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!