pull into the harness can help do that.
And sure, we don't walk the miles and miles we used to...Wait a second, yes we do - we just parse it out over a few walks during the day - so that we don't stress his legs. He is usually willing to take the walks, I am the one that has to cut them short so that he doesn't hurt himself.
And yes, he does like to snooze a bit more. Yet not that much! He still prefers to sit in the front yard and bark atanything and everything that passes by. And he will still chase baby Reese, his two year old sister, around the yard. Though I do try to stop that... as he doesn't understand it's not the best idea with his rear chassis being in the condition it is.
OK - so one more time I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU TEDDY BOY!
THIS WAS THE POST FROM APRIL 1, 2016 WHEN TEDDY TURNED 14
Teddy is Walk Your Dog With Love’s Spokes Dog. And the harness's co-inventor. And my Soul Brother of a Doggy Mother.
Because of his crazzzzzy behavior, and because I found him as a stray pup, I chose April First as his birthday. Or maybe it chose him!
That was over 13 years ago, and a lot of miles and a lot of nose kisses ago. I LOVE YOU TEDDY!
This September, I noticed that he was waking up with a little morning stiffness. So we went to see the doctor. While the story about the search for 'what was going on', and what we will be doing in the future, is below. We just (literally) found out what IS going on; watch the Doc explain what he found.
LONG LONG STORY, SHORT.
In September of 2015 Teddy became less enthusiastic about the walks he used to love. By December he had a decided limp in his rear right leg. An X-ray showed he had pretty bad arthritis in his hip, on the left side. And thus the diagnosis was Arthritis in an Older Dog, and “This is how it is with an older dog”. Yet I knew in my heart that something else was wrong too, especially as I was feeling something was going on with his right leg.
By March I was sure of it. And also very concerned: his walking was rapidly getting worse, his rear legs would collapse if he tried to play tug with his rope, and he couldn’t get up on the couch or bed any more. In contrast, he would also have some really great days, walking miles with no issues. So I decided to get a bunch of other opinions, to get some more information, to see if we could get to the bottom of this. This is important for many reasons; even if Teddy can’t be Young Again, I don't want to treat him for something he doesn't have, giving him unneccesary drugs or therapies that might even make things worse. That would be a disservice.
By this point I was also very ready to get him an MRI, which would hopefully eliminate some of the guessing, and maybe even identify the potential issue.
The other opinions
Lastly, we went to a well recommended neurosurgeon who started the exam by watching him walk. Within 30 seconds he proposed that something was actually amiss in Teddy’s neck area, which was probably causing the issues in his hind legs. Indeed, it turns out that Teddy has 4 herniated discs pushing on his spine, causing nerve signal loss to his rear legs (with a bit in his front legs too). The most drastic intrusion on the spine is in his upper upper back; the T2 for those of you in the know.
So, we have begun a treatment based on this information. Is THIS diagnosis right? Is the new treatment plan a good one? I don’t know yet. Yet I do ‘feel’ that we are closer to the issue and to a ‘cure’. Am I willing to consider other causes and cure? Of course!
Is Teddy 14? Yes. Does Teddy have issues? Don’t we all?! As a friend of mine said when he saw Teddy walking “Growing old is not for the faint of heart”. Yet as another friend notes, “Old Age is not a disease”.
The issue here is that I want to treat Teddy as I want to be treated. And that is what we are going to do, because it is the right thing to do.
THE LONG TALE. VERY VERY LONG.
In Early May of 2013 Teddy started to balk about The Walk. This was a little strange, as he is a voracious walker, and would walk (actually almost run) up and down mountain paths with me for hours. He started to get finicky; he wouldn’t want to walk over here, yet he might be willing to walk over there.
Because this was a change in his usual behavior it was a Red Flag for me. I had experienced similar behavior with his sister, Bella, years before, and it turned out that she had a tick-borne illness. And so, I had Teddy tested, and indeed, he had Lyme. The ‘great’ thing about this is it is curable, for the most part. A note, I always ask for MORE than just a Lyme test, I like to have the 4 or the 6 type test because there are many tick borne illnesses, and testing for all of them makes sense. We hate ticks.
So that took care of that.
The same thing happened in 2015, and indeed, he had Lyme again. So we took care of it again. We really, Really, REALLY hate ticks.
In September Teddy once again started to balk. And his rear legs started to appear stiff. His Vet didn't feel this was really a Lyme symptom, and with him having just had it, the Doctor felt a test would be inconclusive. So, I started him on Acupuncture and Chiropractic, with some Cold Laser thrown in – all to help keep him comfy and limber. Heck, he was 13 and a half years old, that is 95 in human years – you gotta slow down sometime! Yet, Teddy wasn’t really slowing down. He was just not walking over here - but he would walk 4 miles over there, no problem. WTS (What The Snout)?
Teddy had also just suffered from the loss of his sister Bella (at 17) in August; he was now the only dog in the house, after many years of being the youngest of 5. There is no doubt he was feeling sad. And that can affect the body.
Though he still had his step-sister, 4 year old Rita! She visited with him for days at a time. And when she did, he would try to chase after this young lass. Alas, Rita is super fast – she has some Whippet Magic in her, and she could run circles around Teddy, though he would do his best to keep up. Not fair to pair a 4 year old with an almost 14 year old. And Teddy would still give her a run for her money!
On December 5, 2015, Teddy met Reese, Rita’s new sister. Reese is a 15 month old adopted upstart who is like lightening – she can run circles around Rita. The first meeting was a walk up a closed-off mountain road. During the walk Teddy wanted to eat Reese ... and Reese wanted to eat Teddy: a Match Made In Heaven. In the middle of the walk, Teddy started to walk funny - to limp - his right leg started to stray too far to the left. It was a pronounced limp. Not so funny.
Worse, when he pulled back he couldn’t support himself, he went into a ‘Sit’. Uggg. Not Good At All. It was like Teddy went from acting like a 14-month-old dog, to suddenly being the almost 14-year-old dog he actually was.
So during his next visit to the Acupuncturist, he also got an X-Ray. It showed severe arthritis in his left hip. Left leg? So what was going on with his right leg? The Doctor said he was overcompensating, and supporting his left side with the right. So we started Teddy on an NSAID called Metacam, which helps to reduce swelling, and alleviates pain.
Yet the weak rear-end and limping continued.
Until December 15, when he had a bad case of diarrhea, then vomited red blood, and then red blood came out the other end. By then I had him in the emergency room, and was only focused on helping him get better. Which he did. Because he has a Strong Mojo.
What was THAT issue? No idea. Yet he had had a similar bout of the identical thing in 2013, when it almost killed him. The best I can figure is that both times it was caused by stress. This time the stress of suddenly not being able to walk, combined with a new, certifiably crazy (she is part Terrier!) step sister who was just non-stop energy.
Ok, so here we are, and he has recovered from that evil. Although his walking was still going downhill. Now it is his left and right legs, and he can’t jump on the bed or the couch without help. And I am feeling like something else is wrong. I don’t feel like this diagnosis of Arthritis is ‘It’. Sure, I get it, he does have arthritis. Sure, he is also almost 14, but something else is wrong. I can feel it in my bones.
Is it Lyme again? Just because it is cold out, doesn’t mean the ticks aren’t out. And as a matter of fact, it is not that cold – this winter in Massachusetts, it was unusually warm.
Because NSAIDS have a bad reputation for causing stomach ache, he has been off of the Metacam since December. I don’t want to risk maybe killing him with the cure to something else. Now he is taking Gabapentin, which is a pain reliever, yet not an anti-inflammatory. The ‘problem’ with this is it isn’t going to help his arthritis, it is just going to help not feel pain. At first he was taking a lot of Gabapentin, and I felt it was too much, he didn’t to be here. So we adjusted it to a dose where I had my tail wagging happy barking Teddy back.
And so our walks were getting a shorter, yet sometimes he would happily walk 4 miles. So it is all a bit strange. What IS going on?
Maybe I just have 14-year-old dog, and this is the way it is? Maybe I should stop wondering and move on with life? Yet, I want to find out exactly what IS wrong. One of the reasons is I don’t want to treat him for something that he doesn’t have. And I definitely don’t want to give him drugs that might not be necessary or might even harmful. I wouldn’t want that for myself, I don’t want that for him.
Even the simple question of should I give him cold compresses or a hot pack was unclear, as we just didn't really know what is going on. Knowing what is going on will help me to help him feel more comfortable, and to do what he likes best, attack a single track trail mountain trail and walk for hours.
So, I discuss it with his doctor, what else can be causing this weak hind-end issue? Yet one that comes and goes, has its ups and downs. Could it be a tick-borne illness again? Could it be Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) a not uncommon disease in older dogs. Or maybe he has an undiagnosed broken bone? Maybe it is some kind of growth pushing on his spine like a cancer … so I decide to get a second, third and maybe a fourth opinion. No disrespect to his Vet, I wanted more eyes on the issue. I want to figure this out, the best I can.
So I went to see another doctor. He felt that it is just as simple as Teddy being an old dog, and "Look at the x-ray, it is surely arthritis".
Yet I am not that sure. So I talked with Teddy’s Vet about doing a series of x-rays, maybe it would show us something more. To do a series of X-rays would mean he needs to be sedated. I figure that if we were going to sedate him, why not do an MRI? Go for the Gusto! Really get inside, see everything. The Dr. agreed that that would make more sense, and give us more info.
I am also hard pressed to want to knock my 14-year-old dog out willy nilly. So I also made some other appointments. Teddy’s vet wisely suggested that I move vertically Up in terms of getting a diagnosis, not Horizontally; meaning I should see a specialist, not just ‘another’ doctor. Get more specific eyes on the issue.
By now, I am also accepting that there will be some good days, and some bad days for Teddy. Yet his ‘bad days’ are really freaking me out. So I am also considering getting him a doggie wheel chair – so at least he can walk. Luckily, there is a pretty well known wheel chair company close by so I arrange to see them.
The owner of the wheel chair company, a 20-year veteran who has seen thousands of dogs with many issues looked at Teddy and said “Meh” to the arthritis diagnosis as the sole issue. She proposed that he might simply have a sore Iliopsoas muscle which was affecting his back end. So she recommended I see a Rehab person.
The Rehab person was also iffy on the sole arthritis diagnosis too. She also thought that we should first really rule out things like tick-borne illness. I agreed, as that had been in the back of my mind. She also felt that something was going on with the thoracic lumber. We did the tick test, and it didn’t show anything conclusive.
Then I went to see a holistic vet, another acupuncturist, who also didn’t feel like it is ‘simply’ arthritis. She also felt like something else was wonky in his rear. And she suggested that we visit a rehab specialist. Yet, because I am now beating the drum for getting an MRI, she totally agrees, because it is important to know what is actually going on, rather than guessing. So she recommends an MRI specialist who she knows, who is also neurosurgeon.
Less than a week later we are at the neurosurgeon's office. He took one look at Teddy walking and says “it is not his rear end, it is his front end; see how his head hangs low when he is walking. And see how it hurts him to turn his head. Something else is going on; let’s find out what it is.” The next day at 7 am he had his MRI, while his anxious Dad sat in the waiting room and fretted.
If you watch the video, you will see and hear, just what I heard and saw, about what the MRI discovered.
The present prognosis
The Great News is that Teddy is actually very healthy. His blood work is apparently stupendous for a 14 year old dog. He doesn’t have any cancer or other diseases. Yet he does have four herniated discs, the biggest one in his upper spine – and these are what we feel are affecting his walking and his hind-end strength. Operating on them is not an option, as a) the first and biggest and one is all but unreachable (it is behind his sternum – they would have to move his heart and his lungs to get at it , not a good idea) and b) all four would need some surgery, which is sort of crazy.
Which makes me kind of glad, because recovering from surgery sucks. And it gets worse the older you get. And having surgery in itself is rather risky. And of course, as the doctor said – we wouldn’t be able to get to everything, so it would be pointless to even try. And as we all know, surgery doesn’t necessarily mean you are cured, it just means that you have had surgery. And then there is still the fact that he does have pretty bad arthritis in his left hip.
Ok, so where does that leave us?
BELOW IS TEDDY'S BIRTHDAY CARD FROM 2015. YOU CAN SEE HOW WONDERFULLY CRAZY HE IS.
April 1, 2015: Teddy dog is 13 years old . . . and acts like a 13 months old!
Teddy is Walk Your Dog With Love’s Spokes Dog. And the harness's co-inventor.
Happy Birthday Teddy. You can see by Teddy's energy that he is more like a 13 month old. It is us preparing to go for a walk. And it will explain why I decided that this sweet stray dog’s birthday is April Fool’s Day – because he is still the Court Jester, smart and all about Fun. In Love With Life.
When Teddy he came into my life as a 1 year old he made walking distinctly hellish. HELLISH! I was desperate to find a way to walk him. A kind way. I would not walk him with a collar or choker. I wanted to do it in a force free and friendly way, a positive reinforcement way. And Viola, several years later, the Walk Your Dog With Love front-leading dog harness.
Yes, Teddy is still a Golden Wacko-Loco, yet walking him with the Walk Your Dog With Love dog harness that he invented is much more fun for the both of us. His less crazy pack mates are happy too, because they never wanted to be walked from their necks either.
Click the video below to see Teddy in 2006. It is the same scenario – us preparing to go for a walk. It is a video I made just after I built the prototype Walk Your Dog With Love dog harness. Teddy is 9 years younger . . and just as “Enthusiastic” .
I LOVE YOU TEDDY!